Last month I was interviewed by Turning Pro Magazine about my first full year in business. It was a privilege to be asked and I was very excited to find that my interview spanned over 3 pages. The full article is shown below.
Nina Mace is a Hemel Hempstead photographer, specialising in babies in children and today she is telling us about her first full year in business.
Turning Pro : Tell me about the day you decided to quit your marketing management job and become a photographer? How did that feel and how did your family and friends react?
NM: I had been working full time in Marketing for over 15 years and realised that having 2 children, and a job that required travel and at times very long hours, I was missing out on time with my family. I started taking on some contract roles which meant I had more flexibility and at this time I bought my first DSLR second hand on ebay (Canon 550d). As soon as the camera arrived and I took my first image I was so excited by the difference of quality compared to my previous point and shoots I couldn’t put it down. I took hundreds of images of my children but quickly discovered that I needed to understand how to use the camera in manual to get the best from it. I enrolled in a course with a local professional photographer and absorbed as much information as I could and I was soon shooting in manual and understanding light more.
Turning Pro: What were your first couple of steps?
NM: I left my contract role as a Marketing Manager at a holiday company and at the same time I launched my website www.ninamacephotography.com and a discounted price list to continue to build my portfolio. The first few months were all about driving awareness of my brand. I ran a competition to win an outdoor family portrait session, I connected with other local business with the same target audience, and I talked to people…everywhere. I spoke to mums at my children’s schools, an NCT group who were meeting in Costa coffee. I connected with a friend who managed a local nursery, all of which helped continue to drive potential clients to the website and to follow me on Face book. In my local area there are a number of professional photographers but none of them specialised in the type of lifestyle photography that I wanted to offer so I spoke about this and showed examples of my work. When I first had my children I had looked for a local photographer who offered an outdoor lifestyle session and I had come up blank and this was a light bulb moment for me. I thought that maybe I should consider launching a business which offered this. Like a lot of families I meet, the children are the happiest when they have room to run around, laugh and play.
My friends and family were really supportive, having seen my work develop over the last 6 months, they also knew that my primary motivation for changing career was so I could balance my work with raising 2 children. They showed support for my new business by sharing my website with their friends and telling people about what I did.
I upgraded my camera to a Canon 7d and added my first L glass lens the 100m 2.8. I realised as I photographed into the winter months, with more and more sessions taking place indoors, I needed a camera with higher ISO capability so invested in the Canon 5diii. This was soon followed with 2 more lenses the 24 70 2.8 L and the 70 200 2.8L.
Turning Pro : What made you decide on bumps and babies?
NM: When I first started I accepted any and every photography job to build my experience and client base but with the intent I could understand not only what I did well but what I loved photographing most. I have photographed engagement sessions, weddings, boudoir and animals but I continued to feel most passionate about photographing babies and children. Children can be so free and joyful that when you capture it on camera it can make the most beautiful images.
Turning Pro: Why natural light and shooting in people’s homes?
NM: I find that children show their true personalities when they are relaxed and having fun and for me I can deliver this best when they are in their own space at home, or outdoors at a local park or woodland. It also enables me to take a huge variety of images on a session – in someone’s home or outdoors the backdrop opportunities are endless. On a typical 1-2 hour outdoor session I will be able to take images using in varied light (including sidelight, top shade, back light) and have the kids lying in the grass, climbing in trees, walking on board walks, running along with the standard close up portraits – the possibilities are endless.
Turning Pro: How did you go about making yourself stand out from all the other photographers out there in the same genre?
NM: It’s a challenge to stand out from all the other photographers in the same genre but I try to inject my personality in everything I do. I follow a few key photographers that inspire me in with their branding, photography or editing style, but I try not to absorb myself too much in what my direct competition are doing. Everything I present, the way I photograph, the way I speak to customers, the final product are a reflection of my personality. I am outgoing (my friends might even say loud ;-)), fun, and I like my images to be full of joy. I want my clients to say their session was fun and relaxed. Most often my clients say I’ve captured their son or daughters personality which is exactly what I am hoping to do.
Turning Pro: When did you join The Guild of Professional Photographers and why did you decide to join? What have you learnt and applied since being mentored?
