Why I started my Kent Wedding Photography business

Apr 16, 2020

This time four years ago I had no knowledge of the wedding industry at all. I had a love of photography, a decent-ish camera and a job I was becoming disillusioned with. Today I am a full time wedding photographer in Kent with my own thriving business and living a life that makes me feel so fulfilled. On my working days I am able to indulge my passion of photography, create images I love surrounded by smiling, warm, happy, relaxed people. I am not sure it can get much better than that. And the rest of my days are spent editing or working on marketing from the comfort of my home, with my spaniel at my feet and drinking as much tea and coffee as I can be bothered to make. But how did I get from one place in my life to this? Well I thought I’d share my journey with you.

I studied Photography GCSE whilst I was doing my A-levels, back in the day of film and having to develop our own images in a darkroom. I guess this is where the seed was planted. I had very little idea of what I wanted to do later in life but I knew it would be important to do something that made me happy so I enrolled on a Bachelor of Arts Degree at Kent Institute of Art and Design in Visual Communication. It was about all types of art but I always came back to Photography as my way of expressing myself. And then, knowing that I loved photography, that I had an eye for it and with a greater understanding of the variety of careers that my degree could lead me to I decided to……….. join the Police.

I know, I know, it makes no sense and I still couldn’t tell you why I did that but there you go. I was young, fit and keen and thrived on the adrenaline rush from separating Friday night fights, foot chases, vehicle pursuits and locking up bad people. I spent 4.5 years in uniform before later moving into investigation and then when I had my daughter, my priorities changed. My only real goal then was to make it home after every shift and see her.

Even on part time hours, working with people experiencing the worst times in their life and the negativity and sometimes helplessness that came with it began to take its toll on my mental health. Fortunately it coincided with me picking up my camera again when we got Nell, our springer spaniel. When we walked I would take my camera and she became my model. I got the bug back, invested in a new camera and enrolled on an online diploma in professional photography to bring my skills up to date. The fundamentals were still in my head somewhere but just needed teasing out.

Springer spaniel laying in the sunshineSilhouette of Springer spaniel running across the beach at sunsetSpringer spaniel peeking out of a front door

This is Nell, our English Springer Spaniel and in the early days, she was arguably the most photographed dog around.

I was on holiday in Dorset with my family in 2016 when one gorgeous evening I asked my daughter to come with me to a field of long grass next to the campsite we were on. We played in the grass and I snapped away but one or two of the images really sparked my imagination and made me consider for the first time, making money from photography. The photography course included a portraiture module which I managed to drag my husband into helping me with whilst on holiday in Scotland and by the time the course was completed, the seed had definitely germinated and started to grow. Both my struggles at work and my passion for photography continued to build at the same rate. Nicola Dawson Photography became a thing and developed into family and pet portraiture.

Young girl playing with grass seeds in a sunny fieldYoung girl playing with grass seeds in a sunny fieldYoung girl playing with grass seeds in a sunny fieldYoung girl laughing in long grass in a sunny fieldThese are the images of Jennifer my daughter that really made me think about a future in photography. Thank goodness I made the short walk to the field on that evening with the soft sunlight. 

I soon exhausted all photo opportunities with my kids and husband before moving into family photography.

And then at the beginning of 2017 I was asked by two work colleagues if I would photograph their wedding. The responsibility of that seemed enormous but they knew I had never shot a wedding before and it was at Cooling Castle in Kent which is basically a wedding day machine and runs like clockwork so I knew it would be an ‘easy’ venue to be at. After much deliberation I decided to go for it. There is always a first time for everything and I thought I may never get the chance again. So in the months that followed I read books, blogs and magazine articles all about wedding photography. I knew I could take good pictures but had no idea if I would manage the stress on the day, so for me, knowledge felt like power. The more I learned, the less chance there was of any surprises.

The day came and I just about managed to keep down a small breakfast between the waves of nausea. I arrived, got my camera ready and headed to the bridal suite to start wedding preparation photos. And that was it, THAT was the moment my love for wedding photography started. The nerves became adrenaline and I loved every single second of the day. When I finished I got in the car and remember calling my husband. I probably made little sense but I was on such a high that I had done it.

Cooling Castle Barn, Kent Wedding Venue Bride and Groom being showered with confetti after their Cooling Castle ceremony bride and groom during their first dance at Cooling Castle Wedding

Images from my first ever wedding at Cooling Castle Barn. I will always be grateful to Chris and Celia for asking me. Their wedding changed the course of my life.

Everything that followed was about making this my job for the rest of my working life. I didn’t want to deal with the worst times in peoples lives anymore. I wanted to fulfill my creativity, to be in one of the loveliest, happiest industries there is, to be my own boss, to be there for my family more but ultimately to take photographs that mean my couples can relive the warm, contented feeling of their wedding days all over again. Eighteen months after that first wedding I quit the Police as I needed more time to deal with the enquiries I was getting. Fast forward another year on from that and I am at my desk typing this for you to read in my slippers and drinking yet another cup of tea.

Maybe because I witnessed some of the worst sides of people in my previous job it means that I believe the happiness and joy of a Wedding is unrivalled by any other occasion. Maybe that is why I am so invested in my couples’ day, why I get a lump in my throat when that first look happens, why I get a tear in my eye at their speeches and why my cheeks ache from smiling at the end of the day. Or maybe I am just super soppy? Who knows. I truly love my job and the fact that my amazing couples place their trust in me to capture the memories of their Weddings will never be taken for granted.

Bride and Groom having their first kiss after their wedding ceremonybride and groom smiling at each other after their ceremonyBride and groom holding hands in field under blue skyBride and Groom in golden hour portrait in field of long grass

2 Comments

  1. Vaani

    What a beautiful journey Nicola and an inspiring story! Your photos are gorgeous too! It definitely seems like you found your calling Xx

    Reply
    • nicoladawson

      Thank you so much Vaani. It’s so lovely to hear that others are inspired my my journey xx

      Reply

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