Episode #3 with Stephanie Belton, family & commercial photographer in St Albans
Updated: Feb 6
This episode features our guest, Stephanie Belton, a St Albans based photographer who loves nothing more than photographing families as well as being in an office to photograph all the staff from receptionist to CEO.
Stephanie is originally from France but after meeting her husband-to-be in Germany moved across to the UK and began working in London in the dotcom era.
In this podcast we explore what it's like to be a busy photographer and why it's so important to put yourself in your clients' shoes from time to time.
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Transcription of this podcast
Below is an automated transcription of this podcast episode for anyone who might be hearing impaired and would find a written version more helpful. It is automated though, so some words might be incorrectly typed ⬇️
"Welcome back to '9 to 5 photographer', the podcast for you, if you're a photographer or filmmaker, and you'd like to get more shoots, make more money and spend more time doing the things you love. And I'm really pleased you're here today because today's guest is someone whose passion is photographing families, and she does some corporate work, but for her not weddings, it's just not her thing.
Her name is Stephanie Belton, and we discover in this episode how she puts herself in her client's shoes to provide them with what they want, but also to understand how they feel and by understanding how they feel, she's able to get the best from them. Now, not only that, but if you've ever been in a situation of feeling like you're not good enough, your clients, maybe because you don't have letters after your name from any photography association, then I think you're going to come away from this feeling more self-assured and this year, possibly more than any other year. That's something I think we all need in this industry. So let's cue that 15 second intro, and then we'll jump straight in.
Welcome to '9 to 5 photographer', the podcast to help professional photographers and filmmakers get more shoots, make more money and spend more time doing the things they love. And now your host, Simon Jones.
Stephanie, first of all, thank you for being here today. It's great to have you on the show.
Well, thank you Simon for inviting me. I'm quite excited. Actually.
I'm excited to talk to you as well. It's great to have someone here on the show. Actually. Who's not originally from the UK. We'll get to that in just a moment, but I think it's going to be helpful for people to understand a little bit more about what it's like to be, not from the UK originally and running a business here in the UK. But Stephanie, I wonder if first of all, if you could give our listeners just a little bit of context, if you could just tell us a little bit about yourself, you know, where and where in the world you are and anything like, you know, what you used to do before you were doing photography.
Okay. So I'm Stephanie Belton. I live in St. Alban's in Hertfordshire, and I grew up in France. I'm originally from France. And I still see myself as French, even though I did actually last year through my British citizenship, but that's, that's a whole other story. So I did an Erasmus exchange in ballet and met my husband who British and then thought, Oh, you know, I finished my studies. I thought I'll come to London for a bit. Cause it sounded really exciting. I think I always loved the music and there was like a British coolness that I thought would be great to experience. And it wasn't really very serious relationship at the time. I thought, you know, when we split up and move over to different countries, move onto to a different country and nearly 25 years later I'm still, I'm still here in the UK. It is my home here. I know I sound very French, but I feel having a British husband and in-laws and stuff, you know, and kids as well. I've got two teenagers. I do feel kind of in tune with British culture as well. But I, I do like to, you know, I like the idea there's maybe a richness coming from the fact that you've got multicultural upbringing, I suppose.
And how long have you been doing your photography for?
So I started just over 15 years ago. I used to work in it, so I studied I studied computer science. I worked in it a very exciting time. You know, the infancy of the internet, really, where everybody was coming up with new ideas, what's, you know, what will be the next idea that's going to make us millionaires, blah, blah, blah. So I worked for internet consultancy in cloud Cornwell. It was all, it was a great time to work in it. And when I got pregnant with my first daughter, I decided I didn't really want to do the commute anymore every day. I just couldn't see myself doing, you know, nine to five in London five days a week. So I decided is it it's quite easy in it to, you know, do a bit of freelance work.
So I thought I'd do maybe three days a week at home, and then slowly developed the photography almost as a side hustle. I don't think I'm visage initially that it was going to become a full-time job for me. It was just something I got a little bit of encouragement from other month friends. I think there's a, it sounds like a bit of a cliche, but I think many women photographers started like this and they're taking photos of their own kids and then getting loads of praise from friends and taking, you know, their camera to mum and baby meetings or instant tea groups. And then and then I had this one friend who gave me so much encouragement and said, you know, you've got a talent and you should, you should charge for this. And I think that's probably what gave me the idea to, to start my business. So at the time, the idea of lifestyle, baby photography, I wasn't familiar with, I hadn't come across it. And because it was before the age of social media, it was actually, you know, the only things you could see available were studio photography, which wasn't really my idea of what I wanted to do.
Venture was a big company back then. Lots of white studio backgrounds, wasn't it?
