How do you create your photoshoots?
I like to think of my photoshoots as being very collaborative between me and my client. It usually starts with me being curious about what they're looking for and I try to maintain that curiosity throughout. Quite often to me, it will come back to what do you want to say? Whether that be how they want to come across to their ideal client or if it's developing social media posts or marketing, having that clear message and an end goal on the path of the creation is important. Following an initial conversation with a client, I'll do some brain dumping around what we talked about and I'll normally have a few key images in my mind that I can see quite clearly, and then I’ll look for visual inspiration online, whether it's on Pinterest or Instagram, just so I can back those ideas up.
With those images you mentioned, do you try to replicate them for subsequent shoots? Or is it just more a mood or a tone? Or a single object within your mental image?
It’s normally a vibe. For example, I had a client call today and while she was talking some of the words that she was using and the way that she wanted to come across to her clients meant I could see super-chilled images of her at home with her son, comfortable, wearing jeans, a white shirt, and with bare feet. So, it’s more about that vibe and mood rather than ‘you're going to sit here and you're going to do that and you're going to look like this’. It’s more about getting the feeling that we're going for.
Where do you get those ideas from?
The first thing I do is to look at the client and try to understand them the best I can. I'll highlight the keywords or phrases from the conversations that we've had around their identity. I also look at any existing identity that they have online, for example, anything on their website or social media, the kind of images they have, but also the words that they're using and how they want to come across that way. After that, I'll take it back to myself and think okay, what am I good at? What do I do well? What do I enjoy doing? I’m a big believer in focusing on what you enjoy doing. I’ll then see how I can best support them with what they're asking for, and this will usually take the form of some sort of brainwriting, note-taking and image gathering just to see how I can move forward with it.
With brainwriting, what’s the process there?
I attempt to see what the initial problem is, that overarching theme that we’re looking at, and I'll break it down into whether it's different elements of a photoshoot, and what I might be able to do, what's realistic to achieve and then just tip out all of those thoughts. Sometimes I'll just let it sit for a little while because I don't want to act on it too quickly. It’s good to have a bit of time for other thoughts to come through, jot them down, make a note, and then go back to it and refine the key points into a clear plan, because then you know these are the things you need to focus on.
When you take a break from these writing thoughts, do you try and take your mind off the project entirely?
Yeah, I give myself a bit of space, normally make a cup of tea because I think it’s important to give your brain downtime. You’re on automatic pilot so taking a little break is when I get flashes of inspiration. It's like that's something I can work with or yes, I need to remember to do that and then I can add it back into the brain dump. However, I like to stay quite focused on what I'm doing. I don't want too many projects switching up my mind at any one time. I want to compartmentalize things and keep them in little boxes until I can come back to them in a concentrated time.
What other things do you do?
Getting a cup of tea is a way of telling myself that I’m building up to start the next task or the next project. I can break things up with that little five-minute window to reset and refresh and move onto the next thing. Also, I tend to click pens a little bit and just get things out on paper. I work so much faster with a pen rather than sitting at a keyboard and typing out. The movement of doing something works well for me. It’s a tactile thing with the pen and paper.
Does an idea emerge slowly or do you develop it from an initial seed or the initial brand dump?
It varies. Sometimes I wake up with a brilliant idea that seems good to go, but more often it will need some sort of development. I'll go back to the client with my ideas or have a planning call and that's when I'll share my ideas at that stage. We’ll usually start development together based on how they respond to the things I’ve said or the images that they've pinned on Pinterest to get a clearer plan to the whole thing, see what feels right, and decide what we can put more emphasis on.
However, if it’s personal work or business development type stuff, then I'll usually take that initial idea that I've had and speak to others that I trust for feedback, which could be on a one-to-one basis, or also as part of a business community, just kind of putting it out there tentatively, and saying I've got this idea, what do you think, is this something that could work? Ultimately, if you're going to do that, it needs to be with people that you trust and whose opinion you respect, but at the end of the day you have to go with what feels right for you because no one can do it for you. It's your life, it's your business, it's your marketing, it's your project, and it's your idea.
After that I’ll look outward, asking if what I'm doing or what I'm thinking about doing will fit with what others are doing, either directly in my industry or in a slightly different area. The best development of all comes from taking action because it's only when you start to perceive something and go down that road that you can start to develop it. Either you think, yes, this is fantastic, this is how I can make it better or actually, no I'm not feeling it and I'm just going to park it for a while.
