Creating Worlds and Telling Truths Through Photography with Jenny Higgs

Award winning photographer Jenny Higgs is based in Nottingham, UK, where she specialises in shooting all aspects of family photography (from maternity, newborns and upwards!), alongside dog photography. A mum of five herself, she somehow finds time to create stunningly beautiful and delicate portraits, with images that really capture the essence of her subjects. She has won gold awards in the SWPP (Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers) Newborns and Dogs categories, as well as winning the baby and toddler image of the year from The Guild of Photographers. She was also runner-up in the Guild’s Founders Cup.

I spoke to Jenny to find out more about her work.

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Photo by Jenny Higgs

What got you into photography?

My dad had a film camera when I was a child and used to develop his own films. His subject matter was usually my mum though, and she’d sit patiently while he got his focus right and take the image. I had my own little 35mm camera with 24 shots and I’d be photographing my teddies on the beach, trying not to get my thumb into the shots. I loved the excitement of developing a film and seeing what you’d captured, so different to nowadays when you can just delete images as you shoot them!

I went to medical school and, whilst I loved it, life threw me a curve ball and I left during my final year. Someone suggested that I try photography in order to have a creative outlet and, remembering how I’d enjoyed it as a child, I thought it was worth a try. I went home and got a crop sensor camera, which I’d take to Wollaton Deer Park to photograph the deer. I would sit there for hours and eventually the deer started to accept me and behaved naturally, which allowed me to get better shots. Going on photography trips to Auschwitz and Chernobyl showed me that you could really craft images to emphasise what you wanted the viewer to notice. It wasn’t just about taking snapshots – I realised you could create a world through your camera and tell powerful stories.

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Photo by Jenny Higgs

Despite this, it took me a while to find my niche. People kept suggesting that I specialise in photographing newborns, and initially I thought that it was a bit of a cliche – I was a mum and a woman – but I decided to invest in some training and had an intensive 1-2-1 training day with Claire Elliot from The Guild of Photographers. I loved it! To quote Marie Kondo, it ‘sparked joy’! It takes a fair amount of time to refine posing newborns, so I took on loads and loads of models to practise with, alongside doing all the relevant safety training for photographing newborns and children. I was just getting to a point where I was happy with my work, and then lockdown happened!

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Photo by Jenny Higgs

Like most mums, I was home-schooling my children during the week, and didn’t really pick up a camera for a while. Then I found out I was pregnant again and it wasn’t until my baby was six months old that I picked up my camera to photograph him and his little friend. I then had my fifth and final child, but I was back in the studio far more quickly after his birth. Suffering quite badly with post-natal depression following a very traumatic birth, photographing my newborn really helped me to bond with him and my creativity began to kindle. I’ve been back in business for just over a year now and have built up a wonderful loyal group of followers.

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Photo by Jenny Higgs

I really care about what I do and think you can tell so many truths with photography. People are trusting me with their newborn babies and allowing me to shoot them at their most vulnerable when they’re heavily pregnant or have just given birth and it’s a responsibility I take seriously.

Do you have a favourite genre of photography and why? Tell me a bit more about what you shoot.

My day job is shooting little ones and it’s such a joy meeting a lady for her maternity shoot, then welcoming her back with her newborn baby for their newborn shoot, and then seeing them again for their cake smash around their first birthday. I’ve recently started doing dog portraits, and as a massive dog-lover, I love this! I’m fascinated by people and animals’ emotional connections with each other, from the way a dog will follow its owner with its eyes, or something as simple as a father looking down on his baby. I love seeing the subconscious way that people look at each other and express love without realising what they’re doing.

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Photo by Jenny Higgs

I photographed a baby girl last week for parents who had previously lost a baby and the fact that they trusted me with their new baby after such a tragedy was so precious. I’m now in the process of applying to be a volunteer photographer for Remember my Baby, for parents who have sadly lost their children. I was blessed to bring home five children of my own, and I want to give something back to other parents in their darkest moments. I’m also a volunteer photographer for The Butterfly Wishes Network, which is a charity that offers free photography to families of children with a life-limiting or life-threatening illness.

Do you have any favourite photographers or creative influences that have informed your photographic style, and why?

As a newborn photographer, Kelly Brown is a huge inspiration to me. She is not only an excellent photographer, but also a brilliant teacher. What she doesn’t know about photography really isn’t worth knowing. I also love Lisa Visser, who takes fine art photographs of children. If I’m ever struggling for inspiration, I will look at her work. As I’ve been developing my dog portraits, I’ve trained with Caroline Dell in person, and Jessica McGovern online, and both are superb photographers and teachers and have helped me to get to where I am today.

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Photo by Jenny Higgs

What kit do you shoot with and what’s your favourite bit of kit?

I recently got a Canon EOS R5 to replace my Canon EOS 5D Mk IV as I was needing something a bit lighter, and the R5 had excellent reviews. I’m currently still shooting with my EF lenses, and primarily use the 24-70mm f2.8 and 70-200mm f2.8. I’m saving up to replace the 24-70mm with the RF version as it’s much lighter and designed to work with the R5 without a connector ring. I also have a beautiful Sigma Art 85mm lens. It’s a stunning portrait lens, but my studio isn’t quite big enough to use it regularly, and when working with children and dogs, a zoom is much easier as they tend to move quickly!

I use Elinchrom lights in the studio and I’d say that my favourite bit of kit is my reflector. It’s a humble bit of kit, but I use it for everything. I quite like shooting with one light and a reflector just bounces back in that bit of light you need to balance out a shot. I use my reflector for everything!

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m beginning to think about working towards my Craftsman status in the Guild of Photographers. It’s a huge project, requiring 20 images that sit together as well as stand individually too. My plan is in the early stages, so my lips are zipped at this point!

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Photo by Jenny Higgs

What would you say is your goal with your photography?

I want my business to be a success. I want my clients to be happy with the quality of the service and images they receive from me and recommend me to their friends. I want to carry on with my qualifications and get my Craftsman and Master Craftsman with the Guild. I want to bring joy through what I love doing.

As a female photographer, do you feel that you face any particular challenges? Do you feel that the industry is favourable towards women, or would you like to see any changes? 

The newborn industry does tend to be female dominated, more so than the other genres of photography. I have experienced some unwanted attention from a couple of male photographers in the past. Photography is still largely a male-dominated industry and, as a female, you are slightly more vulnerable to behaviour that men wouldn’t be subjected to. I think this is why being part of a group, such as the Guild or Societies, is important. I remember that years ago I shot a wedding as a second shooter, and the male photographer told me not to use my 70-200mm for too long as I might get tired! You do still get men that talk down to women, but that can be seen in all walks of life and isn’t limited to photography.

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Photo by Jenny Higgs

What advice would you give to budding photographers?

When you’re a beginner at anything, it can be intimidating seeing some of the more experienced people producing work that feels like light years away. It’s important to remember you’re running your own race, and that takes time. A lot of newbies think that if they invest in really good gear, they will produce really good images when in truth, it’s better to invest in education at the beginning. I’d recommend joining a professional body like the Guild of Photographers, as it allows you to become part of a community where the emphasis is on support and learning. The Guild has a lot of webinars that are free to watch for members, where photographers from all areas talk about how to improve your work and teach concepts that can be tricky to understand. Take your time to learn your equipment and understand the technical side of things, making sure you learn how to adapt setups for different situations. Most importantly, you have to love what you shoot. It’s that passion that elevates your images to where you want them to be.

You can view Jenny’s stunning work on her website

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Photographer Jenny Higgs
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