I belong to an online group for photographers, and recently the conversation turned to starting to charge . The comments were supportive and fun until somebody decided to butt in and tell us what he really thinks of people who suddenly decide to become a photographer while on maternity leave. He claimed that stay-at-home mums steal the clients from him (and the other ‘professionals’).
So what is so annoying about a woman deciding to change her career path and give her talents a chance, to bring in some extra money and to spend some time in the world outside nappies and projectile vomiting?
One of the arguments is that it’s not really possible to change career and skills overnight. I changed from teaching to photography, and it took long evenings of reading tons of tutorials, lots of patience, even more practice, expensive gear, and even more expensive computer programmes.
I would never claim I’m a photographer without all the preparation and confidence that I can provide my clients with the quality photos that they paid for. And all my preparation, learning and shooting takes place next to cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, shopping, and taking care of my 3.5 yr old daughter.
I’m not complaining about life and my responsibilities, I’m just stating the fact that being a Mum doesn’t mean women can’t achieve success on a new career path. When a mum goes back to her previous work after having a baby and continues to gain experience and climbs up the business ladder not many people will claim she is rubbish, purely because she is now a mother.
But when a stay-at-home mum starts a new career, making the effort to learn a new skill from scratch, devoting all her free time (there’s not much of it, trust me) on practice and spends some savings to get needed equipment, then this mum is considered a time-waster and unqualified person.
I’ve seen thousands of photos, thousands of photography related websites and designs, and it just so happens that the ones I liked the most were those of women who became photographers/digital designers alongside their maternity status.
One of the things I love the most about their work is the difference between their first photo they took of their baby and the one they took just 5 months later on someone’s wedding as a booked photographer. The transition and development is so outstanding in many cases that I don’t understand why there is any doubt about their skills.
Does it really matter how many years that person was in the business or how many degrees that person can flash in front of our eyes? When we pay for a service isn’t it the end product that we want? And if it happens to satisfy a group of clients, stands out from the crowd and is done by a mum, is that a problem?
We have to give mums more credit for trying to go out there and make a difference in their life. Most of us find our true talents, hobbies and business ideas during those long sleepless nights nursing our babies. Mums starting something new are not trying to take shortcuts and pretend they know stuff. They will put double amount of energy into everything they do. Because that’s what mothers do in life, whatever they do.
It’s a rare occasion that I leave the house other than to go to work, Greggs, or the pub. I went to see a photography exhibition this week.
Entitled No Redemption and showing at Northumbria University, it is a documentary by Keith Pattison of the miners strike in 1984/85. Pattison was commissioned by Sunderland Artists Agency to document the strike as it affected one small community in County Durham; Easington Colliery. He lived among the community and recorded the strike from beginning to end.
Pattison was accepted by the community as they wanted him to show their perspective, and this proximity to the miners and their families helped him create many striking images. He was present on the picket line, in the streets of the town, in the miners welfare and in their homes. The shots taken on the picket line were particularly effective, as he witnessed miners being arrested and police escorting working miners home. Some shots were slightly blurred and out of focus which gave the impression of a photographer hard at work, battling with his camera to capture an expression on a face and the feeling of a moment.The shots showed how life had changed for local people in the village; police guarding street corners as old women shopped and a school girl returning from school with police marching past. This kind of photo puts extraordinary events into the context of the ordinary.
One of the first things that struck me, upon seeing small children innocently caught up in a very adult world, was that I could have been one of those children. I was 4 at the time. It’s strange to think that this was going on as I was growing up, not just in a village down the road but all over Britain.
I find fault with the exhibition at this point, as the images were all in black and white. If the shots were in colour, I think it would have brought the events to life. It was in my lifetime, it was the 80s. Displaying the events in black and white ages them, and perhaps keeps them in the past. At the time a lot of photographers were shooting in colour as part of the “social realism” style of the day. This project would have worked well in colour.
Still, the exhibition got me thinking again about the strike. I was too young at the time to appreciate what was happening but as I’ve taken more interest in society, politics, history, the media, class issues and all that kind of crap, the strike fascinates me.
The strike initially began as a response to Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government, announcing that many pits across the country had become unprofitable and would be closed. Many communities, especially in North East England, relied almost entirely on the pits. Without the pits there would be mass unemployment. Angry and fearful, many miners in the affected areas went on strike. Supported by their union, the National Union of Mineworkers led by Arthur Scargill, the strike was declared a national strike.
As it progressed the strike became increasingly bitter. Stung by a previous strike which effectively brought down the previous Conservative government, Margaret Thatcher brought down the full weight of the state upon the miners, their union and its representatives. She was determined to bring national industries into a free market and to crush the trade unions that prevented it.