Yes. And I remember actually you said venture. I remember one friend showed me this massive album. She put on the table, it was like a encyclopedia huge album and she'd paid 1500 pounds for it. I remember at the time it sounded like such a lot of money. And she was showing me all these photos and she was delighted with it. All the photos she'd had taken with a white background, you know, if I have family and stuff and I thought, wow, so people are prepared to pay a lot of money or, you know, family photographers. I had no idea, but I wanted to do it in the home. I thought, this is what I want to be doing this. And trying to capture it more, maybe slightly more documentary style. I'm going to say documentaries, I might start isn't really documentary by today's standard at all. But it was just maybe a little bit less staged that what you'd get in the studio, I suppose,
Taking it out of the studio and letting people be more like themselves, I guess.
Yeah. So I think for me, it's looking back at my own childhood photos. I love seeing the space, not just the faces, but also, you know, remembering the rooms and how the, you know, the rooms felt and what they call there was. And I know that that call, maybe it gets dated, but then, you know, if I was born in the seventies, I would expect maybe seventies deco is still part of, so parts of the story,
I guess as well, one of the different, well, one of the major differences is that if you're photographing people in a studio, then you're always really going to get them to do the same kinds of things. You're going to put them in the same positions, the same poses. Whereas when you're photographing people out and about whether it's in their homes or in a local park, then every day, the lighting's going to be different. The backgrounds are going to be different. It's I guess you have to think much more so on your feet as opposed to it being more sort of formula.
That's true. Yeah. I would say no true job is the same. Although, you know, with time I have, you know, Mike kind of the way that I run the session, you know, is quite similar. But what I love about going into people's home is that I get also, I get inspired by their environment. So I am, I I'm then able to be more in tune with what they like. I can see the stuff they've got up on the wall. I can see the Decker in the room and straight away it's. So it becomes almost like a brief, I can see the kind of thing that they're drawn to. And I will definitely shoot in a different way, depending on whether I can see the deco being quite traditional or being really edgy. I'm going to, then it's going to affect everything from, you know, the way I run the session to what those photos are choosing the calling process and even how I'm going to process them. If I see that everything they've got up on the wall is black and white, I will maybe include more black and white images in the, you know, the shot that I offer.
So you can end up staring you'll work towards what you think they're going to like more, but at the same time, you're not compromising on, on the style that you add to the photos, which is the whole reason why I imagine they would have booked you in the first place.
Oh, yes. Yes. I mean, it's that you definitely see that it's my work, you know, the way I use the light, for example, but I will, I will make some adjustments, you know, I would say maybe even if it's just subconscious based on what I've seen. Yeah.
So Stephanie, you mentioned then that it was a, I think you said it was a side hustle, obviously now it's not a side hustle. How did you transition then from it being a side hustle and it being something you were doing, not as a full-time operation to being full-time like, it is now what
I would say, first of all, too busy. So thinking, okay, you know, this is getting stressful now because I am working on my day job and I'm working, you know, really busy on the photography as well. My kids starting school was a big one as well, because I think you've got to make the business work for you if you're going to be self-employed, you know, the whole point is to make it work around your own restraint, you know, constraints. And, and for me you know, when the kids were late to, I had to work at the weekend because that's the time I could get my husband to look after the kids. But as they started school, I needed to fill that weekday daytime slot. So this is when I really started ramping up the photography and maybe starting to go so into you know, put to graphing businesses.
I would say for me, a big milestone was when we did a house extension, which way went away budget, and I really needed the money. And I think that can be a good motivator as well, to just push yourself and work that I would have previously turned down because it wasn't what I did. You know, things like, I don't know, events or headshots or, and I w I would just spend a whole year saying yes to everything, which was really exciting actually, because I discovered, you know, different types of photography that I thought wouldn't be for me. And actually that I enjoyed also with my own kids growing up, you know, photographing little babies when I was in that whole baby zone felt super comfortable. And I remember being terrified of teenagers, you know, whenever I had to do a shoot with teenagers, like, are they going to think I'm really late, but I've got no idea how to communicate with them. But you know, with, I suppose, as we evolve with life, you know, so does our experience and we feel more confident in different situations.
Can you think of any examples then of photography that you tried and then thought to yourself, actually, I don't feel comfortable doing this and now, no, you don't do it
Question. I would say so. I like all types of people, photography. I would say what I don't feel is for me is weddings. So I've, I've just photographed a few weddings and I've loved it, but it was because there were, you know, small weddings coverage of, you know, four, four hours, something like that. I think for me, I don't know if I'm to have the stamina, but it requires so much brain space and energy and stress and it's the weekend. And so this is why, you know, I know some people love doing weddings, the few that I've done, I've really enjoyed, but I've just have so much respect for wedding photographers because it is really full on. And yeah, I don't, I don't think I could do, you know, like I know some people do like 12 hours and I think this is again, you know, it's the beauty of being self-employed is deciding the jobs you want to do based on your own, your own needs and your, your strengths.
