We have all the raw ingredients and with a little faith maybe it can be yet another up and coming, cool market town.
The Easter holidays are fast approaching, here are some local ideas for you and the kids this Easter.
I'm a Mum. It's a title that I love and one I wouldn't change for the world but along the way I felt a little bit like I stopped being Claire. Do you feel the same?
You can turn your own life around with help from me asking you the right questions. The questions are my thing, and the answers are yours; then we go ahead and work with what comes out!
A while ago I decided that I wanted to blog and photograph local businesses. In the first of my local business blogs I have the pleasure of featuring Jenny Hudson and her business Village Chiropractic Clinic.
Get your business imagery snapping.
Anyone who knows me knows that my brain operates in a different way to most people. As a creative person I tend not to think in an orderly and methodical manner.
First of all, take a look at my website and Facebook page. Do the pictures you see appeal to you? Do you look at them and think ..... that's what I want!! If so, then I could be the tog for you.
My bestie came around today and we chatted about the price of things, in particular the value of photography. This was the analogy I used and I thought it was worth sharing.
You go out for a nice meal, there are four of you and you have something delicious from the menu as well as a great bottle of wine. You sit at a beautifully presented table, the waiter service is friendly and attentive, the cutlery is sparkly. You don't do this every week or every month. It's a treat that you savour and look forward to. It's lovely, how much has it cost you and how long has it lasted? £100 to £120, you sat chatting & eating for approx two hours. Enjoying good food in a nice setting. You leave feeling as though you have had an "experience" not just your tummy filled.
You go to a fast food restaurant. You order food for four of you, it arrives in a paper bag and you sit at a bench to eat. It's satisfied the hunger and filled a gap. When you've done you pop the rubbish in the bin and head off on your next errand. You've been sat for 20 minutes, its cost around £20.
Neither of the options is "wrong" and trust me when I say, I like a Big Mac as much as the next person but basically it boils down to this in my eyes:
A) What you want.
B) What your budget is.
C) The level of service and quality you require.
D) What you value.
E) Your level of expectation.
It's taken me nearly two years to work out that I want to be the first of the two dining analogies. I want you to come to me once a year or every other year and leave knowing that you've experienced something special. To create something YOU value & adore. I want to be the sparkly cutlery, the fantastic service and the warm glow. I want to be the first person on your lips when someone says that they are looking for a family photographer.
I'm not the cheapest, it's taken me a while to get my head around it and I'm fine with that. We all put a value on different things and I know what I value.
If you go into a high street photo developers shop and sit in front of their backdrop for photos, they will take two or three images whilst you sit their in front of the other customers. You might not receive the digital image, possibly just the prints and you'll be out of the door in 5 minutes. There will be no re touching, you won't have time to feel at ease or for your children to build a rapport.
It is what it is and that's fine. If it's what you can afford that's fine too but it's not me!!
So if you want fun, relaxed photos with someone who can put people at ease, watch a family and read the dynamics. Who has an eye for detail & presentation then I'm your gal.
So it's that time of year when I sit down and write a list of "bits and pieces" that the family may like this Christmas. In previous years I have jotted it down on a piece of paper and passed it to family members but nearly always I have struggled to come up with something that I would like for Christmas. This year I have sent family links to online stores so that the gifts can be easily ordered and sent out directly.
Thinking of stuff for the hubster and girls is a doddle (*that's Midlands speak for easy) but when it comes to choosing stuff for me, well I'll happily admit that I get really stuck. Last year I was a bit wishy washy about what I would like and ended up with well intended gifts that I really wouldn't use and to be honest I hate to see people waste money. My favourite gift was a pair of sparkly earrings from hubby and the girls and a cosy Fat Face gilet (I love that companies name!!) from my parents.
This year I started thinking about it earlier. I've asked my parents in law for Hoar Cross Hall vouchers as once a year the bestie and I treat ourselves to a Spa Day. Having vouchers as a present will make me book it and go. I'm one of those Mums who will happily spend on my other half and kids but feel guilty for spending something on myself for no reason. The vouchers are something to look forward to.
So what other Christmassy items are on your list? Jewellery, new boots, a nice picture of the kids/family, a family photoshoot, a new hoody, slippers, dressing gown, pj's, perfume, make up, handbag, afternoon tea, weekend getaway, craft supplies, cd's, dvd's, a subscription to a magazine or maybe something that is linked to a hobby?
