2014. What a year. If someone had told me in January that I would have a thriving little photography business by the end of the year I would have laughed. I never dreamed in a hundred thousand years that it would actually all work out. I still have so much to learn, so much experience to gain in both the business and photography world but as a first year, I have to admit I am pretty damn pleased with how things have unfolded so far. While I am on holiday I thought I would take the time to reflect on the last 12 months or so and share my journey with you :)
So a little bit about me. Before I had my little girl I worked in the freight forwarding industry. Did I love it? I couldn't say it was my passion but I was comfortable there, reasonably good at my job and I met some fabulous people during my 20 years in the industry, some of which will be life long friends. I worked in Auckland for the majority of my career with some time spent in London but when I returned to Auckland after my OE I decided I needed a change so in 2006 I moved down to Christchurch. It was here that I met my husband. We married in 2009 and had our wee girl in 2012....who most of you have seen on my Facebook page and heard a lot about! I asked my husband before our wee girl was born if I could buy a new camera (an SLR) 'so we didn't have to pay for professional photos'..... I laugh at how naïve I was then! I thought I had it all sorted, I would have these amazing photos of her as a newborn and my wall would be adorned with gorgeous professional pictures of her as she grew up. Yeah right. I hardly picked my camera up in the first 6 weeks. And there is one photo on my wall which I don't even like that much. Ok, so there are thousands of photos of Honor and every time I think 'that's the one to go on canvas' I take another one which is better so decide that will be the one. And so on. I tried to take some classic newborn photos of her when she was around 4 weeks old....it was a hideous experience. She cried, I cried, I flagged it and got a friend to take a few. This photo bizzo wasn't as easy as I thought! But as time progressed I realised I felt more comfortable hanging back with my camera, watching her play and capturing her just being her. I hardly ever made her pose, I just loved capturing her personality and natural little moments that meant so much to me always hoping that she would also appreciate one day. My style hasn't changed, I love the lifestyle aspect of my photography and my goal is that one day this will define me as a photographer.
I remember when I was about 13 or 14 taking a photo of our neighbours little girl. She was running around outside with her dog so I took a few photos. I had an old instamatic film camera.....or maybe it was my Mums....but I used it a lot and prided myself on the images that came out of it. Of course you couldn't see what you took, you just clicked away hoping for the best all the while being told a lot not to 'waste' the film - it was an expensive hobby even back then! When the film was full you popped it out of the camera, dropped it in to the chemist and picked the photos up a few days later. So when this particular batch of photos came back, one of the photos had a 'great shot' sticker stuck to it and I was so unbelievably proud of myself. I was even more proud when the little girls Mummy blew the photo up and hung it on her wall. I still have the image of that photo in my mind. I remember going on school trips and while the other kids were taking photos of their friends, I was trying to get all creative and think of different things to photograph. I always wanted my photos to be better than everyone else's. I adored hearing 'wow, that's a great photo Karla'! I still do!
I always thought I would just take a small amount of time off work and then return to the safety of the freight industry. But of course, all the Mum's out there reading this are smiling to themselves....its never that easy and the thought of popping my beautiful baby girl in preschool for even one day a week made me want to cry. I did a lot of planning and negotiating with the company I previously worked for but the offer I received was to return to work 4 days a week with a view to being full time in 6 months. It was too much, for both me and Honor so with great sadness I handed in my resignation. I was gutted and absolutely at a loss as to what I was going to do. I had lost a sense of who I was after becoming a Mum along with a whole lot of confidence. I'd only been out of the work force for a year! I didn't know anything else apart from freight forwarding, I didn't know what else I could do to contribute financially towards my family. I licked my wounds for a few months and then I got my camera out and took even more photos, I felt happy behind the lens, it gave me a lot of joy. This was when I decided it was time to learn more about this flash camera I had. I taught myself how to shoot using manual mode, I spent hours hunched over my laptop watching youtube videos and reading screeds of information on photography. I grabbed all the kids in my coffee group and photographed them whenever I could and anyone else who I could lay my hands on for that matter. I practiced at every given moment.
A girl in my coffee group had her 2nd baby about 6 months before I started Little Poppits. I offered to photograph her even thought I had no idea what I was doing! It was really stressful and I realised pretty quick that I had a long way to go. But I just put my head down and my bum up and I kept going. The photo on the left is from my very first newborn session. The photos on the right I took in December this year :)
And then I heard a few months later that a friend of a friend was due to have her baby so I asked her if I could photograph her new baby for some practice. I knew what I was in for this time but I still found myself completely out of my depth. I realised the only way I was going to get better at photographing newborn babies was to photograph newborn babies. No amount of reading or watching YouTube videos was going to turn me in to an award winning newborn photographer!
After this shoot George's Mummy sent me an email with a hundred reasons why I should start up a photography business. She adored the images I gave her. I had two hundred reasons why I shouldn't but she wouldn't hear a word of it. For someone I hardly knew, she gently pushed and encouraged me until I thought bugger it, what have I got to lose and Little Poppits Photography was born. She has been and still is one of my biggest supporters cheering me from the side-lines and giving me advice and support. I am so thankful she popped in to my life at the right time!
I went from doing 1-2 photo shoots a month on a Sunday to eventually adding a Friday in to the mix and sometimes if required a Saturday too. During the month of November/December I was doing up to 6 photo sessions in a weekend. I had to invest in a desktop computer that was solely dedicated to my photos, the laptop just wasn't coping! I started off with around 100 likes on Facebook...which lets face it, most of them were my friends and that number quickly grew. I'll finish up the year with around 850 likes. I've met some fabulous people who have been so supportive of my brave move. The photography industry is very saturated, you rely on word of mouth and recommendations and those clients returning because they like you and your work. I am loving every minute of my journey, I have found my passion and I finally know what I want to do for the rest of my life. This is a wonderful feeling.
So what will 2015 bring? I'm doing a business course which starts in March and hopefully getting up to Auckland in April for a photography workshop. Because my daughter is still only little I wont be able to increase the days I work but I think good things take time and another year doing what I have been doing will be good for me. I am determined to keep improving my skills and offering a simple and affordable service to my clients.
I am excited and inspired. I've never felt this way before and I hope it reflects in my work. I absolutely love making families happy, the look on their faces or reading the wonderful feedback I have received. It makes juggling family and work life all worth it :)
My very first 'official' photo shoot was of my good friends daughter. I took the photo of Natalia on the left around 18 months ago, before Little Poppits was started. The photo I took of her on the right was in November this year. The more recent photo is a reminder of how passion, creativity and experience ensures this new career path of mine continues to develop and to flourish. I can't wait to see what magic unfolds behind my lens in the year ahead!
'Follow your passion, follow your dreams but most of all, follow your heart"
See you in 2015! Happy New Year Everyone :)