The joy that Sabrina exudes when she talks about her craft is absolutely infectious. With a voracious desire to constantly up-skill and collaborate with other freelancers, it’s no surprise that this London based photographer has built such a solid portfolio to date.
The joy that Sabrina exudes when she talks about her craft is absolutely infectious.
With a voracious desire to constantly up-skill and collaborate with other freelancers, it’s no surprise that this London based photographer has built such a solid portfolio to date.
Shooting portraits, events, products and more, this article charts how Sabrina went from buying her first camera at 15, to lifting the spirits of engaged couples during the pandemic by shooting them on the rooftops of Madrid.
It all started with a dud camera
Like fellow freelancer Adam King, Sabrina fell into photography after spotting a camera for sale in a charity shop she had worked in.
“I began freelancing, sort of by accident. I had finished volunteering at a local charity shop when I was 15 and brought a film camera with my staff discount. The camera was a dud, and I was gutted but decided to invest in a working one.”
While she subsequently went on to study International Relations at university, Sabrina took every opportunity to develop her photography skills while undertaking her degree.
“With my degree I could borrow camera equipment. I helped some of the societies I was a part of by capturing photos at their events and this then progressed on to some student paper in my second year.”
It was during her Erasmus year, however, that Sabrina really sunk her teeth into photography. She got to take several classes in the subject and managed to land her first big job - on a Madrid rooftop of all places!
“I did a year abroad as part of my degree and took as many courses as I could on photography and the basics of studio workflow. I then did my first serious job, capturing an influencer brunch on a Madrid rooftop. I came back home that summer and never looked back!”
Assistant Photographer, Lighting and backstage: Sabrina Skye Fearon-Melville
Model: Sarah Bernard
Lead Photographer: Valentia Stuppia
Hair Stylist: HH Beauty London
MUA: Charlotte Collins
Finding opportunities to develop her skills
Sabrina is constantly seeking out new opportunities to develop and hone her craft and is a firm believer that “no one is too old or experienced to learn something new.”
While studying at the European University of Madrid, for example, Sabrina got to spend lots of time in the darkroom, where she learned how to develop her own prints. This opportunity enabled her to learn a variety of skills which she’s now able to offer clients as part of her services.
“I was honestly fascinated by the darkroom at the start. Although I had my film camera, I was still taking my prints to get developed and I wanted to try developing them myself. This experience helped me to understand studio lighting, light metering and most importantly how to use my camera in manual mode. I’m now confident in being a lighting assistant for lead photographers and stylists who aren’t as confident around lighting a set.”
Learning from fellow freelancers
While it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you can only learn from freelance veterans, Sabrina, like us, is a big believer in learning from freelancers of all abilities.
“I think sometimes we think the person with all the awards and accolades is the best person to teach us and whilst that’s valid to some extent, we also can learn a lot from the person beside us too! I think you should see every shoot and job as a chance to learn, even if it’s learning how to use a new camera setting.”
It’s also worth noting that many creatives value other qualities aside from a freelancer's technical abilities and know-how - their creativity is equally as valuable. So, don’t cut yourself short. Even if your skills don’t match the requirements on a test shoot brief, share your creative vision and ideas with a freelancer. You have nothing to lose!
Creating exciting content through collaboration
Sabrina is a big advocate for collaboration between freelancers. In fact, the first two images in this piece were produced at test shoots which were posted on Freelancer Club.
“I think collaborating is one of the best things you can do in this industry. Firstly, you can meet some amazing creatives and secondly it gives you a chance to learn new skills and tricks.”
“I think collaborations hold a special place in my heart because they’re born out of everyone's on-set desire to just be present and put their all into something.”
And when that ‘something’ is a piece of work that helps a freelancer to land their next job, it’s a massive (and much welcomed) bonus.
“Collabs have helped me build my own portfolios which have landed me more chances to go for paid gigs and bring more people with me when I can. “
Another reason why Sabrina is so big on collaborations is that they enable her to meet with and learn key lessons from other female creatives.
