July is 30 Dates’ birthday month, and so we’ve been celebrating in a whole host of ways. One of the images which became attached early on to the blog was a black and white photo of me, taken at my friend’s wedding. It was midway through the speeches, and I liked it because it was taken when I didn’t know there was a camera on me. The image has been used by newspapers and other sites, and on WordPress and Twitter, to represent ‘Miss Twenty-Nine’ and the 30 Dates.
One year in, and I figured it was time to shake things up a bit, and so I enlisted the help of Saskia Nelson. The founder of Saturday Night’s Alright, Saskia is the UK’s first professional photographer to specialise only in dating profile photos. Who better than to take some new shots for 30 Dates?!
I met Saskia is Battersea Park, armed with three of my favourite dresses, and a bunch of different flowers. She encourages clients to bring their own props, to add something extra to their photos. Seeing as flowers are so often linked to love and romance – both in the tradition of roses, and the quintessential idea of plucking petals to work out if someone loves you – I opted for a selection of different flowers.
Saskia only works outdoors, because she feels the lighting is most flattering, and I have to say, I agree – the photo below is probably my favourite photo of myself ever, and I think the reason it works is because of the natural light. Before the shoot, Saskia will work through location ideas with you. She asks you a series of questions when you book, to help her get to know you a bit better, and if clients are particularly creative, she’ll ask you to create a mood-board on Pinterest. Saskia aims to set you in a location where you’re comfortable, and which says something about you. Me, I love the outdoors, and I love greenery. As a child, I played cricket, and so a bench in front of the cricket pavilion in Battersea Park was the perfect setting.
I’ve never been the biggest fan of photos of myself. I think like anyone, I’m far more critical of photographs of myself than I ever am of anyone else’s, and for years I struggled with my smile in photos. At school my friends used to call me Wallace (from Wallace and Gromit) because of the forced, cheesy grin I would pull. And then, as a young adult, I used to pout, to avoid the Wallace-smile. I suppose it’s only really as I’ve grown up, and become more comfortable in my own skin, that I’ve become a bit more relaxed about smiling in a photo.
I’m also not the most body confident when it comes to photos. I’ve spoken before on 30 Dates about Body Confidence, but in a world where most photos we see of models are of women who are at most a size 6, it’s easy to worry that as a comfortable size 12 I might look like a lumbering giant in the photos. Whilst I’m happy and confident with my body (something which has taken years), there is still something rather daunting about full-length photos in the cold light of day!
Something which definitely helped with this, and meant I wasn’t afraid to lay on the ground, or perch awkwardly on a fence to pose, was just how approachable Saskia is. The more involved in the dating industry I’ve become, the more important I’ve realised it is for people working in the industry to be approachable and genuine – people are at their most vulnerable when they’re admitting to being single, and wanting to find love. I always meet really nervous, under-confident people at singles events, and the great thing about Saskia is that she puts you completely at ease. She’s also a woman who has done the online dating thing (she met her boyfriend Giles on Guardian Soulmates), and who isn’t a size 6 either, and so she knows what people worry about when they have their photo taken! She not only understands the online world, and what photos work online, but she appreciates how singletons having their photo taken feel about the whole process, and does everything in her power to put you at ease, and photograph you in a flattering, realistic manner.
It can be really daunting to smile at a camera, and to put yourself in positions, and situations during a photo shoot that you wouldn’t normally do. I was literally climbing in the foliage on several occasions, in order to get the best angles and colours – but the reason it worked, was because Saskia put me at ease, and told me what to do. She will give you directions throughout the shoot – and so she let me know when I needed to relax my face more, or look in a different direction.
My shoot with Saskia lasted an hour and a half, and included 2 costume changes. I opted for my ‘signature-style’ – hair down, feminine dresses, minimal make-up and a bit of eye-liner – basically how I would normally turn up to a date (though the flowery dress is one I reserve more for weddings!). Saskia made sure our route around Battersea Park included places I could change, and she made sure to constantly change the location, props, and my expressions and poses.
Regular blog readers will recognise the infamous spotty dress which I wore on my first ever date with Henley Boy (and anyone with a sense of humour will appreciate the irony of my pale ‘English rose’ legs, next to an red English rose!)
The whole shoot was a really fun experience – how often do you actually get to feel like the centre of attention?! As I wandered around Battersea Park, trying different backdrops and poses, passers by looked on, and I genuinely felt a bit like a celeb! Rather than feeling awkward and shy about it all, it was actually really fun, and Saskia’s whole approach gave me so much confidence, that I really didn’t mind the onlookers!
To anyone who isn’t all that happy with their dating profile photos, or anyone who just wants a Facebook profile picture that’s a bit more fun, and actually captures ‘you’ better, I really couldn’t recommend Saskia more. Even the most camera-shy of dater would feel comfortable around her, and she has so much experience with nervous clients, that she’ll put you at ease immediately.
And if you’re wanting online success – I haven’t tried these pics online yet, but in the three hours since I posted one of them on Facebook, I’ve had about 100 friends ‘liking’ it and commenting – they really are unique and eye-catching. I look at these pictures and I’m not just really happy with the results, but I also know they look like me at the same time. No guy would see these on an online dating profile, and then be disappointed when I turned up, as Saskia has captured the ‘real me’ in the photos – and not just photo-shopped me into someone else!
Saskia offers 3 packages at the moment –
1) The Nice & Simple – 30 minutes of shoot time, with 3 edited photos for £80
2) The Revamp – a 60 minute photo shoot, with up to 3 outfit changes. 6 edited photos for £140
3) The Whole Shebang – 90 minutes of shooting time, as many outfits as you can fit in, and 10 edited photos, for £210.
The turnaround on the photos is normally between 2-3 weeks. This allows Saskia time to edit the photos and lightly retouch them.
I genuinely have only positive things to say about the experience – and you know me, I will be brutally honest when something doesn’t work!
I really enjoyed the photo-shoot, I think Saskia is great, and above all I love the pictures, especially the one with me with the sunflower, and the one below on the Battersea Park bandstand. I’ll not only be using them for 30 Dates, and on my online dating profiles, but also on my personal Facebook!
I can’t wait to have another shoot, with some more props and outfits!
To get in touch with Saskia, and arrange your own photo-shoot, check out the Saturday Night’s Alright website, or contact her over Twitter @SatNightAlright.
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx