An incredible family photographer, mother, mentor & podcast host, we spoke to Sophie Lea about her work in the photography industry and what inspires her most. Read on for some of Sophie's best learnings post-covid and her top tips for breaking into the world of photography. Follow Sophie on Instagram @sophieleaphotography
Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey of how you fell into photography to now, not only owning a successful business but embarking on this journey of mentoring other individuals in starting their own businesses.
I am a 38-year-old mother of 3, a wife and a business owner. I've lived in Sydney almost all of my life and studied photography at school, which is where I fell deeply in love with imagery. The darkroom was my retreat from a very busy school life, and a list of subjects I regretted choosing. It was my time out, my safe space and a dark solitude that I didn't feel replicated anywhere else in my life.
I continued to follow my love through TAFE, where I studied photography full time but it was working in studios, where I learnt so much. The good and the bad. I grew my knowledge of photography, but more importantly, people. The studios opened me up to so many different situations, families and workspaces. It was like the ultimate crash course and I was there for all of it. It was in studios that I dreamt of teaching in a way of love and support. Cultivating a support system for photographers when I was only seeing competition and fear. But for the next 8 years, I worked for other businesses and starting my family was the catalyst for starting Sophie Lea Photography, and we really have never looked back.
How does your photography relate to your personality and who you are?
My photography is an idealist. It's how I get to live out and capture what I love about myself and what I adore in others. It's how I romanticized motherhood and how I dreamed it would be. In reality, it's much more complicated, messy, hard, and tearful. But in images, I get to encapsulate the dreamy minute moments that somehow spur us on. So I guess it's the hopeless optimist in me that comes through my photography.
Covid was a difficult time for the photography industry, what was your biggest learning from those two years?
That you can grow your business even if you aren't allowed to operate. Sounds so wild but I saw so many 'closed' attitudes from people in my position. But I used the time to grow my audience, support others and give back. My business grew so beautifully in a time when it was being squashed. I was negotiating rent, had children homeschooling and a toddler at home. There was no harder time for myself, my family or my business but mindset always proves to be the secret sauce. And I kept mine in check, through routine, meditation (alongside a fair bit of wine and tears) but I was dedicated to not being a victim. And this was my biggest lesson. You cannot shrink and you are not invincible. But your power is in how you get back up.
What are 3 pieces of advice for someone wanting to secure a full-time job as a photographer?
- Get very clear on WHY you want to be a photographer and what you can bring that others aren't already bringing to your area.
- Use the education on offer. I had none available to me when I started. The only education was working for someone else. These days, you can tap into so many working photographers' brains - this can shrink your timeline and save you so much money in the long run.
- Get ready to get to know yourself! You will have to get used to self-reflection. This is a gift. You will get to know yourself so well running a business. Keep notes in a journal of how you respond to problems, learn from them and watch how you grow from them. Face the hard stuff, the hard conversations. THIS is where you learn. Not from rave reviews, but from honest - hard feedback.
You're not only a fashionista but you have amazing taste in interior design. Walk us through your style and thought process in designing your new home.
This house is very different to our previous so I didn't want to try and make it something that it wasn't. I leant into the colours and the feel that was already here. We have a glass splashback in the kitchen, which brings in a lot of green so I picked that up with furniture pieces and echoed this throughout the house. Our front room is our parents' retreat. I know. GOALS! So this was about feeling light, fresh and stress-free. A place to fall at the end of the day without a glimmer of a toy or coloured cup, a place to escape and pretend it's just us again.
I try to pick pieces based on feeling and go with that. I buy everything online, so I have to be diligent with measurements, but otherwise I just feel it or I don't. I trust my gut and that flows with everything in my life.
How do you practice sustainability in your everyday life?
With my business, we have a client wardrobe which 99% of my clients utilise for their sessions. This eliminates so many one-wear purchases, you would be amazed how many. We can reach over 300 sessions per year so it hits around 900+ pieces of clothing that may have been purchased and worn only for their photos. That's huge! So we are very proud of that.