Today at Artist Strong we welcome Charné Hawkes, owner of the photography business Captivating Photography. Her work has inspired me (full disclosure: I hired her for my wedding!); I hope you all might learn yet another perspective on the creative process. Enjoy this Creative Spirit!

Artist Strong: When did you first realize your love of photography?

I think I loved it way before I realised I loved it… Capturing a second in time that will last forever, be it my own memory or someone elses. My first memory of taking a photo was when I was only 10 years old, going up Table Mountain in South Africa in a cable car. It was of my Dad and my 2 1/2 year old sister, it’s still one of my favourite photos! I entertained the idea of studying photography at University, but BCom Tourism Management won and I ended up doing a Fujifilm freelance course on the sideline. Fast forward to 2004 in Dubai where I bought my first compact digital camera. Needless to say, I was hooked. I finally realized I love photography when working at Nevis Range in the marketing department and taking most of the winter season’s skiing photos on my little Nikon Coolpix. I bought my first proper digital SLR in 2007 and in 2009 made a positive decision to turn this love into a full-time business.

Carrie: What kind of training or schooling helped you on your journey? 

The first professional training I had was a Fujifilm course at University. It was great, all my films got developed for free for almost a year 🙂 not to mention the wealth of knowledge that was shared by two fantastic old school photographers. I still apply the same basic fundamental rules today in terms of light and composition. From there on it was self taught, trial and error (and lots of it…) for a while. My very good friend Steven McKenna was also a big help when it came to the technical side of things. I am forever grateful to this amazing photographer! When I finally decided to be a full time wedding photographer, I turned my attention to other wedding photographers who presented courses on the subject matter and to Nikon Professional School of Training. Funny enough, taking photos is only a very small part of being a wedding photographer. As an ongoing measure, I enroll in quite a lot of online courses on various subjects. Last but not least, I learn from every single wedding I shoot. No training in the world can give you the experience that you gain from real life shooting.

Photograph by Charné Hawkes, All Rights Reserved

Photograph by Charné Hawkes, All Rights Reserved

Carrie: Do you have a camera of choice?

Nikon!! I simply love my Nikon D700.

Carrie: How do you go about processing your images?

The short version… Backup, backup backup. Import into post production, culling, then move on to technical adjustments to get consistency throughout the shoot… exposure, colour balance, vibrancy, etc. Once I’m happy with the quality of the images, they get organised for various end sources i.e. Facebook, Blog, Slideshow, Gallery, Portfolio shots, and exported to their various folders for future use and a backup of all gets made again. Finally, the uploading to various media start.

Carrie: How do you use lighting to help convey a message or story?

I work in Scotland, so LACK of light is probably a better description. I use any available light, be it natural daylight through a window (Carrie has first hand experience of this), my flash on top of my camera or my off camera flash. Now and then I’ll use a reflector, but I find it gets in the way, more often than not and when it gets windy, it becomes a giant sail for the poor soul holding it. Basically I only use the light to enhance the photo, the couple / subject tells the story on its own.

Photograph by Charné Hawkes, All Rights Reserved

Photograph by Charné Hawkes, All Rights Reserved

Carrie: What is a challenge of your job?

Because I work in Scotland, definitely the lack of natural light and the weather elements. I plan every single shoot around the lighting conditions and weather, sometimes changing plans last minute to get the best end result.

Another challenge would be educating my clients, not only to understand the process they are about to embark on and being realistic about their expectations, but also the importance of allowing sufficient time and working together as a team to create beautiful images.

Having said all of that, the Scottish Midge rates very high up on my list as well…

Carrie: Some artists/photographers decide to work part-time, others full-time. How long have you worked as a full-time photographer? Have you always been self-employed?

There was a 3 year transition period for me between my full time day job and becoming self employed. In order for me to run a successful and sustainable business, I realised I had to do this full time. I basically worked myself to the ground to finance the setup of my photography business, a rather expensive exercise for anyone who is serious about it. I have worked as a full time photographer since 2009 and finally resigned from my other full time job in 2012, but don’t get me wrong, both were FULL TIME jobs, 9-6pm day job and 6-1am / 2am working on my photography. It is not a road for the faint hearted and you genuinely have to want to make it work!

CT 020612 - 1010Carrie: Would you share a memorable/funny moment from working in photography?

There are so many fond memories, one of which was probably more funny at the time to my Mom & my husband, when I climbed out onto the furthest rock I could find in the sea, trying to get a spectacular shot of the waves crashing against the rocks. The only thing that was spectacular… the freak wave crashing almost right on top of me and my camera. A moment of panic when I was engulfed by sea, rather than exposed rock….

A more memorable moment was when one of my beautiful brides, looked at a “nude” shot of herself on the back of my camera and started crying and said “I can’t  believe it’s me, I look beautiful”.

Carrie: Who/what inspires you?

I look up to various great and current photographers from South Africa, America and Australia. I find my inspiration in the beauty of nature.

Carrie: What advice would you give to others interested in following a similar path (regarding photography or self-employment)?

Be realistic. Make a positive decision that you are going to make a change in your life, give it your all, don’t quit when you hit the first rough patch on the road. But most importantly, you have to love what you do!!!

130726 -TJ 0373Carrie: What other hobbies/interests do you have? Do they ever intersect with your interest in photography?

All sorts of design interests me… graphic, print, interior, architectural, landscaping, gardening; all great sources of inspiration and outlet for my creative side. I love the outdoors… hiking, mountain biking, skiing, paragliding, anything that involves a bit of adrenalin. 99% of the time my camera gets dragged along on these adventures to take action or scenic photos, fueling the passion I had in the first place.

Carrie: How do you define creativity?

Expressing yourself in an individual way, creating something out of nothing for the pure enjoyment of yourself and others.

Interested in learning more about Captivating Photography? Be sure to check out the website and blog. Thank you to Charné for taking the time to share with Artist Strong!

BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: What is one small step you can take towards making your creative love a full-time profession?