Having the opportunity to capture Sir Lewis Hamilton was a huge achievement in my books. Not only because he's the greatest formula 1 driver of all time and a respected, high-profile celebrity with millions of followers, but, because, finally, my work has been acknowledged, appreciated and valued by my target audience.
In the western world, when people think of photographers, by default, they think of older white men. That means for me, as a young black woman living in England where 4.2% of the population is black, people often second guess my career choice and credibility. This effects me because people often feel entitled to discounts and bargains. In fact, during conversations, people will disregard my career choice because they think it's a hobby.
I'm in an industry where I am competing with AI, smartphones and photographers from all over the world. It's very difficult to be seen, but nevertheless, I hope my story inspires you. No matter what race, gender or career field you're in....
To dream is to create an idea of endless possibilities. Some dream of escaping reality, others manifest their dreams.
To be a photographer is to dream that one day you'll have a supportive team that helps you achieve your goals. Where money is no longer an issue but a luxury. A dream where you work less and are inspired more, a realm where you can create art and inspire others. A teacher to many, a leader to a few, but ultimately, a well-rounded individual.
Every single person is different, but it starts with a dream/idea.
The best way to gain experience in any new industry is to surround yourself with people in the industry by building relationships with them.
In 2019, I joined the UK's Black Female Photographers group on Facebook. This group impacted my career in an immense way. I started participating in the group by posting images of my work, entering competitions and assisting photographers at weddings and fashion shows.
In return, I gained a lot of knowledge and was published in two magazines and featured in an exhibition. My dedication to being seen in that group led to my work being discovered by Crowdstrike, the company who hired me to shoot Sir Lewis Hamilton.
I claimed to be a photographer when I really wasn't. I purchased my first camera in November 2018, and by April 2019 I booked my first paying client. I had prices and packages ready regardless of the fact that I wasn’t educated in my field. I didn't understand the intricate details of my camera and I didn't fully understand the impact that lighting had on a picture. My motivation stemmed from needing extra money, as I was working as an actress and actors needed headshots, therefore I believed I had the solution.
I wouldn't recommend following in my footsteps. In fact, my suggestion is to study the craft and then invest.
As a self-taught photographer I made a lot of mistakes. When things went wrong, I used my bubbly personality to disguise the issue and would often rely on my natural problem-solving skills to figure it out. I also had a few lifelines, also known as "google" and "phone a friend".
Once I made mistakes, I made sure to never make them again. This inspired me to start using YouTube and Google to learn more about photography and strengthen my weaknesses.
Ultimately, I just went with the flow and did what felt natural. It felt natural to purchase a camera and start taking pictures. I built a portfolio by collaborating with models and, when the time was right, I trademarked my business. I then created a website as a professional way to showcase my work and that's how I built myself.
Reminder: You may not be the most qualified person in the room, but if you believe in yourself, you're half way there.
Timing is everything, but knowing when to walk away is just as important.
When I was presented with the amazing opportunity to shoot one of the greatest racers of all time, I rejected the offer.
I know that sounds crazy, but here me out..
I was due to have an operation and the recovery process would've been 6-8 weeks. I was really upset, incredibly emotional and on a downer, but deep down inside I knew that health was wealth. It was a tough pill to swallow until....
I got a text from the hospital that very same day informing me that they'd rescheduled my surgery due to unforeseen circumstances.
I genuinely believed that God was testing me, testing to see if my principles and values aligned and because they did, he literally moved things around just for me.
I like to call this image: GLOWING SENSATION
The shoot was delightful. He's achieved so much in his life, been captured by some of the world's best photographers, attended more photoshoots than I can ever imagine, yet his aura was peaceful, calming and friendly. It's probably second nature to him, but I was happy because I was comfortable, and he was easy to shoot. I've taken images of celebrities with egos, and it's not fun. In fact, they never really acknowledged you as a human.
The session itself lasted 30 minutes. I had an upbeat playlist which included a bit of Jackson 5 and Afrobeats. Setting the mood for any session is really important because I want my clients not to overthink (as some overthink when the camera comes out). It also helps calm my mood and enjoy the session. There were 6-7 people in the room, which included me, Sir Lewis Hamilton, my assistant, the stylist, MUA and a few other people.
My assistant, Abigail Chow, was incredibly helpful. We had a few challenges prior to the shoot regarding studio equipment. However, she's a natural problem-solver, so we managed to make things work. She was also in charge of my medical bag. I had terrible side effects from taking iron tablets, so it was a relief to know I had imodium at my disposal and if I felt ill or sick I knew she was capable of looking after me. The worst case scenario is her shooting the footage. It's important to find an assistant that you can trust and have a good rapport with.
A special thanks to Charles from Crowdstrike for presenting me with this amazing opportunity. For your patience, kindness and belief in me. You are truly appreciated. To Ana from crowdstrike thank you for being a kind soul on set To the Mercedes team and everyone associated Thank you.