And I would say, yeah, endurance plus, I get really emotional at weddings. I know I've kind of forget. I'm supposed to be photographing. I'm like I'm to behave like a guest and I'm like, Oh, lovely. Oh no, no. Yeah. It's not. I think also some people are great at observing. I wouldn't call myself an entertainer, but I like to lead the sessions. I like to set the mood. I'm not really a fly on the wall type of person. And, you know, I've got to capitalize on that because they can be a strength in some situations.
It's interesting that you say about being emotional when you're on a shoot, because I think that's one of the characteristics of a lot of photographers. I don't shoot weddings anymore, but in the past, when I used to, I used to find I'd get quite emotional at weddings. I did like the stress on the day, but there were, there were times where I'd, I'd find it really quite emotional. And there was, there was one wedding in particular. I remember in Bristol when I just had tears streaming down my face and therefore I was using my camera to sort of almost hyper. Yeah.
It can feel like such a privilege to be there at those events. I mean, I photographed a couple of years ago I did some coverage for a charity called the hostage international. And it was an event. It was very small venue, very intimate event with ex-hostages, families of hostages. Wow. Doing a talk and just thinking about it, it just gives me goosebumps again. But it was just absolutely incredible and, and feeling, wow, you know, there's no reason for me to be there apart from the fact I'm taking flight. So thanks to my job that I'm here witnessing this amazing moment. And it just came out such a buzz. It was really, really good. So yeah. You know, I think we shouldn't shy away from the, you know, the emotion, I guess, because that's also what makes us good photographer probably
You're right. Sometimes you can miss the odd shot because you are caught in the moment yourself. If someone's speaking on a stage about something that happened, then, then you can be, you, you can get a bit kind of Whoa, and then you suddenly think, Oh, hold on. I should be photographing these reactions instead of giving her.
Yeah, exactly. Absolutely. Absolutely.
On your website, you've got a section for family photography and a section for commercial photography, roughly what sort of split do you do between the two?
I would say the commercial is growing more and more. And I was trying to think why, why that was, I think there's different factors. First of all, for families, this is something, you know, that somebody who's trying to get into photography should, should really you know, be mindful of is how to make our businesses as technology proofers as possible. How do we still add value? You know, when phone and cameras become, you know, more and more clever and sometimes can take better photos than the SLR, if you don't really know how to use an SLR. So what I find now is that the family photography a lot of, cause my kids aren't little anymore, so I don't really have that direct network. Like I used to have when, when they're were little and people tend to photograph you know, get some professional photos of their family when the kids are only little, because by the time the kids are 10, usually, you know, that the children are going to be like, Oh, you know, dragging their heels.
And I think, you know, the parents just already try to picture what it would be like trying to convince a teenager to have a photo shoot and just give up before they've even started, but the need that will still remain. I think for family photography is the larger group. So the extended family should have really pushed that. And I love doing those where, you know, the family gets together. Maybe it's the you know, a special wedding anniversary for the grandparents or often is for it's for grandma pretty. And I love doing those because just seeing that, you know, the family dynamics, and as I say, I love running the session. So usually I arrive on the shoot and some people don't want to be there in the first place. Maybe there's a little bit of, you know, family conflict or something, maybe the kids, you know, there's a bit of comparison maybe between the different siblings.
I don't know. I find that absolutely fascinating. And I love arriving. And just my challenge is seafood. In the first five minutes of me being there, I can switch the mood and get people like actually thinking, Oh, this isn't going to be as painful as I thought it was going to be. You know, you might actually have fun on this shoot and just trying to get a bit of banter going and trying to really bring out the best out of everybody. Who's there. When they look back at the photos, you know, they kind of feed, like I was getting a much first, a couple of years of businesses. Oh my God, I don't know how you managed to get some good photos in, you know, even though it was absolute chaos and I would kind of leave a session, everybody was a bit flustered. I could see that, you know, mum was on the verge of tears cause the kids were using it well.
Okay. you know, I think I can rescue this and, and I'll surprise them with how they got decent shocked despite how painful that was. And now, you know, with experience, it's just trying to anticipate those moments and, and not, you know, trying to know what the triggers are for the kids, losing, losing it, all that sorts of stuff. And I think where I add value is being able to set the tone so that people are actually enjoying the session. And when they look back at the fact that I get emails from the grandma's saying, I can't tell you how much joy it brings me because I look back and I think what a lovely time we had altogether. And I feel like almost I'm facilitating a beautiful family moment. So this is where I feel I'm adding value and this you can't, and you know, you can't get that with an iPhone.
