Guest Speaker at the Guildford Spike WI
Talking About My Photographic Journey
At the beginning of February I had the pleasure of being invited to speak at the Guildford Spike WI. They are a wonderful group of women who gave me such a warm welcome.
There was a great turnout on the evening, and any slight nerves I had were soon dispelled once I stood up and got started.
The subject of my talk was how I switched from a corporate career in financial PR and marketing and realised my ambition of becoming a professional photographer. I started by speaking about my early days in corporate photography (nearly 20 years ago now!), my move into family portraiture, and my final destination, which is women’s portraiture – the thing that excites and inspires me the most. One of the quotes I used was this from Steve Jobs:
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe to be great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
And he was so right. Choosing to retrain as a photographer and say goodbye to all the perks of working for a big financial company was an easy decision for me in one way because there was nothing about my old job that I loved or even liked. That’s not to say that it wasn’t one of the scariest things I’ve ever done – waving goodbye to the security of a regular pay cheque was very hard. And yet, had I stayed, I know that things would only have got worse – my work was, quite literally, making me ill.
Sometimes it can be difficult to let go of the familiar things when they act as a safety net. But I think that regrets about not having pursued a dream are harder to live with.
I now know that when I make women smile or even cry (yes, they do cry occasionally when they see their photos, but for all the right reasons I’m glad to say!) I’ve made a positive difference to someone’s life.
The response from the audience when I showed them my work was so encouraging, and at the end of my talk there were lots of questions from so many of them; it really was such an enjoyable evening and great to meet so many lovely women.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the Guildford branch of the WI, then do take a look at their website. And if you’d like me to come along to your group or organisation as a guest speaker, then please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01483 571119.
Happy International Women’s Day!
Wherever you are, here’s wishing you a happy International Women’s Day, and here’s to all the campaigning for women’s rights around the world. As someone who worked in the City during the 80’s and 90’s, I know there’s a long way to go. Having read this article in the Guardian about sexist dress codes, I can’t quite believe that these things are still going on and that women are continuing to have to fight against such offensive attitudes. I remember working in offices where women weren’t allowed to wear trousers, and were routinely patronised and belittled in the most awful way; and that was nearly 30 years ago!
Here are some of the wonderful, successful women I’ve had the pleasure of photographing in my job as a women’s portrait photographer.
Photography 1-1 Lesson Surrey – Hannah Berry Flowers
Yesterday morning was spent in the company of the delightful floral designer, Hannah Berry. Hannah creates beautiful floral arrangements for weddings and events in and around Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire: she’s also a highly talented photographer.
Hannah had asked her partner for a photography 1-1 lesson as a Christmas present, as she wanted to explore more fully the potential of her camera. One of her main aims was to get more consistent results with her photography. As a naturally creative person, she loves to take photographs generally. More specifically however, she uses her camera to create eye-catching images for her website in order to demonstrate her skills to clients. She’d been shooting mainly on the auto setting on her camera but knew that it was capable of much more: as a result, after exploring all the different controls, she was up and running in full manual mode in no time at all.
It was great that she’d also brought along some flowers and other props to practice on! Because it was an overcast but dry day, the conditions were perfect for taking some photographs both indoors and outdoors to help her refine her skills. Here are some behind-the-scenes shots of Hannah at work, and this is what she said about her session:
“Thank you so much for the lesson today. I thoroughly enjoyed it and couldn’t wait to get back home to experiment with a few more shots. There was lots of information to put into practice. Super excited!”
To see more of Hannah’s work and find out about her floral design service, visit Hannah Berry Flowers.
Why We Shouldn’t Dismiss Makeup as Shallow, Vain or Frivolous.
Some women love makeup and some women are either indifferent to it or loathe having the stuff on their faces. Women wear makeup for a multitude of reasons and if you’re comfortable not wearing it, then that’s great.
