Don't ever give up.....

I have recently seen and heard comments such as 'I'll never get there' or 'I wish I could....' well this is a blog post that will hopefully give you hope. I want to shout 'You CAN do it!'. As a child I always felt I'd never be good at anything, I have a very clever brother, an academic genius, my sister went to grammar school....I went to a good old 'standard' boring school. Nothing special. I left school with average results......that's how my life was, average. I settled for the fact I would always have a standard 9-5 job, I'd never be or do anything special. I bounced from job to job, starting in catering college which I left after the first year, admin, store assistant, machinist, bar maid, bouncer.....yes, you heard right! Nothing fancy, just run of the mill jobs. I did always have one interest in life (apart from horses and ice-skating as a child) and that was art. It was my highest qualification on leaving school. It allowed me to separate myself from being 'me' and create a fantasy world. I used to draw portraits and fantasy images. I loved it! Up until the age of 40 this was how my life went. Don't get me wrong, I did have a good life, just nothing I could be proud of apart from my three amazing children.

I won't go into long details but at 40 I was introduced to an SLR camera. Something that I'd never been interested in before nor had even held one before. I remember thinking how horrible and bulky they were! I was persuaded to try one by then and current partner Andy. Andy was doing a photojournalism course so owned two SLR's. Little did he nor I know this would end up how things are today! My passion was sparked the first time I tried out the SLR. That was it, I had to own one. Suddenly my mind was set free, I could capture special 'art'. I bought my first SLR in February 2010 from a forum on the website for The Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers, one of the biggest International photographic organisations in the UK. It was a slow start with me trying to grasp what to do with it apart from snap on 'auto' so I didn't really begin shooting with it until May 2010. I began with a friend of mine talking me into photographing some 'under 1's'. Little did I know this would mean 11 under 1's! Yes that's right, 11! Thinking I was going to die at the start it soon turned to 'actually, this is quite cool!'. She then suggested I tried photographing a newborn baby as her family member was due one. I jumped at the chance and my first ever newborn was photographed the end of May 2010. I have never been drawn to anything as much in all my life! Finally I'd found what I wanted to do. Newborns! Many told me I couldn't only photograph them, there was no money in it. I'd need a proper job too, oh how wrong were they? By sheer fluke (yes, I'm being honest) I bagged my first ever GOLD award just one month later. This was followed by two more, one in August 2010 and one in November 2010. I did find that competitions made me extremely frustrated though as I couldn't figure out what was a good image and why some of mine didn't score anything. This all led to me selling my first camera to go and 'find a proper job'.

Luckily I was talked out of giving up by two amazing photographers, Trevor and Faye Yerbury. They are two of the very best photographers in the UK. I couldn't allow myself to give up this new found thrill so I then managed to buy a new camera a few months later. I must say, I only managed to buy my second camera because a wonderful man, whom I'd never met, from the SWPP (Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers) forums allowed me to pay him monthly but sent me the camera before payment! Thank you so much Francis Pullen, I will never forget that! I hope I've made you proud. I then sought out training. To learn why images scored what they did, to learn how to improve my lighting and camera skills (thank you Damian McGillicuddy!). For 2 1/2 years I travelled to and from Chester, often selling belongings, pawning belongings, begging and borrowing to be able to afford this training and even hired a car on several occasions because my car wouldn't make it that far. It was very hard work, my family barely saw me so I HAD to make this work! During this time I set up The Baby Whisperer newborn training with Damian and ran it with Damian until September 2013 when i left as it was time to move on.

In April 2011 I was awarded SWPP Judges Choice meaning that out of all 2000 entries for that month the judges voted mine the best. I was astounded! 

In August 2011 I achieved my first qualification with the SWPP, my Licentiate (LSWPP).

In April 2012 I achieved my next qualification, my Associateship (ASWPP).

In 2012 I was awarded People Photographer of the Year with The Guild of Photographers and 2012 Overall Photographer of the Year with The Guild. I was also the only person ever to score 4 golds in the same month (not sure if that still stands, it might do).

I was also nominated for SWPP Baby Photographer of the Year 2012 and SWPP Monochrome Photographer of the Year 2012, I didn't win but the nominations were a HUGE achievement to me.

In October 2013 I again won SWPP Judges Choice award, and again received nominations for SWPP Baby Photographer of the Year 2013 and SWPP Children Photographer of the Year 2013, I also won Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers Members Choice General Photographer of the Year 2013.

In 2014 I was again awarded Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers Members Choice General Photographer of the Year 2014. This is the year I decided I would try for my Fellowship, the highest qualification by a panel of images. In January 2015 I was amazed that I passed! I couldn't have done this without the help and support of my incredible mentors Trevor and Faye Yerbury, two very dear friends to me. The people who stopped me giving up back in 2010!

During 2015 I received the wonderful email informing me I had nominations for The Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers Pet Photographer of the Year 2015 and The Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers Portrait Avant Garde Photographer of the Year 2015, I was astounded to win Pet Photographer of the Year and be runner up for Portrait Avant Garde Photographer of the Year.

I now run a photography show The Newborn Photography Show aimed at helping those who photograph maternity, newborn and children, I felt this was a much needed show as most photography shows are aimed at wedding photographers. I also teach many many photographers some from as far afield as Singapore! Life is very good most of the time and photography is well and truly my full time job.

My point to this post is 'never give up'. You have to fight for what you want. You will make some wrong decisions but you will grow with each one. I am not magic, nor do I do anything that you can't do with a bit of knowledge and imagination. You can make your life what you want it to be. Don't be afraid to follow your dreams. We only get one life. Don't let anyone talk you out of it. You WILL have to make sacrifices to get to where you want to be, God knows I made many, it's not going to be easy. Look beyond your own doorstep for someone who inspires you and can offer you things that suit YOUR dream.

I wish you all the best. 

Tracy x

Tracy Willis4 Comments