How I got started in photography

Just over eight years ago I took my first photograph using a ‘proper’ camera. It came out really dark and I couldn't work out why ... until I noticed the lens cap was still on!   

I tried again, and success… below are my first images.  One, a fridge magnet, and the other, a tree. There was a bird siting on a branch but I was not quick enough. Not the most creative of shots. but everyone has to start somewhere 🙂

Maybe Magazine

If you’ve read my magazine publishing journey article, you’ll know, that my love of photography started whilst working as a part-time media tutor with Maybe Magazine. I had to attend the media programme in order to teach it and this is where I met photographer, Ian Allen.

Ian took a photography-basics session and I was hooked. I wanted to learn more, and during the class, we were asked who wanted to take images at a fashion show. I put my name forward for cat-walk and behind-the-scenes photography.

I didn’t actually own a professional camera at the time nor did I know how to use one. But this did not deter me and by chance, that evening, I told my friend and he said that I could have his old camera. So, I became the proud owner of my first ‘proper’ camera… a Fuji FinePix S7000.  

I never did take photographs at the fashion show, as I started teaching on the next media programme… and this is where my photography journey really began …

Practice and more practice

When I say I took photographs of everything… I really do mean everything, and when I ran out of house and garden objects, flowers, insects, parents, kids and pets, I went exploring around my town and then took pictures of my friends and their kids. I found that I really enjoyed portraiture but also discovered a passion for wildlife and, if the flower I was photographing had a bug on it, then that was a double whammy, even though close-up editing was a bit scary.

Photoshoots

Once my confidence grew and I was armed with my shiny new, Nikon D7000 and 55-300mm Nikon lens, I started to arrange photoshoots with my students. We had lots of fun planning them and interviewing local public figures, professional sportspeople and actors.

We also arranged fashion shoots with Hensmans (local hairdressing salon), Next Clothing (we took over the shop after hours) and a Bond-inspired shoot at Missenden Abbey in Buckinghamshire (a beautiful stately home). We went to venues all over Buckinghamshire and even ended up at Silverstone Classic Car Show, taking pictures track-side.

Studio Lighting

Although I loved shooting outdoors, using natural light (and still do), I soon wanted to learn studio lighting. I watched many YouTube videos and purchased a Neewer Studio Lighting Kit (which I still have). It was like Christmas when it arrived and I then found a large white and black sheet to use as a backdrop and got to work. I practised in my lounge and ‘on-location’ in my friends’ lounges, with their kids. Considering I didn’t have much experience, I thought I did OK.

I must admit, getting the lighting right using a white background, was really hard, but the more I practised and researched, the more confident I grew and I started promoting myself.

Photography Business

It didn’t take long for the word to spread locally, and I began picking up photography work. I started doing some work for a local charity, which helped them out with their PR and was great practice for me. I would recommend linking up with as many good causes as possible, as a lot of my paid jobs came from exposure I gained from attending charity events.

My first paid job was actually terrifying, but afterwards, I felt great. The session really helped my confidence and the more bookings I had, the more experience I got. I worked with local estate agents, supermarket managers, events, portraiture, and weddings and was even published in my local paper.

Photography Studio/Space

I put the sheet back in the bedding drawer and got hold of a second-hand Lastolite backdrop, along with paper backdrops. I then created a studio in my mum’s converted barn, which was such a great space to practice and store my ever-growing collection of props. The barn also had an office and bathroom, which was perfect as a makeup and changing area. The outside space and garden were also great to use.

PHOTOSHOOT Magazine

I loved working at Maybe Magazine but it was time to move on.  It was whilst on our last photoshoot, that I took a moment to reflect on how much effort actually goes into doing one, with the preparation, planning and then running the actual shoot.  I also observed how fascinated everyone was in how it all happened and the action behind the scenes.  It was at this moment, my brain went into overdrive and I had an idea.

As you can guess, this idea grew and I started to research other magazines.  I didn’t find much out there covering how images were created and behind the scenes of a photoshoot.  It was then I decided to publish a magazine for all creatives involved in a photoshoot. I guess I was lucky in my topic, which gave me the perfect title choice … PHOTOSHOOT Magazine was born.           

Networking

I met makeup artist and beauty therapist Mandy Elizabeth, at a Unique Capture Studio networking event. Mandy had a Beauty Salon in The Old Watermill, Barton Le Clay, along with a dress hire shop that she managed. Mandy wanted to get involved with some of our first issue shoots, so, we soon got underway with We’re Having A Ball, on-location at the mill. Models: Hannah, Georgina, Sally, Melissa and Emma.

Model, Yaasmin, came to the mill for a Candy Girl shoot; one image of which was featured in Fabrica Magazine and the others from the shoot went into our Issue 1. We also attended a Vintage Car Show at the mill using Jessica’s Dress Hire, with Mandy doing the hair and makeup. Yaasmin sent her vintage car image to CT Fashion, which got published shortly after.

Barton Mill Studio

I wanted to try an idea to cover the behind-the-scenes at another photographer’s photoshoot. I asked Nic Button, a model I had met, who told me that she knew a photographer that had just moved into a new studio, which bizarrely just happened to be above Mandy’s room at the mill. So, I met Mike Hardley … Now tell me you don’t believe in fate. This was not only perfect for my BTS trial but a great partnership for the future … in many ways!

I did a few photoshoots at Mike’s studio. It was not a huge space but had a great atmosphere being in an old mill (literally). We shot an Avant-garde wedding-style shoot with Sophie, Tirry and Vicky, with Mandy helping with makeup and styling.

