How did I go from full time Mum to professional photographer and Nikon Ambassador?
My story is not unique and, yes, it all started as a hobby. Photography was an antidote for my Groundhog Day existence as a full-time mother who left the media world and London to bring up her family. It brought me back to life and my self-esteem back with it. I don’t regret one day of my 4 years as a full-time mother but it took its toll and I both needed and wanted to work again. I just didn’t realised I would go from full time mum to professional photographer!
Back in 2009 I was having a fairly regular conversation with people that went something like this;
Well-meaning Friend: Wow, you are really good at photography.
Me: You think so? Thanks!
Well-meaning Friend. Yes, I really do. You have real talent. I mean, really, you could make a living at this. People would pay you for these pictures.
Me: Hmm. Maybe that’s a good idea. Maybe I should set up a business…
These conversations were fairly regular because I didn’t go anywhere without my camera at this point in my life. I was in those first throes of a passionate affair with making pictures and also in love with the thought that I could make money from something I enjoyed doing SO much. I took this image in August 2009 for fun and to ‘have a go’ at using fill flash. It marked a turning point in my journey because for the first time I began to believe that maybe, just maybe, I could turn this into a career.
I know with absolute certainty that many of you reading this blog post will be having the conversation above with well meaning friends and questioning if you can do the thing you love and bring in some money? I am evidence that it is possible to live this particular dream
By 2010 I needed to go back to work – financially and mentally – and had a choice to get on the commuter train to London or turn a hobby into a business. I began to explore what it would take to start a photography career and realised that I needed to do 3 things – all of which would take monetary investment:
1: I needed some training to become a better photographer and understand the industry I was going to enter.
2: I needed to create a brand (I had a background in branding and marketing).
3: I needed a decent, functional website to market said brand.
What I did have was 10 years experience in the world of media – advertising, marketing/sales and branding – as a Client Director. I ran the budgets, projects and the client relationships.
Behind this ‘business’ woman was a fine art painter who studied History of Art at degree level. BUT I had no photography experience what so ever and needed to learn everything from scratch. I remember not understanding f stops, shutter speed and ISO and my dream being to have just one image published in a magazine.
Unlike many people who want to become professional photographers I did not spend the investment money on camera bodies and glass. Deciding to give it a go was a serious commitment because it was necessary to use savings to finance the start up.
I spent the first 6 months building my brand. I’m still amazed how very, very few photographers in this industry have a brand. Critically I positioned myself from launch as a ‘Waitrose’. In parallel I was building my website, my portfolio, skill base and then my kit. I was networking, marketing and basically putting myself ‘out there’ for the first time in years. I worked really, really hard and ticked all the boxes that need ticking. And it worked.
I began to be asked to regularly write articles and columns for all of the UK photography magazines and it became a strange reality to see my work in print every month. I got a lot of emails from other women who felt inspired and wanted advice on how to become better photographers and business owners.
UK Nikon Ambassador for Lifestyle
In August 2014 Nikon asked me to represent the brand as a UK Ambassador and it remains my proudest achievement to date in photography. I also know that the endorsement of Nikon is important to photographers who are at the beginning of their journey who look to me for advice and reassurance of what is possible.
However, nothing that I have achieved is down to luck. The wiki definition of this interesting word states that it is ‘a purposeless, unpredictable and uncontrollable force that shapes events favorably or unfavorably for an individual’. I believe you create luck through huge effort, commitment and dedication.
Photography is a craft that takes effort, commitment, dedication and training. Henri Cartier-Bresson stated that ‘your first 10,000 pictures are your worst’.
I’m hungry for knowledge in all areas relating to my photography business and it is this attitude that keeps me moving forward. This sobering truth is always forefront of my mind: photography businesses rarely flatline but are generally expanding or declining. During this period I separated from my husband and went through the awful reality of divorce with kids involved. It was the toughest time of my life and I couldn’t crawl into bed and shut the curtains because I had a business to run and clients to look after. My business took a hit and I have not only worked through it but gone on to develop new businesses. How?
It’s partly because I love to watch and hear how other businesses have achieved and maintained success and as a result, I have regularly invested in training – some good and some bad. I am a strong believer that we should all keep learning in life because a positive effect of education is confidence.
I have been training other photographers for 5 years now and it has become something that I LOVE. When I train I don’t tell people to shoot like me or sell like me but I explain why I have chosen to run the businesses the way that I do. I don’t hold anything back and believe in a sharing attitude in the industry and paying it forward. Every time I learn something new I pass it straight on to the people I train and mentor. Generosity of knowledge is a good thing and I just love watching the light bulb moments when I’m training and the exhausted faces at the end of sessions. Because you should feel saturated and have a headache but you should also feel energised and reinvigorated.
Natalie Portman once said “I don’t love studying. I hate studying. I like learning. Learning is beautiful”. Here are some testimonials which say more about the experience of training with us than we ever could. Us…We?? Time to introduce Brent.
The person who ignited my passion in photography in 2009 was Brent Kirkman – he was a friend who enjoyed photography but whose true love was filming. He was deep in a 25 year long IT career and a frustrated creative. In July this year we got engaged and together we are the co-founders of byLUMIERE and Training byLUMIERE.
Brent is this brilliant entrepreneur who pushes me forward and makes me think bigger. We launched byLUMIERE to bring all our 3 disciplines together under one luxury, destination brand. It is a very exciting time for this young business and we have big plans for it.
In 2017 Brent was convinced that it was time to launch a dedicated training business that would help other people realise their dreams.
The result was Training byLUMIERE and we created it to offer an alternative experience to the traditional photography education system for those interested in a professional career in photography.
Critically we are different from other photography training offerings because we are active and current in the industry – shooting, marketing and selling to real customers every day. We know first hand the ups and downs, the successes and the failures and we share all of this with our students in an honest yet supportive way.
We know that we have created the most relevant 6 month part time foundation programme in the UK designed to fast track development into both a confident business owner and professional photographer. It is a selective programme because we only take a small number each year to ensure students have full access to the Training byLUMIERE team but also a large network of industry partners – together we all help build and deliver photography businesses to be proud of.
Each of our foundation students is unique but Zelda Rhiannon Photography is the perfect example of a Mum who wanted to pursue a photography career but just didn’t think she could make it work around her 2 young sons. With a very supportive husband and lots of hard work she launched her new business in Spring 2017.
So – I have barely scratched the surface of my 7 year journey but it has changed my life in so many ways. If you are interested in building a photography business that works around your life and your financial needs then give us a call and let’s see if we can help get you there.
Our 2017/18 programme begins in October! Find out more here.