So it's just keeping, thinking about how as photographers, we can add value now for the commercial side. Yes, there are phones, but there is a constant demand, you know, in this day and age, you know, with the social media, for businesses to, you know, give imagery constantly to their to their clients. So it's good. It's good because there's a lot of demand having said that there's also seems to be a shift towards almost like amateurish footage or, or photographs to make it look more relatable. So, you know, there are trends that come and goes, you know, I like for me having fingers, fingers in all the pies is a bit of an exaggeration, but I try to just keep seeing how I can add value and not be dependent on technology improvements. So working with businesses, I'm not just there to take photos asking the questions about, you know, who, who really is the target audience, trying to understand, maybe ask them questions.
They hadn't really thought of, especially for small businesses, you know, obviously for businesses that have a marketing department, et cetera, they have already got it all sorted, but for smaller businesses, you know, they might like some photos they've seen, but not realize actually it's not okay. It might look, you might look cool in the photo, but is a giving the right impression to your potential clients. You know, how how'd you make yourself unique? You know, what's your USP? Who are you trying to attract? Who are you trying to repel just with images or all these things they hadn't necessarily considered. And I find that really, really interesting.
I think it's amazing that you're talking about the shift towards the, I think you called it the more amateur style in the commercial photography world, because I'm guessing that their audience or they recognized that their audience is going to respond better to authentic imagery. And maybe even the COVID whole, whole COVID situation has added to that because suddenly you've got people presenting on television, you know, being interviewed on BBC news and they're being interviewed at home. And of course there've been a few classic situations where that's gone wrong, you know, more and more we're seeing that kind of thing happening. So just on that, do you think that that is a threat to the sort of professional imagery that you and I tend to produce for our clients?
That's a very good question. It might be a threat, but I think it's just important not to ignore it or to bury our head in the sand and just think about how we can still add value. I think it's probably a trend, you know, I think it's some something that will change again and even, you know, I think so, you know, it's like like in France coffee, the coffee, or when you, you want to look good and you want to make it look effortless, but actually it took a lot of effort to make it look effortless. See what I mean? So, you know, there is amateur and there is a mutter. So, you know, it's just, if, if the, if the reef is make it look like it was shot, you know, without too much equipment and make it look not too slick or polished, you still need to really pay attention to the message you want to put across. If you see what I mean. So, and you can't have, you know, rubbish sound, for example. I mean, I say sound because I know you do, you know, videography, I don't know. I don't know where things are going. I I like to keep my options open and just observe and, you know, look at trends and see what I can do with them.
I guess the reason I ask is because I I've had in the last 12 months, I've had a couple of clients ask me to produce film for them, either photographs or video footage, which kind of looks like it has been shot in an amateur way. But like you say, there is amateur and there's, there's real amateur. So if you produce something which looks authentic and is authentic, of course, otherwise it's not authentic, but equally there's someone involved in that whole process who understands either audio or visuals, so that, so that they're still able to get good quality, but in an amateur format, then they can still retain the authenticity. But without it looking just bad, but it's interesting, I think to, to look at where it's going to go, and then maybe just to always bear in mind what it is that our clients are going to be looking for and what they need, and then to provide a service that's going to have.
Yes. And I think, you know, they still need compelling content, you know, not every Tom, Dick and Harry can just grab a foreign and create something that is going to, you know, grab the potential customers the heartstrings. So I think maybe then is for companies that it is for us to not just rely on the fact we're going to get beautiful footage because the gear can make it beautiful, but more about trying to think about the brand and the story. So not just being photographers or videographers, but maybe taking on that role almost of the, how can I say, like the script writer, which is also, I think really interesting.
So you met, you may find yourself in a situation then where one day you're dealing with children and the next day you're dealing with the CEO of a company somewhere, how do you manage from almost like one extreme to another, in your communication, in how you, in how you manage the shoot itself, how do you find those differences between the two markets that you're operating in?
Well, first of all, I love the variety because, you know, I can never get bored with doing, you know, things that are so different. I lay the grownup environment of the office. I feel maybe if I, if I've never worked in an office, maybe I would find it a little bit more challenging, but it kind of brings me back to my office days which I enjoy now photographing the CEO and photographing other members of staff. It can feel quite different because with the bigger companies, you know, they are, you know, the CEOs, they not necessarily going to get particularly excited. I mean, in fact, it's quite rare that turn up companies for headshots and that anybody sucks. I usually, they all going to bury their heads, you know, behind the screen and hope they don't notice them, but my family shoots usually I'm there for two hours and we take time and we play and we do all sorts the office.
