Thu, 24 Jan 2019 22:03:48 +0000Photography for confidence building – beyond ‘boudoir’ towards true character portraits
A photograph of yourself that you love, is a rare treasure. Once you have that treasure, it can be life-raft to cling to in times of self-doubt. It can be an anchor when you feel unsure of who you are, what your purpose is or why you matter. It can be shared to show others that you are more than what you may seem, or held close as a reminder of what is possible.Sian T.
I started photography for me. To fulfil my drive to create and make the images I saw in my head, a reality. For years it was all about me. Very few people even saw the pictures I made and that was fine. As social media took off, a few people saw the images I made of my family and asked me to make some for them and so Sian T. Photography began. Initially, I was concerned that the monetisation of my passion would kill it. That I’d no longer be creating, but instead delivering someone else’s requirements.
But then something began to happen, and it has totally changed how I see my role as photographer, and it’s the reason I continue and the reason I feel so privileged.
What happened was this – I began to talk to the people who came to me for photos. Not just about what they wanted (the styles, dates, locations etc.) but about why they wanted them. To talk more deeply about what these photos and the experience of being photographed meant to them. To hear their stories and see their perspectives. Of course not everyone wants to open up like that, and that’s fine (I’m not a naturally nosey person) but a few do. The stories I have heard and the emotional reactions I have seen are what have made me realise that there is so much more to being a photographer than clicking the shutter and making a competent picture. Of course, this can be a big responsibility too, people place their trust in a photographer and there is potential to make a great impact.
I have never liked having my photograph taken, so I was quite apprehensive about a photo shoot. After the shoot I did start having a few reservations… no makeup, hair dragged back , me in a tri suit, (me in a swim hat!!), body on show, no pre shoot styling.. I was beginning to panic! But soon after, Sian sent through some images, I was absolutely flabbergasted….I loved them…they were images of me in my comfort zone. People who have seen the photos have been incredibly complementary and I have felt empowered my the whole experience.Diane Kidd – Ferguson
Funny that Diane’s perception was of no styling – I was actually incredibly careful to style the shoot in terms of colour, shapes etc – but who wears a full face of makeup to swim!
Impact comes in so many forms that for a while I didn’t recognise it for what it was. But I wanted to share just one example because it is one I’ve heard quite a lot in the last year and one that I feel works in quite a counter-intuitive way. This impact is for people (mainly women) who have undergone significant change in their lives that has resulted in a lack of confidence. Confidence in their appearance, in their worth as human beings, in their ability to cope with life’s challenges, in their career or choices – confidence is more than just feeling good about how you look right? The reasons for this drop in confidence are many and various – bereavement, relationship breakdowns, redundancy, illnesses (mental and physical) and a whole host of other things. How a person sees themselves can be affected negatively by so many things, and stepping in front of a camera to confront that seems like an odd thing to do.
Getting in front of a camera after my husband Jeremy died was almost unthinkable for me! The day he died I completely lost myself. My confidence, my self-esteem, my very being… all shattered. I started writing my book, Always With You, in my second year of mourning and when it came to publishing it I needed a new author photo. So nearly 2 years after Jeremy died, I faced the camera with apprehension. But I had nothing to worry about. With Sian’s guidance, support, love, friendship and talent I not only got through the session but had fun, gained confidence and began to open my heart to new beginnings. It was a huge turning point in my journey. For this, I will always be grateful.Shalini Bhalla-Lucas – authorShalini’s author photo shows both strength and vulnerability and includes the symbols of hindu widowhood – white clothing and hair pinned back. Her wedding ring is a poignant reminder of her loss and yet there is something hopeful in the expression.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a therapist and I certainly wouldn’t recommend this as a cure all. When you’re suffering badly, you need to get proper professional help. However, a number of people have reached out to me for photographs and it’s only afterwards that they tell me how they were feeling and what a difference the experience and the photographs have made to them.
So whether they initially came because they needed a photograph for work, or online dating, because they really wanted photographs of their kids and I insisted on a least a few with them in too, or because I persuaded them it would be fun, the key is a really positive experience that’s about celebrating how you look, remembering who you are and expressing what makes you special.
Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about the very popular ‘boudoir’ photo sessions that are run by studios and promise to make you look like a sex siren with soft lighting and exotic lingerie and props. I have nothing against these, if that’s what you want then go for it! They look like great fun and many of the studios offer exceptional quality images. The thing is that sexy is not all that we are. Sure it’s part of it, but certainly for me it’s far from the whole story. I’m personally not comfortable with shoots like this because I feel photos like that wouldn’t be of me. I might be in them, but I doubt anyone would recognise that as me. I’m not a demure sex goddess lounging about in silk knickers – I’m a hard working mum with a mile long to do list and I’m lucky if my hair is vaguely in the shape it’s supposed to be! Plus on a practical level few of us could share a photo like that online and not raise a few eyebrows at least!
My portrait sessions are about stories. They showcase who a person is by showing what’s important to them as well as how they look. Yes they will look amazing, we take care with makeup, hair and clothes choices but always staying true to the personality of the individual. We build stories that reflect your life, interests, dreams and desires and we have fun creating them. The experience is light hearted, caring, and supportive and the process of building a session like this is itself a creative, collaborative thing. Of course I will always ensure you’re lit in a flattering way and that you’re positioned to make the most of what you have. But, you won’t get images from me that are ‘photoshopped’ to make you look like someone else – how would that be helpful? It’s like saying – “look at how you should/could look’ and that would be depressing, not uplifting.
I don’t expect confidence at the outset and I don’t expect you to walk out feeling like a screen god or goddess (though you might!). What I do expect is that we’ll make pictures you can be proud of, and that you (and others) will recognise as truly, uniquely you. We all have hang-ups and things that we would like to change, but a who you are and how you look is a reflection of the journey you have been on, and you made it here – by hook or by crook and that is worth celebrating!
