9 life lessons from a year of professional photography – Norfolk Photographer 2016

2016 has been a really exciting year of professional photography for me at my Norfolk home studio. I expanded my newborn photography packages, built relationships with lots of wonderful business women across Norfolk, had a shiny new logo designed and even gave my website a tweak or two!

Now that the year is coming to a close, lots of people are talking about goals for 2017. And although I’ve got BIG plans for my Norwich photography studio next year, I like to take some time to reflect on the year gone by.

There have been highs and lows and plenty of life lessons learnt along the way!

Here are my 9 life lessons from a year of professional photography


1.  You can never start planning Christmas photoshoots too early!

My special Christmas photography sessions sold out really fast this year. I was thrilled, but in retrospect, had I started marketing the shoots just a little earlier I might have been able to squeeze a third shoot day in and welcome even more gorgeously festive families to my studio.

Good planning meant that I was fully prepared for my little cherubs with lots of Christmas themed props and accessories for them to play with. I actually started shopping in July! Alongside super cute Christmas rompers, cards and the obligatory reindeer horns, were some fab-yule-ous decorative blocks from Missy Dunning of Sweet Dreams Art.


2. Cake smashes bring out the stereotypes in parents!

Almost every mum asked me if I needed them to help clean up the mess after a cake smash shoot, whilst pretty much every dad was eyeing up that giant cupcake and looking for a way to get involved with the chaos! It’s lovely seeing parents have fun with their children and it makes for great photos too!

P.S. Don’t worry mums; I do all the cleaning up! Your job is to enjoy yourself!


3.  But it takes less time to clean up after a cake smash photoshoot than you might imagine!

I have to admit, at the start of this year cake smash shoots made feel a little nervous. I’d heard horror stories from other photographers about babies having a meltdown in front of their cake, screaming at it in angst and terror! I was wondering if my luck would run out and babies would not find it fun anymore!

Norfolk babies must be a little hardier than the rest of the UK because each and every one of them was a little photo star! They tend to fall into one of two categories, they either demolish the cake face-first (literally), or poke gently at it until curiosity finally gets the better of them and they grab themselves a big spongey chunk!

And of course, for afterwards I’ve got my totally cute miniature bathtub for them to wash off in if they so wish. My yummy cakes are made by local mum and bakery Vanilla Cloud Bakery.


4. Networking makes a real difference

Being self-employed can be a lonely experience, especially when you need advice or want to share your successes with like-minded people. So with a bit of trepidation, I dipped my toe into the networking pond, making time to attend the monthly meeting of Her Business Brew in Norwich. I’d heard mixed views about networking and although I was keen to give it a try I was a little nervous too, as a photographer, I’m so not a suited and booted type!

I’m really glad I gave it a try as I’ve met some exceptionally nice and very talented women, made new friends and met some great contacts for my business too! The highlight though had to be having cuddles with organiser Serena’s newborn little boy, Alfie whilst I learnt about Search Engine Optimisation… now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d say!

I’m really keen to support other local businesses and thanks to the networking community I am now able to source many of my props and accessories locally. Hurray! The giant cupcakes for my cake smash photoshoots come from Rachel at Vanilla Clouds Bakery, whilst many of my oh-so-adorable hairbands come from Sonia at Purple Stars Baby Hair Clips.


5. Clients come from the most unexpected places

When I agreed to do a photoshoot for Jackie of YogaBumps pregnancy yoga and YogaBubs baby yoga in Norwich I thought it would be a great opportunity to refine my on-location skills. In fact it’s been a great way to meet new clients and Jackie and her team at the Orange Grove Clinic have been really supportive, sharing my posts on social media and telling their clients about my maternity, newborn and family photoshoot offerings. I attended her pregnancy yoga way back when I was pregnant with my first born. I love her energy and commitment to all things bump and mum related.

I was really thrilled when the organiser of Her Business Brew, Serena Fordham booked me to do a photo session of her beautiful son Alfie and her family. We had a great shoot and the photos looked amazing. Funnily enough, Serena and Alfie are now doing regular YogaBubs Baby Yoga classes together! It just goes to show that recommendations are pretty powerful.


6. I discovered I love toddlers too!

I’m a total sucker for newborn babies. I love everything about them, from their curled up little hands to their little button noses. I adore older baby and toddler photoshoots too. I thought I would ensure people knew I photographed babies of all ages and toddlers by offering ‘baby studio sessions’ and I also relaunched my baby plan to An awesome ‘Watch me Grow’ package.

And I have loved these sessions! Babies are just as super cute at four months, six months and eight months too! I’ve loved doing my ‘Watch Me Grow’ package this year and will continue to offer it next year alongside some new family photoshoot packages. This will be perfect for families with toddlers who are on the move,  and families with older children.


7. Parents-to-be will always be slightly superstitious

Throughout 2016 my newborn shoots continued to be my most popular package. To secure your spot I advise mums-to-be to book in after their 20-week scan. Babies can come early or late and booking your date in advance means that you’re much more likely to capture those gorgeous first few days before your baby starts to ‘uncurl’. For some pregnant mummies though, this can feel like they are ‘jinxing’ their pregnancy… almost assuming that everything will be just fine, from bump to baby! And of course, most of the time it is, but as a mother of two children, I get it… and whilst I still advise parents to get booked in as early as possible, I’ll always try my best to accommodate last-minute requests.



8. Sometimes you just need to pay a professional

I’ve always been quite proud of running the majority of my business myself, but I found that during my busy times I was neglecting my marketing, which potentially meant periods of quiet too. I really wanted refine my brand, update my website and get a grip on my content marketing so that I could rely on a steady stream of leads. It was time to bring in the professionals!

I hired Kerry at Write to Win Business to review my website, my SEO and all my social media channels and report back to me with her recommendations. It was a super enlightening experience and revealed lots of areas on my website where I needed to be clearer and stronger with my messaging. I was pretty pleased with the initial SEO report; I was already on page one for most of my keywords, but Kerry said there was room for improvement so I let her loose on my website copy! Just a few months later I’ve got a shiny online shop and I’m ranking at position one on page one of Google for all but one of my keywords (we’ll get that one next year!) my site is being ranked for double the amount of keywords it was back in the summer and my traffic is on the up. hurray!

I also hired the lovely Laura at Pen and Mouse Design to create a new logo for me, which I love! It’s much more representative of my brand and takes pride of place on my website. Now I just need to update the logo on all my images… oh dear!

The big lesson for me here was that getting outside help is one of the most important things you can do when growing your business. As much as we may want to, we simply can’t do everything alone and if it’s not your area of expertise, it’s usually quicker and cheaper in the long run to pay someone else to do it for you.


9. And finally… competition doesn’t exist!

Like most people when I started out, I spent many an hour stalking other people in my industry and the surrounding area; comparing my website, social media and images to theirs and worrying about how I could compete. It’s exhausting isn’t it?

This year I finally shook off my comparisonitis. I’ve come to realise that people choose to work with you because of you and that by simply being yourself; you set yourself apart from everyone else. My style is very clean and classic so my work probably doesn’t appeal to those parents who want more of a staged shoot. That used to worry me but now I’m feeling more confident than I ever have about my business and the services I offer, I can’t wait to get stuck into 2017!

Look out for my new Outdoor photoshoot Package, launching early spring and running from April to October.


I’d love to hear what life lessons you’ve learned in your business over the last year, did any of mine sound familiar? Leave a comment and let me know!

Want to book a photoshoot with me ? Get in contact with me today: info@jesswilkinsphotography.co.uk