What they appreciate is that I can be efficient. And again, just turning around the mood, you know, especially with, if I do you know, almost conveyor belt style headshots, I mean, one day I remember I had an hour and a half to do 70 headshots and we got through them and it was like, yeah, yeah. So they were queuing basically all queuing behind me, bam, bam, bam. But it's just finding those little things, you know, already, if I'm smiling, if I look upbeat, they will mirror my behavior and my expressions. Yeah. It's just putting yourself in their shoes, I guess. You know, they, they just want to get it over with as quickly as possible. They also appreciating the fact that they want to look good. They don't want to be embarrassed by the photo, you know, if their colleagues see them or that appear on the website.
So just acknowledging that they can have maybe some hangups about the way they look. So I do show the back of the camera, you know, if, if I have more than one minute I do show them because it just understanding it from their viewpoint, you know, what, what they want out of the headshots. So yeah, it's a very different to photographing families because family never show a Jewish, just go with the flow and we play and we have fun. It's just understanding your client, you know, understanding your audience and thinking what, you know, what they want and what they need.
Yeah. I can remember one time doing a similar kind of shoot, not quite 70 in an hour and a half, but I was in the basement floor of a stockbroker firm in central London. And I was there all day, photographing people and naturally in anybody who's older than 30, they find that when they see themselves in a photo that they're looking at, you know, any excessive weight that they don't want to carry, they're looking at how tired, you know, they're not seeing the good things about themselves immediately looking at the bad things.
So one of the things I discovered is that after taking a photograph of somebody, instead of showing them the back of the camera straight away, I'll show that to the next person waiting to have their photograph taken. And I'll say to them something like, doesn't she look amazing in this picture? And the other person then goes, Oh, you look lovely, come and have a look at this. You look amazing in this. And it transforms it completely as opposed to showing the person whose photograph you've just taken, where they're not getting that sort of social proof, I guess, from, from their peers and their colleagues who they work with. But also worse than that, the other people waiting to have their photograph taken. They're now seeing the reaction, someone who's just had their photograph taken and they might go, Oh dear, because they're looking at, you know, how they look. And so that's now not filling the next person with confidence about how they're going to look in their picture. I found that had a real double advantage and I just, I fell into that by accident. And that wasn't me thinking it and planning it.
So I've definitely noticed that when I do a group of people is the one who is being photographed is the one who's the most critical that's for sure. But it never occurred to me to show the photo first to someone else before showing it to, to the person I photograph. So, yeah. So it's just kind of changes. We're kind of reframes it doesn't it and changes their, maybe their first impression of the show.
But I love the way that you say that you're always putting yourself in their shoes. I mean, that's, that's a great way to think. Isn't it in, in all walks of life?
Yes, because personally I don't mind being photographed. I don't, you know, it's not that I think I'm the most beautiful person in the world, but I'm not particularly critical of the world. I don't really care, you know, as long as long as I look friendly enough in the photo that's, but you know, with experience, you realize that you put the camera in front of your face and they'd pull a face that you've never thought was that I don't know where it comes from that feeling of fear of being photographed because I, I, I don't particularly relate to it, you know, I didn't use to relate to it now. I understand, because I can see that it's, it seems to be, you know, more common than not amongst the people that I do photograph. And it's just, again, you know, not dismissing it, maybe not saying, Oh, you know, Oh, making a big fuss about nothing.
It's just understanding, you know, the only one, you know, most people come and they they're really nervous and, you know, understand that you're nervous basically, and not dismissing their, their fears, but acknowledging it instead and working with it. And I think, I think they appreciate that. And again, and again, if, if I show it that's, if I have time, obviously not, if I'm doing, you know, loads and loads of hair shots and the conveyor belt style, but if they don't like their photos, I don't go, Oh, you know, but you'd look beautiful. It's like, okay, you know, my job is to get you a photo where that you happy with. And so we're just going to carry on and we know we'll try different lights and we'll try different poses. And again, they appreciate that, that you know, that I'm not just dismissing their, their concerns.
And sometimes of course, people are very, self-conscious about maybe a feature of their, of their body, which, which other people don't notice at all. You know, maybe somebody feels like that is stick out a little bit. So if you have somebody with long hair and they they've got the tip of their ear, sort of poking out through their hair then to anyone else, it might look totally fine. But to them, it's a really big thing. So actually you're right to reshoot that so that they're happy with it.
