Passion and a Camera alone are not enough - My article published in Turning Pro Magazine

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Good Morning Folks,

Today's blog is an article that has been published in Turning Pro magazine, so a little different to my images that are usually published, this is a national publication aimed at photographers. I was approached last September to answer some questions and I am pleased to say they have published a piece about me; happy days. I just wanted to mention my brilliant mentor Kevin Pengelly FBIPP FMPA as he was not mentioned in the final piece. For those of you who are interested, here is the full piece that gives more details and also gives a thumbs up to those who's training has helped me on my photographic journey to date :)

I hope you are not too bored and happy reading!

Claire :)

You achieved Associateship level with you membership at both the BIPP and the SWPP- is this correct?
Yes that is correct and I also have my Licentiate with the MPA along with the Diploma in Photographic Practice (DipPP).

Could you explain a little about how this is achieved?
Once I made the transition to full time in 2007 it was my aim to make progress through the distinctions with the professional organisations. I was continuing to build the business so this process did not start immediately but I realised where I wanted to be placed in the marketplace I needed to train and gain my qualifications. The first port of call was to improve my knowledge and I did this through Photo Training 4 U, now called The Photographer Academy, which is headed my Mark Cleghorn. This is an on-line training resource and suited my needs perfectly as I could choose where and what to watch that was pertinent to me at the time. I gained my Licentiate with the SWPP in 2010, then my Licentiate with the MPA in 2011. My Associateship with the SWPP was gained in March 2012 and the BIPP Associateship was achieved in August 2012. I have also gained a few awards along the way, which is nice.

Could you name a few courses you took which contributed towards this level?
The main training resource was Photo Training 4 U in the beginning, followed by courses with Trevor and Faye Yerbury, Marco Dukta, Martin Grahame-Dunn, Kevin Wilson, Uzair Kharawala and Doug Gordon. I make decisions on the courses that I want to attend based on my current skill set and the elements I want to perfect. The trainers that I choose to learn from are very experienced and have been in the industry for many years. There are too many that train today that still have a lot to learn themselves!

How long did it take you to reach this level?
For the SWPP L it was probably about a year.

What kind of modules are required?
The process of gaining your L, A and F is not about modules but the consistency and standard of your work. Many things are judged during the mentoring stage and finally at judging or assessment day. The DipPP has a series of 7 modules. It is all written work along with a series of prints too.

Are they more practical or theoretical, or a blend of both?
The L,A and F are all about your skill and creativity as a photographer and the DipPP is all about your business and theory.

What were the contact hours like- if any? Is this a something you can do entirely online?
The L,A and F are very intense and you have to be prepared to put a lot of work in, mainly on your own and only with contact hours if you have a one-to-one mentor. Photography is made up of many elements and the three distinctions really do test these more and more as you progress. The ultimate pinnacle is the Fellowship; it is hard, which is why only the top few percent in the country have attained it. The DipPP was a distance learning course, the information had to be sourced entirely by the candidate so no text books to work from.

BIPP courses have Creative Skill Set ticks. Did this or any other kitemark influence your decision in taking the course?
The BIPP has a completely different approach to qualification; their ethos is to get to know the photographer and in order to do this so much more work has to be shown. My first three qualifications were panel based and it did take me some time to get my head around what they wanted but wow was it worthwhile. I submitted for my Licentiate qualification and I passed, unbeknown to me the work was then assessed for the Associate and I was upgraded. The work I showed the BIPP was prolific and they really did know me as a photographer by the end of it. Prior to my membership being accepted I submitted 40 images (20 from weddings and 20 from portraits) so they could assess my current ability. This process should not be easy; when gained these qualifications should be something to be proud of.

Have you taken advantage of the SWPP mentoring service?
When I was working for my original Licentiate with the SWPP I did take advantage of their Mentor Me Service. This is a brilliant way of getting used to being mentored and having one's work critiqued without the terror of it being face to face! It takes time to get used to having image critiques and because it is anonymous (well sort of) it makes the process more palatable. I do feel that if you want to progress further then nothing can beat a personal mentor, which I have now. Without the Mentor Me though I would not have developed that ability to stand back that helped so much when Kevin became my mentor; it's a worthwhile benefit of the SWPP.

