Rachel is a brand photographer who helps creative businesses shine by capturing their gorgeous products, and the behind the scenes of their business process.
When you were eight your granddad gave you a Kodak camera was that the first moment that you realised that you liked photography?
Yeah definitely I just used to play with it all the time and I I was just fascinated I think even if it didn’t have a film in it because that was back in the day when you know it was all film cameras and I think even when it wasn’t when there wasn’t a filming I would just still pretend that I was going around taking photographs so for some reason yeah I just I was quite fascinated by it, but funnily enough I never it never occurred to me to kind of want to do it as a job I kind of I was creative and arty as a child but I think maybe as it was to do with the fact there wasn’t any sort of female photography role models when I was you know that age or even getting a little bit older in my teenage years and it was very much a meal um sort of industry and um not that that you know and if I consciously thought oh I can’t do it but it just never really occurred there was so yeah um but always there in the background I always had a little camera at some point when I was out with my friends or going on holidays and things so definitely a passion there.
But then then you didn’t do photography, so some things have happened that made you do something completely different and then come back to it so and I love that you came back to it and that you can sort of trace it back to being a little Rachel so what happened after that you went you went off to college and got a job doing something really unrelated to photography?
I went off to College to do art and design and then ended up in a computer games company which was it felt quite random but um but it was still you know it was to do with art I ended up doing 3D art for computer games and that was yeah that was my job for like 15 years or something and I yeah it was it was good and um felt like that was going to be my career forever you know but I think just somewhere inside of me I was like, you know when you just kind of don’t feel like you’re getting, you’re not doing what you want, it isn’t your passion and I still had the photography going on as a hobby in the background and I think it got to that point where people actually starting to ask me do photography for them and especially like you know, people I knew who’d had babies it was like oh will you come and take a picture of my baby um and I thought yeah okay yeah and the idea of business was still like whoa like not it wasn’t going to be a business but it you know I’d help families out here and there and you know charge tiny amounts of prints and things like that but it kind of gave us a little bit of a confidence and I thought maybe I could do this um but I’m going back like about this is sort of like 15 20 years ago which seems like a crazy amount of time when I think of it.
But I just the thought of actually having my own business and it just felt so like it just wasn’t me I didn’t know anybody else who had their own business at that point there was very little support not like there is now where there’s sort of fully funded training popping up here, there and everywhere and there’s lots of networks going on it wasn’t like that back then so I was kind of like just oh well maybe I can do this but I don’t kind of know where to start do I just put an ad in the Yellow Pages you know, because that’s what you did back then so it was very much a slow burner and I was able to leave my job I was in, I just I kind of got to a point where I was like right you know what I’m not enjoying this anymore I had had my first son and I think at that moment I don’t know like if a lot of people go through this where you you get to the point when you have children sometimes I think your life sort of changes and you really reassess where you are and what you want to do and I was like well if I’m gonna do it now seems to be that time you know I’m off on maternity leave I’ve got some space in my life even though I’m kind of like full-time mom as well but you know what gave us kind of like that headspace to think this do I want to go back to that career or do I actually want to do something else now um and that was the the catalyst definitely for me but like I said really kind of like just muddling through trying to work out what to do um and yeah it was quite scary but I think when you’ve got the passion there you work it out you find sort of ways to make it work so yeah it’s now I think very different for businesses and they do get a lot more support and I think even there’s so many small businesses um that you know you you often you come across somebody else you know whether you’re in the schoolyard or something there’s usually somebody else who’s trying to make a small business go as well so yeah it’s much it’s much nicer environment now
Yes I think it’s it’s very up and down isn’t it the funding to get started with business? When I started mine 13 a little bit years ago I think I was one of the last people to get grant funding so I could buy my computers yes um I don’t think that that’s quite so easy to get a hold of now and you must have needed an awful lot of equipment because I mean we could see if people on YouTube can see behind you right which stuff there is and photography is there’s lots of lots of bits and pieces isn’t there to do to do with cameras and lighting and all of that sort of stuff and then I don’t know I don’t know when digital photography started but yeah I feel like it probably had started by then but maybe it’s not when you’re at college I don’t know I mean added a week’s photography when I was at college and we went in the dark room and I loved it I got to go in twice I had terrible photographs the first time I was quite pleased in a way!
