Photographer Profile: How Meghan Spotswood Found Her Confidence
Meghan Spotswood has got confidence in spades.
She says that is what makes her stand out in an endless sea of wedding and lifestyle photographers.
“From my experience, it’s such an oversaturated market… and I believe that confidence is a big thing that will set you apart,” she says.
But the 25-year-old has needed to work hard and take risks to build up that self-assured exterior.
A Passion Ignited
Although she was born outside of the region, Spotswood has spent most of her life in Kitchener-Waterloo. She attended high school at Resurrection Catholic Secondary School, which is also where got her first real exposure to the world of photography. That, in turn, lit a spark inside of her.
“My passion for photography definitely came from within and my exposure to using different types of equipment at that time,” she says.
After graduating from high school, Spotswood enrolled at Wilfrid Laurier University. That is where she began a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in history. But during those two years, she felt compelled to leave her passion on the sidelines.
“I didn’t ever think about photography as a career back then because people always say how hard it is to make money doing that,” she says.
“Well, that’s not true.”
Rekindling the Flames
Although she didn’t enjoy University, it did help her realize that she enjoyed writing. That led her to enroll in the Broadcast Journalism program at Conestoga College.
There, she rediscovered photography in a first-year photojournalism class.
“That course made me wonder why I ever stopped doing this,” she says. “That itch was not going away”
Spotswood took photos of everything she could, and that two-year diploma played a big role in her current success.
“(In those types of industries) you have to show that you are confident in your abilities, and I think that has really shone through in my photography business,” she says. “I’m very comfortable interacting with clients.”
I think it shows in my photos and it shows my clients that I’m definitely not a shy person. The skills I got from that program helped me in a lot of ways.”
Chasing the Sun
With encouragement from her family, she decided she wanted to take a photography post-secondary program. That led her to enrolling in Fanshawe College’s two-year photography program. But her Mom, Paula Downey, was nervous.
“She was asking, ‘Well, are you going to make any money doing this,’” says Spotswood.
“I keep that in my brain, because I want to prove to people that I can do this and I can make a living wage from photography.”
“But my Mom has seen that passion shine through. She’s realized that is what I want to do and I should spend every day doing what I love… She’s been my biggest supporter.”
Spotswood says the program at Fanshawe has given her a lot of opportunities, including an internship at Columbia Photos in London, ON. There, she met the owner, Phil Vanderpost, who became a mentor for her. He helped guide her through some career-defining moments, including one particularly memorable wedding.
Making the Best of a Dim Situation
She was second shooting with Vanderpost for a wedding at a hotel in September 2016. It was her first full-day coverage with him and it was a blisteringly hot day. Spotswood ended up developing a really great relationship with the bride.
“I don’t know what it is about photographers, but we kind of act like a second wedding planner. I was making sure she was drinking water. I was making sure she was eating, because brides are often so nervous that they often don’t even think about that. I was helping her with her shoes. I was helping to carry her dress. I was helping her, fixing things, and all that kind of stuff.”
Spotswood was feeling good about that, but that high quickly dissipated when she saw where the reception was taking place.
“Their reception was in a very dark area. There were high ceilings, so I couldn’t bounce the flash light off of that. I didn’t know what to do.”
But then inspiration struck.
“I suggested to Phil, ‘What about using an off-camera flash? What do you think about that?’”
Even though he didn’t often do that, he encouraged her to give it a try. And worst case scenario, they had two shooters and would have his photos in case her gamble didn't pay off.
But oh how it did.
“I ended up getting these beautiful silhouette shots, and afterwards he messaged me and said, ‘they really enjoyed those photos.’”
“It was about trying something different and going out of my comfort zone to avoid getting something other than your standard sort of shots. I learned something, applied it, and got a great result.”
“If I could give any advice, it would be to second shoot for somebody to get your portfolio going, because it honestly makes a world of a difference... because no one wants to hire somebody for a wedding with no experience.”
Still Burning Bright
Spotswood is now in her final semester of her photography program at Fanshawe, and already has a wealth of experience from her own photography business, Meg Downey Photography. She currently specializes in wedding and lifestyle photography, as well as headshots, but she has even begun to delve into doing wedding videography herself as well.
“I’ve been working on my own business while I’ve been in school so that when I graduate, I can try to make that my full-time career,” she says.
And her advice for aspiring photographers?
“Photograph anything you can. Promote yourself. Promote your work. Be confident in yourself and the clients will come.”