Willow blog

Picture Perfect – Karen’s Special Day

March 4, 2021

Our Special Days team recently had the pleasure of arranging a Special Day at Home for a very special young family. 
Karen (33) lives in Northern Ireland with her family. She was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer in 2018 and is receiving long term chemotherapy.
She originally wanted to go to Peppa Pig world with her husband Ryan and their young daughter. Unfortunately, due to Coronavirus, we were unable to make this happen.
After working with our Special Days team, Karen decided to have a Special Day at Home. Our team arranged a Covid safe photoshoot in November 2020 to capture special moments for the young family.
“Covid 19 impacted on our Wedding Day and took away our chance to spend precious time with our family and friends. I hoped our Special Day would enable us to make some special memories that my husband and daughter would remember forever.
My Special Day made me feel less isolated from my loved ones and my normal life.
It was a positive contribution to my quality of life, a much-welcomed distraction from my diagnosis and treatment and gave me renewed energy for my loved ones and myself. It was the perfect opportunity to share precious memories that we will cherish forever.”
We recently caught up with the very talented and lovely photographer who captured some beautiful photo’s of Karen, Ryan and their daughter Harper and found out what it meant to her being part of their Specia Day.

Can you tell us a little bit about your work as a photographer?

My passion for photography started when I had my daughter. While off on maternity leave I went on courses and started my own photography business and from there it took off! I have now been doing photography for almost five years. I mainly specialise in a baby’s first years, maternity and family sessions.

How do you know Karen?

Karen and I both live in the same town and I have known her since we were in school, we didn’t see each other for years and then I became very friendly with her best friend Sarah-Jayne which meant our paths crossed again. Karen then booked me for a newborn session to photograph her darling daughter Harper. Shortly after that Karen was diagnosed with cancer it shocked everyone, she is such an inspirational strong young woman. When I then got diagnosed with small cell carcinoma of the breast, Karen then reached out and guided me and gave me tips while going through chemo and radiotherapy, she was a great help throughout.

How did the idea for a photo shoot with Karen’s family come about?

I think as a mum you are always the one taking the photos so she had decided that she would love to use this as an opportunity to get some new lovely family photos for them to treasure forever. Karen’s husband works very hard, so we had to find the best day that suited them all. Once we had a date I did one photo shoot in the morning and then marked out the rest of the day for her as I didn’t want her to feel rushed and just in case Karen felt unwell or Harper was tired. So we then discussed the option of location, in the studio or at a secluded outdoor location. She liked both ideas, so we did a combination of both. The week before that I had done a session up in Gleno waterfalls and it was so beautiful with all the autumn leaves, bright colours I knew it would be lovely for her session, so I suggested there and Karen is so easy going she was happy with whatever I thought!

You mentioned that you did Karen’s hair and makeup – was it important to go the extra mile?

Yes to me I just felt so honoured for her to use her wish from the charity on me, so I just wanted to make her day perfect because that is what she deserves. I paid for a makeup artist to do her makeup in the house and then she came one hour before her session to come to my home studio where I had a hairdresser there to do her hair for her.  By doing this I knew it would ease her stress as I know she would have had to sort her husbands & daughters clothes etc out for the shoot. Also by getting her hair and makeup professionally done it would make her feel good about herself.

What are the challenges of organising a photoshoot during a pandemic?

The main challenges during the pandemic are if you go into lockdown not knowing when you can reopen to be able to do the session, lucky enough we were able to go ahead! Also the risk factor of giving or contracting Covid-19, but by social distancing and wearing the correct PPE we were able to minimise the risk of contamination or infection. A lot of the session was in an outdoor location which also reduced risk factor.

How did the day itself go?

I had the best time with them, we laughed from start to finish! I think we spent around two hours together shooting so you could imagine for a child that is a lot. Harper was amazing! She loved being in the studio and was a little poser loving the camera, then we moved to the waterfall and she was getting fed up and didn’t want her photo taken anymore but we got the sweets out and Karen and Ryan just played with her and personally my favourite ones are at the waterfalls – they are just so natural and to me just captured the connection between them all which is just so lovely.

Karen is an absolute rock star really – she was unreal throughout the whole session, tired at the end but you could tell she was enjoying herself. The bond between Karen and Harper I just loved to capture – I could have photographed them all day. 

As a photographer, how do you approach trying to capture special moments like this? Are there any tips you could give to people who want to record their own Special Days?

Anyone can stand and smile right in the camera but with photography, the importance of my job is to tell a story and really capture everyone’s personality and the connection they have with each other. My tip would be don’t stress about getting the perfect photo but have fun doing it instead of forced smiles, joke with each other feel comfortable being in front of the camera, no matter how rough you feel make yourself get into the photo, memories fade but photos are forever they allow you to freeze time and remember these special moments forever. 

Top Tip for taking photos at home and getting the perfect lighting and everyone being able to be in the photo, I would recommend buying a ring light off Amazon. Makeup artists use them all the time and they help create natural-looking lighting. I use mine all the time to get photos of me with the kids and it is amazing. 

How do you feel about the final photos? What were Karen and her families reaction when you shared them?

As soon as I finished Karen’s shoot I was straight into editing mode. I was so excited to edit them and get her sneak peek up and of course, excited to see what they thought of them! Karen, Ryan and their family loved them and the response on Facebook from them all was unreal the number of messages was crazy. It made me so happy knowing I have given them a lovely day and photos to remember forever. 

How was the experience of working with the Willow team? Had you heard about us before? Would you tell your friends about the charity?

The Willow team are lovely to work with, so friendly and nice! No, I have never heard of you before but have told everyone about your charity and all the great things you do for young families like Karen’s. 

You can check out all of Jennifer King’s amazing photography by visiting: www.jenniferkingphotography.co.uk