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…
Hello all! I’m Julie Skelton, wife and mum to 3 children, and owner for the past few years of my own photography business Julie Anne Images.
Guildford, Surrey, south-east England.
When and how did you fall in love with photography?
My dad always enjoyed taking photographs of every occasion as well as normal family life, and before I was 10 I was dabbling around with a Hanimex film camera and a Polaroid. I’m pleased to say my photographs have improved a bit since then!
Have you had any formal training?
I had the creative eye but not the full technical understanding of photography – for a start, DSLR cameras are powerful mini computers and getting to grips with their capabilities was a revelation. I did a short Open University course as well as 3 residential photography courses, but apart from that it has been experimental practice and online learning.
How would you describe your photography style?
I’d say it’s photography with a heart. There are indigenous tribes around the world that won’t have their photograph taken because they feel it steals a piece of their soul. My aim in a portrait is to feel that the person gave something of themselves away. I want to leave people with tangible, emotional, truthful reminders of their life at this particular point in time – and at the same time capture tenderness, playfulness and bunches of character.
What inspires your work?
Pieces of music (I almost went down the route of training to become a music therapist!). Light and sunshine and beautiful landscape.
When did you first start out in portraiture photography?
I began as a business in 2008, having been encouraged by a former London newspaper picture editor to set up a website and think about photography as a career.
Where in the UK are you based and how far would you travel for a shoot?
I’m in Guildford, Surrey – not too far from central London in one direction and the Sussex coast in the other! I’ll travel an hour or so from home for portrait sessions but I also cover weddings which are often further afield.
How many portrait sessions do you shoot per year?
I usually have a couple of portrait sessions – families or newborns – a week. It’s a fairly seasonal business as I aim to work around delicious-looking light, and the UK winter months aren’t so kind to us! Having said that, two of my favourite-ever sessions were late November ones.
Could you please share some details of a shoot you particularly enjoyed capturing?
I really enjoy seeing my former wedding couples again when they go on to start a family. I’d taken Becky & Nicky’s wedding photos, and then they had baby Molly who I got to see at just a few days old. It’s an immense privilege sharing these momentous life events with people, and then keeping in touch to see children grow and the family dynamic strengthens.
What would be your idea of a dream portraiture shoot?
I’d like to do something more styled and thematic – as I’ve done with my own children on book themes such as ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ and ‘Anne Of Green Gables’. There would be just a few carefully considered props and some brilliant clothing to bring it all together. It would be end-of-the-day sparkling light and a child full of character!
What is your favourite age to photograph and why?
Agh, that’s such a tricky question!!! I’m not sure I have one. The danger with having a creative mind is becoming stale and same-y, but I never get bored when every day is different. I think I’ll plump for about 4-5 years old (I used to be a Reception teacher) because I enjoy the conversations I can have with them – and reciting ‘The Gruffalo’!
What difficulties, if any, have you come across with portrait photography and how do you cope with them?
Any difficulties usually revolve around getting the right light, which is essential since photography literally means ‘writing with light’. Sometimes an immensely wet day can mean rescheduling a session, but there aren’t many days where there isn’t a spell of better weather – or failing that, a nice dry indoor space!
What advice would you give to parents that want you to photograph their little ones?
Please don’t worry about children being shy or wary, or not smiling. (Actually unsmiling photographs can be beautiful too!) It may take them a while to warm up, but be assured that there’s plenty of time. I won’t pick my camera up until I’m sure I’ve gained their confidence, and then your pictures will be of the real ‘them’. Also as a mum I know how much I like to stick to the regular routines; but as a photographer the right light can make all the difference between standard snaps and a ‘wow’ picture, and this can mean adjusting a schedule slightly to aim for the best time of day. Believe me it is really worth it!
What camera(s) do you use for your portraiture work?
I’ve been a Nikon girl since film days, and I currently use the D700.
And your favourite lenses?
I have a 105mm macro which I LOVE – it works for incredible close-up detail (for example, newborn features) and is equally good as a portrait lens. I do love faces – after all, they’re how we recognise and connect with people – but my aim this year is to take more wider-angle photographs as well, so I’ll be cracking out the 35mm a bit more.
Do you use any lighting equipment?
I do have equipment for off-camera flash lighting, but nothing beats natural light if it’s at all possible. At times it takes my breath away.
What advice would you give to wannabe portrait photographers?
Oh gosh, just practice LOTS. Don’t get stuck in a rut. Avoid comparing yourself with others. Stay creative in other ways apart from photography – it feeds your enthusiasm and your eye. Accept constructive criticism. Value your skills – charge sensibly for the work you put in. And practice!
What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?
Every time someone gets a bit teary-eyed when they see their finished photos!
Out of all the photographs you have ever taken (professionally or otherwise), which is your favourite and why?
EVER?!!! Wow, another tricky question! I really like the series of photos I took of my little boy in the ‘Max’ outfit (from ‘Where The Wild Things Are’) that my sister had made him. He completely took me by surprise by getting into character and seemed to love the element of pretending to be someone else. We took them over three separate sessions and had them made into a book.
If you could capture anybody or anything on camera what would it be?
I’d really like to photograph Scots comedian Billy Connolly. I think there are depths to many creative people that perhaps could only be communicated in a portrait. In my head I know what this picture would look like, so if anyone wants to put me in touch…!
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?
- The sea
- Country music (I know! Guilty pleasure, shhh…)
- Fry’s Turkish Delight
- Cups of tea – all day long
And 5 things you dislike?
- Being stuck in traffic
- Wolf spiders
- Bad smells
- Seeing people upset
What are your aspirations for the future, in photography or otherwise?
I’d like to think that the hours I put into my photography business mean that I can support my family well, and set a good example to my kids of working hard at something you find rewarding. And the younger two haven’t been abroad yet, so perhaps a family trip to somewhere European might be on the cards!