Saturday, 14 February 2009

Valentine's Day Interview - Lucy Hopegood, photographer

After a long absence, I’m delighted to be resurrecting the Musings Friday Interview.

Except that, clearly, this one’s a Saturday Interview, because who wants a Friday 13th Interview?! Not me. And certainly not the subject of this post, photographer Lucy Hopegood.

And anyway, what more appropriate day for a celebration of wedding photography than Valentine’s Day?

Lucy’s love of photography began when she was given her first camera at the age of 17 and more recently this enduring passion has evolved into a dynamic business.

* Lucy, what made you decide to turn your love of photography into a business opportunity?

It was really the frustration which I think a lot of people experience when doing a job which doesn't really suit them, a gradual and growing feeling of being in the wrong place. I had been offered a place to study photography at university but at the last minute switched to law. I suppose I was trying to be sensible.

Of course, law proved to be fascinating and subsequent jobs were stimulating and challenging but deep down all I really longed to do was to take photographs. I would spend hours devouring style magazines, colour supplements, photographic journals ... anything that fed my passion for photography.

Eventually, this slow drip of frustration became an avalanche of dissatisfaction and I jumped ship with my camera to establish Lucy Hopegood Photography. I can honestly say I that I am happy every day to have done this.

* Your portraits and wedding photographs are so much more relaxed than traditional studio shots. And most of them are taken outdoors, aren’t they?

Yes, there are two reasons for this: First, I have always enjoyed the photograph as a whole ... settings, textures and colours are, for me, an integral element of a good portrait. In addition, I dislike the deadening effect of flash photography and virtually never use it. Obviously, it is an essential and effective tool in stylised fashion photography but for most portrait and wedding photography natural light produces the most beautiful results. Shooting outside enables me to harness natural light, in all its varied and dramatic forms.

Second, many people find photographic studios stifling and intimidating. Both the once-fashionable cluttered interior look and its modern equivalent, the stark white background, have no meaning for most of the people plonked inside them. Instead, my clients choose a favourite place that makes them happy. The freedom that flows when the confines of the studio are abandoned is evidenced in the resulting vibrant, joyous images.

* How would you describe ‘lifestyle photography’?

Clients want elements of their portrait to reflect their interests and to tell the observer something about their lifestyle. Interestingly, this has much in common with traditional painted portrait commissions. I have photographed clients with their chickens, horses, on boats, in their classic cars, etc: they want these essential elements incorporated into a beautiful record of a time in their lives.

However, it should be said that despite the relaxed nature and informal impression of lifestyle photography, good results demand a level of direction and structure from the photographer.

* How do you go about creating such a delightful rapport with your subjects?

The most vital aspect is time. There is nothing more likely to cause tension and, as a result, stiff photographs than clients feeling rushed. I never undertake more that one shoot in a day and I take as long as is needed.

Some shoots take three hours, others a lot longer. Clients need time to relax. The vast majority of people (including me) think that they hate being photographed but it's amazing, given time, how often I see the most tense client really start to enjoy striking poses.

Again, I should emphasise the importance of people being happy in their surroundings. The seaside is always a success, there is something very freeing about the combination of water, sunshine and wind and, of course, the easy availability of ice creams doesn't hurt either.

* Presumably, you have to be particularly patient with young children?

Actually it's not just the smallest children who can be demanding. Recalcitrant teenagers aren't always keen to be in front of the lens either. Some love it but others hate the very thought, especially if they have been persuaded to wear something they dislike with grandparents in mind. I always make sure that they call the shots for a proportion of the shoot, wearing what they like etc, as a pay-off for the bits they may dislike. Little children need regular breaks and snacks, so I always factor these in. If they need a nap, we have coffee or lunch and begin again a bit later.

* On which note, have you worked much with animals?

Yes, many of my shoots involve pets of some sort – clients want them included because they feel like members of the family. I once did a shoot with a wonderful family on their yacht with two delightful dogs in nautical t-shirts taking centre stage. It was a fabulous shoot and great fun once I had conquered my landlubber nerves. A more recent shoot included a large, much-loved duck and a few years ago I had to point out to a red-faced husband that he had chosen more photographs of his cat than of his wife!

* How do people choose the shots they wish to purchase?

Once I have edited the results of a shoot, I visit the client at home and we spend time viewing all the images. It helps to decide first who each photograph is for and what format the finished product should be in. It takes some time and I never rush my clients. I would hate them to feel pressurised. At the moment, I am offering a disc option for both portraits and weddings which, of course, removes the need to choose images, since the client keeps them all.

* Do portrait clients generally select just one shot or a whole series?

Most choose a wide selection. Storyboards are enduringly popular, in both frame and album format. This simply means a selection of images which tell the story of the day – detail shots of hands or feet, etc, are really effective in this format when interspersed with other full-frame photographs.

It really is the case that storyboards have the power to captivate and enthrall – some families come back for a new version when they have another child. At the other end of the spectrum are clients who have a strict budget and will only be buying one or two frames. I always believe that they are entitled to the same service and time in order to produce a treasured image, and of course, I store everything on disc which means that more can be chosen at a later date if desired.

