It’s been a while since we’ve had a Locally Sourced interview and so I am chuffed this month to feature an interview with the super talented photographer, Gemma Griffiths.
Gemma, originally from Liverpool, came to live in Wales 12 years ago, after marrying a Welshman. After living in London for a while, Gemma and her husband Hywel, had a 6 month honeymoon travelling around the world. It was then that they decided to up routes from London and move to Wales, where they now live, in the pretty village of Colwinston, in the Vale of Glamorgan, with their two young children.
Gemma’s photography business is renowned locally for capturing stunning shots of families and little ones in the most beautiful outdoor locations. She also offers professional headshots and and teaches individual and group photography courses for both adults and children. When she’s not behind the lens you’ll most likely find her at the beach or in the car ferrying her children about.
I caught up with Gemma, to find out more about her photography business and what it’s like juggling it all with a busy family life.
What path led you into a career in photography?
When I was younger (a lot younger!), travelling was my passion. I spent quite a bit of time travelling around the world and I wanted to capture all the amazing things that I saw. My dream was to work for the Rough Guides or the Lonely Planet as a travel photographer.
After my daughter was born I discovered a whole new aspect to photography such as capturing family life, emotions, relationships and growth. Time goes by so fast! My daughter is a teenager next year, where did that time go?! I feel passionate about capturing those family moments that slip away so quickly so that families can look back and remember them.
What can families expect when on a photo shoot with you?
Photo shoots with me are really relaxed and informal. I normally choose a location with a family and then we meet up and just take a wander together. We chat and walk and then stop in different locations and take some photos. I try and take a mixture of posed shots and informal shots so that there’s a choice. My favourites are always the unposed images.
I realise that clients are always a bit apprehensive and may not be comfortable in front of the camera so my main concern is always to put people at ease and so I like to keep things pretty relaxed throughout the session.
During the photo shoots my main aim is to capture the love and relationships within each family. Photographing moments that parents can’t capture themselves. Giving them images that they will keep and treasure forever.
How do you know when you’ve captured the perfect shot?
I was having this same conversation with a student earlier this week and we were saying that sometimes you just get a feeling, like an adrenalin rush and you think, YES. That’s the shot! Normally when I get that feeling I know I’ve got a good one. It’s normally the last image in the series. Once I’ve got it, I stop shooting and move on to the next location.
The nature of your photography means you work a lot with children, how do you remain sane and how do you get the little ones to perform on the day?
Nearly every family I work with asks me this question. I honestly don’t find it stressful, I think it’s more stressful for parents who are worried about how their children will behave. I approach each shoot individually and work with each personality. I always ask parents to get involved to make children feel relaxed and the main thing is to just take my time and not rush things.
For toddler groups and school photography sessions I take an assistant with me (she’s brilliant!) and my trusty toucan puppet Dave as we’re shorter on time and so have to create something interesting for the kids to focus on. The main thing is to remain calm, children can sense stress and don’t respond well to it, so the best policy is to keep things relaxed.
You’ve created a niche for yourself in creating and capturing outdoor shots, rather than studio shots, how did this come about?
I love natural light and I love being outside so it’s kind of a no brainer for me. I did have a space at home that I used as a studio for a few years for mostly when the weather was bad, or to supplement an outdoor shoot, but I realised that my passion lay outdoors, so I decided to stop using my indoor space and concentrate on outdoor sessions.
I choose the locations depending on the time of the year and the needs of the family. Sometimes it’s somewhere that is a special place that the family like to visit or sometimes I’ll recommend a location that I know will look good with beautiful bluebells or great Autumn colours and so on.
Do you get any inspiration from other photographers?
My photography has evolved so much since I started and I’ve been inspired along the way by pretty much every photographer I’ve come across. Inspiration is a daily thing; every Facebook group I’m a member of has amazing photographers and I just soak it all in.
One of my biggest influences has been a local photographer Aga Tomaszek. Her work is just stunning and every single image she creates is mind blowing. I could look at her work all day long.
What advice would you give to anyone considering setting up on their own?
Sometimes it’s hard and sometimes it’s fantastic. It’s a real rollercoaster. I really love the flexibility of being my own boss and if I want to go for a run or a surf then I can. On the other hand, it’s hard sitting at a desk alone all the time with no one to chat to or discuss things with.
