I thought it was probably time for another interview since I still have a few of these waiting in the wings!
So this week it’s the turn of the lovely Charlene from Love Gets Sweeter Wedding Videography. Based in Lancashire, she takes her services all over the North West of England. Charlene has a wealth of experience, having been behind a camera for the majority of her life, it seems, and she brings all that knowledge and passion for her subjects into her work to produce some truly beautiful videos.
So, let’s get to it because I know Charlene has a lot to say!
Hey Charlene, welcome to Heart Lines! So, start from the beginning – tell us what you do and how you got into videography!
Hi! I’m a wedding videographer based in a town called Burscough in Lancashire. Though I’m actually born and bred in Nottingham!
So, it could go back as early as my school years when I used to make films of my Sylvanian Families (we won’t talk about the ones where I filmed me dancing to the Spice Girls, I really should hide those…) and even random ‘skits’ with my friends. I honestly didn’t even consider film back then, I wanted to either be a vet or a costume designer!
Fast forward to enrolling on a college course. The art teacher had nipped to the loo so I got chatting to the media lecturer. Soon enough I was signed up to Media Production.
Looking back, it’s clear something was pushing me into using my filming skills! I went to Uni but got bullied so badly I couldn’t leave my halls, so I spontaneously signed up to be a Camp Leader in America, met my now husband, quit uni and signed up for a practical college course where I found a love for editing.
That led me to work on a few things for Channel 4 before an amazing editor asked me to work alongside him on Mr Bean’s Holiday (I tried my hardest not to go all superfan on Rowan). But I wasn’t one for the fast pace of London, so Lee and I bought a house and I worked locally on some TV and corporate work for a slower pace up north…
It was only once we got married, and I ended up editing my own wedding video, that I actually thought ‘Huh, I actually quite like this editing weddings malarky’. So, with thanks to my husband’s encouragement (he came up with the name and bought a web domain, named after our first dance), Love Gets Sweeter was officially started back in March 2010 😀
Since then we’ve started a family and I’ve been shooting little bits of video and creating ‘highlights’ of our life so far, so it took me on another path of creating ‘Real Life’ family videos for other families and even working on my photography again (something I dabbled in at college, too). It’s made me realise how sad I am about not having many photos or video from when I was a baby, so it’s something I’ve become very passionate about!
Are you a self-taught videographer, or what qualifications do you hold? Do you think qualifications are a necessary part of being a professional photographer/videographer? And why?
Yes, mostly self-taught! For me it was more about the contacts I made that got me the jobs, right place and right time (and making an amazing cup of tea).
I studied media but at Uni it was mainly theory. By the time I came to start my business I’d been working in post production for eight years so it had been a long time since I’d held a camera and done any actual filming.
I feel that if you’ve got an eye for it, the rest you can teach yourself. Even more so now with YouTube and cool online communities with video workshops, like Creative Live.
If you think, I literally started as a little kid with my Dad’s camera. In today’s world that’s like someone making movies with a smartphone. If it gets you excited, explore that! Uni was a total waste for me but shhhhh I did not say that!
How did you find the experience of setting up your own videography business? And if you could do it all again, what would you do differently this time?
The outright cost of buying equipment was HUGE for someone without a job! I would’ve liked more time to really save up!
The best thing I did, mainly for my own confidence, was film my first wedding for free. Yes, I edited my own, but it’s not quite the same as doing a strangers, especially when you don’t feel so clued up on all the gear. So, with the power of persuasion, I found a lovely couple willing to have me hang out with them on their wedding day. Afterwards they admitted they hesitated because they felt it was too good to be true but they’re so glad they put their trust in me and they LOVED their video.
That was it then – I got the bug. So the next few I did for “cost price” and, by the end of the year, I was in a position to have some content on my website to bring in new work. My husband said I could’ve charged sooner but I needed to believe and value myself before I could get others to value what I do.
One thing I will add is that I would have gotten out there and networked sooner. The contacts I’ve made have not only been great when it comes to advice and support, but also to help alleviate the loneliness of going from a lively office space to working at home alone!
Aside from your videography business, do you have any other income streams? Tell us about them!
I now offer family photography and videography, capturing the ‘real’ family life as well as special events like christenings and birthdays!
That came about after one of my couples asked me to film their little boy’s special day out of the blue. I really enjoyed it – they loved the film I made for them and then a few other couples spotted it and asked if I could do the same for them.
I then wanted to take even better pictures of my own family so did a beginners photography course with Nicola Thompson in Manchester as a sort of refresher and, before I knew it, I was reaching out to families to help me build my family photography portfolio, just like I did with the weddings.
