New Feature: Inspirational Women in Business #1 ~ Natalie J Watts, Wedding and Fashion Photographer…

This is a new feature that I'll be running every Friday lunch time.  Brides to be may be interested in this if they sense anything of a budding entrepreneur inside – like I know many of you do.  Otherwise, you might want to pop back later this afternoon for more wedding goodness…

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Back in October, when I was probably at my peak of starting to feel totally overwhelmed and stressed out, a rather new friend of mine offered me some space in her London abode – a few days to be away from all the distractions, de-clutter my mind and get back on track.  The newish friend has since become one of my very dear friends who I credit with literally changing my life! Had I not been given the opportunity to step away from things, I might have crumbled under the pressure.  Things had been tough for weeks and it was time to get a grip and move forward.

It occurred to me during those few precious days away in London how inspired I have been this year by so many positive women.  I once read someone say, Madonna possibly, that once you become successful at something, positivity tends to gravitate towards you.  Well I don't mean to sit here and blow my own trumpet, but Love My Dress has been such a success so far, and it dawned on me last October how I suddenly feel surrounded by so many positive female influences; women who I would never have met had it not been for my leap of faith into self employment to develop Love My Dress as a top UK wedding blog resource…

Love My Dress Wedding Blog – Photography Copyright (c) 2011, Natalie J. Watts

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These women have shown me kindness and warmth in ways I didn't know possible. They have inspired me along my journey to be a better wife, mother and a successful business owner.   I love hearing about their own experiences and so I asked a few of these ladies a couple of months ago if they would mind sharing their stories with my readers.

As a result of this, today I'd like to launch a new weekly feature, 'Inspirational Women in Business',  which I hope will inspire my readers – be you Brides and budding entrepreneurs like me or just plain curious about how someone else has achieved personal success and established their own business.  I particularly want this series of interviews to offer inspiration to people in a position I was once; working Mum's perhaps, who find themselves unhappy in a job they found entirely unrewarding – to help them believe that change is possible through positive thinking, hard work and determination.

I'd like to start this new series off by focusing on a relative unknown in the wedding industry, a Photographer who stole my heart last year with her sensationally styled and photographed fashion shoot images, some of which I'll be featuring in this interview.  Her name is Natalie J. Watts, and I think she has a really interesting and inspiring story to tell about how she came to be her own boss.

That's Natalie below left there with her friend Shell Lewis from Something Kinda Cute vintage inspired stationery.  Let's get to know her a little better shall we? 🙂


*Stands up* Hello!  My name is Natalie J. Watts and I'm a Photographer. I shoot both weddings and also a lot of fashion – editorial, commercial, portrait, you name it!


How did you get in to photography?

Santa brought me my first camera for Christmas when I was 7 – thanks Santa! …and I took a LOT of photos growing up. I was always the one with the camera and my friends would often comment on how many photos I took, but it seemed natural for me to be doing so.

Granted, at that age I mostly used photography as a means for documenting life, as I did when I was 18 and my son, Danny {below left} was born…


I never wanted to be a stereotypical 'teenage mum' and knew that I could give both my son and myself a better life, so as soon as Danny was old enough I went to college part time for a year. I enjoyed it so much that I went on to do a foundation degree in fine art, specialising in analogue photography and self-portraiture…


This led me to earn a place at my first-choice Uni, where I studied for a BA (Hons) degree in Photography whilst shooting for local magazines, companies and models. I graduated with a 2:1 in 2007 and the rest, so they say, is history…


When did you realise you wanted to run your own business?

I have NEVER been one to be told what to do and from a very young age I couldn't see a career with me having to answer to someone. I would sit in career adviser classes at school and the thought of having a boss stifled me.

Since I graduated, I've worked at (for 2 years, running the Stills Photography studio – man, I miss those sample sales!) and 14 months at as Studio Manager (and Stylist, Art Director, Shoot Producer and Photographer, all rolled into one!), along with shooting freelance on the side…



At the 'day job' I always felt trapped and claustrophobic, yet photographing for myself and for clients really gave me a buzz. I realised that being a freelance photographer, though extremely hard to break into, would allow me to support my family, spend more time with my family along with satisfying my burning desire for creativity. I always knew that I would end up being freelance, the only question was 'When?'.

Obviously, being a single parent living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, financially it wasn't a viable option to have my own business and I wanted to save up at least a couple of months rent before taking the leap. In the end, a horrid boss of mine pushed me over the edge and I handed in my resignation without a thought and without the next month's money. I'm always a big believer in that everything happens for a reason and there is a right time for things. This felt like the right time and, in the 14 months that I've been fully-freelance, everything *touch wood* is going great!


I've recently 'properly' started my wedding photography business, as an offshoot to my fashion photography. I kept being asked to shoot weddings and always politely declined, as my main focus was fashion photography. Although I had shot a few weddings over the years for friends, it wasn't until I shot a wedding for a lovely couple that I realised how much this genre of photography means to people. I received a HUGE bouquet of flowers (two vases-full huge!) and I sat and cried.

The appreciation of wedding photography is very different to that of fashion photography – it's much more personal and for that reason I decided to pursue setting up a second photography business…

From "Two Fabulous Frocks for a Vintage Loving, Artist Bride" below…

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How did you approach setting up your own business?

 Hmm, this is a toughie, as breaking into the fully-freelance world was both four years in the making and also an overnight decision!I was very lucky to get a job in fashion and photography very soon after graduating, and during my years working full-time I met some wonderful people to network with. I also shot wherever possible, to build up my portfolio – lunchtimes, evenings, weekends, every spare minute was taken up with shoot preparation, shooting and retouching.

Honestly, it was exhausting but I knew that was what I needed to do to establish myself as a photographer. Thankfully, setting up my wedding photography business was easier, as I already had a reputation as a fashion photographer, though regardless, it was still hard work, as the two fields are very different markets…



I had to almost start from scratch and offered a couple of weddings at a lower rate, to both build on my portfolio and reputation. Yes, there were the material things like having a logo and business cards designed (props to my good friend Something Kinda Cute {love ya lady!} and having a website built, but one of the main things with wedding photography is getting people to know about your work.

I'm still in the early stages of this second business, and it's very exciting. Regarding marketing myself, social media has always been a biggie for my fashion photography so I took the same route and set up a wedding photography Facebook and Twitter – and submitted images to blogs.  I've also had stalls at a couple of vintage wedding fairs, as this is the target audience I want to market to and the weddings this genre generates are just simply breathtaking…


What would you say are the essential skills required to run your own business successfully?

 One of the main things to be successful has to be motivation. When you're working for yourself, it's very easy to procrastinate (hell, I can talk!) and you need to constantly be on the ball with not only be doing the work but also scouting out new work and networking at the same time. It also helps to be good at multitasking – oh, the amount of times I've been cooking dinner whilst also on the phone to a client and setting up image transfers *Mum, is dinner ready yet?!*.

Above all, the main thing I'd say is that you need to have a positive attitude. Everything happens for a reason, and if you didn't get that big job or magazine feature, try not to dwell on it and focus ahead to the next great thing around the corner. Remember, you're freelance because you love what you do!




What is your biggest business lesson learned so far?

Believe in yourself! You really can do anything you set your mind and heart to, so if you want to do something then go for it!

How do you cope being a Mummy as well as a business owner?

Personally, I try to include my son in my work as much as possible. As it's just me and him at home, it's important to me that my photography world isn't alien to him from our home life. If I take him to shoots, I make sure he's introduced to all the team and models and is happily settled before I start working. Thankfully I often work with the same people, so he knows them already and is immediately more at ease with a sea of people and half-naked models! I've also got a spare camera, so I let him play around with that, teaching him the settings for taking behind the scenes images, so that he feels included in the shoot. I also ask him to help with light set-ups and standing in as my model for light tests, which he loves.

Natalie with her son Danny below…


Away from shoots, there is a LOT of work I have to do at home – processing, file transfers, emails, phone calls, retouching – it's not all glitz and glamour! Of course, this is hard when he wants to talk to me, so I have to (regularly) explain that my working day doesn't end at the 3.30pm school run. I talk to him a lot about what I'm doing work-wise and he comes with me to meet wedding clients, although he is pacified by the promise of tea and cake. Or maybe that's just an excuse for me to have some…?

