Published April 12th 2018 in Photographer Stories by Team AR
💪🏾There's amazing strength 💪🏾 when you surround yourself with people who lift you up and encourage you.
They could even be your competition.
Natalie from Nina Photography gives us the low down on how this works for her.
Natalie: I'm lucky to have ... I'm very, very lucky to have quite a few people locally who are very similar to me. And we have a good ... I would say a good group of ladies who are respectful and who are about actually helping each other so, for me if someone is a photographer friend, they're my friend first, then a colleague, then my competition. They're never like ... Quick story, so a friend of mine got this awesome, and I was so proud of her, she got this really, really good gig. She's in a new child centre, not a child care centre, but there's a brand new centre opening to help families with babies. So it's to help families just before they have to go to Tresillian, so helping with breast feeding and sleeping and those things before they have to travel to Sydney from Wollongong, and she got the gig to fill the whole space with all her photos. And I'm like "Oh my God that's awesome, oh my God that cow, oh my God that's awesome" but I was proud of her first and happy for her first, then went damn I wish I had that gig but I'm proud of her first.
Jannah: Hey everyone welcome to Yarning with Jannah. Today we've got Natalie from Nina Photography. She is a newborn and family photographer in Illawarra, New South Wales, and she's coming in for a chat. Tell me about yourself, how long have you been a photographer? How did you get into it?
Natalie: That's sort of like an all life kind of conversation.
Jannah: An all life kind of conversation?
Natalie: So like I've sort of always been a photographer but sort of when my kids were born, my first son was born is sort of when I probably picked up the camera more often. I'd already had my first DSLR before then and then when he was born I was like oh these really aren't working. And sort of ... I was a bit sick in my first pregnancy. So I had a lot of time at home in bed. So I sort of started looking at photos and I'm like "Oh wow, they're really cute." Then like having my first newborn workshop when my son was seven weeks old.
Natalie: So, that was really hard leaving him at seven weeks.
Natalie: So but yeah, so I drove to Sydney by myself, I cried the whole way up there.
Jannah: Oh wow.
Natalie: I was still pumping.
Jannah: Yeah yeah.
Natalie: So yeah, and yeah he was seven weeks old and that's sort of where the bug came for newborn and then. So I went back to work, sorry, I had walnuts beforehand. Sorry. So I went back to work with Lewis and then, yeah I sort of was really hate this, this is really not what I want to do. Sitting there going "I just wanna go home and edit like far out, hurry up, how fast can the day go?" And then when I had my second child I'm like, "yep I'm just going to cruise through, I've been there for nearly 10 years. I'm like, my when I return to work plan was finished, and I had to go back to work full time, and I'm like no, I'm going to take all my long service." I took on my long service, really sunk myself into the business and that was my test, you know if I can't make it what if I can't do my long service, then I'll go back to work. So yeah, and that was, Isaac is now 3.
Jannah: Well done! That's awesome.
Natalie: Yeah, so I sort of did it the safest way possible. Well for me I think it's difficult once you already have children, once you already have a mortgage, for me I was lucky to have worked somewhere for so long, in the one place, and I didn't have long service and maternity leave, that I sort of had a little test period in a safe spot for me. So safe for my family.
Jannah: Safe for the family?
Jannah: And did you need it? Or was it more of a head space or did you actually, did you need it?
Natalie: Both, but that was scary when I sort of took the break and it's like "oh goodness me", but the brand was there, the brand works, so I still have to work at it like everybody does. So yeah, I'll happily work for myself and my own business rather than working for somebody else or a corporation.
Jannah: So has is always been newborns that you've been photographing, have you tried getting into other things or has that always been your passion, your love?
Natalie: People’s my thing.
Natalie: Just not weddings.
Jannah: Have you ever shot one?
Jannah: But you're just not interested?
Natalie: Yeah, nah. A baby will shut up at some point. Bib or dummy. One or the other.
Jannah: Oh that's so funny.
Natalie: So yeah. Weddings, just not happening. People is my thing, like I don't get excited about anything else really, because people is my thing and ... people with spunk. Yeah people with spunk.
Jannah: Do you have a bit of a process that you go through to work out whether or not you want to work with someone, and work with a client?
Natalie: Not really no, because I think my style and how I communicate with people, that sort of filters out the types of people who really aren't my type of client, and if I do get that odd person who isn't really my type of person, they might just be having an off day that day, like I can't. So I try, I still do my thing and they end up, I have had a person who hasn't sort of gone, well it's a bit of an obsession with me, and most of my clients turn out to be friends. That's sort of how I feel, I feel like ... if I can't feel like the client is going to be my friend then we don't really click and it doesn't really work, so I think I sort of really try hard and it's not a conscious process, it's a very unconscious process ... that I go through. It just happens. I just get stupider and stupider until it clicks.
Jannah: I guess it's really coming from a genuine place then as well.
Natalie: Yeah, definitely.
Jannah: Excellent. How long did it take you in your business, have you perfected a look and a style? How did you get there, what process did you go through?