NM:I joined the Guild of Professional photographers in January of 2013 as I wanted to work with an organisation that would help me to develop my photography even further. I was initially trained by a local professional photographer and then took a number of online classes with www.clickinmoms.com but I was now looking for some 1-2-1 mentoring which was specific to me. I was given Simon Young as my mentor who is an incredibly experienced photographer who also acts as judge in high profile national competitions. Having someone objective look at my work is one of the most valuable things I have done. There were so many light bulb moments around expression and congruence (yes I had to look that up the first time :-)) that when I take a photo now I have considered the light, the body position, the story it is telling, how I might process the image in post-production, before I have even pressed the shutter. The quality of my images has grown and I am very proud to have won both Silver and a Gold Bar in the Guild of Photographers Image of the month competition.
Turning Pro: What’s been the most difficult part of your journey during your first year as a pro?
NM: Learning to manage my time and learning when to say no! When you start as a photographer it’s incredibly easy to spend every waking hour taking photos, watching training courses online into the night (why does Creative live have to be based in America? :-)), blogging, editing. At times I felt like I was living on Facebook. I now recognise that you have to prioritise your activities based upon what is going to have the biggest impact on your business. I have some clear goals for the next 6 and 12 months and a vision of where I want to be in 5 years and I try my best to prioritise those activities which will help me to get there.
Turning Pro: How do you go about building your profile and what coverage do you give via social media?
NM: For me word of mouth has been the biggest driver of my business and the impact that can be created on Facebook. My target audience are heavy Facebook users and they appreciate sneak peeks and being able to share their images with their friends and family (permission is always asked beforehand). Also my awards with the Guild of Photographers have made it into the local press and this has continued to drive awareness of my brand. I have teamed up with some local businesses also owned by mums and we support one another for free. We run competitions, promote special offers and work with one another on twitter and this works because our target audiences are the same. I am also active on other online forums where my target audience have a high penetration.
Turning Pro; What’s been the most fulfilling part of the job so far?
NM: There are so many elements to this job which make it fulfilling – I have images of my children that I love and are displayed in my home (I’ve just ordered a 40 inch canvas of then at sunset running in a field that I adore) and to be able to give my friends images they love of their children is a wonderful gift. It’s also fantastic when you get feedback from clients who love the photos and then actively tell everyone they know about you. I have photographed one local family on 3 separate occasions and it’s very fulfilling to be able to see them every 6 months and see my photos displayed in their home.
Turning Pro: How do you balance your work and home life?
NM: Not easily! :-). This is most definitely the hardest part of moving into professional photography knowing when to switch off. I try to set rules around what times I work and to focus on what will make the biggest impact on my business. The hardest part is switching off when I go on holiday – I often find I remember more taking the shot of the landscape through the camera rather than actually experiencing it! I’m currently looking for a smaller camera which I can take away with me which I can shoot in manual. The Fuji X100s looks like it may be on my Christmas list.
Turning Pro : What tips can you give prospective professional photographers about setting themselves up, starting their profession and being successful in what they do?
– Build your business model around what you love to photograph and try to be great at one thing rather than OK at lots of different things. If you photograph what you love it feels less like work J
– Don’t be afraid to try new things. I have photographed weddings, boudoir, and engagement sessions and always come back to babies and children. I have learnt some great lessons, built my confidence, and it’s helped me to clarify exactly what I do want to do.
– Even when you are portfolio building, have a view as to what your pricing will be. Although you will be working with these customers at less than your full price (or even for free) it is good if you can convert them into long term customers when your prices do go up. Also if these sessions are with clients who are your target audience, their friends are likely to be, so they can become your clients of the future.
– Make friends with other photographers – find photographers who are not so local they are your competition, but close enough that you could meet up. Photography can be a lonely business and it is great that you can have other photographers to talk to about equipment, business, and marketing for example.
– Join a professional organisation and take advantage of the mentoring/ critique forums.
– Don’t rush into spending thousands on branding your business until you know exactly what you want your business to be. Take the first year to experiment and then look back at your work and choose your 10 all-time favourite images. Ask what is it about them that you love and you start to see what it is that you could offer
I hope you enjoyed reading this and if you’d like to keep up to date with my work please feel free to like my page www.facebook.com/ninamacephotography