With Makelight founder Emily Quinton
The Makelight founder takes time out from behind the lens to share the secrets of juggling family life and her online community
If you’re guilty of non-stop Instagram scrolling (us too), you’re likely to recognise the flower-filled fine art shots that have gained Emily Quinton over 80,000 followers on the platform. One half of a husband and wife entrepreneurial team and with four young children, Emily started out by selling her botanical photographs at art fairs before ‘accidentally’ becoming a wedding photographer when friends approached her to shoot their wedding.
After appearing on Channel Five’s How To Take Stunning Pictures, she realised her passion lay in teaching others and her online community, Makelight, was born.
Emily now spends three days a week in her West Dulwich studio filming videos for her website and running online workshops to help bloggers and makers grow their following with standout photographs. Describing her style as ‘feminine, positive and joyful’, it’s easy to see how Emily’s work has gained an international following. We visited her light and airy workspace to find out more about her creative journey. Describe yourself in a few words. Colourful, fun, stylish. Tell us how you first got into photography and why. I started taking photographs when I was seven years old and always dreamed of being a photographer. While studying plants for my PhD, I took lots of images at Kew Gardens and shared them on Flickr, which had just launched. People started asking to buy my images and I got a couple of local gallery shows of my botanical work. I then started creating a body of fine art photography, which I sold at local art fairs. It was through this that my friend asked if I would photograph her wedding. I didn’t ever plan to become a wedding photographer, but one wedding led to another and I got hooked! So how did you go from wedding photographer to online teacher? Photographing weddings was an amazing experience and I got to work with some wonderful couples all over the UK. But as our family grew, the work became more stressful. I started blogging at The Start Up Wife – a lifestyle blog that was filled with creativity and focused on my life being married to a start-up entrepreneur, my husband Ste . I knew that starting a lifestyle blog would be the ideal way to
kick-start my dreams of building a creative community. From these small beginnings my online presence grew, especially on Instagram (@ emilyquinton), where I shared a daily image of flowers.
From here, I began teaching workshops, first in hired spaces and then in my own studio. I originally thought my studio would become a hub of all our creative activity, with workshops being held there. In fact, it was our online presence that really took o , and I was asked to o er our workshops online for those not in the UK. How do you balance working creatively with the demands of family life? With four children and a business that’s very much in start-up mode, there really is no typical working day for us. Depending on what childcare we have on hand, some days I have six hours to work and others I have twelve. Ste recently joined the business full-time to o er more technical support to members, so he and I work most evenings too. I usually work from our studio in West Dulwich: it’s a big space flooded with natural light which I’ve filled
‘I began teaching workshops, first in hired spaces and then in my own studio.’
with things that inspire me – from props and flowers to books and magazines. My days usually include time spent filming and writing content for our courses and blog, taking photos for Instagram, teaching students, taking part in live Q&As on Facebook, and occasionally trying to squeeze in doing the accounts too! What’s been the biggest struggle in getting your business o the ground? As someone who is interested in lots of things, honing in on a clear focus for the business was initially tricky. There are things I’ve had to give up along the way in order to see our vision for Makelight happen – whether it was my wedding photography business or something small like a monthly craft mail-out idea. While the things I’ve given up were both interesting and good in themselves, there’s no way to do them all while remaining focused on the business. Are there any tools or materials you couldn’t live without? My iPhone! I rely on it for so many things, both in life and in work. I use it to take the photographs that I share on Instagram and I use mobile apps to manage our family life and stay in touch with the Makelight team. I also swear by washi tape – no other filing
system comes close! Now I washi tape everything to the wall – whether it’s party invitations, spelling lists or letters from school. This makes them easy to read and they never get lost! Tell us the most important business lesson you’ve learnt. To just start. It doesn’t have to be perfect at first, but by getting going and pushing forward, you’re doing something significant. Also, don’t be afraid to outsource. Build a team around you who bring a range of skills that complement your own. And just keep on improving with each new step you take. Even if these are little steps, soon enough you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come. Is there anything that’s been key to you achieving your creative goals? Hard work, focus and a belief in what we’re building, along with a few lucky breaks. Life gets so busy and there’s competition springing up all around, but by remaining true to our vision and focusing on our
own process we can ensure we remain authentic and true to ourselves. I also aim to constantly develop my skills by joining in with other courses and workshops, and regularly meeting with other creatives to share ideas and to learn from one another.
Can you tell us what projects you’re currently working on? Insights reports, hashtag tools, Photography For Makers Level Two, new membership… We’re constantly developing the tools on o er on the website, and those like our handy hashtag library and Instagram Insights reports help you understand more about your profile, which makes such a di erence to your business.
Finally, what’s the best piece of creative advice you’ve ever been given? I’ve learnt so much about the freedom of creativity from my children. They have a beautiful way of being creative, being free and just being in the moment. It’s encouraged me to let go of perfectionism.
It’s so hard to be creative if you’re feeling restrained or under pressure, whether that’s due to being too busy or comparing yourself to what those around you are doing. Letting go and embracing the freedom that it brings unlocks so much more authentic creativity.
01 Since studying Ecology and Geography at uni, Emily has been fascinated with botany. Each changing season brings a host of new shapes and colours. 02 Everyday items can be used in unexpected ways. 03 Emily collects patterned wallpapers to use as...
01 Botanical postcards and vintage prints bring life to the walls of Emily’s London studio. 02 Emily tries to take something new for Instagram every day. 03 Emily and her husband, Steff, have collected vintage cameras for 20 years.
01 The studio is filled with creative, interesting items to inspire students. 02 More quirky collectables. “I source things wherever I go,” says Emily. “Our local market, eBay, Etsy and car boot sales.” 03 Emily takes photos every day. “This simple act...
01 Flowers are a big focus in Emily’s styling. “I get nearly all my f lowers from The Fresh Flower Company in East Dulwich, London.” 02 These big, blowsy dahlias are Emily’s favourite blooms.