Natalie: I have a style, I'm always of the opinion that it's never perfect, that you can always learn more, always learn a way to connect faster, always learn a way to connect deeper, and a faster process, all those things, My style I think sort of, it has evolved a little bit. So I used to be very white and clean and like no colour, I was like "no, no colour, not having it". Then slowly, slowly I think as trend has happened, colour still pops in, so my base is still very clean and white, and colour just pops in and out. But I still always adore going right back to being raw, right back to being as clean as possible, and as uncomplicated as possible.
Jannah: Has it always been that way, or was there a stage in the beginning perhaps that it wasn't that way, or?
Natalie: Yeah, yeah it was. So when I sort of tried to follow trend it never really worked for me, so my sister's going to laugh when she hears this, so I always say "if it hurts my brain, it doesn't work." And that's in anything, so if I look at something, and say "something’s just irritating me". So I'm like, it's just, I don't know, and that's how I look at it. And by husband says "how do you see that?" Like I look at a picture and I can figure out really quickly if something's not working and he goes "well how do you see that?" And I'm like, well if it hurts my brain, something's wrong!
Jannah: That's a really good quote actually, I think I might-
Natalie: Yeah, if it hurts my brain-
Jannah: If it hurts my brain-
Natalie: Something's broken! So yeah, but I tried to, I sort of thought I had to follow the trend like everybody else and then I just, every time I’d set it, like before a session I would set something for the client and then I would, like I'm shooting the baby and I pull a piece out, I pull a piece out, I pull a piece out, and by the end it was back to being quite clean and organic anyway and I don't know, simple. So I just stopped putting those things in.
Jannah: And do you have much of a following of other photographers, baby photographers, following your work and have a similar style? Or do you kind of have a little team of people that are similar or ...
Natalie: Yeah, so I think that tends to happen, you find people who are like you. Yeah, so I'm very very lucky to have quite a few people locally who are very similar to me and we have a good, I'd say a good group of ladies who are respectful, and who are about actually helping each other. So, for me if someone is a photographer friend, they're my friend first, then a colleague, then my competition. They're never like ... Quick story, so a friend of mine got this awesome, and I was so proud of her, she got this really, really good gig. She's in a new child centre, not a child care centre, but there's a brand new centre opening to help families with babies. So it's to help families just before they have to go to Tresillian, so helping with breast feeding and sleeping and those things before they have to travel to Sydney from Woolloongong, and she got the gig to fill the whole space with all her photos. And I'm like "Oh my God that's awesome, oh my God that cow, oh my God that's awesome" but I was proud of her first and happy for her first, then went damn I wish I had that gig but I'm proud of her first.
Jannah: Ahh excellent. That's a, that sounds like a really supportive little community you've got there.
Natalie: Yeah, friends first.
Jannah: Yep, friends first.
Natalie: You need them, you need them in business, you need them in a creative business, because you second-guess yourself so much.
Jannah: So much, and you can get incredibly lonely-
Natalie: You can.
Jannah: Yeah, reaching out to people. So you’ve used Album Registry, a few times, which is very exciting. So can you tell me, I think it was Sally that came through? Tell me about how did that unfold, that conversation?
Natalie: Well Sally was very lucky, actually Sally didn't organise her registry, her sister did. So her sister was a previous client of mine, and she was really like "oh I really wanna do this for Sal, but I know that lots of people want to be part of the process." So then I went looking and I'm like "oh, we'll use that Album Registry I like the most because I can sort of customize the page to suit my style, like I can sort of make it look like mine." Not like I has these pre-loaded pages, which didn't really look like my style. Does that make sense? I liked that the fees weren't too much, like every business owner. But yeah, but that's how I didn't really have to do much for Sally, her sister did it all for me.
Jannah: Excellent. So she came to you with a plan that she wanted to say, get a batch or something like that and have you...
Natalie: So with other clients, if they tell me they're having a baby shower or sometimes ... when we're at the maternity session or something I say "well would you like to sort of organise a registry, I just bring it up, I'm a really casual person. It's like a yes or a no. Would you like to upgrade your package to an album or a bigger frame." They're the kinds of things that help you take your session to more of an art thing to be in your home.
Jannah: I guess it's all about normalising that process isn't it? I know with my clients it's just how the process is now, so every job and every shoot that I've got, so every wedding, every portrait say, you have a registry, that's just how the process... So I think going through ... it's just really standardising it and making it normal and just part of the process so every one of those, it just comes with it. Whether people use it or not, is up to them. It's also good way to, say if someone finds you on the Album Registry, or they looking or you and they can actually see you've got bookings first of all, that say that I'm popular, I have clients and I'm a desired photographer, they can also see dates and that sort of stuff and probably see more so for weddings, they can see that a photographer is already booked on that certain date, that kind of rules them out.
Natalie: That’s a good idea. I have never thought about that, having that as a standard process. I guess, a standard part or the client process, it's there if you want to use it, and if you don't that's fine. And I find sometimes grandparents want to chip in too, in a discreet way, without you know, sort of giving them cash... That's a very good idea. I will get my assistant to do that later.