I’ve always been fascinated by the way it can change or enhance our appearance, helping to disguise dark circles, emphasise eyes or just add a healthy pop of colour to lips and cheeks. However, experimenting with it in the 70’s and 80’s wasn’t always a success for me. Having dark skin, my options were severely restricted as the only available shades of foundation were more suited to the traditional English Rose complexion. Now, thankfully, things have changed.
As a women’s portrait photographer, I always work with a makeup artist who enhances my clients’ features to show them the best version of themselves possible. And this is where makeup can do such a fantastic job; it can have a transformational effect, not just on the outside but on the inside too, by helping us see ourselves in a different light.
A Man’s Viewpoint and Why I Disagree – Strongly!
I recently had a conversation with a man in his early twenties. When I told him about the photography service I offer women, he dismissed it as sounding “all rather shallow.” Here are 4 reasons why I would strongly disagree with him:
For some women, makeup, quite literally, helps them to face the day. For 22 years the cancer support charity, Look Good Feel Better has provided free makeup workshops to women experiencing the visible side-effects of cancer treatment. One of their advertising campaigns is called #Warpaint4life which sums up the role that makeup can have when your self-confidence hits rock-bottom. For these women it’s a big deal, and rightly so; if you’re going through chemo and your hair and eyebrows have fallen out or your skin isn’t looking its best, then something as simple as foundation, lipstick and blusher can help you feel ready to take on the world again.
When women reach the menopause, hormonal changes can have a very significant impact on their skin, from dryness and dullness to vanishing eyebrows and age spots. Look Fabulous Forever is a range of cosmetics specifically formulated for older skins. Founder, Tricia Cusden recognises that older women still love to wear makeup, but that they aren’t being well served by the cosmetics industry, whose products are aimed mainly at younger age groups. And so she’s created a special range to serve these women, and enhance the beauty of older faces.
Many women hate appearing in photographs and are convinced that they aren’t photogenic. However, I can see the transformation in my client when she’s having her hair and makeup done – not only in the way it helps to enhance her natural beauty (of which most women are blissfully unaware!), but in the improvement in her self-confidence.
We’re often so busy working and looking after others, that we haven’t any time left to spend on ourselves; so it can be a relief to hand the responsibility over to the experts and let them take charge. Here’s what one of my clients said after she saw her portraits – “I had such a fabulous time on the day – oxytocin supercharge. You were all so amazing – a pampering day with a difference, having my hair and makeup done beautifully, and dare I say it, I really enjoyed standing in front of the camera. Awesome feelgood factor experience with experts who really know their stuff in making you feel a million dollars, and photos to relive the experience again and again.”
Helping to See us Through the Bad Times
Sali Hughes is the Guardian’s resident beauty columnist and wrote this interesting and thought-provoking piece about how makeup can help us get through life’s ups and downs. As she says, “grooming is a form of self-care that allows us to feel like ourselves when our worlds become unrecognisable.” You can read the full article here.
And here are two ladies who’ve stepped in front of my camera after a pampering hair and makeup session!
How Makeup Can Help You to Project the Right Image for Your Business.
In my previous post, I talked about how to choose outfits that work well when being photographed. When you’re having your business headshot taken, the last thing you want is for your clothes to scream out for attention; the focus of the image should always be your face and personality; everything else just plays a supporting role.
Makeup for Your Business Headshot
That said, the addition of some subtle makeup does add the finishing touch to a portrait, creating a polished and professional look. I’ve been using a hair and makeup artist for all of my women’s portrait sessions since the very beginning and have come to really appreciate their expertise and skill in creating beautiful, flawless makeup that’s absolutely appropriate for a business headshot.
“Will I End up Looking Cakey?”
I think that one of the concerns which many women have is that they’ll end up looking cakey or fake, but that’s absolutely not the case and a professional makeup artist will always take the time to listen to a client’s concerns and requirements. I also make sure that you see what’s being applied at regular stages and I encourage all women to tell us immediately if they want something changed or aren’t happy about anything – after all, there’s nothing worse than just sitting there and feeling that you can’t say a word!
