An Interview with Natasha Ince

March 9, 2020

I am delighted to introduce Natasha Ince, an incredible photographer based in the West Midlands, who’s work I am sure you will have seen, with her distinctive style and complete love of Maternity. Natasha has not surprisingly won many awards and is passionate about empowering women.

Natasha it is wonderful to feature you here at RISE and excited to find out more of your journey.

RISE: You have been an accomplished photographer for many years, but tell us, how did your photography journey begin? 

I have had a video camera since the age of 11. My Mom always took lots of videos and photos of us as children to capture our lives, so naturally when I could get my hands on one I began my creations. I especially loved making films with my sisters and cousins, where I would direct them and write the scripts. I started using a little digital camera of my Moms when I was around 12 years old. I was always that child in school that used to go around taking photos of everyone (and never actually be in any myself) then airbrushing them really badly as I had no idea how to edit properly haha!

I was always going to be a singer, songwriter or actress… all paths lead to that career for me. I had been entering talent shows up and down the country, on and off television since I was 4 years old and finally received a singing scholarship to one of the best theatre schools in London (Sylvia Young Theatre School) when I was 12. I left my family and friends to pursue my singing and lived with different families across London, travelling to and from school on the tube and on trains; I really had to grow up as I had to do this on my own without my parents. I would go to auditions, be in shows, appear in films and sing in cabarets and it was a dream come true… I believed that would be my life! The people who attended the school were all very much like me; big personalities, theatrical and had a commitment to make something of themselves.

Everything about my photography screams

‘The Stage’

My style of photography very much follows this trend of theatrics. The dramatic lighting, the styling, the posing, everything about my photography screams ‘The Stage’. Performing has always been my life. I might not have been lucky enough to make it into the recording industry, but somehow I have found an even bigger calling… my mission to empower women.

RISE: Was Maternity and Newborn, a genre that had always interested you? 

When I was 17 years old, my first job was (most British photographers cringe at the name) at a place called Pixi Foto. It was a massive chain of little pop up photography studios all around the UK in the Mothercare Stores. I knew I loved photography plus I really wanted to pay for driving lessons as being an independent woman was a must, so when I saw an advert for a ‘Photographer- No Experience Necessary’ I knew I was going to get that job. Later I was to find out, it wasn’t really about the photography at all, but mostly about budgets, sales and promoting (something I wasn’t so fond of). I used to be a good sales person, working my way up to Manager within a couple of years and training up a team, but I admit the pressure was so much to hit targets and budgets that I sometimes used to cry before I went into work. I knew I had to get out because my creativity was getting lost.

At Pixi, we used to shoot all ages of children, newborns up to teenagers (not very well though!) so I taught myself how to pose properly (as we weren’t given any training to actually pose these tiny humans) We were given a 15 minute time slot to take the photos, 15 minutes to edit and half an hour to sell them. I used to look at newborn photography from America and just be wowed by how incredible it was. I knew I wanted to create images like those but had no idea how.

Something then happened with my singing career and I was supposed to be signed to a record label in London, but it fell through. I had had many things like that happen throughout the years and this time it was the last straw, and I just couldn’t take the disappointment anymore. I had bee told to leave my job and no money coming in to pay my bills, so I just set up a pop up studio in my Mom & Dad’s living room; extremely basic- white background, a few different props, awful lighting etc. People then started coming and within 3 months my family told me I had to get a studio because I had gotten so busy. I managed to secure a room above an indoor market in Dudley Town Centre (not the snazziest of places haha). I carried on shooting newborns-teenagers but really wanted to focus on newborns and knew if I was going to make something of myself, I HAD to get training.

I then got in contact with an amazing photographer called Rob Mank. He agreed to come to my studio and teach me how to light properly. For years I had just been bouncing my light off the ceiling with no idea what a lighting pattern was. Rob changed my life. He brought my lights on my credit card and my whole style of photography changed instantly. He gave me tools to create what I had always wanted to create in my head and take what he taught me and make it my own.

I then knew the next step was to be able to pose newborns better and safely, so I found the incredible Sarah Wilkes and went to my first newborn workshop. She was just mind blowing; watching how she handles the babies was a dream! She taught me so much and I will forever be grateful to her.

