Stuff I have learned about Photography and Other Animals...

Written by Nancy Lisa Phillips @ Nancy Lisa Barrett Photography

I write how I talk, in dribs and drabs, not pausing much for breath, saying things, which sometimes I wish I hadn’t and totally going off on a Ronnie Corbett tangent. I’ve tried to make this blog/bullet points interesting, but reading it back still sounds like a mishmash...BUT...if it helps one person to overcome a hurtful experience, to gain a bit of confidence, to learn something new, to start a business at the age of 50 whilst having chemo and never look back...then read on baby!!!!!!!!

Photo Theory at the Beginning

The exposure triangle flummoxed me, and no matter how much I listened to my tutor or watched videos, it wouldn’t sink in. Even to this day, the only way I can remember what aperture is that if I open my eye really wide it’s F1.8 and if I squint I’m at F22. So there you have it, the truth from dipstick central, haha! That’s how I remember it. I don’t know which is left and right either which is either here nor there haha...


When I first started out, I had a Canon Rebel and a nifty 50 lens and that was it. I zoomed with my feet, I got closer, I kept quiet, I learnt my subject. I learned to be inventive, to make-do, to improvise and to be a little bit marmite - before it became groovy and cool to say you were marmite.

I shot my first wedding with this camera and I shudder because it had one camera slot. I can’t even begin to think about if the card had got corrupted.

To say I was naive and stupid is an understatement. It was the one and only time I did it and luckily I got away with it. I would highly recommend NEVER doing this EVER!!!


The first christening I did, I walked down the church aisle and tried to take a photo and my camera wouldn’t work. One of the guests pointed out that I had my lens cap on. There was much merriment over this. I also fell over a vase of flowers a couple of hours later. Nerves eh!

Surprisingly, the family's photos were really good, I surprised myself, haha. I even got another booking from it and they booked me because I had the ability to laugh at myself and good god I would need that in years to come!


The very first wedding I did, I actually felt like I was going to keel over and faint. I don’t think I have ever felt as stressed out in my life, and I decided then and there it was like juggling bloody soot!!! I’d actually started off as a second shooter and thought, 'woot-woot, this is easy'... *shakes head and sighs*

Why is there ALWAYS a bloody know it all at weddings? This situation used to scare me and I always felt that they would suss me out for the fraud I felt I was. As I got more confident, I sought out that type of person and more often than not, I get them to assist me with lighting gear. I let them think they are right with everything and then add them on Facebook and blow them away with a cool shot or one they assisted me with.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was shooting a wedding, one of my Nikons just stopped working in the middle of the 'rings shot'. I just took my other camera off my holster and carried on. If this had happened a few years ago, I think I would have gone to pieces.

On another note, even though I have done many weddings, I NEVER take any shoot for granted. I have 3 cameras, my hubby has 2 - back up, back up, back up!


My first website (which is actually the one I have now - but it’s a lot better) has a guestbook on it, but it’s hidden nowadays. There is a message on there which I keep - because it keeps and has kept me on my toes for what feels like forever. The extract is below:


Don’t feel sorry for me - it’s my personal benchmark. It teaches me to never get big-headed, remember where I started, remember the mistakes and keep it real. In hindsight, I’d listened to too many of my non-photography friends over the years who told me my photos were: stunning, awesome, you should start a business etc etc...and none of it was true. The confidence thing took me a long time to overcome. I never ever feel that I am “all that” it’s not in my nature. I feel like that if I go in as the underdog, then I am no threat to anyone. Does that make sense?

Still on my website, after the message shenanigans above, I overhauled the whole site and my husband got 12 people who he knew (but didn’t know me) to review my site. All 12 people slated it and said in no uncertain terms why. I was so upset, and then I got angry. Then I calmed down and went through their comments, and ya know what? They were right. I changed it and a couple of weeks after that I got my first customer from Google. I was so flipping chuffed!!!

When we used to have lecturers come to our camera club and they used to say at the end, “Any questions?” I wanted to say, “Yes, yes, I want to know this, that and the other?” But I daren’t, I was afraid of coming across as a blithering idiot, so I never asked anything for years. How sad eh?

One of the main things we tell our students on our Photography Lessons & Workshops is that NO QUESTION IS STUPID, EVER!!!!! The reason I know this, is because I’ve most likely asked it before you!

It has taken me nearly 10 years to get confident, but I think that is a ‘me’ thing and not a general thing. I also think working for myself has helped me enormously. Also making silly mistakes has instilled in me, 'do not do that again Nance!'

I think that if you post a photo and you ask for critique, then you have to be prepared for the truth. Sometimes it hurts, but it will make you a better photographer - hopefully!

Years ago when I used to talk to other photographers (mostly male) they were never ever forthcoming about how they did something. They didn’t seem to make mistakes, they were super confident. But, as the years went by, they did confide in me and say, they felt the same as me. Some even felt intimidated by me and some felt that you should learn by your own mistakes and not have it easy. Funny old world eh?

I hope this has been enlightening, entertaining, helpful and non-boring blog piece...

Warm regards, Nancy - aged 53 and a half - #fromlancashirewithlove

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