Police were drafted in from around the country to oppress protests and used brutal and violent tactics, resulting in the injury and arrest of thousands of miners. MI5 was used to spy on union officials. The courts were used to freeze the assets of the union. Welfare benefits to strikers families were stopped. The right wing media condemned the strike on a daily basis, often editing events to make the strikers look bad.
Thatcher declared war on the striking miners and the union, calling them “the enemy within”. Scargill declared this to be class warfare, and for many miners struggling to feed their families and heat their homes whilst the middle classes thrived, it was. Millions of pounds of public money was spent on policing the strike – money that could have been spent on supporting the mining industry.
Support for the strike was much stronger in working class areas. Scargill was a hero to many, refusing to back down in the face of severe personal provocation from a government hellbent on destroying working class communities. To the ruling classes, he was a dangerous revolutionary intent on overthrowing their way of life with the intention of housing the Queen in a council house and creating a Marxist superstate.
Of course, there is only so long that a family can do without money, and the miners had to return to work. And of course many mines were closed, many jobs were lost, communities were torn apart and broken and lives ruined. The coal industry was privatised along with many other industries and unions damaged forever. Thatcher got her wish. The government was free to run the country at the expense of the poor for the benefit of the rich.
As in 1984, Britain in 2012 is divided along class lines. The Conservative led coalition government is continuing what Thatcher started, with a constant stream of policies protecting the privileges of their own class whilst simultaneously attacking the vulnerable working classes. The police continue to oppress demonstrations with brutal force and the right wing media continues to demonise those who go on strike to protect their livelihoods and their futures.
So when David Cameron talks about “Broken Britain”, he would do well to remember it was none other than his idol that broke it. But then, that’s exactly what they want, because when Britain breaks, it’s the poor people that suffer. And they ain’t poor.
Pattison’s exhibition is showing until 27th January. Here’s a link to the images if you can’t make it…
A fellow photographer recently shared a letter from one of her clients. The letter started talking about the price of photographs, and how it had put her off having them taken. But as we read on, we found out that this client had been diagnosed with cancer with just weeks to live and was filled with regret. She said how sad it was making her to think that she was leaving her husband and kids without a pile of amazing family photos. How her kids will only have few photos of their mum to remember her by. For her, the photographs were a way of leaving something behind for your loved ones that had only become so important when she had become ill.
But is the photograph really that powerful? For me it is. And not only because I’m a photographer – I have thousands of photos printed and framed on my walls at home. They remind me about all that happened and made me who I am now. When I come back from holidays there are always a few pictures that get printed and go on the wall. When people come to my house they straight away get an idea about me and my family, they see the places we visited, they see the photos of my daughter, they can see my and my husband’s home towns back in our separate home countries.
Years ago we went with my husband to Barcelona where my bag was stolen). What was gone was my brand new bag, my film camera (yes, back in 2005 I was a proud owner of a film Samsung;)), wallet with all my cards, money and…pocket size photos of my parents from the times they were teenagers, photo of baby-me with mum & dad and a photo of me and my best friend. Since then I have bought myself tons of new bags (my second hobby after photography), my camera is now a digital Nikon and I have new bank cards. But I will never be able to get those precious photos back.
So for me, photographs are more than just a piece of paper, more than just an image on the camera’s memory card. When it comes to my clients they are very excited while booking the session. But the next time I see them on location they are often stressed, shy and they seem to have an expression on their faces saying: “Uhm, overall I don’t think it was a good idea cause I’m not photogenic and my child is all over the place, etc, etc”.
But let me tell you, the excitement from the beginning is back the moment we meet up for photo viewing, that special moment they see the photo of their newborn, or of themselves being all glowing and happy. They start to understand what is important about photos, the smiles and love, not how much they weigh and if their makeup was all in place. Tears come to their eyes.
So once you finish reading this article, can I please ask you to switch your computers off and grab your camera, go and snap some cute photos of your kids (if you need some tips head over
here) Go and book that family photo session that you always dreamt of at your local photographer.
And the next time people are taking photos near you, don’t hide behind the camera saying you will just take a picture, don’t hide behind the sofa (seriously, I’ve seen this happening once). I have a quote on my site which is very close to my heart: “A photograph is a pause button of life”
Oh, and before you switch your computer off, share your views on this topic in the comments below. Have you got a story showing the importance of photographs? Have you got a way of presenting your photos? Blog? Website? Frames in your house?
Do you need inspiration to snap more photos? Then join me and Camel’s Hump in our Facebook photo fun Shoot That. Each month we will ask for photos on a selected theme, and the best will be showcased on the Facebook pages and here on Camel’s Hump. This month the theme is “green”. Come over to our facebook pages and join in today…
It is not The Camera that takes those great photos, but the knowledge and talent of the person holding it. Even the most expensive camera on the market will not make those great photos by itself – you need to know how to operate it to achieve the image you want. So before making an expensive decision about getting new equipment, a good idea would be reading the manual of your existing camera.