Yeah, this is it. I'm showing them. And they, I mean, people are very, very particular about their hair. I've noticed things that, you know, is that, does my hair look fine? It looks fine to me, but you know, it might just be the way that fringe falls that they don't like, et cetera. So this is why I don't let them leave the house until they've seen a photo there. They're like, yeah, they, they, you know I'm really happy with that. Another one is AIESEC. I mean, I might not sound very PC, but I say to them, I can also Photoshop the photo as much as you like, you know, it still has to look like you obviously, you know, and I won't stop Photoshopping without you telling me, but it's just for just so they know almost as a safety blanket. Do you see what I mean?
That I can, I can make some tweaks. I can remove the spot they've got on their forehead. They don't need to worry about that. And if they need to reduce the back, you know, I don't, I don't say, Oh, your bags you've got under your eyes. I'll definitely get rid of that at all. I send them the photo and I say, these are the photos. I'm not, haven't done any retouching on them. I think they look absolutely beautiful as they are, but if there's anything that, you know, both those, you just let me know and I can work my magic on them. And most of the time they say, Oh, maybe they say, you know, just very small things, but most of them that they don't need the retouching, but just knowing that it's possible already, it just helps them relax during the shoot.
And if they're relaxed, then they're going to look better in the first place, aren't they?
Exactly, exactly. It's confidence. That's beautiful. So it's just, this is what I need, you know, just make them feel confident. And that already makes a massive difference.
What would you say to anybody who's wanting to get into photography, but maybe they're not qualified in being a photographer. They don't have those letters after their name to make them like an official photographer. And how do you feel that they, that, that might change their approach to starting a business in photography in the first place?
So yeah, so I think what I've seen in, in photography groups often is that question, you know, when do I know I'm good enough to start charging? For example, the way I approached it, I went and did a city and guilds. Cause I thought, you know, I'm just going to do like some kind of qualification at college. You know, it wasn't, it wasn't particularly onerous. It was what was it? I think, yeah, it was maybe two or three tens like one evening a week. And you know, it was actually fun. I mean, this is so long ago now actually developing a film in the lab and you know, it was all kind of black and whites and stuff, but I thought if anybody asks me, what are your qualifications? You know, what, what, you know, how come you're charging for this, if you haven't studied photography, at least I'll have something that I can say, well, this is, you know, I did this nobody's ever asked me.
I think that what's great about our job is that the images speak for themselves. So yes, there's also word of mouth. So in between the word of mouth and being able to just show instantly without adding loads of words and a CV attached to what we do, there's not that many jobs that can, you know, just one picture and you get an idea of the, the level of proficiency or most of, of the, of the photographer. But having said that it's not necessarily the best photographers that have the best businesses. You know, the actual level of photography I would say is, is only a small portion. If you're a people person, if you like to network I think that's the kind of thing that will actually have a much bigger impact on your business than the quality of the photos. So again, it comes down to confidence. I think
One of those things that a lot of photographers, including myself, tend to find every so often is that you're in a situation taking photographs of something or someone, and you think to yourself, hang on, I'm, I'm not qualified to do this. And I don't mean in terms of qualifications with letters after your name. I mean, just, you know, that imposter syndrome of feeling like you're not good enough to be doing that thing that you're actually doing very capably, but you know, you feel like to yourself, you're not very good at it. Do you ever find that you get that imposter syndrome? And if so, how would you suggest to other photographers to get over that kind of thing?
Good question. I think sometimes I am in situation where I think, Oh, I wonder what, you know, how so-and-so would have handled this. You know, I'd love to, you know, sometimes you do walk away from shoots thinking. I think I could have done better. I'm not really sure how, but I'm not a hundred percent happy with the outcome of this. I've found that often, you know, leaving it a few days before doing the calling and the editing. I mean, my husband and I come home and, and I say, Oh, the shoot went really badly. And now he just rolls his eyes and goes, yeah, yeah. You know, talk to me again in a few days, because by the time I've done the colleague and the editing, I'm thinking actually though that gallery's a lot better. He was like, yeah, I know every time. So it is that you putting yourself down, as soon as you've done the shoot, you're putting yourself down before you've even had a chance to look at the pictures, then
I don't know. Or, you know what, sometimes I do walk out of shoots, buzzing and thinking that was brilliant. I loved every minute. So I would say maybe it's 50, 50. I don't know. Maybe I'm exaggerating. It's not, you know, it's not, it's not always, I come back from a shoot feeling you know, this heart and not really not, but but sometimes I do and, and it, and it can affect my mood for a few days probably.
But I just have to keep reminding myself, you know, my clients are happy, you know, what can you do? Something that I find is a good confidence boost or actually is doing a bit of pro bono work for charities where you don't have the same kind of pressure to perform in a way. But at the same time you feel feels so good.
