Belle Bébés asks… Julia West

Whether you are a parent wanting beautiful pictures of your children, an amateur photographer looking to learn more about portrait photography or somebody who just likes to read an interesting interview accompanied by pretty pictures, these posts are for you…

The interview

Im Julia West of julia and mia (named after myself and my daughter).

Gidea Park in Essex, UK.

When and how did you fall in love with photography?
A very long time ago (when I was at school) my art teacher lent me a film camera as I loved books and galleries of photography. I caught the bug and he encouraged me to do an A-level in film photography… but due to the expense of it all I pursued a career in design. Fast forward nearly 8 years and I realised that my true love was photography so I spent my free time working out how I could make it happen, and I created my photography business modernphotographic.

Have you had any formal training?
Yes I have an A-level in film photography, a Diploma in photographic practice and I am a fully qualified master photographer (LMPA). Even with 8 years of running my business I love spending time with photographer friends and my super talented photographer husband challenging ideas!

How would you describe your photography style?
Bright, natural light photography for newborns, babies and little ones.
I like some styling and props but equally love natural moments, with nothing more than baby and their parents. I have lots of props but encourage parents to bring things that are personal to them
My baby name photography is also very popular!

What inspires your work?
I spend a lot of time looking at the beautiful work in the US and for years I have collected photography books. Most of all I love natural light and soft tones and colour – which are the perfect combination with a baby! My daughter and husband are my biggest inspiration. (My husband is one of the most published press photographers in the UK)

When did you first start out in portraiture photography?
I started modernphotographic in 2004 and offered family shoots and baby shoots alongside wedding photography. But now modernphotographic is just for weddings as last year I launched juliaandmia specialising in babies in the studio or on location with their parents.

Where in the UK are you based and how far would you travel for a shoot?
I am in Gidea Park, Essex and the majority of my clients come to my studio but I will travel, one of my clients is flying me to their Spanish home this summer to capture their little one. But in most cases I would travel home counties and London.

How many portrait sessions do you shoot per year?
I limit shoots to 2-3 per week as newborns don’t always arrive on time. My weekends get booked up fast, often several months in advance, but I do offers for weekday shoots.

Could you please share some details of a shoot you particularly enjoyed capturing?
I’m not sure I could pick one! I am so lucky to meet so many great babies and families. I have photographed celebrity babies which is always quite exciting! But the reality is their wonderful mums and dads are the same as everyone else, they just adore their new addition and worry about everything the same as the rest of us! I guess my favourite shoots are photographing babies at 6/7 months when I have photographed them as newborns, its lovely seeing how they have changed.

What would be your idea of a dream portraiture shoot?
I would love to do a shoot in California or South Africa as the light is so amazing.

What is your favourite age to photograph and why?
Another hard question, I love sleepy newborns and capturing that short moment in time but I equally love once they are sitting up (around 7 months) and smiling and just starting to have their own little personalities.

What difficulties, if any, have you come across with portrait photography and how do you cope with them?
Sometimes newborns don’t want to sleep mums worry but it normally just takes lots of patience and a bit of time. Lots of babies have “accidents” but I’m used to having a few loads of washing to do, and occasionally babies aren’t very happy. I tend to ask parents to come in the morning as this is when babies are happiest so we get the best results, but again I have lots of patience so nothing is really that much of a problem!

What advice would you give to parents that want you to photograph their little ones?
Involve toys, photograph them in a light room or outside and in the morning is best for the biggest smiles!

What camera(s) do you use for your portraiture work?
I have two Canon 5D mark2s (and a couple of other spares).

And your favourite lenses?
Probably my 50mm prime, but I love my 100mm macro too!

Do you use any lighting equipment?
I have continuous daylight lighting system (best for babies as it doesn’t flash and upset them), as well as studio lights and a video light… but my conservatory studio has lots of lovely natural light which really is the best way to capture baby!

What advice would you give to wannabe portrait photographers?
A photography business is about 10% taking photographs and 90% admin, marketing, editing and business skills! If you have the drive to run a competitive business as well as the talent for photography – then go for it. But it’s a constant challenge, I, however love it!

What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?
Probably being asked to photograph a celebrity baby, especially as she was looking at several photographers who I aspire to!
But equally when a mum is viewing her photographs and tears are in her eyes because she loves them, that is priceless.

Out of all the photographs you have ever taken (professionally or otherwise), which is your favourite and why?
I’m afraid I am biased towards photographs of my daughter, because like parents who I photograph their children, it captures something emotional for me. Picking one is very hard, I love these angel shots I did of her at Christmas which I used for my thank you cards this year. And lots of my babies since seeing this photograph have become angels on camera too!

If you could capture anybody or anything on camera what would it be?
It would be fun to photograph Harper Beckham, as she lives in LA it would make two dreams come true!

Just so we can find out a bit more about the person behind the lens, could you tell me 5 things you like that are completely unrelated to photography?
1. I secretly love The only way is Essex, I am not from Essex, I moved here two years ago, which is probably why I love Towie
2. I love chocolate, in fact I am pretty much a chocolate addict (see the name of my cat)
3. I love magazines and collected them as a teenager, and have a huge collection of them in my loft (which my dad threatened to take to the dump). I continued this love as an art director of WEDDING magazine for several years before going full time as a photographer.
4. I love my british blue cat, Kitkat (named after the chocolate bar not cat food!)
5. TV dramas and thrillers, things that make you think.

And 5 things you dislike?
1. Reality TV (with the exception of Towie) especially big brother, it’s just boring. I love dramas and thrillers, reality TV just seems so lazy!
2. Baked beans, not sure why, but I really hate them. And even though I love my daughter I couldn’t even cook them for her!
3. Bungy jumping or sky diving… just seems like an insane idea to me!
4. Ice skating, Im terrible at it, I found this out at an early age so I definitely wouldn’t sign up for dancing on ice!
5. Ironing…. I have to do it sometimes but normally try and bribe my husband into doing it!

What are your aspirations for the future, in photography or otherwise?
I have done a couple of shoots for Mother and Baby magazine and hopefully will be working with more baby magazines and blogs in the future and then Juliaandmia will become a nationally known brand so we get to meet even more little ones!

 Heart Verity

Photographer Details:
julia and mia website
julia and mia blog
Contact Julia

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