Well that’s a really good point actually because it did get much more accessible when the digital cameras came out and because I think when it was all film um it did feel like it was just it was a harder sort of thing to do and you know it was constantly sort of like yeah send the film off and then you got the pictures back and you know there wasn’t that being able to edit them as well like you can now so that the career I was in I actually used Photoshop and and different software already so it was like a natural transition that when the digital cameras came out I already knew how to do all of that stuff so I think that kind of just opened up a whole new world for me it was like well I can do this um you know people like my photos they prepare to pay for it and I can you know and do all these edits at the one if the you know if the one like retouching or something I can do that I know how so yeah it was definitely much more accessible once the digital cameras came out but I think yeah in terms of equipment it’s I think you just have to build that as you go um I certainly didn’t start with all of this yeah I think I’ve I forked out quite a bit initially for the camera and the lenses that I needed um but yeah a lot of the other stuff just had to wait until I could actually afford it and you know you go you have to sort of work out your pricing and your you know your whole business strategy and your marketing and all those things and you just think oh my goodness I don’t know where to start sometimes you’ve just got to work it out yourself and then it’s so nice so when you do get you know the funds behind you to be able to ask professionals for help yeah so like with the old branded thing with you you know it’s just so nice to be able to say Amy I need a complete rebrand just help us just tell us what I need you know and um because I think you can go around in circles trying to do it yourself absolutely.
Oh you can you can and I loved working on your brand new I definitely wanted to talk about um the benefit the the impact that you have on the people that you work for so you do um product photography don’t you which is amazing I’ve actually I’ve used both kinds of Photography haven’t it and you just you do people photography I’m hesitant to say headshots because whilst you do do headshots I feel like it’s more than a headshot
yeah is that does that feel correct yeah I feel like yeah an experience and and detail and getting all the bits right to help get the story across in fact I made a video this week which hasn’t been published yet but will have done by the time this goes out about imagery in your brand like using illustrations and icons and stuff and I think you know photography is a different way of doing that that you need to have that as well but you can have like props and stuff in the background but actually just having really good photos of yourself build so much confidence in being able to present yourself yeah to other people and share about your business and if you’ve got really good product photography then that makes the products look a lot better than it does if you try doing it yourself and I’ve done both and it really does make a difference when you’ve got professional ones I think that’s something to be said for having a few selfies here or there and they use those as well but I think knowing that you’ve got really good photos to for the things that really matter in the website and stuff and then to use on your social to like elevate what you’ve got there already make such a huge difference work hard to build confidence don’t you?
yeah I think especially with the with the portrait sort of shots like the headshots and the banding I think that does massively give people confidence and it’s that’s great for me because I’d just love to see um you know people especially women who are really self-conscious a lot of the time about having their photograph taken and sometimes they’ll cling on to some photograph of themselves like 10 years ago on holiday you know they might have liked that picture and they just keep using it for their profile picture um because they’re so nervous about getting new headshots taken on you like one for the full brand and kind of shoot but it’s great to see like once they make that decision and we’ll start the process and we do the shoot and then they’ve got all these pictures it’s just like you know it’s great to see them using them and feel them yeah confident and actually like them you know to put their pictures on social media because um yeah I know sometimes you know it can feel like I think some people don’t like to put themselves out there but if it’s a good picture of themselves and especially particularly like the photograph style capture people’s personalities or like just capturing the the smiley pictures or the daft pictures and things like that it’s great to see the muse in those kind of pictures because I think that’s those are the ones that are really engaging for other people to see and yeah more sort of real yeah yeah it’s really good and I think it gives their customers confidence in them so I think when you look in it you know you glancing through somebody’s website or you’re on social media and you see some really nice professional pictures, you sort of feel like that business is a proper business.
They’re taking themselves seriously yeah
yeah they’ve invested in it they’ve you know they’ve had these lovely pictures done they look good so there’s like that element of trust comes into it as well so yeah confidence all around
there’s quite a lot of similarity there between what I do and what you do yeah you get the two together it just it makes things so much better and yeah it’s like it explodes it isn’t it so you sort of go wow this is this is great and you can see like everything about what it is that the person in the business is trying to convey through the imagery and if you put the two together yeah it’s like this magic okay yeah everyone it does it really works yeah
So we were just talking about confidence there and that reminded me of the Kielder project you did – would you like to talk about that for a bit?
yeah that was really good fun so someone’s asked to get involved in a naked charity calendar shoot and went up to Kielder and there was only gonna I think there was only supposed to be a few women who were going to get involved but a lot of other women came along just to kind of be there for the event and sort of for moral support um but these really confident women were just like okay yeah take a picture of me and we did it from you know they were looking facing away from me so it was just like a shoulders and bottom kind of naked shot and but they were looking out of the lake and it was just really tastefully done but it was what was quite funny was because all these other women would just say actually I think out you know and they were whipping off their clothes and like jumping in the shoot and getting their photograph taken and the atmosphere was amazing and it just like it was just so amazing to see how it affected the women you know that they were loving it they were having a great time and I think they’re all felt this sort of self-acceptance and you know this I feel you know who cares I’m just gonna do this you know and feel so liberated and for me it was just great to be a part of that and to capture them and to I don’t know just to feel like this sort of sisterhood and or whatever you know it sounds a bit cheesy but it was just really lovely to be involved in that so I am lots of fun and you know I feel like in a small way I made a difference to them you know there were some of them contacted me later in the world they loved the picture that that I had taken of them and they’re like oh my goodness you know I I was so self-conscious or I felt like I didn’t like my body but I’ve seen the picture and it’s lovely and you know I’m gonna get it printed out and put in my bedroom or something like that and also say oh that’s nice you know I’m so glad that I’ve made them feel a little bit better about themselves and so yeah it was great it was really good one
I think that’s lovely and it was definitely a lot of positive feedback going around like yeah but I think that’s also really good because I’m thinking about how you made them feel about their bodies and they often we feel really uncomfortable about I mean yeah at some points some of us maybe shed them a little bit earlier than others but I think sometimes we have things that we don’t like about ourselves I think the great thing about working with you is that you you know what all those things are and you accept all those things but you also know how to make people feel better about them so that when they get the photos they’re not going to be just looking at their tummy or whatever they’re going to see like something that isn’t just tummy but like how amazing they are and you have all of those techniques don’t you I don’t know if you still have that freebie with poses on but you’ve you’ve got all of that nailed for when people have an issue
yeah yeah I have I need to tweak the things on my website but yes I have got that available it’s yeah I I don’t like to be one of those sort of brand and photographers who you know necessarily encourages people to really be something they’re not like you know it’s I don’t want like a stylist to come in and totally dress them up and put loads of makeup on them and because that’s not you know I kind of prefer to work with people who want to just be more natural and to yeah it’s more about just them as a person you know I don’t feel like they need to be completely changed it’s you know it it might sound cheesy it’s that authenticity which is completely overused and banded about these days but it is true yeah exactly it’s just I think people can see straight through all that sort of fakeness so I try to encourage women to just have a good time on the photo shoot get you know the laughter and the smiles or the the things that make the the difference on photographs and just be so being able to help women you know feel comfortable and relaxed able to do that is uh is the the best thing definitely yeah
yeah I think that’s really really important so in your journey through working through your business since all that all that time you’ve obviously worked on some amazing projects what do you think you’ve been putting you on the spot I should have heard you for this one what’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on so far are you able to what was just
oh my goodness that is really tough at all yeah yeah very difficult one but I think well to take it in a slightly different direction the question and what I have done is I’ve I’ve leashed more in a certain areas so when I said before I’d started off doing a lot of baby and family for photographs after a while um I got more into commercial and um I did both for a long time and I think I got the point probably about four or five years ago where I was just like oh my God it’s just so overwhelmed because my website was trying to attract families but also trying to attract businesses and my social media was the same and I was like oh do I need to have two websites and two different social media channels just so I can cater to the different people and I tied with that idea for a long time and it was just it was a tough one but I eventually came to the decision that I was gonna cut off the whole family and baby photo shoots and so I kind of pruned that off my off my business it kind of like it felt like like sort of losing a business limb for a little bit and I was like have I done the right thing? Because I did enjoy that side of it, but I think from a just kind of focus and clarity point of view I was like no you know if I’m just going to get rid of that I’m gonna focus on on the commercial and then within that in the last couple of years 18 months I’ve kind of niched a little bit more so now I work more with creative people and so I do work with any commercial client you know so any business really but my marketing is all focused around people who make things people who sell products crafts and artists arts and all of those um and so to to come back to what you asked I think my favourite type of work is helping you know artists and creative people yeah and I do that product photography and I do the headshot support rates and the behind the scenes of their studio so it all kind of works really well so yeah that’s that’s my favourite kind of job