How Lighting Affects Makeup
However, it’s equally important that I let my clients know that they will be wearing more makeup than usual; that may sound contradictory given my previous comments, but both natural and artificial light have a knack of soaking up colour and if we don’t apply enough product, it just won’t show up in the photographs. It’s always surprising when I take that first test shot and we review it on the back of my camera; whilst it looks to us as if our client is wearing enough blusher/lipstick, the colour will often have washed out in the photos and so we need to apply a little more.
A Real Life Example
For this particular client who wanted a natural look, Marijelle Moreno first prepared and primed her skin, which is the most important stage; she then subtly enhanced her eyes, brows and lips, to add just a little definition and finished with a soft blush to give a healthy bloom of colour. The result is beautiful – she looks radiant, professional and confident – and every inch the business woman.
How to Look Great for Your Business Headshot
One of the most important conversations I have with my clients before they book a business headshot session with me concerns what they should wear. I’ve photographed thousands of people over the past 22 years and have seen them turn up in all manner of outfits, and not always the most suitable; from checks mixed with stripes and spots to strappy summer dresses, baggy jackets and droopy cosy cardigans, I’ve seen them all. But what may look appropriate for a night out, a day on the beach or a morning’s shopping won’t necessarily translate that well when worn for a business headshot.
Choose Your Outfits Well
This is why we always discuss outfit choices in great detail and I send all my clients an in-depth guide as to what works and what doesn’t work in terms of clothing for business headshots. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I think everyone should turn up for their portraits in a formal suit – sometimes clients don’t work in the type of business that demands a very corporate look. However, there are still certain “rules” that can make the difference between conveying the right or wrong impression. So here are a couple of tips for ensuring that you’ll look your best.
Don’t Be Afraid to Wear Colour
Looking professional doesn’t mean you have to stick to sober colours, and yet so many professional women I meet wear black suits: black can look great, but it does need to be worn with care, otherwise it can be very draining, especially when worn near the face. If you must wear black, my advice is to always ensure that you combine a black jacket with a brightly coloured top – the contrast will help to lighten the whole effect. Black-on-black on the other hand can make you look wider than you actually are because it creates a solid block of colour with no definition.
Alternatively, a coloured scarf (as long as it’s not too large) or some jewellery can help to break up what the camera will see as a large dark expanse.
If you’re in the type of business that doesn’t demand a suit, why not choose a top or a dress in a striking shade, like this client whom I photographed recently? I love the different blues which enhance and bring out the colour of her eyes. And the olive green blouse complements her hair colour beautifully.
Avoid Busy Prints
I’m a big fan of prints, but not for business portraits. Plain, solid colours have far more impact without drawing the eye away from your face; the last thing you want when someone’s viewing your profile on, say, LinkedIn is for them to be distracted by the pattern on your shirt or dress. Outfits should complement your appearance and not compete for attention with your face.
I love helping women to look their best and feel confident in front of the camera, so if you’re thinking of updating your business headshot, then why not give me a call on 01483 571119 or email me at email@example.com. We can have a chat about the options available and what’s involved, and there’s no obligation to book.
Mother & Daughter Portraits, Guildford, Surrey.
Finally, I can show these photos from a lovely mother and daughter portrait session that I photographed back in July. The reason I haven’t posted sooner is because the photos were taken as a surprise birthday gift for this lady’s husband, so I thought it safest to wait until after the event, just in case!
I first met the lovely mum who booked this session when she came along for a 1-1 photography tutorial with me. At the time she’d mentioned wanting to have a portrait session with her daughter and so, on her birthday this July, which happened to be one of the hottest days of the year, we got together to make it happen.
I really wish now that I’d photographed the room when we’d laid out all their clothes, jewellery and accessories, because there wasn’t a clear surface left in the place, and that wasn’t counting my gear and all my makeup artist’s stuff too; I think they brought pretty much the entire contents of their wardrobes, so there was no shortage of choice.
