A Wollongong mum has turned her passion for photography into a profession and embarked on a new creative career, starting her own business while studying at TAFE and stacking shelves at a supermarket.
Jennifer Brown had always enjoyed taking pictures but considered the artform more of a hobby until a few years ago when she decided to make a change and did something new for herself.
“I got made redundant in my past life and sort of lost my way a little bit when I became a full-time mum and caring for my little ones and husband at home,” Jennifer said.
“I did a little online course and then was able to develop my skills while I was at home full-time taking photos of my kids, because that was really important to me at that time when they were little, and from there I realised that I wanted to take it further.”
She took an all-in approach to improve her craft and to give herself the best chance of launching a successful business.
“I really wanted to make a go of this actual photography business, I invested pretty much all of the money from my supermarket job to purchase good quality equipment to really make a go of it,” Jennifer said.
“Then there was this opportunity through TAFE because they had these free courses available, and I was at the point of putting my littlest into Kindy this year that it has allowed me to come part time.”
But despite positive feedback and returning clients, she still needed a little push before she started charging for her work.
“That was really a big clincher for me where I realised either I’m always going to dabble and do sort of nothing and people will keep getting freebie little photo shoots because I’ll just keep saying that I’m practising all the time and it came from people saying, ‘You really should be charging for this work’.
“It was almost like I just needed that little external approval to go.”
And she’s already accruing a satisfied client base with happy customers such as Lien Mai from Mailienco helping spruik her skills and spread the word.
“She is very professional and very approachable which made the shoot fun and natural,” Lien said. “I love my photos and have recommended her to other business owners.”
While she’s still exploring all opportunities that come her way, Jennifer said her passion was with businesses and brands, and creating something from scratch in the commercial sector.
But it’s not about generic stock images.
“I’m very much more of the personable style photography,” she said, “where it could be a lawyer sitting at their desk but they’re not going to be sitting there with a serious face with a pen in hand; I want to make it relatable so that when a potential client looks at those photos they can sit there with that lawyer and can feel that that person is human and right for them.
“It’s adapting to what the businesses need really and I love trying to achieve their vision.”
Another joy of Jennifer’s new job is that her kids are excited by it and join in wherever they can.
“It’s been a real inclusive thing which has been really special to me,” Jennifer said.
TAFE teacher Meredith Schofield said they had seen a huge uptake in young mothers like Jennifer joining the course.
“Photography can be about so much more than capturing a terrific shot,” Meredith said. “It can be an incredible creative career that allows you so much more autonomy than a nine to five job and for working mothers that’s especially important.”
And with certain fee-free qualifications offered for eligible students, TAFE has also allowed Jennifer to put her best foot forward, even before she graduates with her Certificate IV in Photography and Digital Imaging.
“Now business has started up, I’ve got proper paying companies and I’ve got websites set up,” Jennifer said. “So it’s really allowed me as a course to save that money as a small business.”
More information about courses on offer is available on the TAFE website.