Hi Clare! Tell us a little bit about yourself. What was your road like to becoming a photographer?
I am the classic story of girl meets boy, girl and boy have baby, girls picks up a camera to photograph baby... and never puts it down again.
I fell hard and fast for photography, and particularly for ‘lifestyle’ photography. I didn’t really know it was called that at the time though - I just wanted to have beautiful pictures of my family to put on my walls. My style is fairly relaxed looking; I love creating images that look like they could have been taken by a great family friend as they hung out with the family (but we all know that look is harder to create than it sounds!)
Funnily enough, I grew up desperately wanting to be ‘creative’ but had no artistic skills whatsoever. I was terrible at art at school, and used to get hilarious report about how I struggled to put paint on paper in an artistic manner. I left that part of me behind and slipped into the academic and corporate world and thought that was it. It was only when I picked up a camera five years ago that I realised that I could be creative after all; I just hadn’t found my medium until then.
What made you want to pursue family photography? Why are you passionate about this genre of photography?
I absolutely love giving other people beautiful pictures of themselves and their families. I can still remember the feeling I had when I was looking back through the pictures taken at my first ever session; a sort of joy that I got to share these pictures with someone else (as well as horror at couple of rookie mistakes, but we’ll gloss over that bit!)
I have this idea in my head - you know in films or TV shows where you happen to see family photos in frames? They’re always gorgeous, but look unposed - like they just happened to catch mum laughing with the wind in her hair, or the two brothers grinning at the camera whilst one ruffles the other’s hair? That’s what I want to create for my families - pictures that feel effortless and unposed (when in reality there is a teeny bit of direction!)
What do you recommend for a family going in for their first ever newborn/baby photoshoot? How should they prepare? What should they not do?
What they should absolutely not do is panic, stress or worry. I always tell my clients that it’s my job to worry about how things will turn out - it’s their job to relax and look happy and let that newborn glow shine through (even if they’re not feeling it!).
I nearly always get asked about what they should wear, and my main recommendation is to make sure mum chooses her outfit first and is comfortable in it both standing and sitting. Mum is probably not feeling wonderful about herself so soon after having a baby (or is that just me?!), so she's the one I want to feel happy. The rest of the family can work their outfits around her. I also recommend something very simple for baby - no fancy outfits. In my opinion babies look so much cuter and the sheer babyness of them shows through when they are in a tiny little onesie or a pretty swaddle.
Your photos have a very candid and untouched nature to them. How do you capture such unique images? Does it come naturally or do you have to pose your clients?
I want my pictures to look natural and like the photographer just happened to be there when a beautiful moment happened in gorgeous light. But here’s the thing - beautiful moments rarely just happen on a Sunday morning when you’re all dressed up and have a photographer sticking their camera in your face. Mum is stressed, dad often doesn’t even want to be there and the kids are feral because they can just SMELL the stress on mum and dad, and on top of that, no one knows where to look or how to sit or what to do with ALL OF THESE HANDS THEY’VE JUST ACQUIRED.
So I see it as my job to help recreate those magical moments that likely would have happened if I wasn't there, to give the family the memories they deserve. So I do pose. I hate the word pose though, so let’s say I direct. I find a great place, in great light, and I build the family into a natural looking position from there. I layer in people at different heights, and tell people what to do with all of those pesky hands, and then once I’ve set it up, I let the magic happen. I get them to squeeze one another, to look at one another, to laugh together, and soon enough I’ve got a beautiful family photo for them that doesn’t look posed at all. Of course I also capture all of the in-between moments, and sometimes the magic does just happen all by itself (which I LOVE LOVE LOVE), but I’m not afraid to admit that I do often give a helping hand.
Babies and children can be tricky to photograph, after all, you can’t give them direction (and their attention spans can be quite short!)... What are your top 3 tips for photographing babies and children?
My main tip for shooting children is just to roll with the chaos and to make it work for you! I will often ask the kids to do something and they will do something else (of course!) which works equally well, if not better, because it’s truly ‘them’. I love when they lie upside down, or grab mum instead of dad, or jump on the sofa or pull silly faces - that’s where the magic is.
With babies, my only tip is to allow plenty of time, and to let the parents know that they have all the time they need. If baby needs a feed, or is in dire need of a nappy change, go for it! I put my camera down and tell them that I have allowed extra time for them to do whatever they need, and 99% of the time that makes mum feel calmer, and baby senses it. I also reassure them that it’s totally normal for baby to cry/feed/poo the entire time - sometimes they’re too busy worrying about what I think to worry about smiling and loving on their baby!
You also provide workshops for fellow photographers. What made you want to start educating other photographers? Is this something you always had in mind to incorporate into your business?
I’m not sure many of us go into this thinking we’re good enough to teach other people, do we?!
As creatives, I think it’s an in-built criteria for us to doubt ourselves and our work! So no, I didn’t go into photography with that in mind, but as time went on, and I was lucky enough to win some awards, and start to get recognised, people started to contact me about teaching and mentoring them and so I took the leap. I actually love teaching, and spent some time teaching many years ago, so I took what I learned there, the tools and tricks that I’d used to help people take in information, and transferred it to photography. It’s now one of my absolute favourite things to do.
In addition to my online mentoring, I also teach in-person beginner’s workshops where I show people how to not only use their cameras, but to take beautiful pictures with whatever camera they have with them (i.e their iPhone). I’m also about to announce an exciting in-person workshop in the UK - more details are here.
What advice do you have for photographers who are new to the market? How should they go about finding clients?
Oh I could write so much here! The main point for me though is: Do your thing and people will come to you. I know that’s very easy to say, and that sometimes you can’t always wait for ‘your people’ but I do work on the basis that I’m shooting what I love and therefore people will feel that and want it. I’m also a big believer in pricing high enough that people value your work.
I don’t want people to choose me because I am slightly cheaper than one of five other similar photographers - I want people to choose me because they love my work and they see the value in it. I guess what I’m saying is: don’t cheapen yourself - believe in yourself and your style and others will too.
Based in Asia, Clare is an award-winning British photographer who specialises in capturing emotive images that tell the stories of the families she photographs (including her own). Her style is editorial and effortless, using beautiful light and rich shadows to capture fleeting moments and details to remember. She combines her love of photography with her love of education by providing workshops and mentoring for everyone, from beginners without cameras, up to professionals looking to take their art to the next level.
Whether it be big or small, who doesn’t love to receive a heartfelt gift? And, the best gifts are the unexpected ones.
Your clients chose your services because they appreciated what you offered. They took notice of your craft, and they believed in what you provided. It’s thanks to them that you’re able to keep doing what you adore. Why not give them something special to stand out even more and say, “Thanks! I appreciate you”?