by Tracy Willis Published 01/12/2014
Tracy Willis signed up to be a member of The Societies without even owning a camera, but she had already decided that she wanted to be a photographer after trying out her partner's camera and looking at beautiful wedding photography that others had created. After buying her first camera from the forums she was hooked! It didn't take long before she was settling down comfortably into newborn photography and forging an exciting new career for herself.
'I find photographing babies super rewarding. It's all about understanding the individual baby and their needs in order to create perfect images that tug on people's heart strings!' But newborns aren't as easy to photograph as they look, it takes somebody with bags of patience to work in this genre as Tracy points out; 'You have to have patience. An average newborn session takes around four hours and even then you might not get the shots you want. You have to prepare the parents and set their expectations, and the more relaxed the parents are, the better the session you will have.' What's even more incredible about these adorable images of tiny babies is that it all has to happen so soon after they've been born. 'The newborn stage is the shortest period in a lifetime and I feel it's vital to record it. All too soon it's been forgotten and parents have a toddler on their hands.' That's not all bad news for Tracy though, since she also photographs maternity images and children's portraits too - extending the time that her clients will come and be photographed by her.
Tracy's photography business is structured primarily around newborn photography and the feedback from her customers shows that this is very much a positive aspect. 'My clients tell me that they feel happier with someone who is experienced at handling newborn babies.' Of course it's always going to be hard for a new parent to hand over their baby to a stranger so its natural that they would look for somebody experienced. Tracy also believes that word of mouth marketing is one of the best ways to find customers and it helps to build that personal bond immediately. 'If you're looking to market yourself as a newborn photographer, the best starting point is to ask those around you. Babies are a very personal subject and much of the work can be obtained through word of mouth. You can also look at local baby shows, mum and baby groups, and some of the large internet forums if you want to get the word out to more people.'
Mentoring can be hugely important to many photographers' personal development and Tracy is no exception. 'I have a close relationship with Faye Yerbury who is my mentor for my Fellowship panel. Having the support of someone so skilled has really helped me and she's supported my career since I started out.' But what advice does Tracy have when it comes to mentoring and how does she think it can benefit your business? 'I hear many people say that they are self trained but my question is always "how can you tell yourself that you have made a mistake?" Without another pair of eyes it's sometimes easy to overlook mistakes when we are so emotionally attached to our own work. ' Many photographers often wonder how you should go about finding a mentor and Tracy believes that it's very simple. 'To choose a good mentor you just have to look for someone who really inspires them to improve ...and then just ask them if they will help!' The worst that can happen is that someone will say no, so perhaps more photographers should be giving this tactic a go!
Becoming a teacher herself has opened up new avenues of business for Tracy. 'I was asked many times if I trained people and I always said no. But when someone asked me why not I just didn't have a good answer so I finally took the plunge. I figured that if someone was requesting that I trained them then they must believe that I have something to offer!' As well as face-to-face training at workshops and seminars, Tracy also offers video downloads on posing from her website. The videos have proven popular with photographers who either can't meet Tracy in person for training or those who want to just refresh their skills after attending one of her workshops. Those who attend Tracy's training sessions genuinely enjoy their experiences and this may well be because Tracy herself loves teaching other photographers. 'Seeing someone so excited and enthusiastic about going home and trying what they've learned - and then watching someone progress with their photography - is the most rewarding part of being a teacher.'
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