* So lifestyle portraiture isn’t just a financial investment but an emotional one?

Exactly. We spend more money now than ever on transient pleasures like holidays and dining out etc. Whilst such treats are undeniably enjoyable, memories of them fade. Buying innovative, contemporary lifestyle portraiture is an emotional investment. Like Proust's madeleines, meaningful photographs can evoke a lifetime of intense memories.

* You’re holding a special exhibition of wedding photography at Glemham Hall in Suffolk later this month. Tell me more about that.

Yes, it's a very exciting collaboration for me. Glemham Hall is a stunning red brick Elizabethan mansion set on a large country estate between Woodbridge and Saxmundham. It is a beautiful wedding venue and I am thrilled to have been invited to exhibit there between 28 February and 1 March. The hall, grounds and marquee will be open for wedding viewings and I will be exhibiting my work and talking informally to visitors on both days. In addition, there will be a free prize draw to win my wedding services, including pre-wedding shoot, attendance and photography on the wedding day itself and a disc of wedding photographs.

* How do you approach a wedding commission?

My style is unobtrusive, and I aim to be as discreet a presence as possible. It is crucially important not to obstruct the smooth running of the day and I liaise closely with caterers, florists, musicians, etc to ensure that we work together. We all want the same outcome: a happy and successful wedding day.

As I am shooting, I think about the visual story that I am going to create in the finished album and aim to capture the small details as well as the more obvious moments of the day. I love photographing the wedding preparations before the service, and this period of building excitement often yields the most magical pictures.

Some couples ask for the service itself to be photographed and, again, a discreet presence is crucial. At the reception I advise that group photographs are kept to a minimum to enable the bride and groom to enjoy their party without being taken away from their guests for too long. I always work with a trained assistant whose job it is to help organise shots, change lenses, etc, so that I can concentrate on doing what I love most: taking great photographs.

* And you offer a pre-wedding shoot as well. How does that work?

For me, this is an essential element of my wedding services. Some months before the wedding day, I will meet the bride and groom at a place that they choose and spend time photographing them together. It is great for me because I get to know them better before the wedding and the advantage for them is that it inspires confidence. Having seen the pre-wedding shoot images, they start their wedding day knowing that I will take stunning photographs of them and they come away with a lovely record of the special time before they were married.

* And in addition to the Glemham Hall prize draw, you’ve a couple of other special offers on at the moment.

Yes, that's right. Those who book their weddings before 31 March 2009 will enjoy an edited disc of all their wedding photographs in addition to the album included in the price. Lifestyle portrait shoots booked in spring 2009 are priced at £100 shoot fee and £380 for an edited disc of over 50 beautiful photographs. This makes the lifestyle shoot more affordable and removes the need to choose particular photographs over others.

* Finally, Lucy, what, for you, is the essence of making a good photograph?

Good photography is not just about technical ability, though this clearly plays a part. More, it is a love of people, an eye for detail and a keen enjoyment of creating the most beautiful images imaginable.
Thanks Lucy. You can find Lucy’s website here – email her at info[at] for further information about any of her photographic services.

The Glemham Hall website is here and the special wedding exhibition is open from 28 February until 1 March.

Portraits of Lucy by Jonathan Doyle.

(Click on photos to enlarge and see them to best advantage.)


Anonymous said...

What a lovely topic for today! and lovely photos. Best of luck to Lucy with her business. Only sorry I can't anticipate being in the market (unless there's something DS isn't telling me!)

Sam Charles Norton said...


Took a lovely, memorable wedding today because a) it was the first one I'd taken where bride (or groom) was in a wheelchair - thought it was going to be awkward but it was fine, and b) they had arranged for some pikemen (historical re-enactment people) to give them a guard of honour!

Anonymous said...

I've seen Lucy's work before and am a big fan. She makes the people in her pictures look like friends, even if you don't know them. Lovely!

monix said...

The perfect post for Valentine's Day. I would happily give wall space to those photographs even though I don't know the people in them. Lucy obviously captures the essence of the subject. Lovely stuff.

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous photos. Makes me wish that my daughter could get married all over again, just so that we could book Lucy as the official photographer. A colleague (a well-known professional photographer) took the photos on the big day and although they were good, my daughter and her husband felt that they could have been much better. The photographer was male and I do wonder if a woman photographer brings a particular understanding to what newlyweds - especially brides - want to see when they open their wedding album.

Do hope Lucy's exhibition is a huge success - it deserves to be.

Susie Vereker said...

How very interesting. I particularly liked the muddy feet and red socks, don't know why! Maybe it reminded me of my sons.

Anonymous said...

Lucy, You are brilliant. I LOVE your lovely photos. Thankyou Juliet for showing us all. The colours and the cropping (the compositions) and the simplicity and each moment captured is a delight to see. I don't think that's very good English Juliet, (should it be 'are' a delight?) me it doesn't matter, I love them all. Well Done Lucy, and Well Done J.