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November 16, 2020 —

Love What You Do: Lucy Cooper of My Kind Lifestyle

Finding the perfect creative niche evolved naturally over years for Lucy Cooper, owner of My Kind Lifestyle, an interior, product and lifestyle photography business with a focus on sustainability
Sine Fleet - contributingeditor of 91 Magazine
Sine Fleet
91 Magazine contributing editor,
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How would you describe the work that you do?

I create minimal, natural and authentic lifestyle photography for sustainable brands.

What inspired the idea of setting up your business?

My Kind Lifestyle was a complete surprise. I’ve been a full-time photographer in a different industry for eight years now, so My Kind Lifestyle is still relatively new – less than a year old. It crept up on me, growing out of a love for interior design, and a way of keeping sane during our house renovation. To my surprise however, it became a refuge during lockdown and the more I posted and the more creative I got, the more people seemed to respond to my relentless shots of candles, our bathroom and my morning brew, born out of my severe coffee addiction! It was during both the renovation and lockdown that I received my first enquiry, and I think it’s fair to say it’s snowballed since then. I’ve completely and utterly fallen in love with the interiors world and getting to work with small, like-minded sustainable brands daily.

Lucy Cooper - photographer at My Kind Lifestyle

 

What did you do before setting up My Kind Lifestyle?

 I’ve always been the creative type, but I settled into photography after I left university. I have a degree in graphic design which gave me all the skills and necessary knowledge to succeed in the freelance world, even if it wasn’t within the design industry. I created my other photography business as soon as I left education – I spent some time dabbling in different fields trying to find the right fit for me, fashion, product, architecture, commercial – but at the time, none of these were for me (who knows what they want at the age of 21?). By chance, I signed up for a portraiture workshop in Manchester and fell in love with capturing human emotion. Fast forward eight years and I’ve been lucky enough to work with some incredible people. I’ve had the honour of travelling to many wonderful destinations for work; Morocco, Italy, Sweden, Spain, New York, Greece, France and many more. However, the recent lockdown has brought time to reflect and the need to re-adjust to suit the current climate. It was from really slowing down and appreciating what was important that I realised there might be a place for me in the interior photography world.

My Kind Lifestyle - photography for sustainable brands

Where do you find inspiration?

Creating storytelling lifestyle photography comes from both a place of personal style and choice, but also from others in the industry. My photography comes from personal preference, I try and create something which makes me happy and a style that I foster in my day-to-day life. Of course, I’m always pouring through blogs, architecture pages and interior design features, and constantly adapting my own style so with that comes an ever-evolving photographic style.

How would you describe your style?

I’ve been told my photographic style is very rustic, but for me, that word really pigeon hole me into one category. I feel my style could be described in many different ways, but I always come back to natural, minimalist and authentic – the three driving forces in every choice I make, whether it be styling an image or styling my own home. Does it feel natural or evoke nature? Is it simple in composition? And does the viewer relate to this? These are the three questions running through my mind when shooting any imagery.

Are there themes that run through your work, or that you are drawn to?

The most obvious theme that runs through my work is the subject. Everything I use within my photographs is sustainably and ethically sourced, reclaimed or vintage. In terms of visual themes, however, minimalism and the light and airy appearance of my imagery is a constant throughout all my photography.

My Kind Lifestyle - photography for sustainable brands

 What career would you pursue, if you weren’t a photographer and stylist?

If I HAD to choose another profession, I think it would have to be as an interior designer. I have an affinity for designing calm minimalist spaces. I daydream about interiors constantly. So it seems like it would be a rather natural fit for me.

Could you describe a typical working day?

A typical workday for me is quite exciting. I’m lucky enough that every day is a little bit different, and even luckier that I get to work from home, so I usually jump right into styling and capturing lifestyle imagery for different brands whilst the light is at its best in my home (usually in my comfies, perks of WFH!). In a normal week, I work with 2-3 different companies and split my time between shooting, editing, client relations and marketing. I work with candle companies, sustainable home stores, skincare brands, clothing companies and many more, all of which makes for a rather exciting and fun workday.

