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September 11, 2023 —

Love What You Do: Rhona McDade of Goodrest Studios

With her emotive and narrative-led photographic style, Rhona McDade of Goodrest Studios offers clients a unique creative service with beautifully natural results. We talk to Rhona to find out more about her work
Brand photographer Rhona McDade of Goodrest Studios capturing natural brand images
Brand photographer Rhona McDade of Goodrest Studios capturing natural brand images
Sine Fleet - contributingeditor of 91 Magazine
Sine Fleet
91 Magazine contributing editor,

Photography

Rachael Lovvy
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Hi Rhona! How would you describe your work?

Goodrest Studios is a brand photography and consultancy studio I founded in 2017. The studio produces strategic and beautiful brand content about interesting people, incredible places and inspirational ideas of today. In short, I help ambitious brands across the globe to effectively tell their story through nuanced and empathetic marketing.

Brand photographer Rhona McDade of Goodrest Studios capturing natural brand images

What inspired the idea of setting up your business?

I’ve always known I would have my own business and work for myself, having grown up in a family where almost everyone was self-employed. Photography has been a primary passion of mine since secondary school, where I first got my hands on a digital camera. After completing my degree in contemporary media in London I set up my studio and have been working hard to grow it ever since. The name Goodrest was the name of the house I grew up in, I always liked the name and felt compelled to use it. 

How did your career begin? 

I couldn’t wait to get working after university; I enjoyed the theory and conceptual side of photography that was being taught but I was definitely craving the hustle of booking jobs and talking to real life clients. I enjoy the business element of working as a photographer as much as I enjoy the creative. This style of thinking is what has ultimately helped me to develop my own unique creative practice, providing the brands with an even split of strategic planning and creativity.

Brand photographer Rhona McDade of Goodrest Studios capturing natural brand images

Brand photographer Rhona McDade of Goodrest Studios capturing incense

Where do you find creative inspiration?

Those deeply intimate and often quiet observations in life that can only be appreciated by really slowing down, being present and living in a state of awe. Dappled sunshine dancing across the forest floor, golden sunrise reflections on ocean waves, coffee cup rings on a trusted family dining room table, the way someone sinks into a hot bath or stretches out in front of a wood-burning stove. Mining for stories within these often quiet but beautiful moments are what differentiates my brand photography from the rest. 

How would you describe your style?

Soft, natural-light, authentic, story-led, emotive. The antithesis of traditional sales marketing content. 

Brand photographer Rhona McDade of Goodrest Studios capturing natural brand images

Could you tell us a little about your work/creative process?

I’ve always been drawn to craft. I love anything handmade and find the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi (finding beauty in the imperfect) is a consistent thread that runs through my work.

How did you first discover your love for what you do?

My love of photography actually developed from a love of science. I had a microscope as a child and loved pulling each slide into focus, this is a thrill I still get today when focusing a shot on my camera. Finding incredible beauty in small things that often go unseen by others.

Brand photographer Rhona McDade of Goodrest Studios capturing natural brand images

Could you describe a typical working day?

When shooting a project I always work on location, this often involves hiring out a home/hotel/restaurant for example or exploring nature. My job wouldn’t be possible without the collaboration of other creatives, I typically have a team with me comprised of stylists, make-up artists and hair, set designers, models, assistants, producers and the brand owner or marketing manager. When I’m not shooting on location, you will find me in the studio retouching photographs, holding brand consultations IRL or over zoom, pre-production planning for upcoming shoots, or planning for my next brand consultation.

What is the ethos behind your business, or the values that are a focus for you?

I’ve decided to purposefully keep my business small. I manage every aspect of the process, this is by no means a limitation but a choice. I only take on a select handful of clients each year and ensure I can have direct creative conversations with them to provide the best results. I have to get to know a brand, its subtleties and nuances before launching into any kind of creative work. This comes from in-depth and unravelling conversations with my clients. 

Wellness brand sauna captured by brand photographer Rhona McDade of Goodrest Studios

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

The strategy side of my work really excites me. During my brand consultations I like to ask a lot of questions, let my clients dump out all of their ideas/hang-ups/plans and then shuffle all of this information into a step-by-step plan of action. This deals with decision fatigue and the overwhelming and seemingly endless list of things to do when running your own business. The organisation and inspiration this provides is often what my clients need to get to the next stage of business. 

How valuable is the online community to your work?

Instagram has been an invaluable resource for me and my clients. I’m able to connect with people across the globe who would never have found me otherwise. I also get inspiration from what brands are doing online, it’s so important for me to keep my finger on the pulse when it comes to generating new ideas and fresh perspectives. It shows me what works well and also what to avoid doing. 

Wild swimming brand captured by brand photographer Rhona McDade of Goodrest Studios

Do you enjoy working as an independent – what are the joys, and what are the challenges?

It suits me down to the ground. There are times I feel isolated and in need of some support but that’s where my network of fellow freelancers come in. We meet every Thursday to share the trials and tribulations of being self employed. The biggest joy I have is setting my own hours, sometimes I need to let off steam and go for an afternoon sea swim and other times I can find myself working into the night with a super exciting project. My working week is constantly changing so having regular rituals and routines helps with accountability and grounding.

By brand photographer Rhona McDade of Goodrest Studios

Brand photographer Rhona McDade of Goodrest Studios capturing natural brand images

Do you have any creative pastimes or hobbies?

I’ve recently got into hand-built ceramics, it’s been a great exercise in enjoying the process as much as the outcome. I’m yet to make anything I’m 100% happy with but I’m sticking with it because I find the process super calming and almost meditative.

What does the next year hold for you?

More photoshoots and more brand consultations. I’m really honing into these two offerings, and making them as effective as possible.

QUICK-FIRE QUESTIONS:

Books I love: In Praise of Shadows by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki.

Creative Heroes:  My grandma. She knits, paints and weaves. She has recently gifted me her loom and collection of beautiful artworks. 

Shops I love: choosingkeeping.com for the most beautiful stationery and art supplies.

Inspirational places: Cardinham woods

Instagrammers I love: @librarymindset

goodrest-studios.co.uk

@goodrest_studios

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