I was shooting maternity as well but had no real passion for it… until I got pregnant myself. For some reason, when I had my own maternity photos done, they just weren’t me. There was no drama, glamour, sex… they were beautiful, but not what I was thinking in my head. So, I called my Mom up and said “Make me a red lace dress. I want to look sexy pregnant.” AND THAT WAS THE START!!!! I created this genre where women were ALLOWED to look sexy pregnant!!! Everything I saw was nice, sweet, innocent… but I wanted daring and glamorous.. I wanted to go to the dark side 🙂

RISE: You have the most stunning gowns and fabrics that feature in your images, can you tell us more about how you decide the look you want to achieve in your shoots?

So the first dress I ever had was from my Mom. She made me a red lace dress and gave me some soft tulle fabric and that was all I used. My friend Maggie Robinson and myself then found some of the beautiful gowns from Mii-Estilo and I KNEW I needed them in my life. I invested in 3 dresses, a petrol blue colour lace mermaid tulle gown, a lace green gown and a purple lace gown. I used them all the time and my customers fell in love (as did I). From the moment of receiving those dresses, my creativity grew so much, I started having the most crazy ideas that now seem pretty normal in comparison! haha.

So I do have a lot of dresses in a lot of different colours, so when a client comes in, I like to firstly see if there are any dresses or styles they would like to try, but normally I just decide for them. If they have red hair I love to used blues, greens and nudes, if they are brunette I like to use reds and darker colours, blondes greens and yellows, darker skin lighter colours, lighter skin darker colours… I could go on and on and on. I just like to have fun! That’s the name of the game, to have fun with your ladies. Try things out… some things will work and some things wont, but that is the beauty of it.

I never go into any session with a plan, everything is spontaneous; I work much better this way. You never know what is going to happen when you’re excited and your creativity isn’t held down by workflow. Newborns are different as I do stick to more of a structure with those, but with Maternity or Mamma & Me I do just kind of turn up at the studio and see what happens. I always want to create something different and magical. I have my regular poses I would always do, but then I like to change them slightly to see if it makes them better.

RISE: Your Mama & Me sessions are also a beautiful thing, with the children looking as serene as their Mama, do you find this a balancing act to get just the right moment?

My Mamma & Me sessions are extremely popular. I LOVE them. I usually tell the Moms to ignore what the child or baby is doing and that I will sort that out. I always concentrate on the Mom because if the Mom looks good, they will love the image. The child will look beautiful whatever they are doing (unless they are screaming haha) so even a look at the camera, a smile or a look at Mamma then it will be perfect- it’s the Mom’s you have to spend more time on because we are all stuck in a time of filters, duck lips and fake smiles. Usually it’s little things like telling them to close their eyes, then opening them just before you take the shot, kissing the kids (because it’s always done with love and the emotion is real) or looking at their child. I get them to copy my facial expression too- I act like a mirror, that works well too.

RISE: There is no denying your unique style, did this take long for you to find your feet and how long do you spend on editing your images? 

A lot of what you see, the lighting, the posing etc is in getting it right in camera. You never want to have to ‘fix’ an image but only ‘enhance’ it. I always make magic with the hair, the dress etc, maybe putting Mom into a slightly more dramatic pose (as that’s very hard to do when pregnant) but the key is to be quite self critical. The more you criticise yourself, the better you get.. the more you see how you can achieve perfection. Women are great at photographing women because we know ourselves what we love and hate, what parts of our bodies bother us etc. We see ourselves in the client and that’s where you can find the beauty THEY want to see in themselves.

Editing is very much the same with striving for perfection. I don’t believe in making someone not look like theirselves. Yes I make their hair bigger, maybe add a couple of inches (because they aren’t wearing heels) and make the dress look impeccable, but apart from that, it’s good lighting and posing that really makes them into a Goddess.

I can spend from 10 minutes to 1 hour editing an image- it depends on what I am doing and what they are wearing. If I am editing a nude image with nothing much to enhance then that photo can be finished quickly but if I am piecing together 4 different images of a waving scarf to make one final image, then that can take a lot longer. I know what I love and I am sticking to it whether it takes me forever haha. It took me a few years to get a proper editing workflow but now I have it down. I edit every single image, whether it be newborn, maternity or family in exactly the same way. The routine has definitely helped me speed up this process but then I am such a perfectionist I always find little things I want to improve. I am glad I have other photographer friends who are awake in the early hours I can chat to whilst getting my work done!

RISE: Do you work with a styling team on your shoots?

When I work with clients, I usually just work by myself. The odd client will book in with my MUA, but usually they come with their own make up on and I just work with it. If I am doing a project for myself (which I try to do a few times a year) I work with my favourite MUA Britney Bennett (@ eclipctic.equinox) and hair stylist Morgan Flannery (@thecolourqueen20). Dresses and material I would choose myself. I always just go with the flow.