Does your work take you far and wide?

It used to, but not so much anymore, and I am more than okay with that. I used to travel constantly, but living out of a suitcase and travelling alone can get old quite quickly. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll never say no to travelling, but sometimes it’s nice to appreciate staying put, even if it’s just for a little while.

My Kind Lifestyle - photography for sustainable brands

 What is the ethos behind your business?

 The main driving force for me when I started My Kind Lifestyle was sustainability. I believe that my close relationships with my clients came from a mutual respect for the planet and a shared passion for reducing waste, and our impact on our environment. It’s this focus that continues to help me foster new personal and professional relationships with other small business owners.

What has been the greatest hurdle in starting your own business?

The hardest thing with starting any small business is continuity. I know it sounds ridiculous, but honestly, it can be the hardest thing to master. You want success overnight but that’s not how it works, it takes time, hard work and dedication before anything really starts to happen – but the key is maintaining that level of work and eventually the tide will turn. And when that happens, allow yourself time to appreciate it, and then get your head down and carry on grafting. Keep posting on social media, keep reaching out to customers, keep sending things to magazines and keep putting your business out there.

Describe your work process…

In terms of practicalities, I start by planning my shoots ahead of time, giving myself enough time for shooting and editing ahead of my deadlines. Then I gather together a selection of props which suit both the item I am capturing and the brand I am working closely with. My creative process is a balance between the client’s requirements and the space I am working in, while letting the light dictate positioning and styling. It’s part practice and part instinct, having an eye and a feel for what works and what doesn’t work. It’s also having the confidence to not get hung up on a particular combination or idea if it’s not quite working. Some days flow effortlessly, others don’t, so I step away, have a coffee and reset because I never like to settle for anything less than wow.

My Kind Lifestyle - photography for sustainable brands

Is there an element of your work that you love the most?

It’s a three-way tie for me – there are three parts I love the most about this job. The first is getting to style and create narrative scenes which people appreciate. It’s a wonderfully creative process and it’s super fun sourcing props and styling them in a way that enhances the product you are working with. Secondly, the moment you get to sit back and edit the imagery you’ve just created: there’s a huge sense of satisfaction in capturing a beautiful image of a product somebody has worked tirelessly to create, in a way that reflects the ethos of the brand, and seeing it all come together. Thirdly (the most important one), getting that email from your client saying they love the imagery. That part is amazing!

How valuable is the online community to your work?

Absolutely invaluable in the creative industry. My Kind Lifestyle was built through the visual power of Instagram. Without it, I don’t think My Kind Lifestyle would have even happened.

What’s been the biggest eye-opener for you in running your business?

I started this business feeling pretty confident that I knew all there was about the creative industry, since I’ve been in it for so long. But there have been a couple of things which have shocked me over the last year. The first being that photography still isn’t 100 per cent valued within the industry. I could blame the culture of the camera phone or the influencer lifestyle where everything is a freebie, but really, I think it’s just lack of information. Not everyone appreciates that taking good imagery is an art form, that it takes time, skill and years of experience to master, and even then you are still constantly learning and adapting. Editing, too, and is often overlooked, and photographers are regularly asked for free imagery, copyright-free imagery, the rights to edit and change our work, and sometimes we aren’t even asked for our imagery full stop, it’s just taken. This has been the biggest eye-opener, and yet it’s nothing new to me, but since I started My Kind Lifestyle it’s been a problem which I feel needs addressing.

My Kind Lifestyle - photography for sustainable brands

How do you differentiate yourself in a creative industry?

That’s a really difficult question because there is nothing new under the sun – however I always feel the most stand-out businesses are those that forge their own path, the ones who don’t get sucked into sweeping trends, the ones who only work with the people they want to work with. That’s what I’m doing. I only work with brands and people who I believe in, and people who really get me and my style. I accept that I am not everybody’s cup of tea and that’s totally fine! My Kind Lifestyle isn’t just a ‘job’ to me, so I don’t tend to take on everything that comes my way, I want to feel passionate about every single project and brief I am given and invested in each brand I form a working relationship with. I want to be proud to put my name to the imagery I capture. I think this makes me a little different from most.

