Photographer profile - Helen Spiegl

PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 March 2019

Louis and Belle, Chihuahuas

Louis and Belle, Chihuahuas


Ever let your age hold you back from pursuing your passion? Helen Spiegl, a local award-winning pet photographer tells us that it didn’t stop her and it shouldn’t stop you

Gwyn an English SetterGwyn an English Setter

‘Life’s too short to not do what you love,’ says Helen Spiegl, which is what she told herself when deciding to change from being a veterinary nurse to a full-time portrait photographer.

Helen, now 58, who’s based in a village near Marple, was 56 when she did what many of us are afraid to do and took the plunge to pursue a lifelong passion and turn it into a career. But was it a long love affair or a newly discovered passion? ‘I’ve always loved photography, since my childhood but I never did anything with it. It wasn’t until my father passed away and he left me my first digital camera that I truly started to do something with photography. I remember it being really awful, especially compared to the ones you get today. But it urged me to want to learn more, and that’s what I’ve continued to do,’ she says.

Not to say it wasn’t a daunting move, changing careers can be difficult especially for those who are older as leaving financial security behind can be nerve-wracking. But after reading an article that focused on mature women changing careers, Helen was inspired. ‘If they can do it, why can’t I?’

Helen is now a specialist in dog and equestrian portrait photography. Though she does photograph other subjects, animals are her true inspiration. She works from her rural cottage and takes advantage of the beautiful countryside surroundings. Of all types of photography, what was it about animals that captured Helen’s heart?

26 year old mare, April26 year old mare, April

‘No shoot is the same. And with my background in working with animals, I know how they react. I know what to do to make them comfortable. I’ve definitely got a few tricks up my sleeve!’ she laughs. ‘One thing I’ve learnt is that putting your subject at ease is going to help you capture the best images possible.

‘My favourite things to photograph is children and their pets. To be able to capture that emotional tie is wonderful. I’m creating something that isn’t just a picture, but a memory. I want people to look at the image and remember how they felt, because the love between owner and pet is something special. I regret not capturing some of my previous animals, which is why I adore the image of me and Golster!’ Golster is Helen’s horse, a black Welsh Cob.

Anyone who has ever had a pet understands the emotional link between pet and owner. Helen recently won the prestigious portrait prize of Xperience Equestrian Photographer with a photograph of Elaine Potter and her horse, Woody. Winning this prize after only 18 months of full time work confirmed to Helen that she had made the right decision in pursuing this as a career. She says about winning the award: ‘I was shocked and overjoyed. To find out that I had made the final out of all other applicants was amazing, let alone win in the equestrian category. I think I had 16 images in the final out of 2,000 entries. I felt that my choice of pursuing this as a career had been validated.’

The Xperience awards focus on pushing trends and celebrating the individual and outstanding images being created in the world of photography.

Helen's client, Tori Peter with Preston and SuesteHelen's client, Tori Peter with Preston and Sueste

Horse and dogs are very different subjects to work with, says Helen, so creating a concept for each client is important.

‘Some clients come with ideas of what they want which is good but many have no idea what they want. This is where I get creative. They describe their animals characteristics and from there, I do my best to bring that out of them. Whether it’s their playfulness or a certain mischievous glint in their eye, I aim to capture that. I always encourage my clients to be involved with the shoot as well. I want to create a memorable day for everyone.’

The future is looking bright for Helen, who hopes to have a larger studio where she can expand her dog sessions and also create an indoor studio for horses which will develop her creative work further.

Her advice for those who are thinking of a career change? ‘Just do it. We all deserve to do something we love.’

A clients pet, WoodyA clients pet, Woody

See more of Helen’s photography on her website

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