Start putting your thinking caps on people and let your loved ones know what you would like in advance.
P.s. - look out for a little something on my Facebook page on Black Friday ;)
You might want to share my Black Friday Deal/Post with a loved one for your own Christmas list or purchase as a gift for someone else BUT you will have to be quick on the day.
25th November - Save the date.
My weekend of Autumn and Pre Christmas Mini Sessions was a huge success. So much so, I may well run a last minute weekend of them again in November.
Take a look at those leaves, those colours, those faces. Now, that's what I'm talking about!!
You had better be quick when I release my final date of mini sessions for the year.
My first Autumn Mini Pre Christmas Session will take place on:
Saturday 22nd October at Croxden Abbey, near Hollington.
My second will be the following day on:
Sunday 23rd October at Sudbury Hall, Sudbury, Derbyshire.
Times & Shoot Duration.
Mini Sessions are short and sweet. Sessions are available every half the hour and on the hour. Timings are TIGHTER then the bays in a supermarket car park. If you are late for your session the time will come off your time with me, it's not fair for it to impact on the next session. I'm sure you will agree.
£35 session fee.
At the time of booking. By PayPal, Stripe or bank transfer. If I do not receive your payment then your session is not secure.
What does the £35 include Claire?
This low price includes one high resolution, fully edited digital image to download from a password protected gallery. Along with a licence to print this image. You will need a computer and wifi to download this. A tablet or phone will not suffice.
What happens if the weather isn't very good?
I can control a lot of things, sadly weather isn't one of them. I will decide if the weather is not good enough to shoot in but common sense does need to be applied. Warm clothes and shoes that keep your feet dry will be fairly essential. This is an Autumn Pre Christmas Session - cosy clothing will always look better in the images. If the weather is really bad I will re arrange your session to the following weekend.
So you receive your gallery of edited images and you want more than one image? What happens?
Well, additional images will be available to purchase. I will also be offering you the option to purchase add ons such as professional quality prints and professionally printed packs of Christmas Cards with one of your selected images on them. Prices will be sent with the images.
I plan on having your gallery of images edited and back with you within a week to choose from. You will have 7 days to select your complimentary image and pay/order any additional images/prints or Christmas cards before the gallery closes.
If you would like to book in for one of these two sessions, simply complete the form below with your date and time preference. I will then email you back to confirm availability and send you the invoice/booking confirmation.
PLEASE NOTE* THESE ARE THE ONLY ALLOCATED DATES I HAVE DURING 2016 FOR MINI SESSIONS.
Like most parents I seem to have stumbled through the school holidays. I've worked, fitted in day trips, play dates, picnics, cinema trips and a family holiday in sunny Norfolk.
All the way through I've tried to not think about the fact that our youngest is joining school full time in September. I've been like a memory making machine, trying to fit in as much as is humanly possible to create memories that both girls look back on with big smiles.
Well September has arrived and I guess the time has come to face facts that my partner in crime, amigo and funny littlest person is growing up and approaching her next "big" milestone, one that will see her enter into full time education for a further 13 years. I'm going to miss our afternoon snuggles on the sofa, our funny trips around the supermarket, the endless questions in the car on the way to get her big sister & the cheeky afternoon play dates & Ashmores Ice Creams with her bestie Amber. Shhh that last bit is a secret!
Part of me feels that I should be cool with this next new chapter, I've been there, seen that and got the t shirt right AND she has been attending Nursery at the new school for two mornings a week. The reality is that I'm not cool about it and that's actually ok.
I'm worried that she'll be tired doing 5 full days, that the staff in charge (who I know are fab) won't give her a hug if she's looking a bit sad, that she won't eat all of her dinner at lunch time and if I'm honest that she will lose her sense of fun and craziness in a structured, regimented environment.
Like many parents I will be taking pictures of my girls on Tuesday morning. They'll be scrubbed, hair brushed, wearing new uniforms and carrying their school bags. The absolute opposite to the pics I have taken in the holidays. At times I'm pretty sure my two have looked feral!
I'll be putting a brave face on and with a bounce in my step and smile on my face reassuring them that it's ok. I will take youngest into the classroom give her a kiss and wave her off for what will be one of those emotional tie cutting moments for a parent.
Here are some Mummy or Daddy tips for you. I'm no expert but I hope they help.
1. Pick a place to photograph your child, try and make it the same place each year for your first day of school picture. You'll be able to see them grow and alter against a consistent background.