What are the joys, and challenges, of working as an independent?

I adore it. I’m very much a solitary person and I have always loved my own space, it suits me down to the ground. Some days it would be really nice to have work colleagues around to chat to and bounce ideas off, but I feel that’s a small price to pay to be my own boss, and it’s even more exciting when I get to head out and work on location. But most of the time, I’m happy bopping about the house shooting whilst listening to inappropriately loud music and binge-watching shows on Netflix whilst I edit!

How do you approach marketing and PR?

Being self-employed for more than eight years, marketing and PR was something I just had to get used to with my other business. The direct approach or hard-sell has never been something I’m comfortable with – because my business started in such a casual way, I have continued with that and have tried to keep all my marketing as organic and natural as possible. I let the images speak for themselves and rarely directly promote myself. I think if people love what I do, then they will reach out. I occasionally share a selection of stories that promote my photographic business so that people who don’t stumble onto my Instagram page can get a sense of what I do, but mostly I share carefully chosen images from my portfolio and stylised images of my home. Giving people a glimpse of your life helps them put their trust in you and your ability.

My Kind Lifestyle - photography for sustainable brands

What have been your business highlights so far?

Business highlights for My Kind Lifestyle so far have been working with inspirational sustainable brands which I covet and love.

What’s one thing people would be surprised you do in your job?

That I sometimes work in my PJs?!

Do you have any creative pastimes or hobbies?

Painting – when I really, really need a day off, I love to get the paints out. I can’t say I’m particularly good, everything I create is more abstract than realism, very abstract. But It makes me feel calm and gets me out of my head for a while.  I also have a serious passion for pottery. I have only dabbled with free form pieces and sculpture so far, but I would LOVE to learn how to throw pottery.

My Kind Lifestyle - photography for sustainable lifestyle brands

What is the most important lesson that running your business has taught you about life?

It sounds so boring, but it’s been how to manage finances better. Being self-employed it’s always risky and doesn’t come with financial certainty and security. So being careful and considered with your money is always a wise move. Not advice I’ve always taken, but I always try to!

Any good advice for independent creative businesses who are just starting out?

Stick with it. Those are the three most important words a creative will hear. It’s so easy to get discouraged early on. People may not respond the way you want to your work, businesses might not come in regularly or often enough for your liking, or you may have a bad experience with someone who just doesn’t get you and your art. Don’t be discouraged, believe in your work and your ability and keep going! Keep working hard and you will be surprised what goodness will come your way.

What does the next year hold for you?

It will be spent building my little business more and more, and hopefully working with lots more wonderful sustainable businesses.

My Kind Lifestyle - photography for small sustainable brands

QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS:

Books I love: Anything mystical or romantic. I am a total romantic at heart so I love a good old happy ending romance novel! Currently finishing the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness.

Shops I love: Nadinoo is a huge favourite of mine. Her clothing is timeless, season-less and completely sustainable. And Firera Home, her dedication to helping others create a sustainable home is incredible and her products are carefully and lovingly curated.

Creative Heroes:  Is it cheesy to say my mum? She has always been a creative person with effortless style and taste, limitless creative ideas, and has always encouraged me in every endeavour.

Inspirational places: Japanese culture completely inspires all my design choices. And to be honest, all my life choices too.

Instagrammers I love: 

@emilievancamp – I could lose hours out of my day staring at Emilie’s travel photographs

@bythun – Ida Thun was one of the first people I followed when I started my business. Her simple eye-catching imagery is a daily delight in my feed.

@ashica – I need this woman’s home! Plus she is the loveliest person ever.

@thecrapflat – queen of the captions! This lady has on many an occasion made me howl laughing and probably the most real and relatable person on Instagram.

Find Lucy at: www.mykindlifestyle.com / @mykindlifestyle

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