My Journey to the 5 Year Milestone
Celebrating my 5th year of business hasn’t been an easy journey but it’s certainly been an exciting rollercoaster! Growing up I never thought I’d be self-employed in my 20s creating a business and job that I absolutely love and meeting the most extraordinary people. Many people have told me how wonderful it is to see someone so passionate about photography and it always fills me with joy when I hear them describe me that way. I absolutely love what I do and getting to create a fulfilling living out of being creative and being my own boss is truly awesome.
Why did I get into photography?
I just love telling people’s stories, connecting with people and kind of sharing the essence of who that person is; knowing I can help them feel comfortable and confident in front of the camera and see their face light up with joy is such a wonderful moment.
Ever since I was little I had always been really passionate about being creative, taking photos, producing art. I grew up in South Wales, just outside of Cardiff, and I remember that my dad would always bring out the camera and I would just smile a huge cheesy grin! The camera would just make me feel so happy and so joyful. And I loved the togetherness that the camera symbolised; I really liked that feeling of everyone being together. Now, after 5 years of being a wedding photographer, I really feel like I can create that experience for everyone else, and that they feel happy and joyful when they’re working with me.
“Your business will fail”
When studying my BA Photography degree at Solent University (which I absolutely loved, I learned so much and so happy I pursued my passion and chose a creative course), I had the notion that to be a successful photographer you had to assist someone in London for years and years then you may get your lucky break and be published and exhibit your work then make a career out of it. After a demeaning experience assisting an older male fine art photographer I personally felt that wasn’t the route for me. I believed if you want to do something, you do it yourself. It was time to create my own luck.
At 21 I graduated, I was jobless, I moved back to the parental home and somewhat discombobulated. I remember a family friend had told me straight after leaving university these 4 words that really stuck with me… ‘Your business will fail’. Ever since then I wanted to prove to myself and people who ever doubted me that I will succeed in running a successful photography business. I know you don’t see many South Asian female photographers in the media or in galleries and maybe that’s why some people thought I wouldn’t make it. This made me even more determined to reach my goal and make a name for myself.
After a year of building my portfolio, confidence, business plan and fortunate to receive funding my Solent University & Solent LEP (I had to prepare a pitch like in Dragon’s Den to receive investment), I plucked up the courage and registered Nisha Haq Photography. At 22, this was the start of something new. I had my first taste of wedding photography being a guest at a family wedding and then a year later experiencing my first wedding season, it was exhilarating! I knew I had found my passion, my calling.
Winning a National Award
It’s been a crazy wonderful rollercoaster ever since. At 24 I was awarded IPSE UK Young Freelancer of the Year 2017 and chosen out of hundreds of young applicants across the UK, one of the biggest highlights in my career. The awards night was in London and I remember my heart racing on the stage waiting for the name the announced and how gobsmacked I was to hear my name being called. I knew at that moment that this would change my life…
Going Full-Time with the Business
A month later I decided to take the leap with my photography business and go full-time, a decision that was both nerve-wracking yet so exciting, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My full-time role as a graphic designer/marketing officer was being made redundant so I began applying for part-time jobs. I remember my heart wasn’t 100% in it, it was all in my photography business, my amazing clients, awesome shoots & weddings I got to photograph. Corporate life sitting at the desk wasn’t for me and I’m so glad I made the plunge.
That Christmas I was shortlisted as a Finalist in the UK Wedding Awards for UK Best Wedding Photographer, something I was humbled to receive so early on in my business up against incredible wedding photographers across the country.
Conferred an Honorary Degree
At 25 I experienced one of my proudest moments, which was being awarded an Honorary Degree, a Master of Arts from Solent University in July 2018, the same university I had only graduated from 4 years prior. I remember receiving the letter from the Vice-Chancellor and it read ‘this is in recognition of your outstanding accomplishments and commitment to photography’. This really hit home for me as it’s something I’m so passionate about and work so hard for, photography is what I’ve built my life on and so to be recognised for this in my home city from my university was really special. Also being one of the youngest to receive an Honorary Degree from Solent University and only a handful of Asian women to have this award certainly made my family proud.