After having some pampering time with hair and makeup artist, Marijelle Moreno, they both took it in turns to have some individual shots done first, and then we got them together for some lovely mum and daughter images. I love the outfits they chose to bring along and their beautiful expressions.
This is something I would encourage all mums to do, as I don’t think they’re often quite as keen to step in front of the camera, but they really should. And what a lovely way to spend some time together, with the added bonus of having a really special memento of the day too.
You can see at the bottom of this post the gorgeous boutique box of matted prints which they ordered, together with a personalised USB drive of their favourite shots. In our digital age, I’m a firm believer in providing my clients with beautiful prints as well as digital images, so they have the best of both worlds.
If you’d like to book a Couture Portrait session with me, then drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call on 01483 571119 for an informal chat.
Pixels Versus Print. Why Photographers Love Printing Their Work
We live in a world where we expect instant results: our phones, cameras and tablets allow us to capture moments and play them back and share them immediately – and all for free. The digital world has allowed us so much freedom to create and send images around the world instantly so that they can be seen by anyone, and I for one would never want to go back to the days when I was just starting out as a photographer and had to shoot on film and wait days to see the results!
However, one of the downsides of digital is that a lot of the time we only ever see images on our screens; and despite the ever-improving quality of our digital devices, there is still a huge difference between viewing pixels and viewing a piece of printed art.
Professional photographers don’t just take pictures: once the client’s session is over, many hours of editing and post-production go towards creating the final image which is stamped with that photographer’s particular style and forms part of the reason why the client has booked them in the first place.
Viewing an image on screen and in print are totally different. To fully appreciate the depth and richness of an image, print trumps pixels every time. Here are some images from a boudoir shoot album which I created for my client and which was produced by the amazing Folio Albums, a British company who make albums for professional photographers only.
The attention to detail, combined with the highest quality materials, mean that each album really is a work of art and forms the perfect showcase for a client’s images. There’s also the wonderful tactile quality which really adds to the whole experience. This one was produced in a beautiful black leather and the images were printed on fine art paper which really makes the colours stand out. Each album is beautifully packaged and comes with its own TLC guide on how to take care of it so that it will last for many years to come. Have a look at this video where Folio Albums founder, Stewart Randall, talks about the ethos behind the company.
Boudoir Photography, Guildford, Surrey.
A boudoir session is something very special, and when a woman books it can be for any number of reasons; the most popular are to celebrate a milestone birthday, especially a 40th or 50th, as a pre-wedding gift for a bride to give to her husband-to-be, or simply as a self-esteem and confidence boost. Whatever the reason though, it’s always, first and foremost, for the woman, helping her to reconnect with her feminine side, increasing her confidence and generally making her feel good about herself, both inside and out.
All my boudoir sessions take place at a beautiful boutique hotel in Guildford. I work with some incredibly talented hair and makeup artists who are experts at making women look and feel special by enhancing their natural beauty.
I love clients to bring along at least 3 different outfits, comprising a mixture of looks. And it’s definitely not the case that a boudoir session always has to be about wearing sexy lingerie or even showing as much skin as possible: the ones from this session were a good mix and we started with some lovely shots in a very simple outfit, worn with a cardigan and a denim jacket on top; these are also great to get women feeling relaxed and comfortable about being photographed.
This session was so enjoyable and the day went really quickly. Here are some of my favourites; there were so many that I loved and my client has very kindly allowed me to share them to show other women exactly what’s involved and why they should book.
Get Your Free Guide to Boudoir Photography
If you’re thinking about booking a boudoir session, but are feeling a bit nervous or unsure, I have a free guide to boudoir photography which you can download when you make a booking or enquiry. Inside, you’ll find answers to lots of the most common questions that women ask, and I hope that they’ll go some way at least to making you feel less apprehensive about booking!
Photographed at the Mandolay Hotel, Guildford
Hair & makeup by Marijelle Moreno