Do you intend reach fellowship level with either training body?
Fellowship is the pinnacle and I would love to reach that pinnacle; always striving for the next goal is my version of Continuing Professional Development, to me this is important so that skills do not become stale. I am extremely lucky to have my mentor, Kevin Pengelly FBIPP FMPA who is a brilliant photographer and mentor. I have complete trust in his guidance and have made my biggest leaps since he has been mentoring me. Kevin started mentoring me in 2010 when work started towards my Licentiate with the MPA and becoming an Accredited Master Photographer.

Some more thought based questions:

How do you think you have benefited from these qualifications?
I have benefitted in as much as it is a measure of one's progression. My target market really do notice my qualifications, some photographers say that it is of no consequence to their clients so why bother; it is to mine though.

Do you think you receive a lot of support from the design of the courses?
The courses that I attend are very specific and not intended to be like college courses. The support I receive is from my mentor Kevin Pengelly FBIPP FMPA.

Do you think qualifications are useful in your field?
Yes I do but I come from a background in a previous career where qualifications were important and as I said in a previous question they are noticed by my clients.

Were the qualifications recommended to you?
My decisions were based of my own research; once decided a plan of progression was formed by me.

How did other students on the course find it in terms of beneficial value?
These courses are not traditional college courses; they are specific portions of training. The photographers that choose them are like me looking for specific elements they want to perfect. Sometimes I am revisiting knowledge, which is no bad thing but there is always something new to be learned.

Do you enjoy the process of becoming accredited?
Oooh what a question; yes and no! Every level is challenging and sometimes I wondered what on earth I was doing but the whole process is one huge learning curve. During the judging and assessing I can definitely say it was not enjoyable. Sitting in the waiting room seemed like forever; there is that moment after every exam where you have not passed or failed and when you are lead into the assessment room you wish that moment could go on forever. When I passed the feeling is brilliant, absolutely brilliant and then I can say I enjoyed it! Poor old Kevin and my Husband have to put up with me when working towards the next level. They deserve some sort of sainthood!

Do you regret choosing your particular route into photography?
No I have learned so much and when I compare it to some other routes I wouldn't change a thing.

How long have you been photographing? Looking at your website, you work seems to be of a very high standard. What was the motivation behind gaining a qualification in photography?
What are the main things you have learnt in the duration of achieving these qualifications?

I have been interested in photography since the age of 16 but this was purely a dalliance, nothing serious. In my previous career qualifications were important so this ethos naturally was a part of my progression and business plan. I have learned so much that I would be writing for ages. Each progression up the qualification ladder built on this knowledge, so for anyone thinking of gaining their qualifications should relish in the building of foundations with their Licentiate then layering on more and more skills and knowledge as they progress further. The advice I would give is do not treat the distinctions as a box ticking exercise, the process to gaining the distinction is as important as the pass achieved.
Do you think the qualifications have taught you anything about making a business model out of photography or are they more composition and artistic directions?
The L, A and F are definitely about the art and science of being a photographer, they are not about the business of photography. The DipPP is more about the business of photography but to be honest when you embark on this you will already be in business so should know about profit margins, business plans etc. If you want to know about business then this is a completely different learning process and one that many photographers are not comfortable with. In order to succeed you must have a creative head and a good business head. If you haven't then keep photography as a hobby. Passion is a word that is bandied about so much in this industry; passion alone is not enough I am afraid. Hard work, exceptional skills, commitment and a good business brain is a must.

How do you think the qualifications has affected your work as a photographer?
Quite simply it has made me a better photographer, but it is a process not just the qualification but also having a mentor. The qualification is the end result of all that hard work.

Are your qualifications you think something people look for when hiring a photographer?
My clients do along with my style. Other photographers say that qualifications do not matter to their clients, so it really depends where you sit in the market.
As mentioned, I think your photos are very high standards with a distinct style. Are your preferences during courses nurtured or do the curriculums not allow much room for personal preference?
The courses I attend are very specific to what I want to achieve. Having a mentor also helped me to realise the style that was coming through in my work.