2. Don't shout "smile" at them. Yep this is a sure fire way of getting them to play up and not look at the camera. Like animals they sense that this is a key moment and go against what you are trying to achieve.
3. If they are young try making trump noises to make them laugh naturally. You bend to take the pic, make the fart noise and pretend it wasn't you. It usually works everytime!!! Dig out the fart gun, the whoopy cushion or raid the internet for the right sound. Alternatively eat beans!
4. If they are older, go for something more age appropriate. Let them pose. It may not be what you want but it's a reflection of their age and independence.
5. If they are nervous on the way to school, why not talk to them about what you are planning for tea that night? Cook their favourite or have a special treat ready.
6. My top tip. Don't grill them about their day as soon as you collect them!! Yep, you are desperate to know, I get that but as soon as you ask "Did you have a good day, Did you eat lunch?" .... The standard response will be "I don't know, I can't remember" or "yes" or "no."
7. Try instead waiting until you get home and they are settled and asking them to tell you "what was the BEST bit about today?" or "what's the name of your new friend?"
8. Make plans if you have the day off, keep busy but don't tell your little one. No need to be secretive but would you want to go to school if you knew that Mum/Dad were going to your favourite cafe and doing fun stuff like having cake with friends? Nope thought not!
I hope this helps. If you have any top tips pop them in the comments. I hope all your children, no matter what age have a good day at school.
Rob & Amy - Mythe Barn
When I began taking photographs I started with an entry level camera and a kit lens. I charged £20 for all the images on a download and learnt my trade the only way I knew how through trial and error and hard work. Since then I have invested in not one but two super duper cameras, three top quality lenses, training with some brilliant photographers, new editing software and a new computer and I think it shows in my work. It's been a massive leap from my first bits of kit.
My hobby of photography has snowballed into a growing business that I absolutely love, I do not plan on quitting!
My confidence has grown, I've made new friends and I have created some lasting memories for the groups I have photographed.
I LOVE WHAT I DO! No really, I do.
Most people I meet say "how on earth do you do this every weekend, work part time and be a full time Mum, we're shattered after just one photoshoot with you."
The pricing structure that I put in place at the beginning of the year seemed like a big leap for me at the time but the reality is that actually it wasn't quite enough and although I love what I do I am becoming a "bit of a busy fool" as my Dad would say.
To my way of thinking photography is usually a once a year thing for most families, you save for it, find the person who matches your style and whose images sing to your soul and then you invest in them and in the preservation of memories.
Like any parent I want to earn enough money to pay for day trips, treats & holidays. I want my girls to realise that what Mummy does has a value and that people realise that I sacrifice my weekends and time away from my girls to provide them/my clients with something exceptional.
I work hard on shoots to capture the family dynamics that I see, I then go home and edit, face swap and photoshop the pictures to be the best they can be. My job does not end when the cover goes back on my lens.
My beautiful, bright and funny girls need me to be around a bit more than I currently am. We've had a rocky couple of weeks and it's put a lot of stuff into perspective for me. So, with that in mind I have altered my packages but also introduced a refer a friend scheme. If you don't want to refer a friend, if the chance of using the referral for yourself is just too tempting then that's fine too! I won't grass you up ...... honest.
Thank you for your never ending support folks, you make me want to be the best I can possibly be.
The new and updated price list.
This week I had the pleasure of meeting four of the fabulous Hollinshead family for the third time. On a sunny Thursday morning before it got too sticky they took a stroll down to the local park to meet me for a photo session.
When I think about the the sort of photographs I like of my own kids I think of sunny days, happy kids playing outside, climbing frames, swings and yes the smell of suncream.
So, when I get the chance to photograph children and the parents are willing to give me a free reign this is the sort of photography I love. It's also the sort of photographs we struggle to get of our fast paced, excited children. Let's face it, how many of you have blurred pictures?? I know I have plenty on my phone!
Family photography doesn't have to be stressful, it can be fun and it can be REAL. Hiring a pro can mean that these precious memories are captured without the blur!! Print them and you have a lasting memory for your little monkeys.
If this appeals to you then drop me a message. The great outdoors is my office & I would be happy to meet you.
Amy and Lee got in touch to arrange a photoshoot in May. They had been gifted some photoshoot vouchers by family when H was born and had decided to put them to good use the day before her 1st birthday party.
