November 19, 2019
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Interviewer: Belle Bébés

Introduction: Photography with character.

Location: Manchester

Whether you are a parent wanting beautiful pictures of your children, an amateur photographer looking to learn more about portrait photography or somebody who just likes to read an interesting interview accompanied by pretty pictures, these posts are for you…

Today I’m featuring one of my very favorite photographers. Anna’s a favorite not just because her photography skills are incredible but also because I’ve met her and she’s so much fun to be around. When I have children Anna is who I’ll be hiring to capture them on camera.

– When and how did you fall in love with photography?

– When I was going to Asia in my early twenties. I’d always really adored other people’s photographs and since being a kid I’ve always kept and collected photos I liked, from things like postcards and magazines, but until I went traveling I’d hardly picked up a camera other than a basic point & shoot and had certainly never considered photography as something I could do as a career. I got a tax rebate when I was backpacking in Nepal and inspired by all the beauty out there I decided to use the money to buy a film SLR. And then I was totally hooked and it never left my side. I traveled and lugged around hundreds of prints in my rucksack.

– What does inspire you?

– With portraiture, it’s the people themselves.

– When did you first start out in portraiture photography?

– Professionally, about three years ago.

– Where in the UK are you based and how far would you travel for a shoot?

–  I’m based in Manchester but happily and frequently travel absolutely anywhere.

– How many portrait sessions do you shoot per year?

– Perhaps about fifteen at the moment (not including engagement shoots) as I’ve been shooting a lot of weddings too, which take up a huge proportion of my time. My plan over the coming years is to shoot fewer weddings and more portraiture though, so I’m hoping and expecting that number to grow.

– Please tell the readers about your favorite shoot.

– I loved this shot of my friend Louise and her little girls Isabelle and Camilla. The light was beautiful that day, the location was really airy and spacious, the girls were a real dream to photograph, full of energy and fun, and it was great to see my friend so happy with her little ones.

– What would be your idea of a dream portraiture shoot?

– People with energy, they can inspire, they have individuality and character.

– What is your favorite age to photograph and why?

-I absolutely love photographing children as I’m crazy about their energy, enthusiasm, lack of inhibition and sense of fun and adventure. Probably my favorite age photographically speaking is from the age they start to really rampage around until the age when they start to get more self-conscious, so probably anywhere between 2 and 12.

– Please name the major difficulties you face in portrait photography? How do you deal with them?

– I’m not sure there are really any big issues as such – it’s all great fun! Kids constantly move around and particularly younger kids will really not hold still for long at all, so it’s impossible to stay still hoping they will ‘hold’ a perfect shot – you really need to go rampaging around with them and be prepared for a lot of ‘misses’ where they move away at the key moment. So I would say patience and persistence is pretty key with younger children particularly. Another challenge can be parents wanting ‘perfect’ pictures where they get cross with their children if they get a little mucky, are being grumpy or are pulling a daft face – sometimes this can really inhibit the children and they start to close down and stiffen up a little, worrying that they are doing the wrong thing, and this can affect how natural the pictures look. Then it’s just a case of being patient again with them until they have relaxed. As far as I’m concerned silliness, loudness, moodiness, funny faces and mucky fingers are what kids are all about and come with the territory, and I value these every bit as much, if not more, than the cute dresses and angelic smiles.

– Do you have any tips for parents that want you to photograph their little ones?

– Relax and spend a few hours just doing fun things that you usually like to do, whether that’s baking in the kitchen, playing in the park, digging on the beach, face painting, feeding the ducks, whatever. If you’re all doing things you’re comfortable with and enjoy, the pictures will be more natural and a true reflection of you and your family at that point in time. If you can, let the children choose their own outfit, at least for part of the shoot, as this can really help them to feel comfortable, particularly with older children. Don’t worry about their behavior – almost all kids play up to a camera to start off with and it’s best to just let them get the showing off and funny faces out of their system at the start – it soon passes and if they see that you are relaxed then they will relax too. Being a mum myself I understand the need for them to be well rested and fed, so it’s no problem at all to take little nap stops or snack stops – better taking half an hour out than forcing the kids to carry on when they’re uncomfortable.

– What type of camera(s) do you prefer?

– I use two Canon 5D Mark II bodies, one with a Canon 85mm 1.8 prime lens, and the other with a Canon 35mm 1.4 prime lens. I do have a number of other lenses that I use very occasionally but these two are my staple lenses and I rarely feel the need to use anything else.

– And your favorite lenses?

– Without a doubt the Canon 35mm 1.4 prime. I use it 80% of the time and it’s the one lens that I feel truly produces images that show what I’m seeing in my head.

– What about diverse lighting technologies?

– No, I always use natural light, I much prefer it. I occasionally use bounced on-camera flash during evening receptions. That may be at weddings but not very often, if ever, use it for portraiture.

– Would like to mention the proudest moment of your photographer career?

– On a personal level, whenever someone takes the time to email me to tell me they love my pictures I always feel so touched and chuffed. On a professional level, it was probably being asked by musician Mr. Hudson to take some pictures for him – he has his pick of great photographers so I was really taken aback and proud that he wanted me to do them and continue working with him.

– Just so we can find out a bit more about the person behind the lens, could you tell me 5 things you like that are completely unrelated to photography?

Joe, my son. He’s 8 and we are the best friends. He has a perfect sense of humor. And I am impressed by the fact how bright little person he is.  

Food. The most half of the working day I may be like “When is the very next time I can finally eat? Hmm, what exactly it will be?”

Travel. If practical money, time and family constraints weren’t an issue I’d love more than anything to be a travel photographer. I get really itchy feet if I don’t travel often enough and I love few things more than exploring new places. I traveled pretty extensively before I had Joe and can’t wait until he’s a little older and can appreciate all the wonderful places I want to take him.

Pool. I used to be a bit of a pool shark and played for my local pub team. Since becoming a mum I don’t have even nearly enough time to practice playing so am really rusty nowadays. But I can still happily play it for hours on end and as soon as I have the room and money there will definitely be a pool table somewhere in my house.

Books. I read constantly, my house is full to the brim with books, reading is my favorite escape. At the moment I’m part of a book club on Facebook with some friends and it’s been such a joy to share reading with my buddies.

– Name 5 things you don’t like most?

– Rudeness and bad manners

– Being patronized

– Baby talk between adults

– Being hungry  

– Negative or defeatist people

– What are the plans for the future?

– Travel a lot, improve your portrait photography skills, do more personal photography projects, learn to crochet well, find your perfect life balance, make a patchwork quilt. The list is really endless. Just find time to do what you love.