Meet Hannah Brooke, talented photographer with a lovely warm personality that makes it difficult not to feel comfortable in front of her lens. Earlier this year, Hannah turned in her notice and took the leap to follow her small business dreams and love of photography. She will very soon officially be a full time photographer and her own boss!
Below, she shares a few of her favourite photography moments, how and when she decided this was what she wanted to do with her life, and a few of her favourite resources and social media tips for small business owners.
LITTLE OBSERVATIONIST: Give us your tweet-sized elevator pitch. What’s your business all about?
HANNAH BROOKE: I photograph people and I love nothing more than capturing candid moments, emotion and joy.
LO: Now tell us more: What sets you apart from your competition?
HB: When I say I photograph people, I mean I photograph weddings, families and small business branding shoots. I keep thinking I ought to just pick one, but the truth is, I don’t want to because I love all three, and I enjoy variety.
I’m known for my ability to put people at ease and to help the camera shy relax. I use an informal and candid style of photography to capture and document important moments, milestones and memories. I will capture plenty of authentic moments, action shots, emotion and expressions for you. And I promise there won’t be an awkward pose in sight! I think it definitely helps that I have two young kids of my own, so I know how to get them laughing and bring the shy ones out of their shells. I have many tricks up my sleeve.
LO: Share a bit of background on yourself and your business.
HB: I’m based in Wetherby, West Yorkshire. I live here with my hubby Rich, our gorgeous children – Thomas (5) and Ellie (3) and our black Labrador, Lottie.
I had a lightbulb moment one day back in April 2017. I was really unhappy in my day job, and was looking to find something more meaningful. My priorities changed massively when I became a mum, and I was less inclined to accept shoddy treatment at work. I knew I was teetering on the brink of depression because of work, and I also knew that life was too short to be unhappy. So I sat down with a pen and paper one day and wrote out everything I enjoyed doing and was vaguely good at. Even though ‘taking photos’ appeared twice, I hadn’t clicked. It was only a few days later, when I uploaded a photo I’d taken of my kids in the bath, and people made some lovely comments about it, that the “doink moment” happened.
I decided to invest in a camera, learn how to use it, and see if people would actually pay me to photograph their families. I practised hard that summer and took my first paid booking in October 2017. Originally, I only intended to photograph families, but I was asked to photograph a wedding in April 2018. It was a scary step to make, but when I stood at the front of that ceremony room clicking away, I just KNEW that this was how I was supposed to spend my life.
LO: Which social media platforms do you use for your business? Has this been time well invested? Any tips for newcomers?
HB: I use Facebook and Instagram. I was already fairly well networked on Facebook and have found it brilliant for word of mouth referrals from within my own network.
Instagram has required a bit more strategy and thought. Initially I started out by just sharing photos I’d taken, just as and when I’d taken them and without giving my ‘grid’ much thought, so unsurprisingly, I wasn’t getting much engagement. I’ve worked really hard over the last six months though to personalise my feed, tell my story, give call to actions on my posts and to engage with other accounts. Just posting photos isn’t going to generate business – it’s called “social” media for a reason. That said, I think being genuine and authentic goes a long way.
I tend to use stories to show some insight into my personality, family life and behind the scenes of being a photographer.
The main advice I have is to show up everyday and always be kind and courteous, even if other people are rubbing you up the wrong way!
LO: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve been given that still resonates with you today? And your favourite resources for small business?
HB: Have a plan and don’t be afraid to dream big! I’m absolutely certain that I wouldn’t have achieved what I have so far if I hadn’t set some goals for my first two years in business. I have some ambitious goals, and two years in, they don’t feel unachievable!
I have a couple of facebook groups that I turn to for advice and support – “Guilty Mothers Club” and “Doing it for the Kids Community.” The latter has a brilliant podcast, and the best book I’ve read is You are a Badass by Jen Sincero. I lent it to a friend and she texted me to say that all she could think whilst reading it was what a badass I’d been in turning my dream into my reality. Greatest compliment ever.
LO: What have been your biggest challenges and greatest rewards as a small business owner?
HB: There’s absolutely no doubt that it’s a rollercoaster ride and you have to be prepared to buckle up and be in it for the long haul. Challenges have come in the shape of friends saying they’d book a shoot but never paying a deposit and then just going a bit quiet on me as the date approached. The kicker being that I could have booked other clients in on said date. I now don’t confirm a date without a deposit.
The greatest rewards come when I receive lovely customer feedback and I know I’ve taken photos that really mean something to them.
I think one of my favourite moments so far though came this August when I was in my element photographing a really fun wedding. I sat down next to a couple whilst the bride and groom signed the register, and the man leant over and said, “We really like you, are you free to photograph our wedding next year?” Just so happened I was, and my heart was doing a happy dance that I’d made such a good impression!
LO: What are your hopes for your business going forward: what would you most love to achieve as a short-term goal? And long term?
HB: Short term-goal – to book 10 weddings for 2020. I have seven in the diary so far…
Long term – to go full time as a photographer. I’ve been building my business up for the last 2.5 years whilst also working a busy corporate job three days a week. It’s been a tough juggle, but has allowed me to focus on and find out what I do and don’t love photography-wise, whilst not having to panic about money. That said, I’ve become busy enough to take the leap and resign from the day job and, from April 2020, I will indeed be a full time photographer!
LO: Little Observationist is all about appreciating life’s little luxuries. Name three you’ve enjoyed recently.
I just got a text from my husband to say he was giving me three extra hours child-free time because he’d found an adventure play at a party he’d taken the kids to. THREE WHOLE HOURS! Yes!
Not a little luxury, but I recently went to Ibiza for a weekend to celebrate my best friends’ 40th birthday! It was so nice to be able to catch up without constantly being on alert that the kids might drown etc!
A horse ride in the woods. The sun was on my face, it was really quiet and it was just perfect.
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