Is it important to take training courses to stay on the cutting edge for your business?
I think it is, but be very careful who you choose to train with. There are many out there that could benefit with a great deal of training themselves.
Anything else you’d like to add. Depending on your answers, I may well send you follow up questions of course, or maybe call you on the phone for clarification if its easier.
Photography as a business is not easy; don't go into it thinking that all you need is passion and a camera. The investment in equipment, training, insurance etc is extensive and it is expensive. Go into it with your eyes wide open, a good business head and don't rely on photoshop; your images must be good 'in camera'. Don't think that you will be a expert straight away, there is a lot to learn and you will never stop learning. Search out the crème de la crème of our industry and aspire to be like them. Then search out the crème de la crème of business; learn from them and learn who you are as a business and how you wish to operate.


Photography published in magazines

ood Afternoon Folks,

Just a short blog today; the catwalk image I took of Emma's dress on the London catwalk is proving very popular with the magazines. This month we see this little beauty featured in Your Sussex Magazine and a couple of weeks ago it was featured in Bridal Buyer. Quite chuffed to be honest :) If you want to see more Eleanor the pop over to Emma's website www.emmatindley.co.uk and you can see more images of this truly stunning dress. Oh and forgot to mention it was designed by Designer of the Year and the You and Your Wedding Designer Retailer finalist of whom I am the official photographer; I shall never tire of saying that...not bad eh!!

Claire :)

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Portrait Photography in East Grinstead - Katie

Good Afternoon Folks,

I know, I know I promised a wedding photography blog today but I couldn't resist showing you gorgeous Katie so I made and executive decision to have a portrait photography blog today.

Say hello to Katie who was a lovely bridesmaid at one of the weddings I photographed last year. She was so proud and happy to be supporting her uncle and new auntie that day and along with mummy did a splendid job.

So we had a discussion as to what we were going to do in the session, and as I do not operate the conveyor belt roll on, roll off policy we were able to take our time with some different things to have lots of fun and create something a little different. I do think that the high key background has it's place, but I really do like to be able to create different looks in the studio that match my clients rather than wheel them in front of the generic white background for every shoot.

Katie was a joy in front of the camera and very at ease, she really was a pleasure photograph. I also had the chance to try out my funky new background too :)

I have chosen three images today and the first is showcasing the funky background, the other reason I chose it was for it's simplicity and the intensity of Katie's gaze into the camera, see I told you she was good. Oh I just love this image with Katie cuddling mum, what more can I say I love it. I have this photograph printed as a sample on some very beautiful paper that is pearlescent with a very, very soft metallic sheen. To appreciate it you really do have to see it. Lastly something that I think must be very associated with my style, very simple, classical lighting in black and white.

Pre-wedding shoots for 2014 are kicking off for me this weekend and I am very excited to start on the planning this year's weddings with my lovely brides and grooms. I also want to do more portrait photography this year so I am looking forward to meeting all sorts of new people, how good is that :)

Have a great weekend folks; we have a new washing machine arriving; oh yeah party on down. It's that moment when you pull the old one out and see what's underneath…yuk!!! I long for the day when one is invented that wheels in and out easily so those jobs aren't done once in a blue moon. Whoever nodded off at the back; wake up ;) new appliances are exciting, they are, they are :D

Claire :)

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Surprise One

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So here it our first surprise of 2014. So to start a brand new year I think it's rather fitting for our first surprise to be all about newborns. So, if you are expecting a baby in February or know someone who is then read on!

I am offering one complimentary newborn experience valued at £50.00 to be taken in the month of February. My newborn sessions are very relaxed and I like to take my time to capture that truly newborn phase in the first two weeks after birth. If you take up the option of my mahoosive discount on one 16 inch canvas then the total surprise will be valued at £110.00!

So here's what you do; make sure you like my business facebook page if you haven't already done so, and the first person to send me a direct message on my facebook business page will win the surprise. Here's the link that takes you straight there https://www.facebook.com/woodlandhillphotography

So if you win the surprise you will agree to;

  • Bring your gorgeous bubs along in the first two weeks after birth
  • Have the newborn experience by the 28th February
  • Come back for a personal viewing

Here's my side of the bargain;

  • This is a genuine surprise
  • You will have the option to purchase one 16 inch box canvas for £60.00, which represents a massive 50% discount
  • When you come to me there will be no hard sell to try and extract cash from you

And finally;

  • If you love the images, and I hope you do, and want to buy some then I would be delighted but the minimum order value has to be £150.00; this does not apply if you want to accept the offer of just the canvas only
  • Just to re-iterate there will be no hard sell and absolutely no obligation

Those darned T's and C's;

  • This surprise has no cash value
  • The 50% discount can only be redeemed on one 16 inch box canvas

So click here to go straight to my facebook business page and good luck,

Claire :)


Haxted Mill Edenbridge Kent Wedding photography with Lisa and Tim

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Good Evening Folks,

Welcome to the wedding photography of Lisa and Tim who were married at our very own St Swithun's Church East Grinstead, West Sussex and then to the absolutely gorgeous Haxted Mill, Edenbridge, Kent afterwards for their reception.

The wedding day started at Lisa's family home where I captured some moments before Lisa and her Father left. We then zipped off to the Church to capture Tim and the boys ahead of Lisa's arrival. This was one of those days where the weather wasn't prepared to let us know exactly what it was going to do. We were happy because the light was good and the rain that seemed to be just in the horizon never really materialised and it was warm so what more could a girl want; well a Ferrari, swimming pool, cleaner, ironer wouldn't go amiss but that's just being greedy!! Just before Lisa walked in with her Father, a few nerves kicked in so we all did lovely relaxing breathing exercises to make sure Lisa was 'aisle fit' and then before we knew it Lisa was walking down to marry the love of her life. I loved capturing their wedding service and being able to do this without being seen is something that I love. I don't think that wedding vows should feature the wedding photographer in close proximity to the bride and groom or 'gurning' over the vicar's shoulder. When you have such a magnificent space as this it is a crime not to make full use of these beautiful surroundings.

We had great fun outside the church, there were a few spits and spots of rain but nothing major; I really wasn't sure if the downpour was going to materialise so we did some insurance portraiture at the church, just in case.

Haxted was just sublime with so many little nooks and crannies it was a difficult choice, but a choice was made and fun was had. I have chosen 5 images for today. How cute is this, a little documentary moment captured during the signing of the registers; it was quite a confined space but I am so pleased I managed to capture it. I do love the walking down the aisle shot, this one was great because it was a purely documentary moment and the only light that you see is emanating from a flash of the guest; with the settings I have on my camera I have managed to also keep the beautiful ambience of the church lighting and that's where training comes in folks! Lisa wanted a shot of the boys holding her up, but she wasn’t banking on naughty me developing the shot and I think the surprise on her face is evident here; naughty Claire but I won't change ;) Love this of Lisa having a moment under the weeping willow at Haxted, just love it. This one is so sweet as Lisa and Tim steal a little kiss as their guests enjoy a drink and a chat.

I love all the couples that I photograph and I am so privileged to be a part of their day. I am also lucky that they trust me completely to capture the day as they would want it too, so thank you all my lovely brides and grooms you are wonderful. As for this year's couples, he, he what have I in store for you?

Have a wonderful week and be sure to check back on Monday for surprise one of 2014.

Claire :)


A few little surprises to cheer you up in 2014

Good Morning Folks,

This is just a small blog to let you know about something that is going to be happening here at WHP in sunny West Sussex in 2014. I am going to be offering a few surprises; as I am not a pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap sort of gal these will not be prolific but a few exclusive little things that still fall within the ethos of my business. What I offer will be genuine and will be blogged here randomly and only for one person too.

In return you will be rest assured this is not a gimmick to get to through my doors so I can hard sell you something and turn those thumb screws to extract loads of cash from you; oooooh it makes me shudder just to think of it!!

So I am going to give you a little heads up; the first surprise will be published on the blog next Monday and has to be used in the month of February. After that you just have to keep checking back to see what's going on…oh what a naughty minx I am ;)

Ooooh what could it be :)

Tomorrow look out for my usual blog, which is another lovely wedding.

Claire