Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Dancing To My Own Tune

Golden Hour portrait of Laura after her recent outdoor Festival Wedding at The Firs Wedding Venue

When I started seriously pursuing this precarious line of work, all the advice was to "niche down."  Photographers are told to choose a field and stick to it.  Websites and all social media accounts should, according to those in the know, rigidly adhere to said field.  The advice is very much "stay in your lane!" 

I created a separate Instagram account devoted to alternative wedding and elopement photography and became affiliated with various industry directories, parting with hard earned money in the process.  Lesson number one.  Don't waste your money!  These communities really only serve as networking opportunities, but it's very easy to be side tracked into thinking that exchanging likes on posts will translate into bookings.  As time moves on, I've realised that my work and opportunities have come from word of mouth, self promotion (mainly getting published), forging relationships with local venues and good old Google.  

Outside of the cyber space bubble, I've encountered freelance photographers who openly acknowledge that they take whatever job comes along and if you were to scroll through their Instagram gallery, you might be surprised.  A good example is a local press photographer.  He also does weddings.  His Instagram account is void of any wedding or photo journalistic content.  Instead, he devotes that space to his passion for street photography.  

And therein lies lesson number two.  Time is precious.  I've made the decision to suspend my wedding Instagram account and focus on my original account and include the varied content I choose to share (obviously incorporating examples of my wedding photography).  Social media is a beast and the official advice is very contradictory.  Stay in your lane;  concentrate on one area of expertise vs Let people see the real you and what you're about.  

For better or worse, I'm doing it my way.  I'm tuning out advise from supposed experts and forging my own path.  Ultimately photographers love taking photos.  Some might be passionate about travel or street photography; others (including myself) enjoy exploring multiple genres.  This might invite accusations of Jack or all trades, master of none, but I happen to think that you learn something with each and every challenge and every bit of experience informs your work moving forward.

Anyway, I've had a busy old couple of months, with my camera working overtime.  Having agreed to take some behind the scenes photos at a studio beauty shoot in Birmingham, I've realised just how much I love photographing people.  

I got the bug at the beginning of the year after setting up a little home studio and arranging a Hollywood inspired photo shoot. (Read about it here: Winter Peach Photography: Hurray for Hollywood).  I received the news last week that that first studio session with Ania Cummins as the 1950s pin-up (her look created by Sensual Passions) has now been published in Michael Bann's US magazine Retro Lovely.

Obviously weddings are full of people, but the beauty shoot was different.  The majority of people there were entirely comfortable in front of the camera.  They do it for a living and know how to pose.  The others were there for content creation and were also therefore happy to be photographed.  There was no cajoling or utilisation of relaxation tricks and techniques.  I just had to concentrate on spotting the golden moments and pointing and framing the shot.

We had a lot of fun and hopefully the photos convey that.

Even though I was booked for behind the scenes photos, I still took the opportunity to grab a couple of posed shots and between shots moments.  Here's Papi, who's just signed to an agency in Milan...

...and again with Adjele...

Here's a close up of those bejewelled lips, courtesy of Kacey Marsh.

Emily Massey making red eyes look incredible...

...and again here, with Papi.

It was a good day with this bunch of creatives:  Rekindle The Moment (photographer), Portfolio by Paige (photographer), KC Make Up Artistry, Harriet Smith MUA, Macy Rose MUA, Models:  Papi, Adjele and Emily Massey.  If you want to see more, here's a short video I created.

In other news, the rain finally let up and we had a pretty good Bank Holiday weekend.  Saturday was wall to wall sunshine and we visited the One Heart One Way Music Festival taking place in neighbouring town, Stourbridge, which culminated in a ticketed gig by local heroes Ned's Atomic Dustbin, supported by Jesus Jones.  

We soaked up the sun, met up with old friends and enjoyed some brilliant music.  Naturally, I was in paparazzi mode and for once, pre-planned and took the right lens (my clunky but functional 70-200mm).

Sorry, I didn't catch the name of these musicians, performing at a jamming session at The Duke William pub, but I very much approved of this guy's hat, T-shirt and performance charisma.

This girl wanted to know where I bought my jeans.  I wanted her gin and tonic, but didn't have a spare hand.

