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Staying Creative with Helen Rowan

Updated: May 11, 2020

Behind a businesses in lockdown

If you don’t think you know of Helen Rowan of Helen Rowan Photography, you’ve probably seen her images, regularly featured in S40 Local as cover shots or within our articles. She’s also local, “I live in Ashgate, have children at the local school and specialise in photos of children, families and businesses.”

Helen has been doing this for four years now, before this she spent two decades working for a couple of internationally known luxury brands, as well as high-street brands.

I follow Helen on social media and I’ve noticed how busy she’s been, for someone who had to close her business due to Covid-19. So, we caught up over a video call to find out more about her lockdown activities… this time I had to make my own coffee!

“I gave up the traditional job and decided to focus on photography to enable me to be around my children whilst they were young, I simply wanted to be there for them and watch them grow up.”

And prior to lockdown things were going well, her bookings for her family and bluebell photo sessions were as popular as ever.

“I had bluebell sessions, newborn photoshoots, events and branding shoots booked but then 23 March came along and suddenly my diary was cleared, and everything was placed on hold,” says Helen.

“However, when you’re busy you don’t get chance to do all the other stuff, and the time has enabled me to progress a number of creative routes I wouldn’t normally get chance to work on.

“My husband Andrew is very creative, and we’d be wanting to work on a project together for a while.

“He’s never really done anything with his art before, he has a sketchbook of pictures that he doodles, and he gets his thoughts down on paper, visually.

“With some time on his hands he sat down with the boys and started talking about the stuff they like, their thoughts, their dreams perhaps, and taking notes. These turned into a fantastic mind map, sketched out in a cartoon style. They include things like Elliot’s love of hot dogs and Jacob’s love of olives. The result was fab and I set about editing and creating a copy I could use in conjunction with my photography.

The result was a series of four images, as shown below, staged photos and hand drawn elements combined. “It was just for a bit of fun, but it really works. The next stage is to figure out how we could include this in my work as a product we can offer. It might be a family thing or a great way to support local business in their marketing campaigns” explains Helen. Watch this space as I suspect they’ll be something for us to check out soon.

The next idea to wander around Helen’s cranium was a message to thank the NHS. “I thought ‘stay home stay safe’ 16 letters. My aim was to get 16 children to draw a letter, colour it in, take a picture and send it to me. I’ll edit them and create the message. Simple I thought.

“I posted it on social media and it quickly became apparent I’d have a much larger job to do. I had to limit it to 160 children and include some other key messages.

“Ten times my original expectation! To make it work I needed to get the images correct, the images needed the children to be photographed from a similar position to get the proportions correct and the letters aligned with uncluttered clear backgrounds! It presented a bit of a challenge to get all 160 images done remotely, by non-professional photogarphers… but I’m thrilled with the result.

“The final montage includes images from as far as Toronto and LA, others from Paris responded too late, so just missed out as I had to limit the numbers.

“It wasn’t a quick job; I reckon I spent four days editing the images, but I was really pleased with the end result, worth all the hard work. The social media posts I put up have been seen by over twenty thousand people, which is amazing.”

The images are below, and Helen has a great video up on her Facebook page, please take a look and give her a follow to stay aware of future projects.

With the stay safe messages project under her belt, Helen was asked by Ibbotsons to take pictures for a feature in the Derbyshire Times. Restricted by the lockdown this wasn’t possible, but hang on… “I can go shopping and do them whilst I’m there”, she explained, “no rules broken, shopping done and photos obtained.” Whilst there Helen, shopped and photographed Simon at The Cheese Factor and the team Meadowfresh Butchers. She also captured some stunning shots of an empty Chesterfield town centre which have been shared across the globe via social media.

“One friend of mine, from Essex, commented on what a beautiful place we live, ‘it’s a mini York’ she exclaimed, so doing my bit to promote Chesterfield at the same time!”

All the projects have been taken on for Helen’s enjoyment “It’s a real luxury to have the time to concentrate on these projects, it helps keep me occupied and has been amazing for ensuring my brand stays in the public eye.”

So, does Helen put feet up for the rest of the lockdown? “Not really, if you visit my Instagram page (hrp_challenge) I’ve been setting themes for pictures each day. People can check the theme, take a photo, add it to Instagram and tag with (hrp_challenge).

“Last cheeky mention, if you visit my website you’ll find a downloadable PDF that’s full of my creative ideas for getting the best shots of your children. With all this time on your hands, why not have a go?”

Thanks to Helen for taking some time out… now where’s my camera?

Words: Paul Chapman Images: Helen Rowan Photography


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