This Q&A is something I’ve been meaning to post for ages, and that has been highly requested, but there just always seems to be other content at the top of my list.
So I thought I’d finally get round to answering just some of the questions you guys sent in, when I put the ‘Ask Me Anything’ post out on social media a little while ago.
Q. What sort of lens do you use on your actions shots of horses?
A. I shoot almost every photo you see on here with my trusty 70-200mm f2.8 lens.
Q. When did u make the leap of faith to quit work to start your own business?
A. Well, for me, it didn’t really work like that. I have never actually had what most would consider a ‘proper’ job. I started my photography business whilst I was still in university and went into event photography straight out the gates. And then, I gave up photographing events and started specialising in equine photography once I had built a solid portfolio and knew people were interested in booking me.
But, if I had to advise somebody who was thinking about quitting their day job, I’d say that you never truly realise your potential at something until you’re giving it everything you’ve got.
So, whilst I’d certainly recommend getting all of your ducks in a row before taking that leap, I don’t think you’re ever ‘ready’ and I think there comes a point where you just have to go for it and throw yourself into your new venture.
Q. How did you meet your husband?
A. When does the word husband start to sound normal? I still find that so weird. Lol.
Sam and I met when we were both just fifteen. I went to an all girls’ school, called Colchester County High School and was friends with a lot of the boys at the boys equivalent to our school, which was just up the road. Some of them played rugby for Colchester Rugby Club, where Sam played, so one day they invited him and some of the other players out with us, and that’s how we met.
We’ve grown up together, both went on to Writtle College together, lived together since we were eighteen and he’s my best friend.
Q. How did you start building your social media following? What tips would you give to vloggers?
A. I started the same way as every else; at the beginning. We all have to start somewhere.
I have a whole tonne of information on this blog about building your social media, but the number one piece of advice I can give you is that consistency is key. Show up. Every day!
If you teach your followers that you are reliable and that they can expect great content from you when you say you’re going to provide it, they will stick around. The other key is engagement. Ask them questions, encourage them to interact, get to know them, allow them to get to know you.
And that moves on really nicely to your second question, because that’s where vlogging really helps. When you vlog, you offer an extra piece of yourself, to your audience that you can’t get from the written content. So I guess my top tip for vlogging would be to be completely yourself. Vlogging is about connecting with your audience and allowing them into your life, so be real and authentic.
I could literally chat for hours about these two things, but if you go to the Business section of the blog, you’ll find everything you need to know.
Q. How do you stay focussed working from home? It’s something I sometime struggle with.
A. This is something I actually don’t really struggle with very often, so I find this difficult to answer. I think if you love what you do, you’re automatically motivated to do it. I prefer running my business to watching TV, for example. And when I do lack motivation I tell myself that if I don’t make my business work and don’t make money to pay my bills, the alternative is to go out and get a ‘real job’… And I know where I’d rather be. 😉
Q. Hi Sophie, would love to know your ideas for getting a horse’s attention for photos!
A. When you need to get that shot, anything goes! Lol. I will regularly have my client’s friends and family dancing around behind me, we throw anything we can get our hands on in the air, climb into bushes to make them rustle, walk other horses back and forward in front of them… Desperate times call for desperate measures and I imagine watching a shoot in progress could be pretty amusing, at times.
However, most of the time I have a little bag that contains an array of shakers (it’s basically a bag of rubbish) including a bottle filled with stones, a chewing gum tub, a squeaky toy and a bag of treats. And usually my equine models will react to one or two of these things.
Some horses are visually stimulated, whereas some react better to noise, so sometimes I’ll just need to rattle a bottle, whereas sometimes I will throw it across their line of sight. (And try not to hit anyone with it!) Picking grass is often a good way to get greedy ponies ears forward. As is a bucket with some nuts in the bottom.
And then the last weapon in my arsenal is my (not so) secret phone app that plays horse noises. I do have to be a little careful with this, because if my equine model is highly strung, this can sometimes tip the over the edge, and then that’s game over, but most of the time horses react really well to the sound of another horse calling and this works really nicely.
Q. Where is the tweed coat we see you wearing in your vlogs from?
Joules. I’m a big Joules fan and the tweed you see me living and dying in, in most of my vlogs is one of the Joules Fieldcoats. It’s super warm and cosy, looks great and gets so many compliments. I don’t think that particular one is available any longer, but you can find other similar ones here.
Q. What’s the best bit of your job?
A. All of it! Ok, no not all of it. I’m about to sit down and work through my tax returns. That bit I hate.
But I love going out to new locations, meeting new horses and owners, finding inspiration from their yards, delivering images that they will get so much pleasure from, for the rest of their lives. I actually love editing, which I know most photographers aren’t so keen on. And I also really enjoy the marketing side; the social media, the ‘hustle’.
And then obviously there’s blogging and vlogging and everything that has brought into my life. I love coming up with new content, I love writing, I love making it all look pretty, I love filming my life for me to look back, I love building this community of all the likeminded, horse and country loving people that follow me and I definitely love the opportunities that that has opened up for me.
Somebody commented on my HOYS vlog, saying ‘If Carlsberg did jobs…’ and I couldn’t have put it better. I have to pinch myself so often, to make sure this really is my life. I think I have the best job in the world and I’ll be eternally grateful that I get to do this and call it work.