“A picture is worth a thousand words” – a saying that holds true in an era in which digital media is at the forefront of business. Belinda Burton shares why it is important for professionals to put their face out there, shares tips for beginners and talks about her personal journey from accountant to full-time photographer.
“It is important to have your face out there on all your digital platforms. At the foremost, it proves your business is legitimate.”
How did you get into photography?
Since my early years, I always yearned for all things beautiful, and I always indulged in art and craft activities. I took that passion with me into adulthood. I bought my first big camera when I was doing an evening art diploma (I was working as a qualified accountant then). It really kick-started my interest and curiosity in the subject; I wanted to know all the tricks in taking the best photos of different genres. As time went by, I took a lot of courses, studied with mentors, bought a lot of equipment to experiment, practised and practised. Words started to get around in my immediate circle that I took decent photos; I got asked to photograph for friends, and that snowballed into me setting up a part-time business photographing weddings. Eventually, it came to the time that I felt that I had achieved my goals in the corporate world and I was ready to explore my potential as a photographer full time.
As a photographer, why do you think it is important for your professional clients to get exposure by putting their face out there?
It is important to have your face out there on all your digital platforms. At the foremost, it proves your business is legitimate. By having a face matched to a business, clients feel that the business is real. These days, people seek online and social proof of most businesses before making the decision to buy. I can speak from first-hand experience. When I first set up my business, I was reluctant to put my face out there – I thought having great client images was enough to speak for my business. My business actually sped up more after I revealed my face, as my business became more credible, and clients could relate to me before they booked me.
For entrepreneurs and small businesses, it is your presence in your brand photos that is going to set you apart from the competition. People buy from people; they are drawn to you if they feel that they are connected to you or they can trust you. I believe that having the right product and service is fundamental to any business. Once you have achieved that, it is about leveraging your brand to catch the attention and stand out as an authority. Having the best branding images will give you the best chance. Do you know that people only linger on a website for 3-4 seconds before they decide whether to move on? That time span does not allow for people to read the textual content you present – it is your photos and headlines that grab people’s hearts. That also stands for your social media profile photos. If you have a strong image, people would be inclined to believe that you are more professional. Make sure you have the best headshot to draw in the audience. I always say, “Invest in yourself, so people invest in you”.
Although your studio is based in London, do you often have to travel across the UK for shoots?
The majority of my clients are London based. Word of mouth, referrals and existing clients do take me to further-away locations though from time to time. It is a perk seeing other new places and meeting new people. However, at times they do turn into really long days! I remember there was once that I did a shoot in Southbourne, the traffic was really bad both ways, I ended up spending seven hours commuting for the return journey, which was almost double the time I spent on the shoot itself.
Which photography equipment and editing software would you suggest for beginners and for professionals?
There is such a wide range of equipment available and there are always new models in the market. I would say, as a beginner, set your budget and do your research at that time, start with something modest and upgrade if you fall in love with photography. Always buy a reputable brand though; as we tend to stick within the same system as we upgrade. It is much more tricky to combine equipment from different brands. I started off with Nikon for my film camera system at the outset, switched to Canon when I went digital, and then invested in Fujifilm mirrorless cameras and lenses as my alternate system in recent years. Mirrorless cameras are the new generation cameras that are more compact in size, with minimum compromise in quality.
Is good equipment essential? When you are at pro level, the answer is yes. As much as I would say the artistic eye and skills are the most important, credit is due to high-quality and purpose-built equipment. When it comes to editing software, I keep it relatively simple. I use Lightroom, Photoshop and Capture One. They do all the tricks I need. For enthusiasts, I would say you probably just need photoshop. For beginners, I would say – try to get everything right in camera first, do not rely on editing tools. That is what will push you to learn properly.
What is the photography market like in London?
The London market is highly competitive. I suspect it is the same for many industries, not just mine. There are a lot of suppliers and very sophisticated buyers. When I started my part-time business, I was working in my corporate job during the week, photographing weddings on weekends and editing in the evenings. It took a lot of discipline and persistence to do both as I was constantly working, and I had to attend numerous wedding fairs in a year to get noticed by clients. On the positive side, it took the financial pressure off as I had a constant stream of income, and could shape the business at my own pace. My clients came to me because they liked my work and my style. I strongly believe that whichever business you are in, be the best at what you do, do it with your passion, and present a strong brand. This is what will help you stay in competition.
In recent years, did you have to pivot and change your business strategy?
Since I became a full-time photographer, it took me a while to find my niche and what I am most passionate about – creating stunning images for women and empowering them, making them feel beautiful and confident about themselves. I always tell people that photographing experienced models is relatively easy – with their facial features and slender bodies, they look good from most angles. It is a very different story for everyday women – there are much more techniques in the mix to make them look great. My aim is to create portraits for women – whether it is business, personal or boudoir portraits – that are in magazine style, or actually to be used in magazines!
Recently, my client told me that having her portraits taken by me was the best thing she has ever done for herself. As much as it was a great feeling for her, it was also an amazing feeling for me, as it reminded me why I love what I do. It also works out well that I am qualified as a makeup artist, and I have done fashion styling courses with some of the most known fashion colleges, such as Central Saint Martins. All these skills come in handy for my current offerings to my clients, including styling advice and makeover services, alongside my magic in creating the photos that they love!
To see more of Belinda’s stunning work, head over to her website: https://www.belindaburtonphotography.com/