Chloe Shakesby

IWD 2021: Wedding photographer Charlotte Kaye on surviving a year of "limited opportunities"

For International Women’s Day 2021, Bdaily spoke to women across Yorkshire about adapting to life in the pandemic.

Charlotte Kaye is the founder of Charlotte Elizabeth Photography, based in Barnsley.

She spoke to Bdaily about her “newfound respect” for businesses that have survived the pandemic, the impact on the wedding industry and the importance of a supportive network.

As a woman, how have you personally adapted during the pandemic, and what challenges have you faced?

Working from home over the past year has been a big challenge. My partner and I have very different jobs, and so sharing a desk came with a few weeks of ironing out problems – for a while every meeting we needed to schedule had to be run past each other. Luckily we managed to get into a routine quickly.

As a wedding and family photographer throughout each lockdown my business has closed almost entirely. This has had a huge impact on my finances, and also on my mental health. But I have found ways to keep busy. I have a wedding focused blog on my website, and I’ve been working on creating more content for that. I’ve collaborated with other professionals on posts, organized sessions for when we can meet up and kept giving real advice to my brides to be.

One of the biggest things I’ve done in the past 12 months is to join an online networking group, The Same Boat Panel Discussion. I initially joined as I felt the need to have contact with the outside world and other businesses in the same position as me. However, the weekly group has developed since March 2020 and along with the advice and insights from other businesses I feel I’ve made some good friends too.

How have you and your business supported women during the past year?

As a wedding photographer supporting couples has always been a part of my job. This year I’ve had more conversations with brides than ever before. From postponing their day to talking about what shoes they’ll wear when we get to the dancefloor, being there to talk and be excited and empathetic about their day has been a big part of this past year. I also collaborated with a few women run wedding businesses on a styled session last summer. Everyone gave their time and expertise freely to create the final photographs. The images have been shared across websites, social media and in publications to give us all a boost and keep us relevant to newly engaged couples.

What opportunities do you feel that the pandemic has created for women, if any?

I have spoken to some women this year who have been able to set up a whole new business. They have had more time to focus on what they’d like to do, and have gone for it!

In the photography sector, particularly with weddings, opportunities have been limited this year. The two things this sector has helped create are the #WhatAboutWeddings and the UK Weddings Taskforce.

They were born out of necessity, and have been essential to getting weddings onto the PMs recent roadmap, to lobbying government for more support for wedding businesses and clarity on when weddings will be able to go ahead again.

In your opinion, has the pandemic highlighted any gender imbalances in business?

As I work alone, this isn’t something I can comment on first hand. I do know that some of my friends’ colleagues have realized that working full time, running a house and looking after children is not as simple or easy as they may have thought. Being in the house together and seeing the daily tasks that must be done before thinking about starting work has been eye opening for some – usually they’d have been on a commute while all the household tasks were happening.

As we step into a post-pandemic business landscape, how do you think women’s roles in the sector may change?

In the wedding and photography sector I don’t think our roles will change dramatically, but I do think there has been a big shift in the community. We’ve become more open with each other, and therefore closer than before.

Everyone who’s stayed in business in the wedding sector this past year has proven that they not only have a good solid business, but that they themselves were strong enough to come through the other side. Before the pandemic, I was often asked if I thought I had a viable business and told by various older men how to hold my camera and what settings I should be using. I believe coming through this will give us all a new found respect from other businesses and the public too.

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