Achieving a state of flow - how do you get there?
It always starts with a cup of tea, but I like to get some epic film soundtrack in the background and then getting coloured pens and paper out, as well as physically getting out and doing something creative like drawing or writing, just getting those thoughts out there and having the tools of the trade to hand. Then what I normally do is I give myself a limit on how long I'm going to spend on a particular task in order to save time. I remember my business coach a few years ago tasked me with finding makeup artists and I thought, oh my god, where are we going to start? How am I going to do this? I just totally over thought the whole thing and then she gave me 20 minutes, and I was thinking there was no way I was going to find a way in that time. But I sat down and I was like okay, 20 minutes, let's get this thing done, and I found the perfect makeup artist from there. So I try to contain tasks because it’s so easy to get distracted.
It’s important to stay focused and get your head down and get on with it because taking action is the way to that clarity and the development of ideas. I find that I’ll think about doing something and then not actually start it and then before I know it, half an hour is gone and I’m like I should have started that thing. You’ll never get into a state of flow if you don't take that first step and take action.
Is your business coach through one of those schemes, like a creative court, or just someone you found and work with?
I'm onto my second one now. The first one advertised on Facebook and the way she spoke just totally sold it to me. I was then on a list for about a year and a half before I actually invested with her, that was more of just pulling my business apart, rebuilding it from the ground-up on what I wanted to do. Then I started at the beginning of this year mentoring with basically the queen of my industry. She's based in America and I'm one-on-one mentoring with her at the minute. I can't recommend it highly enough honestly. If you find a coach to work with, it's like having someone who's always in your corner. It makes such a difference being able to bounce ideas around and obviously, with everything that's going on with Covid-19, a lot of the mentoring is on pause at the minute because I can't apply it to real-life situations, but it's still been so useful.
I had a difficult client at the beginning of the year and I was able to navigate that with the support of someone who's been doing this day-in, day-out for ten years. Also, she’s helped with navigating the whole pandemic situation and gets me thinking, how do I communicate with my clients at this time? What things do I need to offer? Knowing how to keep my head up as well has been so useful.
What was the last creative problem you solved?
I was thinking about how if I can't do my normal shoot, how can I serve my clients during this time when their photoshoot has been postponed? They want to launch websites and serve their clients remotely, but they need beautiful images to make their websites come to life, so how can I provide something for them while staying safe? The first thing I did was look at what other people were doing. A lot of them were talking about FaceTime photoshoots and that just didn't sit quite well with me.
Instead, I did some basic research to see what else was out there, and then it came back to the old thing of brain dumping and getting notes out there, just breaking the problem down to think about my initial challenges. What might I be able to do for these clients? What's realistic for us to achieve at this time? How will this improve their experience of working with me without taking away from their main shoot? How can we both keep safe? I would then write down the things that I needed from myself, from others, and from the clients to make this a success. Then, as I mentioned before, it's about putting it to one side and thinking about something else and then coming back to it at a later date and refining those key points into a clear plan of action and something that I can move forward with.
I think the last piece of that process is looking inward and asking myself if it feels right because ultimately, it has to be something where I can be at my best and connect with and serve my clients effectively. In my car? Is there any point? But if I can, then fantastic. Let's move forward with this, does it feel in-alignment? Do I feel confident offering support in this way? I want that evaluation and reflection time to look back and ask myself, does this feel right? Yes? Well, let's go for it.
How do you get inspiration?
There are so many different places. I guess the most obvious one is social media channels. My industry is enormous in terms of Pinterest and Instagram, and I've got so many Pinterest boards, it's unreal. I'm constantly seeing other people's Instagram pictures and seeing people who inspire me. For me, it's Wendy Yalong, who is my current business mentor. Others include Jasmine Star, who is just bonkers. Then there’s looking at how design and photography work together, and a lot of that will come from looking at magazines and being inspired by pictures in print.
The main thing with inspiration is that you have to make space for it, because I find that if I schedule my time too tightly, I'll find that I’ll only work on the things I absolutely have to, rather than on the things that I want to. Creating that space for downtime and creative thinking and reflection is absolutely key, just for that change of pace and to let ideas simmer and flow.
Cheers Karina! Check out some of her work linked below: