Hannah Miles is a Cardiff-based photographer, whose work encompasses everything from wedding and engagement photography to product photography and commercial campaigns. With a background in photojournalism, she has a wealth of experience and a keen eye for the right shot. I was lucky enough to work with Hannah on the photoshoot for my Supernova collection and as we chatted throughout the day, I found it fascinating to hear about her experiences and what prompted her to set up her photography business.
So Hannah, could you tell us a bit about how you became a photographer? Did you do a photography degree? Was it something that you were always interested in doing?
I've always been interested in photography, my father used to lecture in photography so I was given a 35mm film SLR as a teenager and helped to build a rudimentary darkroom in the corner of my art room. Despite this I was really determined to be a graphic designer and it was my focus throughout school. So, after graduating with a degree in Graphic Design I had my first graduate job at a newspaper, where my duties included creating graphics for the paper, running the picture desk and editing photographs. After three years at the paper I had worked my way up to being chief photographer and picture editor.
Whilst doing this, I had completely fallen in love with photojournalism and wanted to pursue this as a career. I had the national broadsheets of London in my sights so set out to achieve my dream. Fast forward another three years I had moved to the Evening Post in Swansea, completed the NCTJ in photojournalism in Sheffield and got shortlisted for the Times Young Photographer of the Year. This brought me finally to London and I started freelancing for the national papers. It was an incredible experience, photographing the Royal Family, prime ministers and the likes of Mike Tyson.
It was during this time that I shot my very first wedding. I had just got married myself so I felt really connected to weddings and how important they are. I wanted someone to capture my wedding from a reportage point of view, but with all the pretty stuff too so this is how I still approach weddings, using my skills as a photojournalist along with the eye of a bride.
Over the past 9 years since moving to London, I'm now back in Cardiff, I mainly shoot weddings and commercial jobs but still do small bits for the BBC. I have a real mix bag of things I enjoy shooting, alongside weddings I shoot a lot of commercial jobs too, products and fashion etc. I've just launched a new arm to my business called Han Goes Click Studio which is dedicated to the products and commercial jobs I shoot.
The wedding photography is obviously an important element to your business. Are there different skills required for that than for the more commercial work? Do you prefer one to the other?
Over the past 15 years I've been a full time photographer I've literally photographed most things, from Six Nations rugby games to fashion shoots, hard news stories to products. I’d say all of my skills are transferable from one discipline to the other, having great people skills and being calm is so important at a wedding for instance, but using my creative eye and technical skills to get a great shot is at the essence of every picture that I take. I can’t say I prefer one above the other, I have always loved capturing life and real moments which I get to do at weddings, I also love graphic design so commercial and fashion shoots where I have more control over the shots gives me a great kick too. I'm so lucky that I get to do what I do, I absolutely love it, I'm extremely grateful for all of the clients that I have.
One things that struck me when we worked together was how important good social skills are eg:- making the client and/or model feel relaxed and getting the best from them. Is it important for a photographer to be quite outgoing? How do you balance that with the technical aspects? Is getting a ‘great’ shot a combination of those things?
I would say that most of the photographers I’ve met and have become friends with over the years are typically shy people, preferring to be behind the camera. This is something I’ve learnt to deal with and getting a great picture gives me the drive to push past those feelings. It’s really important to me that my clients or subjects that I'm shooting totally trust me and feel relaxed in my presence. Most people will naturally feel tense and a little nervous about standing in front of the camera, if I can make it an enjoyable experience and get the shot too then I'm super happy and so is my client!
Which photographers have inspired your work? Or what are your influences outside of photography?
Over the years lots of things have inspired me, from reading and collecting National Geographic as a child and teenager to the likes of Man Ray, Steve McCurry, Annie Leibovitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson & Ansel Adams. I love the work of Ross Harvey, Marrianne Taylor, Sam Hurd and Alex Webb. I'm inspired by a mixture of photojournalists, fashion & wedding photographers. Outside of photography I love visiting new and exciting coffee shops or beautifully curated restaurants, they always inspire me visually. I love architecture and visiting museums and galleries, great spaces with amazing light seem to set me off and get me going!
Any tips for up and coming photographers or maybe those who are thinking about making the move into starting their own business? Should people be thinking of specialising into one particular area or taking a broader approach?
I would say get to know your camera inside out, really hone that skill of shooting manually. And then shoot a mixture of things, you’ll be naturally drawn to something. I was really drawn to people and portraiture when I was a teenager, stopping people in the street to take their portrait on my old 35mm Canon F1. Heading back to my school darkroom to process the film, there was such a tremendous sense of utter wonderment! So keep shooting and learning, when studying for my photojournalism qualification we were given a certain number of shots to nail a job and this was a great exercise. Reach out to other photographers too I'm always happy to meet up and help up and coming photographers, we are super friendly people so reach out!
That all sounds like brilliant advice, thanks Hannah it's been fascinating to hear more about what you do! You can find Hannah's commercial work at www.hangoesclick.com and her weddings portfolio at www.hannahmilesphotography.com Or head over to Instagram and check out her beautiful galleries at @hangoesclickstudio and @han.goes.click.click