My Feathers and Fur photoshoot, with makeup artist Cleo Young, (who I met at another networking event) and model Tirry, was such a giggle. I styled (with Cleo’s help) and made all the props myself, with Tirry even having feathery toes at one point!

Summer’s Here was based around a local florist in Barton Mill, who also designed shoes. Once again, Mandy worked her magic with hair and makeup. Model: Maria. Hat: Got 2 Dance. Shoes. Pippa B.

My Barn Studio

China Girls was an inspired Chinese fashion shoot, using Jessica’s Dress Hire. The shoot took place inside and outside my Barn Studio. Models: Cassie Jackson & Jessica Walshe .

Autumn Fairy was shot on a very chilly day in November, outside my Barn Studio. I made the headdress and helped design the leaf-dress, whilst Cleo Young did the styling and made the incredible wings. Model: Amy Holdstock.

Zombie Brides was shot inside my Barn Studio and outside, in the nearby woodshed. I teamed up with some local makeup artist students, with models Kayleigh and Sophie.

Makeup artist, Gwen Reece, joined me, along with models Dakota and Holly, for A Lighter Shade of Pale photoshoot.

I organised an epic Seven Deadly Sins photoshoot over three weekends, with makeup artist Cleo Young. All models were styled by us and we had a blast doing it, as well as getting some fantastic images. Models: Nic, Hannah, Tirry, Abi, Kayleigh and Georgina.

Creativus Imago Photography – Hitchin

Mike moved his studio to Hitchin and what an incredible space it was. We photographed babies, children, dogs, ran a model academy, took product shots and even held ‘Frozen’ birthday parties.

We also ran a competition for a front cover photoshoot with our winner, Donna, a local mum for my Abandoned shoot. This is up there as one of my all-time favourites. Makeup artist: Mandy Elizabeth.

Model, Tirry, joined us once again for our Medusa-themed photoshoot, with makeup artist Charley. Mike and I made the snakes heads and Tirry pulled off the look perfectly.

We teamed up with Dolly’s, a local vintage beauty salon for our 50’s-styled photoshoot with model Abi Day and Miss Pinkyboo.

Easter Extravaganza was a crazy idea based on a taking a rock-chic model (Alex Grey) and turning her into a bunny for an Easter-styled shoot. Makeup artist: Lillie-Rose.

Butterfly Dreams was based around a stunning butterfly headpiece, designed by a local florist, Stephanie Rose, with new model Ellie. Makeup and styling were by Mandy.

Another favourite is my Autumn Wedding photoshoot. The set was dressed by myself and Jan, along with Mandy on hair and makeup. We also had a local wedding dress supplier, Morgan Davies Bridal, provide us with their collection of amazing wedding dresses. Models: Victoria and Katsha.

Steampunk Spectacular was a photoshoot at Drew’s Studio, with Mike Hardley and models: Nic, Katie and Sophie. Makeup: Charley Payne.

Here Come the Girls at Drew’s Studio with Mike Hardley and models Hannah, Maria and Ezy with makeup artist Charley Payne

I teamed up with my friend and talented nail artist Amanda Hawtree-Taft, along with makeup artist, Aisha Simone, and model, Mair Jones, for Antoinette – A Vintage Nail Art Photo Shoot. Amanda entered the image below, into the UK Beauty Photographic Nail Art Competition … and we won!

Red Swan was shot at Natural Light Studio. Mike was videoing a dance video session with ballet dancer, Amelia and makeup artist, Cleo Young. I asked if I could take a couple of shots before the end and was very pleased with the images that I managed to take.

France

French Renaissance took place at a stunning french manoir down the road from my French home. We shot mainly outside as the weather and grounds were fabulous. Model: Kalunna Moon. Makeup: Esther Mejer

Recently, I was a creative director on a product photoshoot in my studio, for Chateau Chic Boutique jewellery collection. We shot the products first and then with model, Bou Clette. Once again, I asked for ten minutes at the end of the shoot, so I could take a few images of my own and have some creative fun.

Events and Shows

The photographic opportunities being an Editor-in-chief and photographer have been incredible. I have interviewed and photographed TV personalities, actors, singers, pop stars, celebrity models, stylists, designers and attended many press events with backstage access.

Press Days

Aylesbury Sleeping Beauty – Most shows hold press days for the press to come along and take images and interview the cast. I was invited to do a photoshoot and interview with singer and songwriter, Holly Brewer (Sleeping Beauty), along with Andy Collins and Anita Dobson at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire. We then attended the pre-drinks party (where I bumped into Tony Hadley, lead singer from Spandau Ballet) and then watched the show.

Reflection

I hope you have enjoyed reading my article on how I got started in photography, as much as I enjoyed writing it and reminiscing. I think it’s important to remind yourself of how you started and to see how much improvement you have made. A short time ago, I went and took some images of a dear friend of mine, Meg, who was one of my ‘sheet set-up’ practice shoots. She said that she could not believe how different and how confident I was now behind the camera. I thought about what she said and yes, I am in such a different place as a photographer now. I do, however, still consider myself to be on a photographic journey and listen, learn and constantly strive to improve my technique. I also love setting new goals and challenges.

You can read about my photoshoots on my portfolio and continue to follow my journey by subscribing to receive my latest updates below.

Links: Magazine Publishing Journey | Issue One | Portfolio

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