I can totally see why you would like that because you get you get the best of the worlds don’t you with the products and the people and getting to show them all at the same time and yeah all of that I can see that working as well
I think because I’ve got such an appreciation for art going back from to my childhood that I just love being around those type of people as well and seeing what they’re doing it’s I’m just saying yeah you know that’s lush and oh look at that are you so talented you know and I’m so like envious at the same time but yeah yeah it’s so easy to get enthusiastic about isn’t it when you can see the making process and everything too which is wonderful yeah definitely yeah I love that but then you you now have different ways that people can buy from you as well don’t you so it’s not just a case of having conventionally this you can you can be like oh you can do this and you can sort it out this way or you can go down the subscription route so do you want to talk about that as well because I think that it is right rived to put in different ways for people to be able to work with you especially if it’s not the norm for photographers worldwide yeah yeah yeah that it was a new offering that I created last year because I’ve sort of felt like there was a bit of a need for this having regular photo shoots rather than somebody just sending me a big bulk load yeah and I would say okay how can I kind of structure a new offering which can people can send me things little a small collection of things monthly or bi-monthly or just seasonally and um you know it helps their cash flow because they’re not having to just pay for a lump they can just spread it out they know how much is going out every month and they’re going to get regular photography every month which is great for their social media and it was like it seems like a complete no-brainer so I kind of sat down and worked it out and tried to place it and you know it does take a bit of time to do things like that because you’re like it’s going to work for them but it’s got to work for me as well and how to make it as easy as possible so yeah I created this subscription photography and it’s gone really well actually my clients so far are finding it great and we started off with just like a six month like a contract just to see how it went and there’s only one person stopped that and that’s because they haven’t got any more products to for me to take them they’re done now and but everybody else has rolled on and it’s just like oh you know they’re obviously getting a lot of benefit out of it and it’s working so yeah it’s it’s great
The impact that’s going to have on their businesses!
Why didn’t I do it ages ago?
It makes sense doesn’t it once it’s there, it’s so obvious – because for makers it’s not like they just create a product once, it’s new things all the time isn’t it? Different colours or different tweaks to whatever they’ve done or different products. It just it seems like the most obvious thing in the world so that’s awesome and I can see how like how enthusiastic you got talking about that you obviously on the subscription it would either work regularly which means as well you can build up that relationship and yeah with more ideas for them yeah it is nice because sometimes the you know they might want something a little different as well
so it’s like well actually this one I really could do with um with a really nice hero image from a website so a nice wide one or you know all this month I need some products on a white background because I’m going to be sending them off to magazines for PR so they can just keep you know changing what the need it doesn’t have to be the same kind of shoot every time as well so yeah yeah it’s good.
So I was hoping that you would share a tip with us yes
Well my tip I think would have to be about the pruning, pruning pieces of your business away. I think it’s easy to want to try everything and it’s natural to do that but I think when you can get to a point if you’re feeling like there’s a lot of stuff going on in your business and then it’s getting a bit noisy and I would suggest having a good look at what’s what’s making you some good money, what you actually feel passionate about, what you’re enjoying doing and what you know, what your customers are wanting off you and just calling into that and kind of maybe prune off some of the other things and it’s sort of it’s so nice because it feels like ah yeah
Yeah it massively focuses you, it allows you to spend all of your time focusing on just those offerings that are really gonna help your business grow and get rid of all that extra stuff it doesn’t mean that you can’t ever do the extra stuff but it just means that you can focus all your energies into you know, yeah a more specific cluster of offerings rather than everything to everyone
yeah it’s it’s a great tip I think it’s really important but it’s also really hard to do isn’t it to niche down, and it takes a lot of bravery to be like I’m gonna do this I’m gonna stick to this rather than like dilly dally and rounded a bit it can be quite hard, you said it took ages
yeah it did yeah I think you’ve got It’s gotta feel right you know it’s I think it does require a little bit of thought and um making sure that but making sure that you are doing it for the right reasons and you’re not just holding onto it because one person bought it once and you think oh well, maybe I should keep that because you never know but you probably just need to it to go probably best to to keep nice and focused I think so that would be my tip yeah yeah it’s a great tip thank you
Find Rachel: rjm-photography.co.uk
Amy Purdie, The Brand Explorer takes you on an Adventure to discover what your brand is all about, helping you with your brand strategy, brand visuals and content ideas. You can join Amy’s Brand Success Club or join her in your very own Private Brand Adventure.
Amy has been enjoying designing logos, brand identities, illustration, print work and websites – since 2007 fuelled mainly by tea and chocolate.