We met Heather for a delicious flat white and she shared her passion for photography with us.
ParentVille : Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Heather: I was previously a lawyer for a decade in London and most recently in the Cayman Islands where I spent 5 years, before returning to set up my luxury portrait photography business in London in the summer of 2015. I specialise in beautiful, light-filled baby, maternity and family photography set in outdoor locations and have rapidly become one of the most sought-after children’s portrait photographers in London.
P: What made you want to start your own photography company especially after a being a lawyer?
H: I have always loved photography and being creative, but over the years I could never see how it could be possible to make the leap from a law career to being a photographer. It was a gradual process, but the day I spent photographing iguanas in my garden in Cayman rather than preparing for an important job interview made me realise where my heart lay! After that I threw myself into photography and learning everything I could – first attending an intensive 3-month photography course in the US and then honing my skills with two years at the leading portrait studios in Cayman where I was living at the time.
I knew I wanted to create truly beautiful family and children’s portraits that were both natural and flattering (the best combination!) and that would be treasured over the years. They say that we will be the most photographed generation ever, with the least photographs of ourselves – photographs have become so disposable and time goes by so fast – that family portraits have become more important now than ever. My goal is to create truly special images that are turned into luxury prints to hang on my clients’ walls and enjoyed every day.
P: What was your biggest challenge in the beginning?
H: My biggest challenge was taking the leap from a steady professional career into the unknown! It has been terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure, but now I would never dream of going back. The freedom and rewards of having a creative and fulfilling business are wonderful – my only regret is in waiting so long to start!
It seems obvious now, but at first I thought the most important element would be to consistently create stunning, beautiful photographs. I didn’t realise how much there would be to learn on the non-photography side of setting up a boutique portrait business, and in particular marketing! I had no idea what SEO meant and how to be found on Google, nor how to create an elegant website! All these things have been challenges and new things to learn from scratch. I have a new appreciation of the advertising and marketing industry too!
H: By far my biggest achievement has been becoming almost fully booked each month after less than 12 months in business. It’s a huge testament to all the hard work and remaining committed to my dream despite all the unknowns! The day I was approached by Getty Images to join their team as a contributing photographer was also hugely flattering. That said, the most rewarding part of my business is receiving wonderful reviews from clients thrilled with their images (http://www.heatherneilson.com/happy-clients/). I’m always delighted to help a family welcome a newborn baby, or celebrate toddler’s first birthday – and create portraits that will be treasured for years.
P: What advice can you give to someone who wants to start a business?
H: Take the plunge and do it! Learn as much as you can, as fast as you can, particularly in the areas outside of your comfort zone! For me this was marketing, without which no-one would have heard about me. These days there’s so much education available online – take advantage! I would also recommend connecting with other business owners and entrepreneurs, whether to collaborate with, or share ideas and knowledge.
P: What are your favourite hangout places / activities in London?
H: I spend much of my “free” time scouting new locations for my portrait sessions – or visiting favourite places such as Holland Park, Hampstead Heath or Wimbledon Common to discover what flowers might be blooming to use as backdrops in my photographs. I am rather work obsessed! Otherwise I am a keen yogi who loves sourcing and cooking organic food and a glass or two of wine!
P: What are your future plans?
H: My future plans are to continue to grow my business; I am always brimming with ideas as to what I can do next and can’t wait to put them into action!
“Heather was able to capture the connection and bond that my daughter and I have. She helped to record a beautiful moment in time that will be forever treasured; I am so grateful for these precious images.” ~ Sarah (Kensington, London)
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