Lens into Life: My Journey Into Photography

February 20, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

In this, my 17th year as a newborn and family portrait photographer, I thought I'd tell you a little about my own photographic journey.

I've just found out (thanks to advice from one of my brilliant daughters!) how to add anchor links - so feel free to either read the whole thing or just skip ahead to the bits that might interest you.

The Very Early Years

School and Work

Love, Marriage, Children - and the birth of Ellie J

Who is the Ellie of Ellie J?

The Early Days of Ellie J

What I've Done and What I've Stopped Doing!

Training, Inspiration, Qualification.

The One Negative

How I Spend My Free Time (You'll Never Guess!)

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The Very Early Years

I often get asked how long I've been into photography. The answer is - ever since I can remember. I have photos of myself as a baby, posed in buckets by my photography mad dad, long before styled baby photography became the thing it is today. Years ago as a young man and long before the advent of digital photography, my dad photographed weddings and families. Although not in the business for long, his love of photography never left him, and he remained an avid photographer up until his passing five years ago. As soon as I showed signs of sharing his passion as a child, a camera was thrust into my eager hands and to be honest, I can't remember a time without one.

One of my favourite photographs is this one of my beloved dog Molly, taken on my Minolta Hi-Matic GF in 1984, back in the 20140610_10065120140610_100651
days when you had to cross your fingers and hope your exposure and composition was right because you didn't find out until the film had been developed! 

School and Work

I was always arty at school, but photography never seemed like a serious career choice. I don't know if that's because my dad hadn't stayed in the business or due to the exhorbitant cost of the equipment, but to think of becoming a full time professional photographer at that time seemed akin to dreams of becoming a professional actress or an astrounaut. At school I was encouraged to study sensible topics (like typewriting and english). After school I studied to become a medical secretary before ending up in Health and Safety. I didn't enjoy my work and always felt that there was something missing in life.

Love, Marriage, Children - and the Birth of Ellie J

I met my husband on a night out in Coventry. We married young and had our first two children soon after, the plan being that when our two kids were old enough to be independent, hubs and I would still be young enough to enjoy our freedom. As Robert Burns said however, 'The best laid schemes o' Mice an Men, Gang aft agley", and nine years after our second child was born, we welcomed our unplanned but never for a second unwanted third. It was my dad who gave me my love of photography, but it is the constant support and encouragement of my amazing husband that initially pushed me into turning my hobby into a job and keeps me going to this very day. It is because of him that Ellie J Photography exists; he knew of my love for photography and my dreams of making it a career and one year he used his hard earned work bonus to buy me my first 'real' DSLR. My Nikon D80, which I still have today. He'd seen how I loved photographing our own children, and how family and friends were always asking me to bring my camera to parties and special events or to photograph their children or pets. I was already a member of a couple of photography forums that had boosted my confidence, but it was my husband who finally made me believe that I might actually realise my dream and start earning money from my hobby.

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Who is the Ellie of Ellie J?

My name is Lorraine - so who is Ellie? So many of my lovely clients apologise for calling me Ellie and it happens all the time but is to be expected after all, my business name is Ellie J Photography! Many assume it is the name of one of my daughters if it isn't mine but that isn't the case either. The truth of it is this; we were out for lunch one day brainstorming names for my upcoming photography business. We toyed with "Photography by Lorraine", "Lorraine Jardim Photography" but nothing sounded right. Then I started playing with my initials, L. A. J. Our youngest, who would have been two or three at the time, overheard me and starting jumping around singing "Elle A Jay, Elle A Jay" so that is how Ellie J Photography was named.

The Early Days of Ellie J

My very first paid newborn portrait session took place in early February 2007. At that time, I had no studio lights so Ellie J Photography began life in our conservatory using natural light, a reflector and diffuser. I remember being stunned and overjoyed when my clients made a big order! I was amazed that someone actually wanted to pay me to do this work; in all honesty, I'm not an overly confident person and to have my work recognised in this way was amazing.

