“You don’t know how important photos are until they are all you have left”
Guest Blogger: NATASHA GARNER (Photographer - UK)
I should have that tattooed over my forehead as it is my mantra, my whole belief system! Photographs play a big role in my life; I have always loved taking photos and my home is covered in portraits of my loved ones.
I was the one taking photos at the family events when I was younger, forever getting in people’s way and being told to get that camera out my face! One of my fondest memories is of my Aunt & Uncle’s 25th wedding anniversary party. I took photos during the night and printed them out and presented them in an album as a present, I was so proud of myself and it had to be their favourite present, why wouldn’t it be!!
Starting a photography business was always a dream of mine, and that was all it was for a long time; just a dream, something that I never thought I could ever do. I can’t really put a finger on exactly why I thought that, but I think it has a lot to do with my self-esteem and how I viewed myself before I met Steve. We met 8 years ago while I was working for Clinton Cards and he used to deliver to the store, little did I know at that time that he would change my life, and this is the photo that started it all…
We had been to Gorleston Beach with our daughter Rhianna and nieces Emily & Ruby and I had been snapping away trying to capture as many moments as possible. After having fish & chips, ice cream and running about on the beach we dropped the kids off and headed home. I loaded the images onto the laptop and I stopped at that one of Rhianna’s crazy face and the huge genuine smiles on Emily & Ruby, turned to Steve and said “I wish I could do this for a living” and he simply replied “Just do it” Yeah right!! Ppfft, as if.. his reply to that was the same, “Just do it” and that his response to every reason and excuse I came up with as to why I couldn’t do it. Could I? Even though I had always wanted to do it, having the encouragement and support to do so was something that I had never had before.
A career was something that you had in a bank or working for a big firm, photography was just a hobby and not something that could be pursued. It was in this moment that I realised that not only could I do it, but if I failed then I would still have the love and support of someone that even though had only been in my life for less than a year, was someone that believed in me more than anyone has and more than I have ever and will ever do myself.
My brain went into overdrive and I started to think of what I could do, I grabbed a notebook and started emptying my thoughts onto paper and allowed myself to think of the future for a second before reality came crashing down… Before I could do any of this, I needed a “professional” camera!
Steve brought me my first camera! A Nikon D5300 and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. As soon as it arrived, I took it out for a walk and photographed everything in sight, flowers, trees, bees and everything in between…. Man, did I have a lot to learn! I subscribed to all the YouTube channels that I could find and watched hours upon hours of tutorials, bought myself some books and tried to teach myself as much as I could. I started a Facebook page and voila; my own photography business was born!!
From my very first client my philosophy has been the same… I want to capture you and your family to create memories that will last a lifetime. I also knew from the onset that I didn’t want to do the traditional posed style inside a studio, I wanted to go out on location and play and photograph your children being themselves and natural.
These are some of the first images I took and edited when I decided to take the plunge and try and do this for a living, they are (and you may hear this a lot) some of my favourite images I have taken. They are of Emily, Ruby and Jack and they represent both my starting point and the style of photography that I wanted to do.
And will you just look at those beautiful buttercups! I am fortunate to live in a town that has so many beautiful location choices for my families. I have miles of golden sandy beaches within a few minutes’ drive, woods filled with bluebells and daffodils, parks and fields of vibrant yellow Rapeseed crops.
I started gaining clients through word of mouth, and to this day I still believe that is the best way that you can gain new business. I have discovered through trial and a lot of error that personal referrals are worth so much more than any amount of money that you can spend on Facebook advertising! I have a group of clients that all know each other in some way, have referred me to one another and are some of my most loyal, repeat customers. I have seen their children grow through my lens and it is a pleasure to see them every time.
Family portraits are available all year round, I also offer limited Mini Sittings throughout the year too. These generally focus on a specific event or season and can’t be booked as an option; they are only available when advertised. One of the first Mini Sittings that i offered were the bluebell minis.
Over the few weeks that i shot these i met some lovely families with some gorgeous children. I honestly had the best time while shooting these, and i will do anything to get that perfect photo. You will find me laying on the ground amongst the flowers or hiding behind a tree to get the best shot possible.
I first offered them in 2018 and they were a huge success, so successful in fact they encouraged me to look forward to Christmas and plan to do something then.
The Christmas minis presented a whole new challenge for me, i had to decide between sticking with what I know and shooting them on location or making a huge jump outside of my comfort zone and working indoors.
After a lot of consideration, I decided that I was going to do them indoors and hire locations in local towns. I bought a Christmas backdrop; backdrop stand and a selection of props and spent a lot of time advertising and getting the word about. Over the course of 5 dates I managed to photograph a lot of families and have a really great time doing so. Looking back, I was totally unprepared for what was about to happen and for the sheer amount of work that I had awaiting me at the end of all this shooting!!
I managed to make it through all the Christmas images relatively unharmed and I started looking for my next challenge. I wanted something that would set me apart from the other photographers in my area, something that was unique to me. I wanted to produce something that showed off the best of what I have to work with, and that is how the Watch Me Bloom package came about!
The Watch Me Bloom Package is 5 mini sittings throughout the year capturing your family as the seasons change. We start in the Daffodils in March then it’s on to the Bluebells in May. Over the Summer we play on the beach and splash in the sea. In the Autumn we got to the parks and woods and at Christmas we go back indoors where it is warm!
As I am always looking for something new to do, to keep my style of photography unique I found something that I needed to involve Steve in! I had seen this done in a Facebook group and I just knew that it was something that I needed to do! I got the specs and Steve built me my very own collapsible box and before I knew it, I had a whole new skill and genre added to my portfolio. I offered it as an option for Christmas 2019 and this was the result:
Although I specialise in children & family photography, I have also captured a few weddings over the years. I have second shot in support for a few of my friends who are established wedding photographers and I soaked it all up like a sponge, I watched how they shot and managed the couple and situation; never pass up the opportunity to learn! I have shot half a dozen weddings solo and although they are a lot of work, they’re physically and emotionally draining, they are fun and ultimately rewarding. The stress you feel during the day is so overwhelming at times as so much is riding on your work, this is the one chance you get to get that shot… But the experience is amazing and presenting your Bride & Groom with something that they will cherish forever and show their grandchildren is so valuable and fulfilling.
I have come so far since the day my first camera arrived, I am now on my 3rd body and am looking to replace that at some point soon. I always say that I want to look back to my work from a year ago and know that I have improved, if you aren’t progressing and learning you are staying still.
I am also a fan of practicing what you preach! My walls are covered in photos and I have many photobooks filled with our precious family memories that I can’t wait to show my grandkids. Are they all professional ones, portraits that I have taken of my family? No! My photobooks are filled with selfies, photos that Grace has taken on my phone and Snapchat selfies with all the crazy filters on them. Memories are memories, each one as precious as the last.
For me, PLEASE….. Mummies get in front of that camera and be present in your children’s memories. It doesn’t matter if your hair isn’t done or your make up isn’t on point, they just want to remember that you were there for them and show you off to their grandkids when they are older too. As I said earlier, “You don’t know how important photos are until they are all you have left”
Owner & Photographer of Natasha Louise Photography in Lowestoft, Suffolk, UK.