RISE: How important is it for you to offer printed products and see your art in print? 

There is nothing more incredible than seeing your work in print. That is a fact. The problem I have is time. I have just had another baby who has recently turned one and I have another son who is 4 years old so they have basically taken over any free time I used to have. I also do some weddings on weekends (videography as well) so my time is extremely limited in between school picks ups, editing, shooting and baby napping etc. I would love to do more in person sales, but at the moment my packages are all-inclusive and that works for me. Most of my clients do order some kind of prints or wall art, but usually I get it sent straight to their house so they send me photos once they receive it. It’s one part of my process I would love to change and some day I will. There is nothing better than seeing an image 30×40 inches in the most beautiful acrylic and it is very important- but for me, sadly it’s time I don’t have. I have lots of images up printed in the studio though up 50 inches and every time I walk in, I am proud of what I have achieved.

RISE: How do you keep your inspiration fresh?

In regards to inspiration, one of my most passionate things in my career is to be different. I thrive on being unique. I get a lot of other photographers that like to take inspiration from me which is amazing and a massive compliment, only it’s never long after I post something that someone posts the same thing… so I am always kept on my toes. It’s important to think of the next thing, get a backdrop no one has, bring something back into fashion, get a dress in a colour no one would choose, use a random prop… just try something new.

I am of course inspired by other photographers but I would never full on copy anyone with my Maternity images. I want to be the creator, not the copier. I want to be inspired but not take someone else’s credit. It is important to always try your hardest to be creative because we are in a creative industry after all. Work hard and be passionate. It’s amazing to delve into the deepest parts of your mind and pull something out that may never have existed before- isn’t that what we all really want to achieve? I am a little crazy and I do believe that helps…

RISE: What are your thoughts on professional qualifications?

Professional qualifications are great if you want to better yourself and you’re not quite sure where to start. I myself have never been to College or University to learn, I have always just tried to get the experience myself by getting out there and shooting, seeing what I love, finding out where my passions lie. If I don’t know how to do something I will research it online or find a training course by someone else who has the experience I don’t yet have.

We are in a creative industry so go out and

be creative.

It’s so much better to learn by making mistakes than being told what’s right or what’s wrong. Yes there are rules you have to follow (lighting, focus etc) but once you know the ground rules you are able to use them to build and then break them if you know how to successfully. I wanted to shoot, so I went out and photographed everything I could. We are in a creative industry so go out and be creative. Let the world be your classroom.

Competitions are a great way to learn. Judges do have personal tastes and different societies like different things and that’s fine, but once you hear someone picking apart your image, you remember it forever and it instantly makes you grow (right after you get defensive and a bit mad about it haha). Being passionate and defensive about my images isn’t something I will apologise for. Most of the time I understand the critique and other times I don’t agree, but either way, these comments WILL make you a better photographer. Be brave and enter, if you saw what I entered into The Guild Of Photographers in 2014, you would laugh your heads off. The journey has so far been incredible.

RISE: You also train other photographers, what made you want to share and inspire others?

So, the industry only grows if everyone grows. The best photographers only get better when other photographers become better and training other photographers is my little contribution to the industry. I have done a few training courses myself and learnt something from each one of them, so the knowledge I can pass onto other people trying to better themselves is humbling.

However, giving all you know to another person in the same profession is hard. It’s not easy to give away years and years of hard work in 8 hours. These images I create do not just come from how I shoot… it’s so much more than learning how I pose, light and edit; these images are created from where I have been as a child, what my teenage dreams were, my first love, the people I surround myself with, my family and my dark places… these images aren’t just made from thin air or because I know how to light a person correctly, they are made from my history.

RISE: If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self when starting out, what would it be?

You can be amazing you but just need to realise it. Take the criticism and make your work better. There is always someone more incredible around the corner but never be sad about that; that will just make you stronger. Women are the bearer of children, women are the roots of this Earth- this is what I want to show the world. Finally, put your heart and soul into what YOU love and YOU can make a difference to someone.

RISE: What are your future plans within your photography career?

I plan to become a better photographer. I plan to visit more countries and train more people. I hope my photography can make women feel empowered for many, many years to come and inspire other women to do the same. Find the Goddess in every women and your work will always continue to matter.

Natasha it has been an absolute pleasure finding out more about you and your stunning work.

You can connect with Natasha below and find out more of her stunning work and workshops

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