History Images_0003
Me with my little Pentax ME Super. Aged 10.

Good Intentions

When I first decided to abandon my editing career and take up my camera, I was determined in two things. One: to never have a studio and Two: to photograph natural portraiture.  The first was on the advice from my father, who had a studio for many years in Bath. As soon as you own a studio he said, you have to make enough profit to cover studio overheads. The pressure to maintain my fathers studio meant that he really had to work to get the business in and then to make the sale at the end of the session.  Certain businesses over the last 15 years have given photography studios bad press, with pressure sales tactics to sell artwork. Threats to delete work if purchases are not made at the viewing session and other pressure selling tactics that force people to spend more money than they should then come away from the studio feeling ripped off and scared to return. Although my father didn’t run his studio like this, he has made me well aware of the constant need to bring clients in through the door. I also have three children so the thought of running a studio away from home was quite impossible. So, I was absolutely NOT going to have a studio. My second wish was to be a ‘natural’ photographer. I learnt photography from my father, in his studio and on his photography courses. This was when the Anne Geddes style of baby portraiture was popular with babies in flowers and all those wedding photographs with soft focus effects and loads of very unsubtle airbrushing.  Studio portraiture was all white or black background and very staged, the blow up plastic guitar, funny hats and silly glasses. when I left editing to take up photography again it was through my love of documentary photography, and the images from which I drew my inspiration were, and still are those that are emotive and show relationship rather than staged pose to the camera.  I learnt to light and compose in a staged studio set-up, but it was not my intention to shoot like this when I started on this little Firetree journey.

Studio Work
My early studio work. Aged 15 (ish)

A Conundrum.

So 8 years now into my business and I love it, but I have an itch and it won’t go away. Anyone creative will understand what I am talking about, it is a little creative itch, I don’t know where it came from but it is bugging me and my head is full of ‘it’. Photography is a journey, as a professional photographer, when you first pick up your camera to take your very first ‘paid for’ photograph it is the first step in the journey. It’s the first time you take an image for someone other than yourself, and the first time you have a responsibility. To not only produce something you love but that they love as well. You also have an idea in your head as to what you want to give to people and you spend most of the first two years trying to get that idea right! As you progress over the years you find your ‘style’ and you grow in confidence and your photography changes as you get a better and better understanding of not just the technicalities of photography like light/subject/composition but also a better understanding of how to deliver your ‘idea’.


So now I feel like I have hit a little wall. I love my natural style photography and the freedom of not having a studio but I have recently started to look around me and wonder what makes me different to other photographers? How does a client know I am going to deliver better work than someone who has just picked a camera and thinks they are a photographer?  There are many, many ‘photographers’ these days with little or no training or experience and who will deliver a cheap product for very little return.  The cheaper photographer may not have the same experience and not have such a good portfolio or produce a good quality end product but is my work visually dramatically different to an untrained eye? So with this thought I started to look around at other photographers and their work, and I looked at photography that inspires me and as I looked I saw there are hundreds and hundreds of little start-up photography businesses everywhere, doing the location shoots and the newborn baby sessions at home, there are so many of them.  This is because if you have little or no experience you shoot in parks and in peoples homes, you need not know about lighting or composition or posing to deliver a passable product. 20 years ago there would be two local photographers, both with studios… not hundreds of photographers, all offering to photograph your wedding or child! So suddenly my view of what makes an image stand out has changed, the images that now stand out for me are the ones that offer quite a bit more, and the photographers that do this are much fewer. The ‘one-offs’ the not only well shot but the work of art in each image, the mixing of colour in the image, the extra drama in the lighting, the images that are more challenging to deliver.  I am wondering whether I should use more of my lighting and experience to deliver a different product.  Maybe by determination to be ‘natural’ has meant I have not delivered what is one of the strengths of a trained, professional – the ability to deliver something only experience can deliver. So I feel I have changed.  What inspired me to photograph when I started.. a baby in a mother’s arms, children running through the woods… still inspires me, but I have this itch to do ‘something’ more, and better, and a little different.

Answers Anyone?

My children are all now at school and I have a little garden office, which is nice but I work long hours on weddings during the summer and although I love photographing babies and children at home, the amount of equipment I take to set up for one session is amazing! All that set up, all the little things I put in and out of my car, load up and set up, for one shoot. I also ran a little survey recently (you may have taken part), and I put a question on the survey that I was not even going to include and the response really amazed me. I thought everyone would want their newborn (it was a newborn questionnaire) photographed at home, I was completely thrown when the results came back 60/40 with the majority wishing to take their newborn to a studio. Well it threw me. I quite possibly miss out on photographing half of my newborn enquiries because I only photograph at home. So it got me thinking about how much easier it would be to have a little studio, being able to keep equipment in one place, being able to showcase my work more effectively, keep my work life and home life a little separate and more importantly, I am beginning to realise it would give my clients more confidence in me. Why book me over ‘camera for christmas’ photographer? Maybe a studio is not such a bad idea after all. I also look at my portrait work and think I have abandoned my lighting knowledge to satisfy my documentary itch! Am I also stretching myself a little too thin? such a variety of photography.. underwater, wedding, children in woods, and so-on. How can I become better at anything if i am trying to do everything! So what ‘fits’ with me and my life?

So is that the answer?

Well, that would be good wouldn’t it. I have an itch, i’ll get a studio, itch scratched.. umm not really the case though. It’s not just a location, it’s my photography that i’m itchy with. I’m just going to have to work on it.  I recently went on a newborn baby posing workshop. It was workshop to teach photographers all about safety when working with newborns but also about posing newborns in those poses your see all over the internet. Babies hanging from trees, holding head in hands – ‘The Frog’ (apparently).  If you had told me I was going to go on a newborn baby posing workshop to learn these often unnatural poses a year ago I would have been horrified. I was determined to keep babies posed naturally, no sticking baby in a bucket and definitely no headbands! As I said though, I have been looking at the work of other photographers for inspiration and have looked at many that use these poses in their work and I can see the point. These photographs can’t be achieved by just anybody, they take time and experience, and most relevantly, they stand out as dramatically different to all those hundreds of ‘photographers’ who have just set up business and are photographing in parks and at home.  At the top of the profession, some artists use colour and composition so expressively, illustrating emotion without the cheese factor, it made me wonder whether this is the itch that needs scratching? Maybe using some of these poses and creative use of lighting could create something quite special.  Would it scratch my itch or am I selling my soul to become the same as ever other photographer out there, selling images of baby in an eggcup or on top of a crate? The truth is I don’t know. And will I get a studio? I don’t know that either! My dad is still telling me it’s a bad idea and I have no money, and it probably is a bad idea… so life goes on, the bookings keep coming in, 25 weddings this year and counting, newborn sessions, birthday parties, underwater shoots and portrait sessions, but that.. I am afraid is the problem with being a little creative, you are always evolving which I suppose is a good thing!

That’s it from me, I will keep you posted.

Kyra. x

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