Melanie East – The Devoted Creative

When you meet Melanie you instantly know you are in the presence of a woman who knows where she is going, who has carved out her niche and is on purpose doing what she loves.

I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Melanie East for a number of years now and absolutely love the way she has devoted herself to her niche, both photographically and in serving her clients. This devotion has seen her rise to be one of the UK’s leading newborn photographers, both photographically and in newborn photography training.

Babies safety is at the heart of everything Melanie does and this passion for babies safety has driven her to the heart of the newborn industry making a difference to newborn photographers today. Working with leading associations to create newborn certification, judging newborn qualification panels and competition work as well as training newborn photographers globally and publishing a book on newborn safety, Melanie has certainly left her mark in this arena.

Melanie has a strong sense of certainty, belief, focus, passion, devotion and dedication to serving her craft and her clients with the utmost professionalism, and when you read the testimonials and reviews from her clients, be that photographic clients or photography training clients, you realize Melanie’s values sweep through every aspect of her life, creativity and business. She stands out as a leader of her life, a strong woman on a mission, who knows exactly where she’s going and what she needs to do to get there.

She’s devoted, pure and simple, to doing what she loves and being the best version of herself she can be.

Melanie East – The Devoted Creative

Tell me about your creativity – who and what inspires you? Nature.  Many of my images are rustic tones which comes from the fact that I live in the country.

What is the life experience that shaped your life the most? The birth of my daughter.  She made me realize that I wanted a career where I could work around her so that I could be there for her.  That I wanted to have a career which was lucrative and which I absolutely loved.  I wanted to be happy so that she would be happy.  I wasn’t happy being a lawyer hence the huge career change into newborn photography.

How has this reflected in your creativity? The fact that I am in a career (and I do see this as a career rather than a job), where I am free to do what I wish rather than being told what to do helps my creative juices.

What drives you to keep evolving creatively? The desire to increase the profile of newborn photography in the UK.

What are you really passionate about? Newborn safety.  I have been on a mission to improve newborn safety within the UK and my creation of a newborn safety certification in the UK has gone some way towards that.   There is simply no need to take any risk when photographing newborns and I would like to see all newborn photographers working with safety as their top priority.

What is an absolute no for you? Compromising on newborn safety.

What are you most curious about in life right now? I’m particularly curious about how the human mind works.

What are your biggest life lessons to date? I believe it is so important to do a job you love.  Life is short. It’s such a cliché but so true.  I believe if you are passionate about your job, that shines through in your work

How did your parents help shape you? They instilled a sense of motivation and determination within me.  I never give up.

Who was the one person that influenced you the most and how did they helped shape who you are today? My father.  He left school at 14 and carved out a highly successful career.  He has shown me that most things are possibly with drive, dedication, desire and determination.

What one thing are you currently working on trying to improve? The anxiety of being self employed – I’m not sure this ever leaves – I’ve been successfully self employed for fifteen years, yet every year I’m anxious about the next!

What has been your biggest obstacle in life and what did you learn from it? One of my biggest obstacles was overcoming what others thought of me leaving law and starting up a photography business and my own self doubt about whether I would succeed.

My father, in particular, was very hard to convince.  He thought I was absolutely mad and didn’t think I would make any money.  I’ve always sought parental guidance, it’s part of who I am- so when he thought I was mad to throw away a legal career, it really put huge seeds of doubt within me.   He is now incredibly proud and tells everybody!   A friend of mine also told me “it would never work”.   However, I had to do this for *me*.

I had no wish to return to law and I wanted something creative.  I wanted to do a job I loved, where I was creating happy memories for people. I wanted a career where I could work around my young daughter, so that I could be there for her. I knew I’d have to make enough money to continue the lifestyle to which we had become accustomed, but also I had every intention to put my daughter through private education, so my income would also have to pay for that. I am incredibly lucky in that I have a hugely supportive husband who embraced what I wanted to do. I left law nearly 15 years ago and have never looked back.

I have learned that dedication, desire, determination and drive will reap dividends … and when you love what you do, it isn’t so much a chore, but an absolute joy.

How have you used challenging emotional experiences to expand your creativity? When I first started newborn photography I had a friend who told me that I’d never make a successful career out of photography.  That just made me more determined.

What was your life defining moment that shaped you into the person/creative you are today ? The day I left law.  I felt I’d almost been set free.

What is the one creation your heart is calling you to create? An image where her mother bonds with her baby after suffering post natal depression

What is your vision for your future? Your hopes, goals and dreams? I’d love to see newborn photography regulated.   My goal is to continue to raise the standards of newborn photography.

What do you want to be remembered for? Raising the standards of newborn photography, not just aesthetically but in terms of safety.

How has accessing your authentic creativity impacted your life? It’s made me so much happier. I feel I can really be me.

What were you most afraid of when you started following your passion and how did you overcome those fears? I was very afraid that it wouldn’t become a success and that I wouldn’t make any money – and that I would have to return to law.   I kept up with any legal changes within my area of specialism for a couple of years just in case I would have to go back.  (In my view, when leaving a well paid job, – when you have commitments, a back up plan is very important!)

I was also very afraid that my work would never be good enough. Self doubt is huge among photographers.  I see it when I teach photographers and I totally understand and empathize – because I’ve also felt that way.  I think most photographers feel that way.  I don’t see it as a bad thing as long as it doesn’t stop you from doing what you want to do. It means you care about what you are creating.

I overcame those fears by pushing myself,  getting out there and doing it anyway. I forced myself to network and to create.  It took a long while for me to get into the mindset “well I don’t care whether anybody else likes what I’ve created (other than my clients), because I like it, and I know what has gone into this.”

I would say to anybody who wants to follow their passion to get out there and do it.  If you don’t try you’ll never know what you could have achieved.

In fact when I achieved Licentiateship ten years or so ago,  I remember bursting into tears onto Kevin Wilson, who was one of the judges, when he told me I was now a “qualified master of photography” I was so relieved.  I remember feeling “Gosh, I’m a qualified photographer! – My work is good enough!”  with Associateship, I felt exactlythe same.  This is why I feel becoming qualified is important.  Entering competitions is also important – it forces you to push yourself out of your comfort zone – and that can only reap dividends!

Do those fears still show up today? How do you keep pushing through them? Yes. I think anybody who is self employed where their salary is needed has the anxiety as to where the next commissions will come from.   I just keep marketing and networking, working hard and believing in myself.

When was the last time you attended any kind of learning/development workshop/programme and what was it? I’m always learning.  I believe continuing education is so important for everybody.  I often listen to podcasts and I’ve been listening to one recently about work life balance.

What impact has that had? Continuing education helps you grow not just through your career but as a person.  It makes you realize that no matter how good you think you are, there is usually always an improvement somewhere to be had.

How important has personal development been to your life, creativity and business goals? Hugely important.  You learn a lot about yourself when you are self employed

What are you celebrating right now? I’m thankful that I have a job I absolutely love!

If you could speak to the heart and soul of all creatives what would be the words you would want them to know? Believe in yourself.  Try it anyway.  And don’t listen to those who don’t believe in you.

Have the last word … what is the one question I never asked that you really wanted to answer ? Why newborn photography? Ahhhh, because it’s the one time in life where appearance changes sooo quickly and mama is usually exhausted.  Creating newborn memories means parents won’t forget how their little one looked in those early days.

For every person inspired by you, including myself, THANK YOU for sharing.

You can view Melanie’s newborn photography work here