Although I love all kinds of photography, I always knew I wanted a studio and professional lights, so my hubby again came to the rescue by giving up his garage, which we knocked through to our office on the back to create a studio space. I started off with a couple of Bowens Esprit Gemini 250s and then added a couple of 500s when I'd earned enough money to do so. At this time I was still working in Health and Safety for the local authority two and half days a week. In 2011 I was made redundant and, although my little photography business had begun to take off, I was terrified at the prospect of losing my reliable income and having to find more work elsewhere. Once again, my husband came to the rescue (he really is a good one!). After a panicked melt down one evening he sat me down and told me he could support us while I concentrated on building my photography business. My wider family all encouraged me and so my life as a full time photographer began.

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 My very first clients came back to see me a few years ago for an updated family photo.

What I've Done and What I've Stopped Doing!

Over the years I've undertaken wedding photography, commercial premises and product photography, business and actor headshots, band photography, pets, families and of course newborn and baby photography. After about 8 years photographing weddings I hung up my wedding photographer boots followed later by my commercial photography boots to concentrate on my studio portraiture; there simply wasn't enough time for me to do it all and so a choice had to be made. As I had specialised in newborn photography from the very beginning it was with that and my other studio work I decided to stay.

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Although I enjoy all photography I gave up commercial and wedding work to concentrate on my studio work.

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Always have the BEST time photographing A-Cappella group the Sons of Pitches!

2222 Training, Inspiration, Qualification.

My photography training began with dad of course, but throughout my journey I've been fortunate to have met, been mentored by and trained with some amazing photographers. I'm very grateful to a fantastic photographer and educator called Glyn Dewis, who I met through the Guild of Professional Photographers a few years ago. Although I still loved my job, I felt that my creativity had hit a bit of a brick wall and so Glyn and I spent a day together in my studio. That day's training with Glyn honestly did turn things around for me, coming out of it I felt inspired, confident and I haven't looked back. If you are a photographer in need of inspiration or guidance, check out Glyn Dewis on YouTube. If you are interested in WW2 please do search for his 39-45 WW2 Veteran's Portrait Project. Hubby and I were invited to the opening of this outstanding exhibition at the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum and had a wonderful day meeting and chatting with some of the amazing veterans who Glyn had photographed. My youngest daughter also features in one of Glyn's books and training videos.

I have done my time entering competitions and winning awards, but early in my career I also decided to go for professional qualification, which I did with both the British Institute of Professional Photography and later, the Guild of Professional Photographers. It was hard work, and I know that some photographers today might question the worth of pursuing professional qualification, believing that as long as your photos are good enough that is all that matters. I personally decided to qualify because in doing so, I had to have mentoring and be able to ultimately prove I could consistently produce work of a professional standard. By qualifiying, I am also bound to adhere to my professional associations' rules of conduct and ultimately, with the photography field being so over saturated these days, I wanted something that would reinforce my legitimacy to prospective clients.

The One Negative.

The only negativity I feel about my work concerns the continued lack of regulation in newborn photography. I guess my previous life in health and safety could account for some of that, but I have heard some truly frightening stories over the years and despair that to this day, people with no knowledge of how to safely handle and work with babies are free to set themselves up as newborn photographers with no checks in place. During my career I have tried to spread the safety message as far as possible through blogs, social media and articles I've written. I am pleased that there seems to be a wider awareness of safety issues in newborn photography these days, but we are not quite there yet. I strongly believe that as professional newborn photographers we should continue to shout from the rooftops in order for as many new parents and new photographers as possible to hear about this very important subject. 

How I spend my Free Time (you'll never guess!)

When I'm not working as a photographer what are my hobbies? Well, I enjoy spending time with my amazing family, playing badminton, walking the dog and yes..... taking photos. I like taking on personal photography projects and recently, I've been really enjoying working on restoring old photographs. This isn't something I offer as a service yet because I don't really have the time but you never know - perhaps when retirement beckons!

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I absolutely love restoring old photos and being able to study portraits from the past.

What area of photography do I love the best? Well of course I'm going to say all of it, but my newborn photography has a special place in my heart as it is the area I specialised in from the beginning. When Ellie J Photography first came into being I adopted the ironic motto "Never work with children or animals" and I have thoroughly enjoyed every day since doing just that! 

I realise I am very Blessed to be able to say I honestly adore my work and I am thankful every day for being able to do what I do. It's been a while now and wow, time has flown. I know I won't be able to go on forever and as I'm getting older the physical demands of the job are beginning to take their toll (my poor back!) but for the time being, I still love every Monday morning and can't imagine a life without Ellie J Photography being a very big part of it.

Thanks for reading.


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