I launched that in March 2019 and, within a few months, I’d become an award winning photographer, gaining four awards in the North West British Institute of Professional Photography Awards (the picture below got me Silver in the Newborn Category, I also won the Gold AND Bronze!).
What makes this so special for me (and my families) is the honesty of my work. My documentary style allows them to see for themselves real family life and have something really special and real to look back on once their little ones have stopped enjoying cuddles on the sofa and have even more independence.
How does a typical day look for you?
I try to only work on work days, not on Mummy days (in my attempt to have a work/life balance). So on a typical work day…
We get dressed and enjoy breakfast together before I get the little lady to pre-school. This time varies so thank god for a flexible boss 😉
I get home and do some yoga or a HIIT session before I even start work (I found if I didn’t do it first then I’d run out of time or make excuses by the end of the day).
The to-do list for the week is done on Monday night, so I crack on with what’s on my list. This could be editing (which I love), accounts (which I hate) or lots of admin – from catching up with couples getting married, ones who are already married and waiting on a film and enquiries to social media posts. I try to fit in an hour each day to do some form of marketing or website updates, be it blogging or scheduling my social media posts for the week.
I tend to get hungry by 12:30 (food is life!) so it’s a lunch break. If I haven’t been organised with the food shop it’s a trip to my local AMAZING café called Merlins. And if the weather is pants and I can’t sit in the garden I watch some Instagram stories, YouTube videos or even a Facebook live catch up from one of my wonderfully supportive wedding supplier groups for some inspiration.
I then race to get stuff done before I have to try and start tea, remember that I put the washing on at 9am and it’s still sat in the washing machine, throw some things around to make the house look tidy and get to nursery at 5:55 (it closes at 6:00 – always one of the last there, haha!). Oh, then whizz by the station to pick the other half up, eat tea together then enjoy some family time before bed.
Usually my day stops there as I really don’t like eating in to my evenings once the little lady is in bed BUT, if my husband is out playing football, I may sneak in a couple of hours admin or personal work like editing family photos and video 😀
Where or who do you look to for inspiration and motivation?
My latest inspiration is Anna Hardy’s amazing Facebook group called ‘Build a photography brand with soul’. The weekly lives, helpful conversations and great minds makes me feel part of a super talented group of people and I always come away with something to implement, even if it’s personal development or I’ve had a giggle (on my own in my kitchen haha).
I know people worry about feeling worse looking at other photographers and videographers but I do still love Instagram for instant hits of ‘wow’. I’m a visual person, though, so I like seeing and reading things daily!
I also love good old Hollywood too. Be it a film at home (Paisley and I have ‘Movie Mondays’ – last week I introduced her to Singin’ in the Rain and now she wants to start tap dancing lessons!) or actually going out to the cinema, you can’t beat a good movie.
Oh, and I do actually like a good photography exhibition. Last year I went to a Hollywood one at the National Portrait Gallery in London, as well as a Manchester street photography one at Manchester Art Gallery.
What advice would you give for anyone looking to pursue a similar lifestyle and career?
If you LOVE it, if you get excited by something, then what’s stopping you? Security was stopping me until redundancy – bit of a rubbish reason to stay in a job that doesn’t fill you with joy!
Be honest with yourself and if you know you’re staying safe maybe it’s time to get yourself out there a bit and test the water? Open up to friends, put the feelers out and see if you can get yourself some free work or work experience somewhere.
What do you wish you’d known before starting out on this path that you know now?
That although having to do EVERYTHING that a business requires to keep running can feel massively overwhelming at times, it’s also hugely rewarding. The leap isn’t as scary as it seems when you make it to the other side…
What do you love most about your business?
Being spontaneous. Be it in my work and allowing myself to get creative (because there’s no brief from a client or office politics…) or be it me deciding to take a day off to do something for me! It’s the best feeling (once you’re over the guilt of not working all the hours in the day that comes with your first few years of business haha!).
And what’s the worst thing about it?
Having to learn EVERYTHING. Numbers are not my thing so I would really avoid accounts and anything to do with numbers for as long as I could, until my mother-in-law stepped in and I get nudges in my inbox to ensure I’m not forgetting anything!
Finally, where can we find you? Feel free to include as many links as you like!
I’m also over on these places too:
Thank you so much for taking part in this interview series Charlene! It was a real pleasure to hear about her and her business, wasn’t it? I particularly loved reading how passionate she is about her subjects and where she gets her inspiration from. We should all make more effort to get out and see a few art exhibitions from time-to-time!
If you’d like to be featured in this series, I’d love to hear from you! Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you over some questions!