Jannah: That's beautiful. So, what did Sally get with her registry?
Natalie: She got a 10 by 10 signature album, which is a lay-flat album from Seldex, and she got a 16 by 20 frame. So fully matted frame from my local lab, I'm very lucky to have that, epic local lab. Which is Photomart! Photomart.
Jannah: What did she think of her gift?
Natalie: Oh she loved it, it was, so yeah it was really good because you didn't have to worry about those dip in funds towards the end of her maternity leave and she liked the fact that everybody was part of the process and that everybody was part of it, it wasn't like something she just did on her own with her husband.
Jannah: And did you incorporate all of the names of the people that had contributed into it?
Natalie: Yes, yes definitely. Always. She needs to know who contributed, there's no point, cause I'm like that, I always feel weird putting money in a box, like "They’ll have no idea it’s from me!" How are they going to know it's from me?!
Jannah: Lovely, and did you package it? Talk to me about your packaging of how you deliver your gifts to the client.
Natalie: I'm a bit pedantic when it comes to packaging. So we are low on packaging at the moment in the studio. All our frames, obviously the bigger frames aren't fitting into any size bag, so they're always bubble wrapped, brown wrapped, a ribbon and then normally a little bit of a leaf. And my lovely assistant does all hand calligraphy tags so everybody gets a hand done tag. Albums are the same, they go in a box with stuffing, I make sure everything is safe, every client get a personalized teether from me, and then I always give them a Jolly Jock dummy.
Jannah: Ahh cool!
Natalie: All the time, because I love those dummies. So, they work, but my teethers are my favorite thing. Steph's hand calligraphy, and I know people keep the tags, as something they sort of take off their bag-
Jannah: You just cut out there...
Natalie: Steph can you grab me a tag?
Steph: I haven't got one
Natalie: Can you give me Cooper's?
Natalie: So yeah, I know that people keep the tags all the time..
Steph: Yeah, show her that one.
Natalie: Yeah, that's one that she sort of done which I...
Jannah: Oh that's lovely!
Natalie: So she does, I did get the big expensive pens that are required, but she doesn't use them! She uses a normal texta!
Jannah: That's very clever! You've got a very clever assistant there! Alright, well thank you very much. So, have you got any big plans for the year, any big goals or anything in the pipeline?
Natalie: Yes, we are moving studio, we are moving to purpose built Studio. So yeah, our plan is to get out of here as cleanly as possible and move into the other one as smoothly as possible. So they're our big plans for the year.
Jannah: Do you know what month that's going to happen in?
Natalie: It depends when we get out of our lease here, so it should be about October, but one of my goals for this year is to do 70 portraits this year. So sort of move, not move away from newborns, but add on top. To do more portraits, so it's something again that I like, and it's dealing with people again, which I like.
Jannah: You love people.
Natalie: Yeah I do. It's interesting, when I do the awards, I get all my awards in the portrait category and then I get none in the newborn category. I'm like "hmm, maybe I should be a portrait photographer!"
Jannah: So you’re with the AIPP?
Natalie: Yes, definitely.
Jannah: Yes, excellent, that's good.
Natalie: Yeah, being a member of the threes, that was scary doing that.
Jannah: Oh was it?
Natalie: Yeah, the first time you're like "ahh, will I get accepted?"
Jannah: Will people like me?
Jannah: Tell me, so I have heard like, putting your prints in for critique. Has that helped you grow, obviously sometimes can have to lick your wounds afterwards.
Natalie: It's good, it really is. I thoroughly enjoy the awards process. I love what you learn and I love the people that you meet. For me, the biggest things that I learned was to look at my images differently, and create them differently, but more importantly just to sort of get over myself. It's not always about me, it's not always "oh my god, what's the industry going to say?" It's just about you creating this thing, don't over complicate it, give it a go, put it up there, listen to the critique and the critique you get is never wrong, they're not going to say "ooh it's out of focus or, it's in focus". Either it is or it isn't, it is or it's not. But there's nothing they say where you just go "oh that's total crap" you just go "well I didn't see that before" and now you do. I never thought of that before, but now you do. So this year, doing my awards, I was like "nah, cut it, nah, cut it, what am I going to do?" It doesn't matter. But it teaches you to be humble I think, and I think connecting with the people you meet at the state awards and at the national awards, it's just a blast. I think sometimes being a business owner you are so lonely and you forget that you are part of a bigger community, and everybody has the same struggles or issues, and there's always someone that's done it before and there's always someone that can help you. One very, very wise friend said to me, the awards process makes you bitter or better, and I am determined not to be bitter.
Jannah: Oh that’s lovely. A lot of one liners today. If it hurts your brain, it's not right. You can either get bitter or better, so that's the...
Natalie: It's stuck with me and I was like: you're right, I can either have a whinge or a moan about it and go "uh" or I can just get better at it!
Jannah: That's beautiful, that's excellent. Thank you so much!
Natalie: It was nice to talk to you, have a great week!
Jannah: Yeah you too thanks so much!
Natalie: Thank you darling!