Ooo this is going to be tough to write. See I don't really talk about myself. My 4 amazing children, I can yap about all day, my hugely talented husband, I could write no end of blogs about, my fantastic clients, well I share their news and photographs on a daily basis. But me, well I do my best to hide behind the camera, in my happy place! I've been promised (threatened) that my photography friends from around the country will descend on Hull and kick my bum if I don't write this so before we have a flurry of amazingly supportive female photographers running round swinging their camera bags, here goes . I first picked up a camera when my beautiful daughter was born. Her's was a tricky pregnancy. The first sign that I was pregnant, even before I missed a period was severe pain in my pelvis. Already having hypomotility I was on crutches by 4 months pregnant and even when she arrived at 3 days over due at home in a lovely planned home birth, I was unable to walk or carry my beautiful little girl and was on crutches until she was 2. I won't sugar coat it and say it was easy, because it wasn't it was hard, painful and at times I felt like a useless mum to my baby girl and my wonderful boys. Having to rely on my 10 year old to help me strap my baby to my chest then bum shuffle down the stairs in the morning was rubbish and asking the boys to help get things and do household chores when my hubby was back at work made me feel useless. Our precious lady was completely worth it but I still missed out on taking her out to mummy groups and making new friends.
It wasn't all bad though. I spent a lot of time on Pinterest. Seeing all the amazing images by the talented newborn photographers introduced me to a genre I didn't even know existed. After my little lady was born I tried for find a newborn photographer in my area and couldn't find anyone in my area so decided to try some simple poses myself when she became a little older. These were dreadful! I have a complete love hate relationship with these images. I love them because they are my own precious girl but the photographer in me is screaming nooooo! I was a HLTA in a school at the time. Trained as a nursery nurse, I'd working in Early Years Foundation Stage for 18years and adored the age group. But eventually Ofsted inspections, an academy take over and the data driven politics of life in a primary school became too much and I turned to photography as an escape. I'd always loved photography. My parents bought me my first camera when I went on a school residential trip to Bamburgh when I was 10. I was so proud of that camera. I loved taking photographs of all the new experiences I was having and when I look back at them now, I still remember how happy taking those photographs made me. I always say my baby girl led me to my career in photography. Without her I would never have found the thing that makes my creative heart sing. If my little lady completed our perfect family, (they are perfect to me, but believe me we are far from perfect!) then Bluebell and Lace has certainly completed me. It's like my 5th baby and needs just as much nurturing and attention as any child does. When I first realise that there was a little burgeoning dream inside me to become a newborn photographer it was around the time of the annual Newborn Portrait Show. I kept seeing all these amazing photographers posting about their achievements in the group and I noticed a category for new photographers. I made a little promise to myself that I would work hard and enter that competition. I didn't need to even come in the final, just needed feel good enough to enter. That was my goal.
To get better you have to practice and there's only so much you can do with a doll so I worked for free. Poured cash (endless cash, photography is such an expensive career to work in) my time, blood, sweat and tears into getting better. My plan was to try and build a business which would replace my wage for when my daughter went to nursery. My brilliantly though out plan didn't account for a pandemic though. I'd had 3 newborn models in the studio when Covid struck. Unable to offer model calls for months I threw myself into online training until I could have in person mentoring.
I opened my studio in September 2020 and managed to squeeze in a few newborn sessions and training around my job and 4 children not to mention isolations and circuit breakers before the second lockdown hit. My last session before that lockdown was a lovely friend of mine. Her session was planned for so long. Her longed for rainbow baby entered the world on New Years Day 2021 and on the morning before Boris announced the January lockdown I rang my friend and said it was now or never. So at 3 days old her gorgeous little girl came to the studio for her newborn session. We were sat in my studio while Boris announced our fate. We were both sobbing when he announced the news and it would have been so easy to just give up. Why bother! Building a business is tough. Building a business where you sell a talent you still need to develop is tougher, doing all this in the middle of a global pandemic whilst homeschooling 3 severely dyslexic children and occupying a very fed up toddler was practically impossible.
You have to love this job to do it.
The passion for it needs to run through your veins like fire, burning away the negatives, otherwise you just couldn't do it. Luckily for me it does. So when the 2nd lockdown finally eased and I could reopen, I dusted off my camera, spring cleaned all my bonnets and props and threw the doors to the studio back open. Like the driver of the Jamaican bob slede team on Cool runnings, I studied photographs but instead of looking at the bends in the track, I looked for light position, camera angles and placement of fingers and toes. I had 6 months before the Newborn Photography Show and feeling slightly defeated at the lack of time I'd had to prepare, I was debating my previous promise to myself. I so lucky that I have an amazingly supportive husband and 4 children who won't let me quit. They harassed me into entering by saying that if I didn't pick the images, they'd do it for me so I quietly entered, telling no-one but them. I genuinely expected the judges to look at my work and say "ah bless her, she tried" and place them to the side and not judge them.
The TNPS is a great place to shop for newborn props. Stalls upon stalls of beautiful bonnets, soft knitted outfits and gorgeous wool curls not to mention meeting the many photographers who I'd been speaking to online made me make the journey to Coventry for the show. Never thinking I'd ever make it to the final of the print competition I couldn't believe my eyes when 3, yes 3 of my images had made the final!
This meant attending the gala dinner for the presentation. Not something we'd planned for. Cue us causing chaos for the organisers trying to find us seats at the gala while we tried to find a space at a hotel for the evening. All sorted we enjoyed our day at the show, until I realised that we would be attending a posh gala dinner in our jeans if we didn't do some pretty speedy shopping!
My husband must have unwavering confidence in me because unbeknown to me, he had personally taken his suit and a dress that I'd worn for my daughters christening in the boot of the car. So that just left suitable underwear and shoes to find so, at last, disaster averted we arrived at the gala. I was incredibly proud to have my images shown on the finalists board, that was enough for me. I'm not competitive with anyone but myself as a rule. The only person a want to beat is myself because it means I'm improving. But when they announced that I had come 3rd I was over the moon. The category allows artists who have been in business up to 2 years to enter. I had been in business less than a year when I entered and 5 months of that were spent locked down, unable to work so when they announced that I had also been placed 2nd, I was completely shocked. I actually checked there hadn't been a mistake!
It was an amazing night and it was wonderful to see the incredible work of such talented photographer in all the other categories too. I also made some fantastic friends. Being a photographer can be quite lonely in some ways. Working alone you have no-one to bounce ideas off or ask advice from. Luckily we also have some fantastic online groups to support each other. These friends encouraged me to join the prestigious Guild of Photographers and enter their competitions.
Well it's early days and I know I have so much work to do to achieve their elusive and distinguished Gold award but I have just achieved a High Bronze for one of my Newborn photographs which I've been reliably told is no mean feat against some of the best in the business.
Being able to call myself Multi Award Winning is very surreal. My business started from a little dream I had 3 years ago. I adore my job and my clients. The awards are wonderful but seeing the look on my clients faces when they collect their wall art and prints is priceless. Professional photography may be a luxury not everyone can afford but the memories and photographs that are treasured forever are so important. I said this would be hard to write. I started this in October 2021 after the show and after a talking to a friend who asked where it was, have just finished it. For those who are counting that's almost 6 months! Seriously, writing and posting this is harder than starting a business in a pandemic!