It was also the first time delivering a commencement speech and I remember I was so nervous heading up to the plinth to address 1,000+ students, staff & parents at the iconic Southampton Guildhall. I said to myself ‘I got this’ and took a deep breath; I felt fearless. When I finished the speech and the graduation ceremony was coming to a close, everyone on stage exited first. Parents reached out to shake my hand and tell me how inspiring my speech was and to thank me. It was a surreal humbling experience, something I’ll never forget.
Girl Boss Sessions
September 2018 I launched my Girl Boss Sessions, personal branding, portrait & lifestyle photography for fearless female entrepreneurs and badass businesswomen who are bossing it at work. This was something I’m really passionate about especially running a small business myself, it’s certainly a unique lifestyle and wanted to create a fun exciting and empowering experience for women having their photo taken. It’s been an eye-opening journey to produce striking powerful and beautiful images for fellow ‘Girl Bosses’ and feel so proud when I see these amazing women become so confident in front of the camera and use their images to market their badass businesses!
Wedding Industry Award Finalist
A month later I was shortlisted as South Central Regional Finalist for Best Wedding Photographer in The Wedding Industry Awards 2019. I was up against some amazing photographers who are some of the top in the industry, another humbling experience to be listed alongside these photographers. Theses awards are unique as only past clients can vote and leave feedback for you rather than a popularity contest. It was so wonderful to read so many kind words from couples about their wedding photography and experience they had with me.
Public Speaking at Universities
With 3 years of strong growth in my business and so many gorgeous weddings and couples photographed, I wanted to challenge myself in another area that was public speaking. Although having delivering speeches before, in 2019 I began giving lots more university talks and creating workshops & presentations on how to set up as a freelancer, giving advice from my experience with my photography business. It feels great to give back and inspire the next generation of freelancers and hopefully more photographers in the industry, especially more young women. This is something I’m really passionate about and feel honoured to be able to impart some wisdom so early on in my career.
Throughout the 5 years I’ve been fortunate to be featured in various publications, wedding magazines & blogs, podcasts, news stories, awards, been invited to speak or represent the freelance community at functions and have worked with and met incredible people along the way.
Getting through Covid-19
It is reported that 6 in 10 UK small businesses close in 5 years, a statistic that I’m glad I’m not included in. Unfortunately, the statistic will be a lot higher this year due to Covid-19 hugely affecting many small businesses; it’s been a challenging time for many especially in the creative, photography & wedding industry. I know it’s been so hard for many of you planning your dream wedding and having it postponed and these past few months have been a tough one to get through. I’m hugely grateful for all the amazing clients who have supported me through this time not just financially but emotionally, you have been so wonderful.
Overcoming Adversity & Buying our First Home
Now celebrating my 5th year in business I feel so much pride & happiness reaching this big milestone especially at this turbulent time. Having experienced anxiety in the past few months from all the uncertainty in lockdown and also reflecting on race in response to Black Lives Matter, it feels good to have something to celebrate this month, especially having completed buying our first home last week (another mega milestone I didn’t think I’d be able to achieve especially as a self-employed photographer!)
My business and I will be moving to the lovely historic village, Wickham in the south Hampshire countryside with plans for a garden office and expanding my business premises. It’ll be a few years of renovating but I’m excited for the journey ahead. This can only mean onwards and upwards and to continue to grow the business and keep believing in myself!
These past 6 months have been one of the wildest rollercoasters I’ve been on and we’re only half way through the year… though 2020 has been written off by many, I know this year will be the one to feel most proud of in overcoming adversity.
“You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.” – Michelle Obama
A HUGE thank you to everyone who has supported Nisha Haq Photography, all my amazing clients, collaborators, mentors, investors, peers and loved ones… you’ve all helped create this little business to what it is today and I’m so grateful for all your love & belief in me.