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Online Dating Photographer – Interview with Saskia Nelson
You can view Saskia’s photography on her new website Saturday Night’s Alright.
First off thanks for giving up some of your time to talk about what you do and the opportunity to showcase your work.
We love that your online dating portrait photos are able to convey so much about each individual, from their personality and attitude to their style and posture. Is it challenging to coax clients out of their shell or do you find most people’s walls come down pretty quickly?
I always try and meet my clients for a coffee before the day or at the very least just before the shoot so that we have a chance to get to know each other without a big camera coming between us. I then ask lots of questions and get them to open up about where they live, what they do, their dating history, what interests they have etc so that I can start to build a picture of them in my head. Some clients may have a vision of the kind of images they want so we spend some time talking through that. I also talk them through how I work so that they know what to expect on the shoot.
To answer your question I would say that after the first 15 minutes most clients start to relax and really enjoy themselves. I make it my priority to try and get them as relaxed as possible and aim to have us both laughing quite quickly into a shoot. They arrive looking like they’ve come for a dentist appointment, with fear in their eyes, but usually leave having had an awesome time…
How did you make the make the leap into online dating portrait photography and what do you enjoy most about it?
Before I became a pro photographer, I started off doing model lookbooks for free to gain experience working with real people (I have a whole series of work starring gorgeous shop mannequins believe it or not). I enjoyed it so much I knew I wanted to start a business as a portrait photographer. I read loads about starting up in business and one of the things that stuck in my head was the need to identify your USP or niche. I decided that this seemed like a good opportunity to put all my years of online dating to good use. My experience means I know what photos work and don’t work and I can empathise with the journey my clients are about to undertake which they really appreciate. Plus I love being London’s only online dating photographer, if not the world’s.
Locations are agreed prior to each shoot but how much of what happens on the day is an instinctive process where you collaborate with the client in ways you hadn’t planned?
Each shoot is a completely unique experience and a lot depends on the connection between the client and I, which is why it’s so important to try and meet them beforehand if possible. As each client is so different, I’m always very open and flexible in my approach to working with them to ensure I get the shots I need.
Most dating sites advise people to post photos of themselves smiling yet quite a few of your photos show more reflective moods. Do you think showing authenticity’s more important than smiling when it comes to online dating portrait photos?
I think the main profile photo needs to be a smiling photo but beyond that I think it’s quite useful to show other sides to your personality if you want to keep things real. In one of my partner’s dating photos, I saw a real sadness in his eyes and I found myself drawn to that. He became more real to me.
Do you see people making the same kind of mistakes choosing photos for their online dating profile?
Yes! Online dating sites are full of blurry, poorly lit photos with lots of background noise and often more than one person in the picture. Or you still see those terrible bathroom selfies. Or the one with the girlfriend’s arm cropped out. Or….I could go on. Just no.
What advice would you give someone wanting to put the best possible pictures on their dating profile?
Book me! No seriously, find some good quality photos, which are in focus, well-lit and make you look attractive and happy. If you don’t have any like that, ask a friend with a good camera or even an iPhone and a steady hand to take some photos of you outdoors in good light that show you relaxed and happy. Get them to snap you doing something you enjoy if all else fails.
Your website mentions you spotted your boyfriend on Guardian Soulmates (congrats!) – what were some of the positives and negatives you experienced on your sojourn with online dating?
Well thank you. It was a long old journey to finding love but I made it. What helped me through was that I made the decision to make it an enjoyable, light-hearted experience. So even when things went wrong I saw the funny side and used to entertain my friends and family with all my stories. I still laugh to myself about some of the dates I went on. I have met some great people though and am still friends on Facebook with some of them. (Saying that, there are others that I would cross the street to avoid if I saw them coming lol)
Who are some of the photographers or artists that have inspired your work or who you’d like to point people towards?
Oh man, I am inspired by so many photographers. But my current favourites are Ali Mitton, Ellen Von Unwerth, Cass Bird (total girl crush on her) and Bella Howard. All women! I also love Nick Onken if I had to name a guy, lol.
For the camera geeks among us – what equipment do you use on your portrait shoots?
My Canon 7D is my baby, I love it, although I’m upgrading to a Canon 5D soon because I just can’t resist it. I use the 50mm 1.4 prime lens predominantly (using my legs as the zoom). I also have a zoom lens 17mm – 50mm, a reflector and a Speedlite 430EXll. I shoot behind the scenes stuff on my iPhone. You don’t need expensive equipment to take good photos, just some quality light, a steady hand and a creative eye.
How can people get in touch with you if they’d like to hire you for an online dating portrait session?
Email is best as I’m often out on location. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s meet for that coffee!
Saskia’s most popular package is The Revamp which includes 60 minutes shooting time, at different locations and a choice of 6 of the best 12 images lightly retouched and presented as digital files. For more details visit Saturday Night’s Alright.