• Sophie Smith

Getting Unstuck with Jacki Bruniquel

There are moments in life when the universe aligns in the most magical way. Jacki Briniquel is one of the photographers I admire the most in the world, and I had the chance to get inside not just her head, but her heart too. This week has been the most incredible time and the most challenging time.

It all began a few weeks ago when I shot a wedding, and sat with the images for weeks feeling uninspired to edit them, and absolutely lost as a photographer, despite the fact that I've been doing this for 10 years now. I began to think back to who and what inspired me. Jacki has always been a source of inspiration, largely because of her incredible creativity but also her clean, beautiful, timeless style. It was while browsing though her Instagram feed, that I discovered that she would be running a workshop - the Unstuck Yourself Creative Photography Workshop. Gosh, there could not have been a workshop more aptly named and aimed at me.

That night, I shared with my hubby:

“Love, this is just a wild idea, but Jacki Briniquel runs a workshop! For photographers who feel stuck and frustrated - so basically for me! It’s such a pipe dream but maybe one day I could do it?”

My dear hubby agreed that it sounded perfect, but also that it was rather a pipe dream at the moment, given the financial space we are in.

The next day, the actual next day, I got a message from my incredible father-in-law. He had received an email from another photographer doing workshops, and said that he wanted to pay for me to go. I tried to get excited about this other photographer, but couldn’t, and was super cheeky and asked if I could please rather attend Jacki’s course. My dear FIL responded that he didn’t care who’s course I attended, as long as it got my confidence up and I started charging what I was worth.

And if that wasn't enough of a sign, my dear friends Roxy Hutton from CGS Creative, and Judith Belle, were going to be attending the course too (FYI if you are thinking of attending, there is a friend's special).

And so fast forward a month, and I was on a plane to Johannesburg, braving the Gautrain (which was amazing), seeing my lovely sister and then, on Tuesday morning, walking into a workshop with Jax. She was dressed in teal velvet and was just as much the mermaid I remembered her to be. I couldn’t have been happier, or more nervous.

I would have been a lot more nervous if I had known what was coming. I knew that I needed this course, but I had no idea how much I needed it. I knew I was stuck, but I hadn't got to the bottom of why I was stuck, and how deep rooted those issues were. I thought I was there to take photos, but I was there for so much more.

Jax was incredibly real and also so very generous in sharing her knowledge and experience, not just technical knowledge, but her understanding and her practise of creativity. The insights into her personal story, her work and her experiences are so eye opening and enlightening, from how she got that amazing shot, to what it looks like to burn out and how to avoid it.

She doesn't try and shape photographers to be like her, but she is also happy to share all she knows, and truly wants to help photographers to be the very best version of themselves. The workshop doesn't coach you into making specific images, but rather gives you creative tools to unlock your personal creativity as you move forward.

From a technical perspective, I honestly didn't take many photos but I did learn a huge amount. Jacki is true to her word in making using flash a lot less scary. I'm actually excited to experiment at home with my flashes and use them more in wedding scenarios. We also learnt all sorts of amazing tips and tricks for creating beautiful images in tricky situations which I found very valuable. I should also mention the absolutely delicious food and beautiful bespoke goodie bag we were spoilt with as well as giant Jacki hugs which are the best.

Here are the biggest lessons that I learnt:

  • Jax shared a quote from Oscar Wild: “Be yourself, everyone else is taken”. I learnt to identify what I love in an image, what I love about being a photographer and what inspires me, because these are the things that will allow me to create images that are true to me and that attract the clients that I want.

  • Your brain is the place where creativity takes place, but it is also where anxiety happens, and they don’t coexist well. Take control of your mind!

  • I learnt about new ways to find creative inspiration and why social media is not a good place to do this, in fact it can be really unhelpful.

  • The more saturated the market is, the harder you have to work at marketing.

  • Collect images which inspire you

  • The magical, triangle of light, composition and moments. And if you don’t have light, make light!

  • Take photos for yourself - have fun and experiment

  • Be present

  • Reward yourself

  • Remember to dream

Here's story that sounds very silly when I write it, but is very real. I have never been “cool”. At school I was called "the cool nerd" - as in my friends loved me but I was super uncool in terms of clothes and hair and makeup and how to act. I always felt deeply uncool, like I could see what was cool, but I just couldn't pull it off myself, and so find it hard to feel like I fit in. I realised that this was a very harmful neural pathway that is crippling my creativity, because when I shoot I'm worrying about the "cool" kid photographers, and trying to emulate them but hating what I create, rather than embracing my uniqueness. When it comes to creativity, being cool is not what I want, I want to be unique and special. And I really have begun to feel that these last few days.

Making the time and space in my schedule and my heart to look carefully at what inspires me and what makes me unique was absolutely essential to being able to move forward into becoming the best that I can be, as a photographer and also as a person. I made time to set new goals and dreams, among which is the dream I have always had, which is to take photos to create change for the better. I laughed, I cried, I made new friends, I posed, I dreamed, I experimented in a safe space, I asked myself some deep, hard questions and I have come away from this time feeling like a new person and excited to make beautiful images that are unique to me.

I would love it if you visited my website here: www.sophiesmithphotography.com or followed me on Instagram or Facebook to see my creative journey from here.

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Please email me sophiesmithphotography@gmail com or leave me a line below and I'll get back to you.

© 2019 Sophie Smith