“As a black female photographer, I’ve learnt so much from other female creatives, in all industries. They’ve taught me resilience and that we have the power to take up space. I used to be so scared to ask for anything when I first started out but they’ve been so gracious in their assistance, advice and offering to have me on board to help me upskill.”
Taking her work to the next level
Not only does Sabrina collaborate with other freelancers to create powerful work, she’s constantly using tips and tricks she’s learned from fellow creatives to take her work to the next level.
Sabrina recently worked with a model to capture a set of unique shots which she’s currently editing. Aside from creatively combining her skill sets with those of the model, Sabrina is currently implementing advice that she picked up from previous collaborators to get the most out of her post production process.
“One of my most pleasing collabs hasn’t actually been released yet. It’s a project that was born way back in March and was only fulfilled last month. I’m working really hard to use skills that more experienced professionals have taught me about retouching and editing before I send them to the model.”
We can’t wait to see these shots! Watch this space.
Bringing joy to families during the pandemic
We love hearing stories about how our members have used their talents and creativity to lift others during these uncertain times.
Many families have sadly missed out on celebrating important milestones together over the past year. Fortunately, freelancers like Sabrina, have used their skills to help them to share these special moments with their family and friends.
“I shot an engagement for a couple earlier this year, it was my first time back to work after the pandemic. The couple were lovely and hadn’t long moved to the UK. It was just really enjoyable to be back in a space with clients and producing content they’d be able to gift to their families who had missed their initial proposal due to Covid restrictions and being abroad.”
We’re not crying, you’re crying.
Photographer: Sabrina Skye Fearon-Melville
Your Portfolio is your CV
Wondering how to get freelance photography work? A strong portfolio is the key to success.
A client can learn a lot about a freelancer by taking a quick look at their portfolio. If it’s poorly presented and includes images that aren’t relevant to the job at hand, they won’t be long pushing it aside.
New to freelancing? Focus on showing a client what you can do.
“Your portfolio is your CV. It shows all of your work to date and a range of your various styles (unless you have a signature). A strong portfolio not only shows potential clients you’re working, but also shows your range of work and your ability to push yourself out of your comfort zone.”
Worried that you haven't found your niche yet? Don’t be. There’s loads of successful freelancers out there who shoot a range of styles within their chosen discipline. The key is to keep trying out new things as you build your portfolio. If one sticks, great, but if not that’s fine too.
“Experiment with your portfolio unless you figure out what it is you like, and what you don’t. And then lean into that niche, if you have one. I honestly don’t yet, and I think that’s okay too.”
Photographer: Sabrina Skye Fearon-Melville
Relax into freelance events
Something we could all do with being reminded of.
Freelance events are organised to help freelancers, not to catch them out or make them feel uncomfortable.
“Take a deep breath and just smile. It’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be and once you’re talking about the thing you love you’ll relax right into conversations. Use opportunities like these to network, but without the pressure, you aren’t out to get a job”, advises Sabrina.
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Whether you're new to freelancing or you’ve been around the block for sometime, we hope that Sabrina’s enthusiasm and pure passion for her craft will rub off on you and your work in some shape or form.
Sometimes freelancers get so carried away with the technical aspects of their projects, that they stop enjoying the actual process of creating cool work - meeting new people, being creative, sharing ideas and learning new skills. Remember to take a step back and take it all in.
Fancy teaming up with Sabrina as part of a collaboration project?
Sabrina’s currently focusing on engagements, couples and weddings and is therefore really keen to connect and work with MUAs, lead photographers, hair stylists, designers and of course, couples!
Think you fit the bill? You can message Sabrina directly on her Freelancer Club profile.
Wondering how to get freelance photography work? It’s simple, get stuck into as many test shoots as possible. They’ll help you build your portfolio, meet freelancers and learn lots of helpful skills!