In the run up to Small Business Saturday, we are supporting local small businesses by sharing their stories with you.
The magic of photography became an obsession for Steph Bisson when her niece Olivia was born, capturing memories to treasure forever. The self-confessed perfectionist has a very natural style, capturing joyful moments and playful photos of families having a good time together.
She tells us how it all started - with special thanks to her dad and Santa! - and shares some of the highlights and challenges she has faced along the way, including dealing with feelings of imposter syndrome and her thoughts on motherhood.
When I was growing up, my dad was very much the photographer of the family. He was really great at ensuring all our special occasions were captured on camera - even mine and my sister’s weekly dance routines! I’m so grateful to have my childhood preserved in this way and I’m sure that watching him with his camera, always asking to take some shots myself, influenced me. When I was around 6 or 7, I got my first digital camera and a new camera was always what I asked Santa for.
Now I've become the photographer of the family. My loved ones roll their eyes when I get the camera out again, and I’m pretty sure my sausage dog (Instagram star Sunny) does too! But they are always grateful that I did when they look back at those photos later on.
I invested in my first professional camera at the start of 2015 when my niece, Olivia, was born. I was so obsessed with her and wanted to capture all her cute little baby expressions and movements. She lives in the UK, so each time I saw her she’d grown so much and I wanted to freeze time at every milestone she hit, which photography enabled me to do. It really is magic! She’s 7 now and I’m still just as obsessed with photographing her.
Around the same time, one of my cousins asked me to film her wedding, which felt incredibly daunting and I was hugely doubting my ability to deliver! But I managed to do it, somehow, and I decided to set up a wedding videography business alongside my university studies. I filmed weddings for five summers, until the pandemic hit, and I also photographed my friends’ children and started taking natural family portraits. I decided to go full-time with my family and newborn photography business two years ago.
My love for capturing Olivia and her brother’s smiles, giggles and cuddles translates completely to the other families that I now photograph. I may not have a personal connection with them at the start of the shoot, but I certainly do by the end!
My photography style is very natural, earthy and joyful, enabling families to feel like they’re just having a lovely time together rather than being forced to pose awkwardly and feel uncomfortable - no-one wants that! I shoot Family Sessions and Mummy and Me Sessions outdoors in nature, where the little ones can run around and have fun, resulting in playful photos and gorgeous natural smiles. Newborn Sessions take place at the family’s home, so everyone can be as relaxed and cosy as possible, snuggling up together in natural light without having to leave their little safe space, in those early ‘newborn bubble’ days.
It always feels such a privilege to be let into a family’s little world and to capture memories for them which they’ll then have forever. Each family I photograph takes up a little place in my heart and it’s so special when they come back regularly for updated photos as their children grow. I especially love when the weather is kind to us, the children are happy, we’ve run around and played some games together. Or when the newborn baby has given me some sleepy moments to capture, and I’ve got too many lovely photos to choose from - that’s a lovely problem to have!
Seeing my business grow and meeting more families each year is the best bit, but seeing past clients return for more and receiving lovely feedback is great too. There have also been many times where a toddler or young child ends the shoot by holding my hand or giving me a cuddle and that absolutely guarantees I will be driving home feeling like my heart is melting in a puddle!
I find the toughest bit of doing this work is that I am such a perfectionist, and sometimes I don’t have enough self-confidence, so I can spend hours re-editing a gallery. Comparing myself to amazing photographers around the world on Instagram is also a habit I am trying to get out of, as it gives me major imposter syndrome and makes me feel like my work isn’t as good as everyone else’s. Goodness knows why I do that!
I have to constantly remind myself that photography is an art and no two photos, or two photographers, will ever be the same, and that is a beautiful thing! Delivering the galleries and hearing how happy the families are with the photos is the most wonderful part of the process and is what matters most at the end of the day. It’s especially affirming reading messages from mums who say they are so happy that they had the shoot, as they didn’t have any nice photos with their children, and it means the world to them to have them now. That is my ‘why’ and overrides all the tough stuff of being an artist and running a business.
I had been planning on moving to England in 2020 but lockdown changed those plans, and actually made me more grateful to live in Guernsey. I found peace in the simple life of being on an island, and of always having the opportunity to do beautiful walks, if nothing else! There are so many blessings to being here work-wise too. It’s an incredibly photogenic island, we don’t have to travel more than half an hour to a shoot, I get to know the families I photograph well, build relationships with them and see them out and about often!
I’m at my happiest when in auntie mode, with my camera in hand, out walking in nature with my sausage dog baby, or eating dark chocolate… all of the above happening simultaneously is pretty much my perfect day.
I also love that there’s so much local support available for the families I meet. Whilst I’ve personally not had to use any of their services as I’m not yet a mum, I am well aware of the amazing work that the Bright Beginnings does for parents and children over here. Many of my friends have benefited from the support they offer, especially for new parents. I also want to give a shoutout to Bloom Baby Classes - Emma runs these sensory classes for babies up to 15 months and has just celebrated her one year anniversary in business. If you’re a new parent who hasn’t been before, I highly recommend giving it a go!
I absolutely LOVE being around children, but I’m still undecided about whether I want my own. I change my mind daily, sometimes several times a day! Photographing little people and being an auntie simultaneously makes me super broody whilst also fulfilling that maternal instinct and giving me a regular fix of their cuteness and helping me look at the world with more wonder and joy in the way that they do. Time will tell!
The passion and enthusiasm with which Steph works. With a baby on the way - any day now! - our own Stef has her natural newborn photography session all booked. (In fact, filling in Steph's online request form was how Stef told her she was pregnant!)
Gift vouchers for photography sessions with Steph Bisson are available to purchase as Christmas gifts for loved ones - purchase yours here.