The Precious bundle of joy

Shhh! It’s the baby whisperer...

Sarah Wilkes, also fondly known as the Baby Whisperer, is an award-winning contemporary photographer who has captured the heart of families all over the UK who travel to her Nottingham studio for her custom newborn, child and pet portraits. Made snapped up the chance for a chat.
 |  Katie Hogg  |  Artists

Sarah welcomes us to her studio. Her sanctuary from the outside world and the creative, nurturing space where some true magic is taking place every time her camera comes out. 

 

It’s a busy time with bookings now on the up following the lockdowns and an optimism in the air as families confidently plan ahead. Sarah’s studio is now fully operational again and her work with newborns in particularly high demand. 

“I’m just so pleased that everything has opened up again and I can get back to doing what I love most”, Sarah enthuses. 

“I’m seeing a mix of enquiries, mainly for newborn and babies, but also for child portrait work. People have an increasing curiosity in seeing how including the family pets might work, so animal portraits are also on the up – but believe me, babies are a lot easier to photograph!”, she laughs…

Sarah has been steadily building recognition for her portrait work, working largely in full colour with a beautifully serene and artistic flair, and now has a portfolio of clients and recommendations coming to her from all over the UK. She has carved a niche with style and a natural knack for sensing and capturing the best from each of her subjects. 

Successive awards from the Master Photographers Association and the Guild of Photographers, among others, have not only given her the confidence to keep developing artistically but a joy in knowing that her work is commanding the attention of fans both in the industry and families looking for something truly special that can take pride of place at home and evoke treasured memories for years to come. It has also given her a hunger to keep learning, improving and entering as many awards and accolades as she can. The thrill of entering and waiting to hear is something she relishes.

“I never in my wildest dreams expected to be in this position when I started out!”, she exclaims. “I didn’t plan from an early age to go into photography and I was never particularly artistic – although I am good with my hands and can decorate your house!” she laughs. 

“This has been a very natural and organic, gradual process that started tentatively due to personal circumstances and needing life/work balance and has become not just business but a real revelation for me as a passion and pastime.”

It was a chance discovery on some photography hobbyist sites and social media pages that started the photographic journey for Sarah. There was something about some of the photos that were being posted from other countries that really caught her eye and ignited something within her. This soon turned into fascination and she started to experiment herself with photography, using the forums as a perfect place for both critique and encouragement. 

“I was working as a nursery nurse at the time”, Sarah explains, adding “I’d had my second child and was struggling to afford childcare if I wanted to go back to work. 

“I’d been involved in photography for a while as an amateur and had been experimenting with style and fortunately receiving more and more praise online. I realised I might have a natural eye and skill for taking photos, in particular portrait work, and I thought well maybe it was something I could do, that I would enjoy, and still give me the work/life balance I needed with the kids and hopefully paying the bills as a single mum.”

Sarah decided to take the leap, enrolling in as many free business start-up courses as she could find, investing time and resources into learning photography skills and starting to build up key contacts who could help her. And with the support of a business grant, Sarah Wilkes Photography was born. 

“I honestly didn’t know how it would go, “she muses. “It was quite the gamble but stubbornness and genuinely wanting to succeed just kept driving me forward.

“I’d seen some really incredible photography work online of newborns that was very different to the usual styles we see in the UK and decided it was something I wanted to try and grow with and introduce as my niche.”

It was a gamble that paid off with Sarah slowly building a strong network of customers who were kind enough to recommend and many becoming repeats, all impressed with not only the way she was able to take beautifully serene photos of babies but the way in which she was able to connect with them and take the photos at the right time to achieve the most flattering angles and features. 

Photographing newborns and small children certainly seems like quite the task. We were keen to understand how Sarah is able to keep them still enough or engaged enough to relax for the portraits! 

Sarah explains “Once I had carved out a niche, I knew it wasn’t just a case of taking strong portraits, I needed my own USP. I realised that in order to take good photos and to build a relationship with families there needed to be not only trust but also a way in which I could soothe and calm the babies so they would be stlll or asleep during the photography session.

“With lighting, noise and unfamiliar surroundings this can be a challenge but I have spent a lot of time researching and learning newborn and baby sleeping patterns and stages, and understand how long I have in each stage to be able to take photos and at which point would portray them as most peaceful.

“What started as trying to find a way to differentiate myself from other photographers and create a bonding experience for everyone involved on the day has meant I can really capture the babies in the best light at the right time, and it’s earned me the nickname of ‘Baby Whisperer’!”, she laughs.

In between juggling life as a mum, walking her Weimaraner Storm and running her successful business, Sarah has discovered another passion in the form of organising the annual Newborn and Portrait Show. When we spoke to her Sarah was putting the final preparations in place for the 2021 edition held at the Heart of England Conference and Events Centre in Coventry in October.

“Working as a photographer can be quite isolated and lonely even at times”, Sarah explains. “I wanted to find something that would give me more of a convivial experience as I enjoy soclalising and the event just ticks all the boxes. 

“It’s great fun getting the trade exhibitors on board and organising their stands, and then on the day there are so many opportunities to network and swap ideas or experiences with other professionals. “

Sarah is also turning her attention to her next competition and award entries including preparing her project for the Guild of Photographers in 2022. 

In recent years Sarah has enjoyed tremendous success, including winning the coveted Portrait Photographer of the Year at the both the British Photography Awards and the Guild of Photographers, both in 2019, and having her image selected as Image of the Year in the latter’s Child Portraiture category. She also has a number of other Portrait and Portrait-Fine Art awards under her belt from the Master Photographers Association including the acclaimed Portrait Photographer of the Year in 2016 and Creative Photographer of the Year in 2017. 

Sarah also blocks aside some time each month for one-on-one sessions and workshops in portraiture and fine art and enjoys the coaching side of things. 

“I have people who come to me as professionals who want to explore new disciplines in photography and others who are just starting out or love photography as a hobby. 

“I suppose at some point I should look at giving myself some time to learn new techniques also”, she smiles. “I’m always trying to develop and improve, and I’d quite like to learn more about landscape work one day but for now I am happy embracing exactly what I do.”

For more information, visit: www.sarahwilkesphotography.co.uk 


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