Checking out the t-shirts.

A very quick shot of this fella on the way out of the pub.

In town, there was a mesmerising performance from singer songwriter Timothy Parkes...

...energising music from three-piece drumming band Bhangra Smash Up...

...and a great performance (and more than a little swagger) from rising Black Country rock trio, Headwired, who later requested I send them all of my photos from their set.

They'll be performing at this year's Lakefest at Eastnor Castle for any local rock music fans.

The crowd loved it!  Dancing in the sunshine with a long weekend on the horizon.  What could be better?

In other news, we managed to catch the stage version of the infinitely quotable film Withnail and I (my all time favourite) at Birmingham Rep at the weekend.  Photos were prohibited (other than the obligatory phone pic of the stage).  For once, I wouldn't have dreamed of taking in my camera.  I wanted to be fully present and hear all the classic lines!  The sets were incredibly creative, there was a live band belting out some late 60s hits from the period with certain members doubling up as cast members and strong performances from the leading actors, but I'm afraid nothing compares to the original for me.  No regrets though.  We enjoyed it and it's a must for any true Withnail and I fan.

I'll leave you with a link to a particularly funny scene including the quote:  "We've gone on holiday by mistake."  At the weekend we depart for Belfast and a week in Ireland, which is very much not a mistake, but a long overdue return to the Emerald Isle.

See you soon!  


  1. You're such a talent, Claire! You really have a knack for spotting the moment, capturing bits of emotion here and there. I don't think there is any "one size fits all" advice on how we sell/create/present our art (just like "one size fits all" fits...no one!).

    1. Thanks for the kind words Sheila. I've always been a people watcher. These days I just do it more often than not behind a camera lens.
      I absolutely agree with your one size fits all comment! x

  2. for some maybe specializing can work - for the worker/deliverer and for the customer....... but people are different :-D
    (i was self employed in design since the early 90s).
    that first photo is pure beauty!!
    congratulations to the publishing in that US mag - how cool is that!
    you did wonderful work at at the beauty shot.... clicking in the right moment and then having the light and lens right is a huge talent and hard work.
    so you really earned the fun in the sunshine with music and cool people :-D
    gorgeous shots!!
    *be yourself - everyone else already exists* - have a good time in ireland!

    1. Yes, it's hard to know for sure what the best approach is. I'm trusting my gut and hoping it pays off!
      Thank you for all the kind words and I love your closing comment. So true.
      I'll do my very best. The Irish are known for their hospitality! xxx

  3. First of all, congratulations for being published in that US magazine! I am not surprised at all, though, as your incredible talent is unmistakable!
    Well done, too, for tuning out advise from the "experts". Only you know and get to decide what works for you.
    Your photos of the beauty shoot are stunning and those you took at the music festival are brilliant. Testimony is the fact that band requested to send them all the photos you took of them.
    Enjoy your week away to the Emerald Isle! xxx

    1. Thanks Ann. I do appreciate your lovely comments!
      Social media is an unpredictable minefield, but I'm trying my best to strike the right balance.
      I'll do my very best. ;-) xxx

  4. Being published is both brilliant and well deserved, Claire. I'm so pleased for you.
    I'm totally with you on just having the one account rather than compartmentalising your life. When I was on IG I found that a lot of followers were fellow vintage traders and my feed ended up full of other people trying to promote themselves.
    That shoot looked amazing, how cool to be able to photograph confident professionals. Papi is so striking!
    The local festival looked great and how lucky were they with the weather? Timothy Parkes looks like Noddy Holder's love child!
    Liz usually buys us theatre tickets for Xmas but as we're all fan s of Withnail & I thought the play wouldn't be up to scratch - I'd have been prepared to give it a go!
    I can't wait to hear all about your trip. xxx

    1. Thank you!
      That's my experience too. We'll see what happens anyway.
      Papi was lovely. They all were in fact. No divas to be found!
      I see what you mean about Timothy Parkes. :-) He was really talented.
      I'm glad I saw the play, but I felt that it was a little bit hammed up and played for laughs (particularly Withnail), rather than letting the script work its magic.
      Speak soon! xxx


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