You know, you find yourself in situation that you would know that or you feel you can really make a difference and help promote the charity. And, and you know, of course I know sometimes, and sometimes I do paid work for charity. You know, some charities of course have, you know, budgets for, for photography and style. I'm not saying that should always be free, but I do work with, you know, every year with a couple of charities. And that is the kind of thing that it makes me feel good on every level. So I think, you know, for people who have, you know, tend to have low confidence, maybe thinking about the kind of work that would give them more comfort, maybe, you know, stay more in the areas they're comfortable with until they feel proficient enough to move on to something else. I don't have a big crisis. Maybe. I don't know. I don't know if I'm too big headed or what, but I don't think my work is amazing. I'm just thinking, you know, it's good enough for my business. You know, I don't have big you know, existential crisis about what I do. I just, you know, my clients are happy is, is enough.
In our next episode, we're going to be speaking to a British photographer who's operating in America. How do you find being a French photographer who's operating in the UK, even though you've been here for a number of years now?
Yeah. I think, you know what, I, I think it could have been worse for me. I think being friendly, you know, the stereotypes associated with the French are playing it maybe a little bit to my favor in terms of, you know, maybe it is I don't think I'm a particularly sophisticated person, but maybe just like, you know, the way the British are seen in the U S there's a stereotype of a bit of sophistication that kind of plays in our favor, whether it's true or not. So you know, it hasn't done me any disservice. Let's put it that way. And, and because my husband's is British and I've been here a long time, it hasn't, you know, haven't really been in many situation where there was, you know, things lost in translation or misread a situation where the years I kind of got used to the rigid way of life, I suppose.
Have you experienced anything negative at all regarding the whole Brexit shenanigans that's been going on for the last few years
Professional level? Yet it's funny because actually when the Brexit vote happened, I had, I would walk into family shoots and people were already apologized as if it was there for which usually it wasn't because if they're apologizing, you know, they kind of voted the other way. But so I, I wouldn't say it's been an issue for me yet, you know, on a, on a professional level, just because also, you know, I'm not, I'm not really dealing with people from the EU in terms of my business. My business is very local of captive, very local. So I think maybe what they would have, you know, we'll see, we'll see what happens, but because of my pricing, maybe it's on the higher and the bracket in terms of, you know, for my family shoots you, I don't know how my potential clients will be affected by Brexit.
I think that's more the concern. You know, whether, what we'll see w we shall see what the future brings. I think for me, you know, my, my accent, my grandmother, she was a French teacher. She lived in the us all her life because she had a much thicker accent than I did. And, and I said, you know, she was like, I will never lose my accent. It is open all the doors for me, but it's just, again, standing up from the crowd, making yourself more memorable and, and, you know, being different does help in that respect, I suppose. Yeah.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start in photography, or maybe they've already started and they want to grow their photography, and we're here in 2021. What would you say to someone in that situation right now?
So I would say, you know, look at what your motivations are for growing your business, how it, how is it going to work with, with your life, with your constraint, with your aspirations. And then, so we would bearing that in mind, think about what, what problems you're trying to solve for your clients, how you can be of value, you know, how you can add more than just the fact that you've got a good camera and you can take pretty photos. So this is what, this is what I would this is what I would advise. So thinking about constantly about how you add value, whether it's for a family issue or whether it's for, you know, commercial shoot is the same thing for me in terms of doing something better than what anybody else with a good camera could.
Awesome. I love it. You mentioned about the fact that you teach beginner photography earlier on in this episode. So you do training courses, I'm guessing. Can you tell us a little bit more about the training courses that you offer and how students can benefit from them?
Yeah, so I do training at different levels from how you even do like a [inaudible] style training for teenagers. I do training for parents with the DSLR who wants to take better photos of their kids, but also I do training for professional photographers. So over the years I've done several talks at the SWPP convention which so when log done happened the first log that happened last year, and I had just you know, finished the convention. I thought what I could do is repackage some of my master classes into zoom sessions having attended convention in the past. I, I know that I would get really frustrated if I went to a class, which was just like a, either a glorified sales pitch or, you know, not really giving, you know, giving me some general advice without going into the nitty gritty of things with that being just I suppose, practical and, and giving me something to challenge myself.