Often, I ask his opinion on which looks best when retouching and show him tips, which he's really interested in. A couple of days ago he asked if some time soon I can set up the computer for him to play around and retouch an image, which made my heart melt. It's not all work, work, work though – we regularly have 'film nights' and go to visit galleries and museums on weekends, as well as exploring London. On a recent trip to Edinburgh, it was ME waiting for HIM as he took photographs around the castle!


What tips do you have for balancing work/personal and family time? Although it's important to concentrate on each individually, try to combine the two where possible, so your children understand when mummy has work to do, both at home and away. It's also good to dedicate 'family time' to do something special together.

Yes you may work hard, but, after all, if you can't spend more time with your family, why be your own boss in the first place? It's also good to attend any special school events – this week I had to turn down a £400 celebrity photoshoot as my son had a school biography exhibition on his recently-passed Grandad, but the smile on his face to see me there was well worth it.


What advice would you give other women looking to become a self-employed business person/photographer?

Above all, keep building your portfolio. It will help you find yourself a 'style' that people can relate to. Whether it be with client work or personal projects, it's the best way of keeping your work fresh and at the forefront of peoples' minds.

Constantly push yourself by trying new techniques and ideas – this is all one huge learning curve and you might surprise yourself! Try to establish yourself as much as possible in your chosen industry before taking the big leap to self-employment and if possible save a little, for a rainy day. Think of it as a safety net, though don't rely on it – your own hard work and talent will get those bills paid!


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Books/magazines you are reading now? Oh, how I wish I had more time to read than I do… Alas, the only time I get to read is if I get the tube to a shoot or meeting and manage to grab the Metro or Stylist. I used to read a lot as a child and Danny also loves reading – he's currently reading 'Lord Of The Rings'. I find it hard to start and finish a novel, simply because, despite every good intention, my mind is racing at a thousand miles an hour and at the end of the day I need to give my eyes a rest before getting to bed at a suitable hour.

I do read lots of online blogs though, both fashion and wedding, as they're fantastic for inspiration.

Music you are listening to now? I only listen to music when I'm retouching or shooting, as the rest of the time I either have to concentrate on emails and shoot enquiries or already have a little nattering voice in the background! When I'm shooting I have to listen to upbeat music, as it brings a great energy and pace to shoots and keeps everyone smiling. I love to dance while I'm shooting! I have no shame in admitting that my preferences are 80's tunes and anything from old Madonna and Bon Jovi, to the Baseballs (love that swing music!) and Johnny Cash. When I'm retouching, it really depends on my mood and my playlist features an eclectic mix of cheese, rock and classical.

I'm very impatient so listening to music while I retouch helps keep me sat in that seat!

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Your Top 3 – 5 'Do's' as a self employed professional business lady?

1) DO keep positive – you're amazing and what you do is wonderful, so keep your head up during the quiet periods.

2) DO keep yourself visible online – social media is such a huge marketing tool these days, so keep posting those updates and tweets to keep your business current.

3) DO set yourself goals – every year, give yourself something new to accomplish and this ambition will keep driving your business forward.

4) DO love what you do – if you are passionate about the area you work in, it will show through for others to see and remember.


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Thank you so much  Natalie for taking the time to share a little bit of your story with my readers, which I hope will inspire them 🙂

To find out more about Natalie's wedding photography services, click here – and remember Natalie is on Facebook and Twitter too.

You can expect to see many more interviews here each Friday lunch time over the next few weeks – I have some real treats line up in store for you!  In the meantime, it would be great to have some feedback below…  as a Bride to be have you been touched by the entrepreneurial bug? Have you got your own business already and are you keen to learn more about how other people have done it? Are you a working Mum like Natalie and I? How do you cope with the work/life balance?

Much love,



Annabel View all Annabel's articles

Founder of Love My Dress. Passionate Podcaster and Editor. Annabel lives in rural North Yorkshire with her husband and business partner Philip, their two daughters and menagerie of furry hounds. She loves photography, meditation, walking, being outdoors and star gazing. She is fierce when it comes to championing talent within the wedding industry and when she's not working on Love My Dress, she supports her husband Philip in the running of the family's sustainable flower farm and floral design business, Moonwind Flowers. In 2013, she became a published author.