It is hard graft and it’s never ending. I’m always thinking about work and planning or doing work at home. It’s definitely something that you need to be prepared to constantly work at. Bizarrely running a photography business is about 20% photography and 80% business. You need to be prepared to spend lots of time at a desk working on your accounts, marketing, admin etc. Shooting is such a small part of the job.
Ultimately though, I love the flexibility because it means that I can be around for my kids and be home to collect them from school and take them to their (many!) after school activities. It also means that it’s easy to schedule in family time for holidays and weekends away.
How did you gain your photography experience?
I started taking photos on my travels in my 20’s and back then, it was all about amazing locations and stunning scenery. I took a course in black and white photography when I lived in London and spent many an hour developing prints in the dark room. When I moved to Wales, I took more photography courses and Photoshop courses too.
Photography is a genre that is constantly evolving and processing styles and shooting styles are always changing. It’s really important to keep training all the time to make sure that my ideas stay fresh and current.
I make sure that I book at least one training course a year as well taking online courses too. I also make sure that I organise shoots that really get me fired up and inspired. This year I did a ballet shoot with my son in Cowbridge, which I really loved and also a surf/beach shoot with my daughter. I love having the freedom of shooting my own family and knowing exactly what I want to get out of the session.
You’re a busy mum of two, how do you juggle it all?
My work is really seasonal, so I’m super busy at certain times of year and quieter at others. When I’m really busy, I just have to get my head down and work work work. I do feel a certain amount of guilt to be glued to the computer all the time and not around at weekends, but I know that I’ll be free again after the busy period so I just focus on that.
It’s really difficult working from home because you always feel like there’s more you can be doing. I do find it hard to switch off at home. It’s much easier when I’m out of the house.
I make sure that I’m around to take my kids to school and collect them at the end of the school day. They both do loads of after school activities so I’m normally kept busy every day taking them here, there and everywhere.
What advice do you give to the budding photographers on your course?
Find your passion. Photography is a creative art and it’s important to love what you’re creating, so focus on what gives you a buzz. Practise is probably the best advice I could give anyone. You learn each and every time you pick up the camera, so keep taking pictures and keep learning from each shoot.
You moved to Wales over ten years ago, what do you like about living in Wales?
I really love living in South Wales. The best thing is how close we are to the beach and the gorgeous countryside that surrounds where we live.
I also love all the fabulous friends I’ve met since we moved here. We’ve been here for 12 years now and I’ve made friends that feel like family.
I also love pottering about in Cowbridge – we lived just off the High Street when we first moved here and I loved mooching around the town, going to the library, walking up to St Quentin’s castle and going for a coffee. I love Cowbridge at Christmas time because it’s so festive!
Speaking of Christmas, what are your plans for the big day?
We’ll be spending Christmas at home this year. The kids love waking up on Christmas morning in their own beds and creeping downstairs to see if Santa has visited. We’ll probably have a wander down to the local pub for a drink before getting on with the cooking.
What advice would you give to someone looking to buy a camera for Christmas?
I’m a Canon user. I always have been, even in the days when I had film in my cameras, so whenever anyone asks me what camera to buy I always point them towards Canon and tell them to spend as much as they can afford.
2018 is just around the corner, what plans do you have for the new year?
I’ve just launched my brand new website and I’m really excited about it. Not only does it showcase my work, but I can also now offer gift vouchers for sale directly through the site. There are vouchers for family photo sessions and also for a variety of training courses too. I wanted to make the process really easy for clients, so they can book a place on a course or buy a gift voucher in a few clicks.
2017 has been a great a year for my business because as well as developing my lovely new website I’ve met lots of new families and visited new beautiful locations as well as some old favourites too. I met lots of new students too, 1 to 1 clients and also some youngsters on my new Young Photographers Workshops.
I’m looking forward to 2018 – I’ve already booked in some photography workshops in January and February to help people get used to their new Christmas present cameras and then it’ll be time to start planning the Spring time shoots with families and local playgroups too.
I’ve also got some plans up my sleeve to offer more beach shoots (I love the beach!!). I’d absolutely love to get more involved in surfing and beach photography and I also have meeting this week with a local mermaid, so watch this space!
Gift vouchers: www.gemmagriffithsphotography.co.uk/giftvouchers
All photos provided by Gemma Griffiths
Profile picture of Gemma courtesy of Aga Tomaszek