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Memories are made of this: What it's like to be a portrait photographer

By Heather Large | Entertainment | Published:

From snoozing newborns to cuddly puppies Rachel Bailey's pictures could melt the coldest of hearts.

Photographer Rachel Bailey with Mark Cleghorn from the Xperience group

After starting her career shooting weddings more than a decade ago, she now specialises in portrait photography and runs a studio in Weston Under Lizard.

And now she's turned her attention to the cuter things in life wanting to capture everything that makes babies and dogs so special.

"It's all about our loving relationship with babies with and without fur," says the 38-year-old from Lawley.

"I really love having dogs in the studio, they are really fun. I really love posing the newborns. They are always very sleepy so they are easy to pose and it's the same with the puppies as they like being cuddled," adds Rachel.

Her first job in the industry was working as a photographer's assistant for weddings before setting up her own business in 2010.

"I was at a friend's wedding and I was put on the same table as my friend's photographer. I got talking to him and I was fascinated. I became a second shooter for him and I started doing more weddings on my own. I then set up my first studio," she tells Weekend.

Baby pictures are a speciality for Rachel

Rachel began her training with a City & Guilds course in photography before studying for a foundation degree in art and design, specialising in photography, at Telford College of Arts and Technology.

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She was then awarded a place on Staffordshire University's one-year business start-up scheme and a £5,000 grant towards setting up her first studio, which was in Shrewsbury, before moving to Weston Under Lizard four years ago.

Since then Rachel has offered a mixture of modern and fun photo shoots including babies, families and fashion portraits.

She describes her style as "creative, fun, engaging and relaxed" and she takes pride in capturing the true spirit and personality of the people and subjects that she photographs.

Her aim is to create a relaxed environment through engaging in conversations, listening and paying close attention.

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"I really love meeting new people, no client is ever the same and I like new challenges. The best part of being a photographer is when they come back to view the photos and they are really happy with them. It makes me happy that they are happy," she tells Weekend.

When lockdown started Rachel had to stop holding shoots at her studio but she was determined to dedicate the time to fully prepare for re-opening and build relationships with customers and the community.

One of her priorities was revamping her studio,taking into account social distancing guidelines, with the aim of restarting her business with more of a focus on newborn babies and puppies.

"The studio has been redesigned and painted. I've decluttered and got rid of lots of stuff I don't need any more. I've got new props and backdrops," says Rachel.

During lockdown Rachel also set up a Facebook group for mums in Shropshire and Staffordshire to help new mothers and pregnant women during this unprecedented time.

Rachel loves having dogs around in her studio

She wanted to create a space where the members could share stories and tips and ask for advice.

"The idea behind this was about mindfulness and bearing in mind mums-to-be and new mums didn’t have the support from midwives and health visitors like before lockdown," Rachel, who has two young children aged four and seven, tells Weekend.

She also set up a Facebook group called Shop Local aimed at promoting small businesses in the area and remind customers they are still here.

While on her own social media page, she has been running virtual competitions with a canine theme, activities for children including colouring pages and puzzles and a seven-day photo challenge.

Rachel has also had reason to celebrate after two of her photos were selected for an annual awards event.

Two years ago, Rachel joined the Xperience Group, made up of professional photographers across the UK and Ireland.

Each year it runs a competition celebrating the world of photography and thousands of images are submitted by hundreds of photographers.

Rachel was delighted to have one of her portraits chosen as a runner-up in 2019 and this year she has two photos in the finals due to take place in November.

As well as of her studio revamp, she has ensured it's a safe environment for both her customers and herself by installing hand sanitiser in the reception and studio, a fogger for disinfecting, two-metre distance stickers and sneeze guards.

Rachel, who has now started taking bookings again, is also deep cleaning the studio after every shoot and also has gloves and masks available for people to wear if they wish.

"I was a bit nervous about it but all of the clients who have been so far have been really pleased with it. It's nice to get back to work," she explains.

*Rachel is offering Star readers the chance to take part in her Babyface promotion for youngsters aged one to five. She says: "We are re-launching our awesome Baby Face promotion and have 50 free re-launch sessions to give away including a 7" framed desk portrait worth £175." To apply see www.rachelbaileyphotography.co.uk/babyface

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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