Sarah Cornish of My Four Hens Photography is quite honestly one of my favourite people. She is a phenomenal photographer, her images are art. They are full of golden light and glorious tones and textures. Not to mention her beautiful subjects which a lot of the time are her five adorable children. Sarah also successfully runs a constantly growing community project or two (My Four Hens project 52 and Document Our Days – A Project 365 exclusively for cell phones) and an online store packed full of high quality yet affordable actions and presets. She’s basically a rockstar of the lifestyle photography world. More importantly Sarah is nice! Nice is an underrated word isn’t it. She is helpful, enthusiastic, encouraging and kind. She always has a level head and a complimentary word to throw at a new photographer. I have no doubt there are many, many people out there who have a thank you to say to Sarah for her help (and you are welcome to tell your stories in the comment section if you like). She keeps all her photography tools at a reasonable price so they are accessible to everyone. Basically she goes out of her way to help the photography community grow and develop (while juggling her family and daily life) and isn’t that such an amazingly nice thing to do! You can find Sarah at her Website and on Facebook.
So where did it all start? I remember for my 10th birthday all I wanted was a polaroid camera. I believe there was a spark of interest even then because I always had this insatiable need to be creative in one way or another. I didn’t get the camera that year, but when I was fifteen years old, my Aunt (whom is a great nature photographer) took me on a road trip cross country and gave me a film camera to capture my journey with. I made it from Connecticut to California before I lost steam and got homesick. It was a life changing experience. Unfortunately as teenagers can sometimes tend to do, I lost track and went back to my social life and the hustle and bustle of those years. And then I had babies. And yes, that sounds cliche but it was more than that. I would keep disposable cameras in every drawer of my home because I couldn’t afford anything more and I didn’t want to forget a thing.The fire was rekindled. Something as simple as having a little extra money to develop the images at even the drug store was exhilarating. I could not wait to get the images back. I even attempted to be creative. Then camera phones were invented and I took a million and one photos with my grainy 3mp camera because that was all I could afford. We were a young struggling family. I didn’t dare dream I would ever get a “real” camera. My husband surprised me one year and encouraged me to take the leap and get a Canon. First a point and shoot but I wanted more. I ended up investing in a Canon rebel nearly 10 years a go. I put it on manual and never looked back. I wanted something for me as selfish as that sounds. My husband worked 12 hour days 5 days a week and 8 hours sometimes on both Saturdays and Sundays. We needed to make ends meet. So I raised the babies, but having four babies in 6 years tends to to give you much extra time for anything (and I do love that so much) but the creative outlet saved me.
What did your learning process look like? Did you find it daunting jumping into this new challenge while balancing family life? I am completely self taught. There weren’t many workshops when I began. There weren’t mentorships or an endless amount of inspiration sites or photography communities so that is how I had to do it. It was really good for me though. I switched my camera to manual mode and learned the hard way. The first year the images were pretty scary but slowly I picked up steam and learned how to rely on my instincts. I googled everything, I took my camera everywhere I went. I made best of what I had and it took so much time but it was so incredibly rewarding.
How would you describe your style and how long did it take you to find it? I am not even sure that I have a style. I do have a voice, and I get bored fairly easily being diagnosed with ADD, so I am always working on a new project. I love whimsical but I also love real. My goal is to be different so I do everything I can to be so. I want people to recognize my work the minute they see it online and know it’s mine. I evolve a bit each year though and hope that continues because I have this insatiable knowledge to learn.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration? Light. I am obsessed with light. Good light, light that others might not even consider appealing. I love to take the mundane and try to create something special. I also love to see things I have never seen before and photograph things I haven’t yet had the opportunity. I am detail oriented so I tend to see things in pieces and I try to take those pieces to create a scene. I am also of course inspired by my family but also by connection, by emotion and by love. The world is an amazing place and everything is fascinating to me.
What is your most essential bit of kit, other than your camera of course? My canon 24L. I have many lenses and only shoot primes so I love to have them all at my disposal but that is by far my favorite right now.
In what way has photography impacted your life? Has it changed the way you live and work? Photography saved me. I have the full story here on my (sadly neglected) personal blog. Long story short, if it hadn’t been for photography and my business and the Grace of GOD, I don’t know where we would be today. I know it wouldn’t be here and that breaks my heart.
Has anything surprised you along your photography journey? I think one of the most surprising things about photography is how it changes your perspective of the world. My husband and I were just talking about this in the car yesterday. Everything I see is a muse. Everything has potential. He often says to me that he thinks it’s amazing I can look at something and probably see something that no one else does.
Your family photography has a warmth that is incredibly hard to capture when photographing strangers. How do you make your clients so comfortable that in the end you have stunning photographs with an enormous amount of feeling? I share so much of my personal life on my blog, in my posts. I feel like they have a sense of who I am long before I show up. I am an open book and I go out of my way to do everything I can to make them not only comfortable with me, but truly happy. I will gladly bend over backwards for my clients and many times I come away from a session and find they are now my friends. I talk to them just as I would someone I have known for years. I do not rush them. I do not pressure them. I love on their children and I act a fool. In a nutshell I am just myself a million percent.
Do you remember that pivotal moment when you realised you’d cracked it, you’d ‘found the light’ and were ready to go pro? It took me YEARS and I was terrified even then. I started my business out of necessity and if it weren’t for that push I may have honestly even remained a hobbyist for that much longer. Fortunately I fell hard and discovered how much I truly loved photographing other’s families.
Where do you see yourself in the future? Anything you’d really like to achieve over the next 10 years? I have just started to scratch the surface with workshops. I have some amazing joint ventures lined up with a few of my photography favorites including Sarah Hill, Spanki Mills and Summer Lyn Photography. I definitely plan to do some individually too though. I also hope to continue traveling and seeing the world. I absolutely LOVE life so my goal is to really just keep doing what I am doing now on maybe a grander scale. I also want to give back and am a pay it forward girl by nature so I am always looking for ways to do that.
And finally tell us about an image you are most proud of and why. I would say this image:
So crazy story behind this. I met this AMAZING woman after she hired me to do her family photos. She was just such a beautiful person in every way imaginable and the minute we got to of the car and I saw her she and her family were an instant muse. BUT I learned quickly I grabbed the wrong CF card…. It was only 8GB. YES. I had no space. I didn’t find out into about 15 minutes of the session and had to shoot the rest of the session in JPEG and I am a die hard RAW girl. I truly didn’t realize what a crutch it had become though. The images to this day are my favorite. This was the last frame of the session just about and thunderstorms began to roll in. I had been shooting film a bit so it wasn’t a lack of confidence but I actually kind of surprised myself a bit in just how well they turned out.
Sarah was interviewed by Sophie James.
Sarah you are such an inspiration. It was your support and encouragement in Project 52 that made me work hard, learn and be inspired to make photographs. Sophie, a great interview, thank you.
I have been a big fan of Sarah for a while now and it was fantastic to read this wonderful interview. I am in total awe at Sarah’s work and relate so strongly to her journey which she expresses so well. Thanks Sophie and Sarah, I was so happy to read this today.
beautiful interview! what an inspiration!