Here is a shoot straight out of my camera of my girl at my friend’s wedding. It’s to show you how “good photos” can be taken even with a point-and-shoot when you know few things about light, settings of your own camera and basics of composition. Good photos are taken by people, not cameras.
So having mentioned that, we can now move on to the reasons you have for buying a new camera. Do you want to start taking decent photos of your kids? A nice, but not too fancy camera which you can take on your family holidays? If that’s what you want, then you should go for a point-and-shoot pocket camera. Not only will it do the job but it will also give you some basic possibilities to play with and use it at night, in bright sun, etc. Please, though, do not go for the cheapest one – always remember that you get what you pay for, and when it comes to cameras this truth is something you should pay special attention to.
If you are hoping to go more professional and adventurous, even with your holiday photos, then an SLR is the one to go for. SLRs are more sophisticated, with lens change possibilities, and of course more modes and settings to use. The choice out there is overwhelming so set yourself a budget, read reviews and get some advice from someone who can help you make up your mind depending on what you really need.
When you decide if and what to buy, make sure you read the manual, as this leads to taking those “good photos” everyone is talking about, regardless of the camera model you use. You read a manual (at least browse through it) when you buy a new home appliance, don’t you? So the next time you get yourself that brand new, shiny, dream camera make sure you know how to use it, because otherwise all the money you spent on it will be wasted no matter which model and type of camera you have.
If you have any questions on this topic, make sure you drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments below.
Are there any other topics you would like me to cover here on The Camel’s Hump in the future? Please share and I may be able to advise and help.
Until next time 😉
Many people struggle to take photographs of their children, ending up with blurry, too dark or simply badly taken pictures. There is still hope – simply follow these tips and you will find that you will get much better photos.
As a mum, I know all too well how fast and non co-operative kids can be when it comes to having their photo taken – all these photos are of my daughter and are natural photos taken in a natural environment, not a photo session.
1. THINK BRIGHT
Some of you may already know that photography is all about light, so switch all possible lights on, open all the curtains or simply choose the brightest room you have.
If the weather is fine, go out to the garden. If it’s the bathroom that’s the brightest in your house, go there. For the photo below we took potato peeling out to the garden and used the natural light.
2. WINDOW SHOOTS
If you want to shoot your child’s portrait, move them over to the window. Sit them facing or next to the window, position yourself next to your child and start shooting. The light coming from the window will brighten your child’s face giving a warm light and will reduce shadows.
3. IT’S ALL ABOUT FUN
If you want to get those happy, exciting and full of laughter photos that you see in magazines, you need to have fun with the camera. Remember that when you sit opposite your child with your camera, the only thing they see is that big piece of equipment you’re pointing at them, and so your kids will act out and get very impatient.
But if they see mum/dad behind the lens, having fun with them, you are that bit nearer to catching those amazing family moments. Talk to them, ask questions, make a fool out of yourself, simply be alive! For example, try saying “I bet you cannot jump up high enough to reach the ceiling!” Be ready, and keep on pressing the button. I guarantee some natural laughter will follow seconds after.
While taking the photo below I simply said to her: “I bet you can’t drink your juice and look at mummy at the same time…”
4. PROP PLEASE
You want your kids to be calmer and in one place? Give them a prop.
Apple, lollipop, piece of chocolate, teddy, your jewellery, kids magazine, even Ikea product long tags. Once you have them occupied with something, you have a perfect model, but be quick, props don’t work forever!
5. LET THEM BE
When you stand further back and let your kids just be, doing what they love doing, you can get their real personality. It doesn’t always have to be pictures of them staring at the camera. Back up, give them space and capture those moments of your kids being kids.
By being an “invisible photographer” you won’t have pouting, acting out and boredom on their face. Instead, you may be lucky in catching their true nature.
6. SOMETIMES DIFFERENT IS FINE
Yes, it is! Don’t delete those awkward photos. You caught a pre-sneeze face? Great, keep it. A photo of your 2 year old crying his head off? Even better, you will have something to show to your future son/daughter-in-low;) Aim for those in-between moments as well.
7. ENJOY, DON’T PUSH IT
If your kids don’t want to have their photo taken at this time, don’t push it. You will have everyone hitting the roof with no decent photos on your memory card. Taking photos should be fun – if it isn’t it will cause unnecessary tension, so sometimes you will have to put the camera down. Simply enjoy the time with your loved ones and try again soon.
I know from my own experience, as a mum and as a photographer, that sometimes it’s those 5 minutes without the serious equipment covering your face that will make a huge difference. Treat your little ones as children in front of the camera and not as professional models on a contract.
I hope that helps, and I wish you all great family photos you will cherish forever!
Have you got any tricks you use on your kids? Share them in the comments below.
If you are interested in joining my photography workshops for parents starting early spring, please contact me via email to get more details and book a space.