Teresa Walton: From a beginners workshop at LSP to her own Portrait Photography business.

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Have you ever thought of opening your own photography business?

While for some it might be a goal very far away, there are people determined enough to, not only get there, but excel and become very successful.

Teresa Walton had a dream.

Read her testimonial from the first steps into becoming a professional photographer and find some tips on how to take a great professional headshot:

The foundations of my Headshot Business at the London School of Photography

I was nervous as I passed through the doors of the London School of Photography for the first time. It was December 2010 and my new Canon 550 camera was in my bag and I didn’t have a clue how to use it! I had bought a digital SLR to pursue a longstanding attraction to photography. I knew, in order to get any pleasure out of it, I had to learn how to use it properly. After some internet research I decided that a week-long course at the London School of Photography should do the trick!

I was the last to enter the classroom, there were six other students, led by Alex, a Greek photojournalist by trade. I felt myself sinking into my seat as soon as I sat down, as technical terms were being thrown about by my classmates. What had I let myself in for? Thankfully, once Alex began to speak, the tightness in my stomach eased and was replaced by an enthusiasm to learn. He started off by bringing us right back to basics, teaching us the most fundamental features of the camera – but I now know are the most important. He patiently taught us the meaning of shutter speed, aperture and ISO, as well as the relationship between them. I found myself feeling more familiar with my camera without even picking it up – the way he explained the different aspects allowed them to fit together like a jigsaw in my mind.

After lecturing us on theory and dealing with my constant questions, Alex sent us out into the streets of Soho to work on each particular skill. I loved how we were given an opportunity to practice almost immediately after we had been taught. One time we had to capture movement at a fast shutter speed, whilst another we had to stop people to take their portraits (summoning up the courage to ask them was almost as nerve-racking as taking the picture itself!). The technical aspects of the camera were still very difficult for me when capturing a picture under pressure, but I was feeling more comfortable when I had time to think about my approach.

Although I was still a rookie, I felt I had come a long way in just a week. To my horror, on returning to the classroom, we were required to present our homework to the class. I was ready for everyone to laugh at my shots, but I was pleasantly surprised to find they didn’t! Alex quietly told me I had a natural eye for spotting a good image, which really motivated me to believe I was onto something worth pursuing. He re-assured me that the technical ability was something that would develop with time and practice; I just had to get out and use my camera as much as I could…

Urban Headshots, Street Photography & Action Shots

Here are some of the images I took during that week at LSP, around the streets of London;

I left the London School of Photography with a thirst for knowledge and I couldn’t read enough about my new interest. I am a mum and had 3 young boys (at the time) so I wasn’t able to commit to more courses at that stage of my life. However in the years up to now, I have continued to learn about photographic techniques, digital retouching and find out as much as I can to use my camera well.

Professional Development & Growing my Photography Business

I regularly read books and magazines on photography, lighting, composition and photo editing. I became a member of the SWPP (Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers) which holds a photography convention each January in London, where experts speak and share their craft. I have been lucky to find two or three professional mentors who have shaped my path as well – Dave Wall has been my longstanding digital editing and retouching coach who keeps my skills up to date, and Corina Darnborough of Pixifire coaches me on SEO and digital marketing for my website, blogging and social media.

Any money I earned along the way I have used to fund my learning, personal and professional development. Being a solo entrepreneur, I feel it’s helpful to have a support network for both technical queries, sanitising my work and pushing my boundaries.

When I started out in photography, I thought I wanted to take sports pictures because I spent a lot of time on the touchline watching my kids, then I went through a phase thinking I wanted to take pictures of food, and then babies!

Eventually after going on a headshot photography course, that is where I found my passion; it fits into my life and the space I have available to work in, without me having to hire a studio. I arrange my diary to fit around other commitments, it works for me and I love it!

How to Take a Great Professional Headshot

To an extent, the photographic part of taking a good professional headshot is formulaic – as my headshot mentor, Peter Hurley, says the work is 10% being a photographer and 90% therapist, and that I find is true. I love meeting new people and I feel that giving them a professional headshot they are proud of is a gift (even though they are paying me!) I always strive to give each person a good experience and the best of my technical ability. I aim for them all to walk out of my door an inch taller, feeling really confident.

Taking the actual pictures, however, is only half of my job. I pride myself on being great at retouching my images to create the best headshots possible and use a lot of small adjustments which add up to making a big difference.

My headshot clients have included company CEOs, actors, celebrities, TV personalities, journalists and authors. I don’t change how people look, but the work I do definitely enhances each picture. I aim for people to look at their image and feel amazing. No-one will detect what I have done, but they will think that the person they are looking at was having a great day!

Specialist Headshot Photographer

I now find myself with a photography business which specialises in the niche market of providing headshots for actors, celebrities, authors and professionals (and anyone else who wants to stand in front of my camera). I still take photographs of sport and there is nothing I like more than a day on the streets of London with my camera, asking strangers if I may take their picture. I find that having to work quickly is good for keeping me on my toes with my craft. Recently, some of my work has been accepted by an online photo library too (plainpicture), so I am excited to build my brand awareness using multiple platforms.

Work/Life Balance as a Freelance Photographer

I constantly juggle my home and work life and I have to admit that work often wins. There have been a lot of late nights in front of the computer improving my technical ability and learning the skills to run a business… which is a whole separate story!

Sadly the photography isn’t even half of running my business, and I find it frustrating that I don’t have more hours behind my camera. I find that I spend a lot of my time dealing with Social Media, learning how to optimise my website to gain the most traffic possible (which I am now having help with), and marketing my skills in order to get myself clients.

My aim is to get the business part of my life under control so that I can spend more time taking pictures, I try to make photography fit around my life although I do spend a lot of time fitting my life around photography! I haven’t got the balance right yet, but I’m working on it!

If you want to have look at what I get up to, take a look at my instagram account, come and say hi over on facebook. My website showcases more of my headshot photography – please check back often as it’s a work in progress. I’m working on online presence, by adding new pages to target the different sectors and clients I work with, as my business grows.

I’m truly grateful for the wonderful opportunities the London School of Photography has opened up to me. If my journey has inspired you please share this article or feel free to drop me a line on Facebook – I wish you all the best for your photography career. Keep learning!

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