Gemma Birbeck tells us about why, self taught, she founded her own photography company and why a birthday present with a note saying “don’t waste your talent” spurned a business inspired by passion.
What do you currently do?
I am the founder and director of Leuly Photography by night (and weekend for that matter), and by day I am a PR Account Executive at Faith PR. I founded Leuly Photography early 2018 rather unexpectedly, following a volunteering role at Aireborough RUFC, where I still sit on the committee as a PR and Communications Manager. I offer bespoke photography packages based on a client’s budgets and individual requirements.
For me photography isn’t just taking a photo, it’s telling a story and turning that story into a visual memory. As a self-taught photographer, I aim to capture a unique image rather than following the standard text book rules.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
I’d always been passionate about photography since I was a child, and you can guarantee I was that annoying girl taking photos wherever I went. For my 30th birthday, my sister bought me a DSLR and with it was a note that read “don’t waste your talent”. I knew she was right, but I had limited technical knowledge, not enough for me to build a business anyway!
So, I began volunteering in the community at events and rugby matches, and spent hours watching various YouTube ‘how to’ videos. Following that I began building connections, and offering free photoshoot’s to build up a portfolio, and of course developed a Facebook business page. Much to my surprise, after only 3 months I was contacted to ask if three of my photos could be used in a local publication.
That right there was when it happened. I found myself being booked for weddings, gigs, charity events, prom evenings, family shoots and more recently I was able to photograph the wonderful Paralympic swimmer Elizabeth Wright. This photo actually made picture of the week in my local newspaper!
The biggest break I’m about to experience however, is an upcoming photoshoot at the Insider Magazine roundtable event in December. Looking back to where I was 12 months ago, I can’t quite believe how much I have achieved.
What defines your way of doing business?
Keep your sense of humour and never be afraid to grab opportunities.
Most importantly, I always keep in mind that without clients, I wouldn’t have a business, so it’s crucial that I listen to their needs and adapt my packages accordingly. I always arrange a face to face meeting with a potential client to understand their personality, and also to let them see mine. I’m not afraid to be human, the bigger rapport I can build with a client, the more comfortable they will be around the camera.
What do you admire?
To me the most admirable people are those who are able to build an enterprise from nothing, and become successful, yet remain humble and understand that we all were once just juniors amongst the crowds. Something my father said to me as a child has always stuck with me through my career; “Be nice to those you meet on the way up, as you never know who you will meet on the way down.”
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
Yes and No. In some ways, its easier if you don’t make mistakes, but on the flip side of that, how would we learn what not to do? I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason, and that includes the wrong choices we make. I do often wish I’d not eaten that second helping of cake after dinner though, or had that extra wine on an evening, but hey let’s get back to business.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Don’t let fear and doubt cloud stop you from following your dreams. If you truly believe that something is worth the investment, use your determination to succeed. Remaining passionate will guide you through any obstacles.
It’s not an easy path, but it’s a path worth taking. One thing that really helped me was identifying where I was, where I wanted to be, and how I was going to get there. This formed my business plan and continues to help my career progress. Having a clear plan and setting yourself goals allows you to grab hold of the rope should you wobble a little.