Oh My! I can’t quite believe that it’s been 10 years since I first started my pregnancy photography business back in 2003.
When I first began photographing bumps back in 1999, NO-ONE in the UK was offering a specialist/dedicated maternity photography service. I know, because I trawled the adverts, magazines and internet looking for someone. In the end a lovely art student took some photos of me, which was the turning point for today. I gave birth to a gorgeous baby girl who was probably the most photographed baby on the planet!! I went back to work in the City part-time but still this niggling voice kept saying “go on you can do it!” I went back to college (St Martins) and sharpened my craft, meeting some amazing photographers along the way! I began asking pregnant women to pose for me so I could develop a style…not many took me up on the offer as they all thought I was a bit weird for asking! Then, the ‘hooha’ over THAT image of Demi Moore kicked up again and suddenly pregnant women ‘got it’! I had a bouncing baby boy in the meantime and planned my business during his first year. I was one of just 4 photographers in the UK offering a dedicated pregnancy photography service. Clients travelled from all over the UK and even Europe (they came by ferry!) to be photographed.
My husband, although supportive, didn’t think that many pregnant women would want their photos taken. He did, however, buy me a bigger camera to get me started. A Pentax with manual everything including focus and film. Imagine! Digital SLR’s weren’t around then, so you had to know your settings and exposures. I found some hand-printers to develop my work, and gradually word spread…..BBC South Today ran a news piece on prime time TV of me actually photographing a pregnant lady and then spent hours interviewing us for a 2 minute piece. I was so excited although I do regret not having had my hair done properly! Next, BBC Radio 2 presenter Janey Lee Grace and I worked together when she was pregnant with baby number 3 and again with baby no 4, much of this work is in both her wonderful books ‘Imperfectly Natural Mother’ and ‘Imperfectly Natural Baby and Toddler’ More book work and celebrity shoots with TV presenters, actors and stunning models followed…usually with me completely unaware of who I was about to photograph ( I am not good at recognising famous people – I photographed an event for a Chelsea footballer, blissfully unaware – sorry boys!) I’ll never forget arriving at the home of one client, to have the door opened by her husband who at the time was a reasonably famous actor and is now a VERY big Hollywood A lister (I won’t name names) and it was an absolute delight to photograph both of them. Becoming a parent is no different, whether you are in the spotlight or not. You still want to do these special things to celebrate such a wonderful time in your lives. More recently I have photographed the wonderful Sir Bruce Forsyth (top man!), Denise Lewis OBE and many more at a charity golf day.
Word about my work spread and for a number of years I worked closely with the NCT (National Childbirth Trust) head office producing their national breastfeeding campaign posters, most of which are still in use today. As well as producing the perfect baby bottom image for Metanium cream!!
Pregnancy photography has been my absolute passion all the way through. In the beginning I was determined to educate women that they can be photographed pregnant and nude and look amazing. I worked with Photography magazines, pregnancy books and magazines, who ran my articles and published my work. Gradually more and more pregnant women realised how beautiful they looked. Other photographers also picked up on this fast-growing trend. I am pleased to say that many styles you see today were inspired by much of my original work, although I am still one of a few photographers who work with pregnant nudes. Women I have never met before, seem more than happy to take the majority of their clothes off and stand in all their glowing glory while I photograph them in flattering ways. Everyone tells me that I quickly make them feel at ease, and that having a bump also acts as a shield for their nudity. I love seeing their expression as they spend precious time interacting with their bumps and thinking of things to come – simply breath-taking.
I never planned to go on to photograph newborns and babies, that side of the business evolved as clients returned time and again with their growing families. The age of digital meant I could do away with a permanent studio and was able to be even more flexible with where and how I photographed. My first digital camera? A Canon 20D with just 8.2MP!! My Samsung phone has more than that today!! These days I work with a Canon 5D mk I and mkII.
I am constantly learning new techniques and skills, you never stop learning. I began teaching a few years ago running workshops and courses in primary and senior schools, as well as with local councils, teaching their teachers how to use their cameras better and how to engage their pupils using the power of photography. I LOVE running workshops and enabling people, especially parents, how to develop enough knowledge to confidently come off their AUTO buttons and take better photos. Seeing those little ‘light bulb’ moments as everything falls into place is brilliant! I can also proudly watch the successes of people who have now realised their dream of becoming a professional photographer through training they have had with me.
Local community is really important to me and putting back wherever possible is essential. The support I have received from my local community has been fantastic, and over the years we have raised lots of money for the NCT; special baby units; childhood eye cancer (CHECT), and local special needs play-schemes (who has a rather splendid fireman’s calendar then!?) to name but a few. Wherever possible I donate gift vouchers, time and prizes to local schools and events.
These last 10 years have been an absolute blast! I have discovered so much about taking photos and working with various people that I am really excited about the next 10 years!!
So, whats next? Well my business has now split into three distinct sections:
Tina Bolton Photography still offers THE highest standards of professional maternity and newborn photography to a wonderful array of clients (thank you – you know who you are!) with only the absolute best products and two very distinct collections to choose from.
Blue Hedgehog Photography aims to bring a simpler service to a wider audience, still concentrating on bumps, babies and under 3’s, however, I have developed a ‘junior’ team of photographers who, with occasional help from me, will capture your pregnancy or baby’s moments on a more restricted budget.
Cameras and Cake (the name derives from my first ever workshops I ran a few years ago) which provides three hour, fun, coffee morning style workshops, to learn how to use your camera better. I can now announce that the on-line version of this and a few other courses will be launching very soon. Watch this space.
Finally, I would like to say thank you to all of my lovely, lovely clients from the last 10 years. In particular to those who were my earliest pregnancy clients – you were also ahead of your time and you were brave enough to trust me with your glorious bumps!
A wonderful video celebrating the last 10 years to the right!