How did I become a photographer?
Welcome to my first ever blog post for Mama Bear Photography - the newest Lincolnshire newborn and child photography studio based in the picturesque village of Branston, just outside Lincoln. From a purpose-built log cabin in our garden, I photograph pregnant ladies, babies, children and families and I already love it.
I struggled with what to start this blog with so I just started typing and the below is what happened, it's a bit of a long one, I don't think they will all be this long but if you are considering pursuing photography yourself, or you're just interested in how I came to be running my own newborn and child photography studio in Lincoln then get yourself a brew and read on...
My Dad would always take photos and home videos of my brother, sister and I when we were younger and, being the first-born, I'm so lucky to have loads of old-school, peel and stick albums from when I was born until I was about 12 years old full of childhood memories which I have always loved looking back through every few years. I'll often pull out old favourites to scan and print as gifts or as displays at special birthdays - much to my parent's dismay as, no matter how much I try to number those I've taken to remember where they sit in the album, they always seem to either not find their way back into the original albums or they go on a (hopefully) temporary leave of absence entirely. I'm so grateful to my Dad for capturing so many incredible moments of us all, and for making sure he was in front of the camera as well as behind it so we have plenty of photos of us with both of our parents and family members.
I was probably around 14/15 when I started taking photos myself, just with a basic film camera, but I still remember now the excitement of getting the film developed and seeing just how many photos were of the back of my finger or something equally as rubbish. I grew up in the age of dial-up internet, back when Facebook was just a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg's eye, so thankfully these embarrassing/terrible photos had nowhere to be shared other than pride of place in my homemade scrapbooks. These epic creations were only complete once adorned with hand-applied decorations that I thought enhanced my incredible photographic skills, but I now realise only served to highlight how truly terrible the entire concoction became. Still, no matter how terrible, I will often pull out these albums and transport myself back into these happy memories - sparkly beads and all!
Over the year's, I was given a new little digital camera most Christmases, always under £100, so by my late teens I was well known as 'the one with the camera'. The one who religiously brought their digital camera to every family gathering, sneaking it into school (before camera phones were invented), underage night's out in town, family holidays abroad with my best friend at the time (I think we both wish I hadn't had it!) - you name it, my camera would be there.
Throughout school and University I never knew what I wanted to do career-wise. I remember at 6th form we were all pushed towards further education so going to University seemed the logical next step. Having always loved Business Studies out of all my school subjects I ended up studying it at University and was one of only two people in my year who graduated with First Class Honours - one of my proudest achievements, can you tell?! Soon after followed the inevitable 'what do I do now?' and a succession of unfulfilling positions in sales, retail, car rental and marketing left me feeling like I would never find a career I was passionate about.
It was only when I took my trusty digital camera with me, as always, to my cousin's wedding where I was a bridesmaid (for the fifth time) and photographed everything and anything I started to feel flutters of creative excitement. Despite having a camera glued to my right hand for half my life, I had never once considered a career in photography, I had never researched the industry, I didn't know what was involved in the slightest, I just knew that this was the first time I felt like I was doing something that inspired me, even if the photos definitely weren't anything special!
I remember getting my first DSLR; a Canon 450D not long after and photographing EVERYTHING. I started contacting wedding photographers asking for advice and guidance, researching the industry and roping whoever was willing into photoshoots! I only considered wedding photography, with families as more of a sideline, and another of my cousin's made the brave leap of letting me photograph her wedding so I even coerced my dear Dad into shooting alongside me as I wasn't brave enough to do it on my own!
I did workshops, carried bags for well-respected photographers, attended trade shows, followed blogs, second shot weddings, stayed up late watching Jasmine Star on Creative Live, networked with business owners in the wedding industry, photographed friends babies and children, pets, anything that sat still long enough; I just wanted to fully immerse myself in photography. It also turned out my maiden name, Lovegrove, was already pretty well known in the photography world with one of the country's most prolific trainers, photographers and all round good guys sharing the name for his business. I got used to 'are you any relation of Damien Lovegrove' quite quickly, and given the time he spent informally mentoring me I started to feel a bit like I was!
I got a lucky break when I was featured in an online Q&A interview, which I've tried to find online but to no avail (this is the most I could find), with renowned alternative wedding blogger Kat Williams of Rock n Roll Bride, which led to a four-part series of interviews about blogging and weddings. These were such a long time ago now and I hate watching myself but at the time this was a huge deal for my business so for anyone else reading this just starting out, I'm linking these for you! (Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four).
Wedding bookings then started to come in steadily and my first 'official' wedding was kindly featured by Kat which you can see here - Ruth & Alex. I always ran my business alongside different day jobs and I always had dreams of going full-time one day. I took time to develop a style I loved and was lucky enough to be featured on many of the country’s top wedding blogs; Love My Dress, Rock My Wedding, Whimsical Wonderland Weddings, Bridal Musings, Marry Me Ink and Brides Up North with print features in Wedding Ideas magazine and Lincolnshire Pride magazine.
I absolutely LOVED photographing weddings. I adored my couples, my favourite thing was talking about wedding details, I enjoyed doing wedding fairs and I had the best time on wedding days surrounded by so much love and laughter. My wedding photography promo film by the incredible Frances at Reellovefilms (who I highly recommend without a shadow of a doubt) really sums up how happy I was at this time and how much I loved everything that went into photographing a couple's wedding.
As the business grew it became harder to balance a day job alongside my business. Luckily, Leigh and I weren't yet living together or married and we didn't have children so I had the luxury of spending every minute not working shooting weddings, editing photos, meeting couples but inevitably I suffered burn out. There weren't enough hours in the day and something had to give. I made the difficult decision to put the 'stable' income first and stop photographing weddings to focus on my day job. At the time, I loved my day job too so I was still happy to put all my energy into this and for a couple of years I felt I had made the right decision.
I photographed my final wedding at the end of 2014 and got married in February 2015 in Orlando, Florida. Having photographed so many weddings, I knew what I wanted my wedding to look like and one of the main criteria was that it would be an outdoor wedding. At the time, it was very difficult to find a venue that had a licence for outdoor weddings in the UK and even when they did the changeable British weather would always put me off booking anything. I looked into a full-blown Disney wedding in Orlando (our favourite place in the world) but we just didn't have the budget and the venues all looked a little dated and traditional. It was actually my dear Mum who mentioned getting married elsewhere in Orlando with a 'reception' at Disney World - why didn't I think of that?!
Focusing on the photography side of things, I spent hours trawling the internet to find a wedding photographer that we love. I started following blogs and social media and it must have taken a good 6 months of emails back and forth with many US suppliers before we settled on those we wanted. Photography is generally much more expensive in the US than the UK so we really struggled with budget, however the photographer we loved most (Kristen Weaver) had employed an Associate photographer and I LOVED her work. Krista was one of the best things to happen to our wedding and I still remember now how I felt when reading about her in the literature KWP sent to us. It was serious butterflies and a sense of completeness that we could afford a photographer who I knew would capture our day as I saw it in my head - she did that and more!
Being a photographer, the record of the day was as important to me as everything that went into becoming Mrs Harris so I knew I really wanted a videographer too. I think film footage is so important in helping to remember how you felt in that moment and it acts as another layer of memory retention that as years go by will become more and more cherished. Again, there were some incredible videographers in the area however film was even more expensive than photos! Believe it or not, it cost us less to fly over my all time favourite videographer, the afore mentioned Frances of Reellovefilms, and her partner in crime Beccy Goddard from the UK and it was one of the best wedding decisions I ever made! The combination of Krista and a second shooter for photos at the wedding, with Frances and Beccy filming, to then switch to Frances filming and Beccy taking photos when we went to Disney World it was the perfect balance. We had just 15 guests so our percentage ratio of people capturing the wedding to people actually in the wedding was around 25% which is pretty high (this is usually around 2%) but this is what we valued and I'm so glad we pulled out all the stops we were financially able to!
Clearly my love of scrapbooking hasn't left me as, despite providing many couples with gorgeous, luxurious leather albums, I still opted for a handmade style wedding album that included our 3 week family holiday/honeymoon in Orlando too...
My husband and I have been together for 15 years this year, and it is only in the last three years we got married, moved in together, had a baby (now two year's old), had another baby (now 5 months old) and started a business together so it has been a busy few years! We've barely spent a day apart in the last 10 years of being together as we found out quickly we work really well together, so when we were given the opportunity to take self-employment at the same time, and really create something we are proud of that we have built together, our own newborn and child photography studio was a natural progression for both of our skills and Mama Bear Photography was born.
For me, the season of my life dictates what I most enjoy photographing - when I was planning my wedding I loved photographing weddings and being immersed in this world. Now I'm a Mother I love being surrounded by pregnant women embarking on this incredible journey, squishy little babies that can soak up my broodiness, children that allow me to be silly, to sing, to dance and families who love their kids and just want to show them a fun time! I'll save my progression into newborn and child photography for another time as I can make that into a whole blog post of its own!
Photography has been engrained in my life since such a young age and I'm amazed it took me so long to realise that this is what I was always meant to do. It is more than just a passion, it is something I think about every single day, every situation I'm in I either wish I had my camera or I instinctively reach for my trusty old iPhone, I see photos and moments that need to be captured everywhere - old people holding hands, a child on their Dad's shoulders, a Mum playing peekaboo with their baby in a restaurant, a couple briefly kissing in a crowded area or a cute dog in the street (that I have been known to approach on a regular basis)!
I have always had a love for business too, so the combination of photography and the creativity that comes with this, and running my own studio really is a dream come true for me. I think I will always be known as 'the one with the camera' and if that is one of the main things that defines me, it makes me really proud to have earned the title.