The Penfolders: Meet our freelancers, Rebecca Challis, Photographer

Ellie Lister
Wednesday 22nd July, 2020

As a business built for freelancers and the self-employed, this week’s National Photo Week marks an important week to big up the photography talent within our community. We’ve reached out to our dear customer and friend Rebecca Challis to put the spotlight on her photography business and celebrate the week. 

Rebecca specialises in headshot, personal branding and commercial photography, whilst balancing her company with her daughter, yoga, and, well, taking more pictures. In this article we chat about Rebecca’s top tips for aspiring photographers and freelancers, the impact of Instagram on the photography industry, and podcast and community recommendations - of course.

Rebecca was one of our first thousand customers, who joined Penfold back in October 2019. Rebecca was referred to Penfold by Frankie Tortora’s legendary Doing It For the Kids facebook community page and has been a very loyal referrer and friend of Penfold ever since. 

Tell us a bit about yourself, what you do and how long you’ve been doing it for.

I’m a professional photographer, based in South West London. I specialise in headshot and personal branding photography for individuals, corporates and small businesses. I’ve been a photographer for just under 9 years. I shoot with the amazing Sony A7iii and a multitude of lenses.

I’ve always loved taking photos and photography was a hobby for many years, I did lots of courses and tortured my friends and family taking photos of them ALL the time. I wanted to start a family and I knew that the long hours and travel of my corporate job at the time would not suit with a little one, so I made the decision to retrain. Photography was top of my list of new careers and I’m so glad I went with my heart. From working mostly weekends and evenings, to now being able to only work during my daughter’s school hours has been a life changer for my career. I started off being a family photographer but slowly my business has morphed into being almost entirely commercial photography now.

Even outside of work, I take a lot, a real lot of photos! I spend time with my family and my daughter who is now becoming a photographer herself. I love a bit of yoga too. I’ve recently been lucky enough to start adding some gorgeous house interiors to my photography portfolio too.

How has the rise of instagram and demand for instant content impacted what you do?

Professional photography can definitely give your socials an edge over the competition, and this is why Instagram has been life changing for my business! I work with a huge number of small businesses that need daily content for social media. I help to create their own stock library including product, partner, animations and storytelling shots for all kinds of occasions. I also have some general stock images, and shoot behind the scenes shots for clients’ creative stories. 

What is the best project you’ve worked on since going freelance?

This is like choosing your favourite child! My favourites are the clients that I have worked with many times over the years. This means that we trust one another, I understand their style and what they will use the images for. My client @curlyellie is a great example who I shoot regularly for both lifestyle and product photos, she gives me a lot of creative license! I have also loved all the interior design events I have done for @camberyard and her clients, especially one at Farrow & Ball which was fascinating. @returnhub is an awesome business which is doing great things for women returners in the city and I really enjoy being involved with. Finally, for the delicious smells alone the shoot I did @Krispykreme factory was brilliant (credit to Rebecca's shot as this blog's background!)

What’s your favourite & most difficult thing about working for yourself?

My favourite thing about working for myself is undoubtedly the flexibility. I love being able to choose my hours and days off for a weekday catch up with a friend or extra time off in the school holidays, and get to decide which jobs I want and those I don’t. 

Comparatively, my most favourite is equally the most difficult. Without a schedule it’s hard to stop thinking about your work. It can be difficult not having someone to discuss business with but luckily I have some lovely freelance and photographer friends to discuss my issues with. The networking events where we all face similar issues help us all get through!

What are your top tips for freelancers, and for aspiring photographers?

Set your goals, annually, monthly, weekly and not just financial, but cover other parts of your business like creative goals and work/life balance goals. I find it really helps to focus on what is important. It also means I can make baby steps towards my big goal.

For photographers I think it’s so important to keep learning and honing your skills. I always try and take a few courses every year, sometimes for editing, some for lighting and some more business based. 

Networking is also incredibly important. Not just at official events but everywhere you go. I have so many clients who have come through referrals or recommendations at networking events, despite being quite an introverted person it really helps to build my company.

What are your top 3 recommendations - podcasts, books, people to follow, sources of inspiration?

My favourite podcast for photographers is definitely shoot.edit.chat.repeat they talk about a wide range of issues for photographers and creatives and there’s a lot of general chit-chat and fun.

I love The Marketing Fix by Melissa Love of design space who is a design and website guru, it’s a lovely community of freelance creatives all working to make their marketing better with monthly experts and webinars, working groups and all sorts of things to keep you on track.

Sue Bryce is my other favourite photographer to follow, she has an awesome membership and education community with advice on your photography business, alongside some beautiful & inspiring work.

Check out Rebecca’s website here or follow her on Linkedin here, Instagram here and Facebook here to keep in touch with all of her accomplishments! 

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