When I arrived at their home on the edge of Blithfield Reservoir I was blown away by the fabulous scenery surrounding them on all sides and then when Amy said "well we've got some bluebells in the wood if you want to photograph there?" ...... you can imagine I was skipping away in that direction.
This session is what I would call a sitter session and it was a real wake up call for me regarding the path I want to take. Cake smashes although lots of fun have always felt a little bit wasteful and I can't shake off those pearls of wisdom from my parents regarding wasting food. Thanks Mum and Dad! A sitter session captures that special time in your little ones life where they have proudly mastered sitting up unaided. They can be dressed in pretty/smart clothes & of course I take pictures of those pudgy little hands. <3 Love, love, love!!
So, announcement time ..... I am going with my gut and not photographing cake smashes anymore.
Ladies and gentlemen, here we have the only photoshoot I have done in, near or around bluebells EVER and my first sitter session. If you would like to book a sitter session for your little one please get in touch using the form below. It's never too soon to book.
P.S. Don't listen to that old saying about never working with children and animals.
You've probably all seen the end of term pictures on social media. The GCSE students have celebrated the end of school by wearing ball gowns, prom dresses & suits. Arriving in buses, limos, tractors and sleek cars. Seeing them all dressed to impress reminded me of all those feelings I had when I left school and I got a shock when I worked out that it was 19 years ago in my case.
When I left school I chose to stay on and complete my A Levels. I enjoyed it ...... and the social life too but academia never came naturally to me. I was that child who always had the comment on her school report that read "always tries hard and attempts all her work with a smile." I was good at sports and got picked for the teams but really if anyone had asked me what I wanted from life my answer would have been "to be happy."
So, at the grand old age of 35 I've found my thing. I love photography and the reality is that without knowing it or acknowledging it I have always been a creative sort of a person. Did I know what I wanted to do with my life at 16 or 18? No. Do most people? No, probably not.
So what is it like to be a creative person like me? I watch human interaction and my fingers ache to hold a camera and capture that image. I'll be driving along and have to stop the car to take a picture of what I see. It might be a rusty warehouse door, a gate with a field behind it, fluffy clouds or a dramatic sky. I take endless random pictures with no idea what I am going to do with them just because they appeal to me. Thank goodness I don't have to share a computer with hubby, he would go mad.
I'll often stay up until 2am editing a gallery of images because I don't want to walk away from what I have started.
I also go through periods where my brain hurts because I have so much stuff I want to do, attempt or visit. Whilst our girls are small this is a tough one for me, I have a restless energy about me, I need to get out and photograph but I have to balance this with family life.
I am incredibly fortunate that I followed my gut instinct. I knew deep down that I would love photography and that first camera I had reinforced that feeling. It's taken me a while to listen to that inner voice and trust that it won't lead me astray.
To all those of you leaving school, good luck, the world is your oyster. Wherever it takes you and whatever path it leads you along is just another experience that will shape you. There is no right and wrong.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of travelling over to Shenstone Wood End to meet the team at Four Oaks Legal Services. Well, I think I experienced all the seasons in one day that day. The weather was beautiful and sunny on the way but when I arrived the sky was looking grey and rather ominous. By the end of the session we were dodging hail and snow. You've got to love British weather.
Four Oaks Legal Services is part of the successful Four Oaks group of companies and offers a comprehensive range of legal services for businesses and individuals in and around the Lichfield, Sutton Coldfield area and throughout the UK.
Four Oaks Legal brings together the collective expertise of Stuart McIntosh, Joanna Parkin and Rebecca Head. Let me tell you this trio were great to work with. Most solicitors I have met (usually through house conveyancing I should add) have been efficient, they've done a great job but apart from that rather forgettable. Stuart, Joanna and Rebecca (who will be joining the company in early July) are just as their business branding describes them .... clearly different.
If the picture of the three of them jumping for success has made you smile then hop on over to the Four Oaks Legal Services Facebook page and give it a like. You really never know when you will require excellent legal advice.
I hope you have enjoyed the second of my "Photography for Business" blog posts. If you require business photography, be it head shots, product shots or your own sample images then please get in touch using the fancy form below. I would love to hear from you.
Possibly the shortest blog I will ever write ........
This morning I attended our monthly Women in Rural Enterprise Meeting at Uttoxeter Golf Club. Genuinely it's the nicest, friendliest networking group going. It's supportive, a bit of a giggle at times and an essential tool for any female business owner.
If you haven't been then you need to.