So this is how I designed my masterclasses. And so I've repackaged them as two hour zoom sessions, which are doing in small groups and that's worked really, really well, actually during the various lockdown people taking the opportunity to improve their skills. And so I do one on flash. I do one on corporate photography. I've do one on baby lifestyle photography, and yeah, it's been really it's been really lovely. And then I also do one to ones with photographers, kind of, you know, following the doing portfolio reviews, that sort of thing,
I guess, in many ways COVID and lockdown scenarios have sort of added to the accessibility of this kind of training where in the past it might be that if you said to somebody we're going to do a session on zoom, then they might be thinking, what is zoom or zoom is just reserved for geeky sort of people, but all of a sudden everybody's using zoom. We all know what zoom is.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know, it's really opened the door to remote learning massively. I just really liked the, you know, the interaction,
A non photography question here, I'm asking you three things that you're into right now. And one thing that you would like to throw into the world of never seeing it again.
Okay. Yes. So things, I mean to, so what I've really loved about this pandemic, I mean, there's loads of crappy things, but what I really love is being able to connect with my teenagers better because normally they're always out and about, and, you know, I feel bad for them because they have to stay at home, but it's meant more family time, you know, time that I wouldn't have had otherwise. So we've been watching some really cool series, like kind of, kind of going into a routine of, you know, we have dinner and then just, almost like this, that, you know, we have these, that in front of the TV and we've been watching, we've been just like, yeah, it's been so nice. So just short episodes so that it's not too much of a commitment for them spend with mum and dad, but we'd been watching the whole of 'Schitzz Creek', which has been so fun. So she's really good. And also 'This Country', so if you've got, you know, all the teenagers, don't totally recommend that as a, as a family viewing really.
I mean, there's a lot of swearing and you know, maybe some things are a bit borderline, you know, cringe to watch with parents, but it's, it's been great. It's been great. And maybe the last thing, the third thing would be running. So I'll kind of, you know, I'm the least sports sports person you know, but I've just started like just last year, like a running running group for people who don't run and that's been absolutely lovely, actually really nice to just go out. Then we do like a, I don't know if, you know, park run, you know, when you meet yeah, exactly, exactly. Except that we can't do park run at the moment, but you know, we do it virtually. So the group, yeah, the group I joined is Athena, and then we park run school, fly 5k, you can do a, so if you look online, fly 5k and you can go and take part in the virtual Parklands, we all run on a Saturday morning. We all record our time and it's just really lovely motivator to just, you know, do something good for your body. And for yourself,
I love the way you've opened that up though, too, or not even opened up, but you're sort of helping as much as you can, people who don't normally run, because I think that there's a bit of a fear of when you start running and start running in a group that you'll be the one that's like way worse than everybody else.
Yes, yes. So, you know, the, the, the program I followed was called Athena, I don't know if they do it remotely in my town in St. Albans. and it was, you know, women like me basically, don't really run of, try the coach to 5k, you know, five times, but got round to the 5k bit.
Actually the group has been rather than being a, something that made us nervous was actually a really empowering and we, we really encourage each other. So it's, it's been lovely actually really nice.
Okay. So that's three things you're into one thing you want to throw into the world of never seeing again,
You know what, my big pile of stuff to go to charity, that's been waiting in the corridor, you know, you've got to have, you've got all this stuff. So you kind of try to declutter a little bit, so you can't take it anywhere. So yeah, I will want to get rid of my pile of charity stuff.
Charity shops are going to be flooded. Aren't they? After, after lockdown, we're current, we're recording this in lockdown mk III in early 2021. So I think once we're out of this charity shops are going to be inundated with lots of
Yes. Hopefully one day will make its way to a good home.
Well, Stephanie, we need to wrap this up in a moment, but before we end this, where can listeners go to find out more about you and also to find out more about the training courses that you're offering?
Okay. So my website is Stephanie belton.com. And on there you find all the information. If you go to photography courses, you'll see you'll see all listed there.
B E L T O N. Is that right?
Yep. Yep. I'm also on Instagram, Stephanie Belton and on Facebook.
Awesome. Okay. Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate you being here today, and I really appreciate you being here on the show.
Absolute pleasure, Simon. I really enjoyed it.
That was Stephanie Belton. And you can find her online at stephaniebelton.com or on Instagram at Stephanie Belton. If you're interested in learning more from her training courses, then go check her out. This is not a sponsored podcast, but I think you can tell just from listening to her voice, how passionate she is about photography and people, did you notice by the way that Stephanie didn't mention gear at all? I don't actually know if she shoots Canon or Sony or Nikon or whatever, because like so many things in life, it's not what you have. It's how you use it to get the most from people that you're connecting with. Okay.
And our next episode, we jump across to the U S where we'll be interviewing someone from the UK who moved out there six years ago. That episode is ready now, but to ensure you don't miss future episodes, then click that subscribe button. And it would be my pleasure to serve you by bringing more people to you to share their experience running their businesses. But in the meantime, thank you for listening and I'll see you in the next episode.