How & why I became a photographer

Welcome! Grab a cuppa, put your feet up and get ready for a 10 minute read…If you clicked on the link that lead you here you must want to know my story.

Now that I am turning my hand to teaching, I thought it would be a great time to tell it….so here goes!

HOW DID I BECOME A PHOTOGRAPHER?

I’m not going to lie. I wasn’t born holding a Leica in my hand and it wasn’t something  that was much of an interest until I was about 16.

In fact I spent most of my childhood hating the camera with a passion as my mother was always photographing us. When I started college, I decided to take a GCSE in Photography alongside my A Levels. I have no idea why I did that, but I loved it. It wasn’t digital back then – all film and in the darkroom (I had a good old Centon in case you are wondering). My teacher mentioned I should consider it as a career, but I quickly dismissed it.  After college, I quickly fell into the Financial Services Industry and stayed there for many years. Means must right – I had my first mortgage in place at 19!

So what changed?

Well…. at 28 I became a mum. My story is not unusual here – many female photographers have a similar one.  I didn’t want to go back to work, I just wanted to be at home caring for my baby. I was done with the daily commute, and done with being employed. Frankly, I was never great at being told what to do anyway, and started to dislike the testosterone fueled environment. I tried to go back part time, but that didn’t really work. The job was just too stressful, and not really possible working from home. And I just missed my baby too much.

Around the same time, I had Isabelle booked in for her first photo shoot. As soon as she was born, my love for photography suddenly returned, so I had a good idea of what I wanted out of the shoot. At that point, I was still using film – I remember the excitement back then, as I picked up my developed images from the Boots photo counter!

The photo shoot was at a concession in a big department store. It was a lackluster experience that left me wondering why I even bothered. The surly photographer told me we had 15 minutes, and that they ‘do what they do’ and we need to hurry up as other people are waiting for their turn. That was after 6 weeks waiting for the appointment. I sighed and went with it – I am normally an assertive person, but I think post birth I discovered a softer side that decided to let it go.

I was hoping that the images will be worth it, so the shoot experience didn’t have to be.

Sadly, that was not the case. I was instructed to come back in 6 weeks for a viewing (that was the only way I could see the images). I was excited nevertheless. When we arrived for the viewing, a young girl pushed us into a room which had about 13-14 images up on a wall. In cheap, plastic looking frames. The images were mounted behind plastic (not even glass).  They were badly lit, some had eyes shut, and dark and heavy shadows everywhere. Many were out of focus. I had a small image included for free, then I could buy one image for just under £100 or I could have them all for a very odd figure of £393 ( bear in mind this was almost 17 years ago).

I felt very disappointed. I bought all the images, not sure why since I only liked one (and that was a push). The idea was to give them as gifts to family but they ended up taking residence on top of a wardrobe instead, gathering dust. The WHOLE experience – from the booking stage to the shoot, and then the viewing, was extremely lacking. No warm glow, no nice memories, and definitely no images I loved. Still it felt like I HAD to buy the images at the time.

So, what next?

Well, I decided to fix that – I bought a semi professional digital camera (Olympus) and started taking my own pictures of Isabelle. It was a semi automatic and digital, so a little learning curve. Things moved fast from there – because I had a young baby I was surrounded by mums, and I quickly realised that photography could be a viable option for a career change.

I sat down, taught myself Photoshop, and practiced on anyone and everyone. An the rest as they say is history!

I had my first paying client in 2003 (with a 10 day newborn baby), but I “officially” didn’t set up until may 2004. Officially meaning I gave myself a company name (I was Minx Photography back then) and started advertising. I quickly outgrew my camera and swapped to a Canon SLR.

When I first set up my business, I decided a few things –

  • I wanted to give mums the kind of experience that I wanted but didn’t get. So no more than one shoot a day, so I could give them my all. I wanted my clients to feel special, not like they are a part of a production line.
  • I decided not to price myself in a way that I would become a struggling creative. This meant being more expensive than everyone in the area, but I was ok with that. We can’t please everyone – thankfully I had a solid business background.
  • I was going to walk to the beat of my own drum. The world didn’t need another photographer doing the same thing as everyone else.

From the very start of my career, I worked with newborns and it quickly became my specialty. To be honest,  no one around me was doing that at the time. It was very new back then and most people were not aware that a newborn could even BE photographed – so the majority of my shoots were with 3-4 month old babies. Maternity photography was available but only in very few places.

So….now that you have some history about how, what about my WHY?

I became a photographer because I wanted to be there for my daughter growing up, and because I wanted freedom from employment. I was passionate about photography but it wasn’t my driving force, my newborn baby was. Now, she is almost 17 years old, and studying photography herself (as one of her A levels). I’m curious to see where it will take her.

For me, after 16 years of being a photographer things are changing. One of the things no one tells you when you set up your own business, is that although you have more freedom, you are also often at work, even when you are not. And that working at floor level gives you a very bad back! So I am shooting a lot less, and switching my attention to teaching and my other passion, which is the fitness industry. And trying to take on more shoots with older children – I love working outside and being active.

I have been thinking about my journey a lot lately. The feedback I get from my clients is so lovely, and I have many families that have been with me for many years. I have seen their families develop and grow,  and I’m really proud to have been part of that journey.

My heart feels full at the thought that one day, those babies will have babies of their own, and that as photographers we are creating history.

Because really, although the images are for us as parents for now, really they are a legacy that we leave behind. I’m grateful for this career, and what it has given me. Being able to be there for my daughter, and watch her grow up.

If you are reading this, and you think you may want to be a photographer, good for you. It’s a different world now, and I have seen many new photographers come and go. There is a plethora of information out there – in fact way too much information, which can be rather overwhelming. This is a stark contrast to what it was when I started! There is so much to running your own business – I wish I knew a lot of things I know now,  back when I started.

This is why I have decided to create a Signature course, on how to become a photographer. How to do it right, what to concentrate on and how to build a sustainable business that will not take over your life.  It will cover everything from business to lighting, and give anyone a great jump start into the industry. There will still be a lot to learn following the completion of this program, but many things you cannot learn – not until you are on and in the job.

The images attached to this post represent my WHY. My gorgeous girl who is now almost an adult and who still drives me to be my best self , every single day.

 

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