Want to know more?
Head over to Sian T. Photo to see a whole range of images and find out about booking
Fri, 11 Jan 2019 17:26:54 +0000Gentle family portraits – why I love them!
A couple of months ago, a client and friend let me know that one of the photos I had taken of her and her daughter had gained a ‘highly commended’ in the Carers UK photography competition. I don’t enter many competitions because I’m not good with the idea of ‘better versus worse’ in photography, but I’d agreed to this one because it’s such a good cause and my friend is so passionate about showing people that caring for her 25 year old daughter is not what they might at first think.
The news that we were highly commended was of course very welcome and I’m really glad that they felt my images communicated the tenderness and the sense of fun that I looked to show. However, it got me to thinking about why I love this kind of image so much. To be honest they often don’t sell to clients who prefer a more standard ‘everyone smile’ shot. But the clients that do enjoy them, REALLY love them.
For me, and for these people (whom I love dearly for their enjoyment of these images) it’s about more that what you see; it’s about the feeling. It’s about a photograph that captures a relationship, a shared moment, or the simple everyday interactions. It’s about remembering the emotion of the moment; what was said between two people, what they were looking at; about a physical or emotional connection. That is why I love these gentle photographs and why after every shoot, these are the ones I find myself looking at again and again.
Visit me at www.siantphoto.com for more of my family photography work
Sun, 21 Oct 2018 08:24:01 +0000It’s almost Halloween. Time for some spookiness!
I love Halloween!!! I love Halloween parties, Halloween costumes, Halloween decorations and even Halloween food. Last Halloween I wanted to create some spooky images to celebrate my favourite holiday so I reached out online to look for some like-minded people to work with.
The result is one of my favourite pieces of work EVER! Working with makeup artist Decaln Scammell (now my partner in crime over at The Powdered Lens) model Kat Hastings and fellow photographer Hester Barnes we had so much fun both in the studio and out in the local woods (getting some brilliant reactions from the dog-walkers naturally!).
Afterwards I contacted my old friend, author James Nuttall and he wrote a beautifully creepy short story to accompany the images and Lilith was born to the world. You can see her story in full at the link below!
Sat, 18 Aug 2018 20:48:31 +0000Making retro images at a vintage steam fairground
Today we took a family trip to Hollycombe Steam – a gem of a place showcasing all things steam powered. My boys have been before with the in-laws and raved about it but I wanted to give it a go too – not least because I fancied some shots of a more candid and documentary style.
The place is fab from start to finish, it’s small and there were no massive crowds nor queues for the rides despite it being a Saturday in August. Most visitors were families and/or steam enthusiasts and the atmosphere was totally relaxed. The volunteers manning the rides were friendly and chatty and clearly loved their machines. There is everything from steam powdered gallopers to a railway engine.
I’ma bit obsessed with older fairground rides and so I spent some time both with the rides and with the people working with them. I took only a 24mm pancake lens in order to keep the kit light and also to challenge myself a bit. It’s nice to have a multitude of lenses to play with but when it really doesn’t matter if I get a particular shot or not (no clients, just me!) I like to choose just one and see what I can do with it.
I’m really pleased with the shots, they aren’t super sharp and they are pretty grainy – and I like that – I think they’ve got a good feel.
Next time I might bring a tripod to see if I can do more with the shots capturing the motion of the rides. Hand-holding at such long shutter speeds means the bits that aren’t moving aren’t sharp either and I think they’ll look better with a pin-sharp reference point and everything else moving around it.
I’d like to say a huge thanks to the folks at Hollycombe – the fact that these amazing machines are not only being preserved but are working and still so much fun to ride is just brilliant. I’ll be back next summer for another go around!
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 12:48:33 +0000Nervous about having your family photographed?
A lot of people I talk to say that they’d love to get some great images of their families, but they’re worried about what it will be like. They say they don’t know how to pose, worry that the kids will misbehave and feel like the images they have in their head aren’t possible for their family. I’ve written before about what you need to know if you are considering a family photo session but I wanted to talk a bit about what a family photo experience with me is really like – of course the best people to tell you about that are the people that have experienced it!
Luckily, I recently photographed Amber Evans (editor of Muddy Stillettos Surrey) and her family at the lovely Box Hill near Dorking. With two teenagers, husband and pooches in tow we headed out on their first ever professional family photo shoot and she’s been kind enough to write about it.
Your family photo shoot should be a fun experience in itself. It’s not only an investment of your money but also of your time and let’s face it – who’s got either time or money they can afford to waste! Whether you want the photographs for your own wall or as gifts for the rest of the family, whether your children are small, teens or even furry – the experience should be something remembered with fondness and smiles. Preparation is key as is finding the right photographer for you. Photographers all have different styles so be sure to look for someone whose portfolio matches what you want from your images. I like to have a good chat with all my clients before their shoot so that I understand who they are and what they’re looking for and I can be sure that I can get them images they’ll love. If I can’t – then I’ll try and match them up with a different photographer who can.Some kids love a camera!
My style of family photography tends towards the documentary. I shoot a lot of black and white and many of my images don’t have everyone smiling direct to camera. I like to walk and shoot, stopping occasionally for set ups and capturing shots on the move as well. I do direct people, I will ask you to walk in a certain direction or look at each other. I will try to make you laugh and I may fall over (happens more often than I’d like). I flex my approach depending on who I’m with. If your kid is loving the camera and wants to do cartwheels in their photos we will do it. If your teenager doesn’t want to look at the camera at all that’s fine too. Above all else your photos should be true reflections of who you are and your relationships with each other. Family life is beautiful – it’s rarely perfect though and I think that’s what makes it awesome!These guys captioned this picture “Explorers” perfect!