Guilia Zonza set up her business ‘On Love and Photography’ in 2011 with her friend Sophia. She now works as a freelance photographer for weddings as well as for other small businesses including mine.
I met Giulia at The White Closet Bridal Boutique in Manchester 3 years ago when she was photographing their accessories event and I was there with my bridal wear. We got chatting and I asked Giulia if she would take photos of my pieces. We’ve now done several photoshoots together, she also was my wedding photographer and I can tell you she is an absolute dream to work with. I consider myself very lucky to have met her. She has quietly nudged me along with my business several times and styles our shoots perfectly whilst being absolutely lovely. So I was delighted when she agreed to answer my questions amongst her busy schedule.
The thing you must know about Giulia is that everything about her just oozes style. She previously worked as a visual merchandiser and photography stylist. Being a visual person, photography, interiors and fashion are very important to her.
“My husband Ben and I have set up two work stations in our flat’s spare room, one desk each, one laptop for me a big Imac for him. It’s lovely to share the space with him as we are often working on images at the same time whilst listening to 6 music and drinking millions of cups of tea. There is lots of natural light coming through the windows, this is the lightest room of the flat and it feels separate enough from our living space. I try and keep my desk tidy but also filled with all things that inspire me like prints, images, drawings, pretty stationery, flowers and a scented candle. The environment I work in when processing images is super important to me, the light, the sounds, the atmosphere are all essential aspects of a happy productive work day.”
I’m not sure why but I am always fascinated with how successful creative businesses organise their day, I think its a way of checking I’m on track. There’s often a running theme..they all get up early and work long hours! Giulia is no exception to this,
“I am most productive early in the morning so I generally wake up around 7am have a first cup of tea whilst checking emails, news and social media and then sit myself in front of the laptop for 8am ready to edit and process images. Routine I guess is the best form of discipline. We work on tight deadlines especially in the summer when we just can’t not deliver, I just put my head down and work sometimes non stop for 15 hours a day, but then the satisfaction of hearing the couple’s reaction to the images totally pays off and makes it all worth while.”
“I think the most difficult bit was taking the leap, believing we could make it work and then getting to grip with all the practical aspects of setting up a business, we didn’t really know how to do it but just took small steps at the time, (we both still kept our jobs at this stage as a safety net). Setting up the website was probably the biggest and most important part of the process, luckily we had a friend who helped us with it and then things just developed and grew organically from there. Having a partner with whom to share the journey was great, I don’t think I could have done it on my own!”
Giulia shared with me some of the hurdles she has had to overcome. Her experiences resonate really strongly with me, small steps are the way to do it. As long as you’re making steps forwards, your business is going to grow. Having an online presence which resonates with your brand whether thats with a website or social media or both is so helpful to get your business known. The long hours and hard work have certainly paid off for Giulia and she has enjoyed many successes,
“Having one of our very first wedding blogged was just the best feeling, we will be forever grateful to Lou at Whimsical Wonderland Weddings for giving us the opportunity, we got lots of bookings out of the feature and it helped us launching in the wedding photography sphere! We also had images from a styled shoot on Vogue Italia which was pretty cool too! Having our work featured in blogs and publications is still the best confidence boost for us as well as all the lovely feedback we get from our couples.”
I asked Giulia what her personal and business values are and its easy to see why she’s a dream to work with,
“To be caring, to make sure we offer the best service possible both on a professional and a personal level, being honest and fair, always always giving our all to every and each project we are working on.”
Before my photoshoots I always look at Giulia’s portfolio for inspiration and always find her compositions, colour combinations and use of light very helpful. It’s important to look for inspiration whenever you can and to exercise that part of your brain regularly. It can turn up at funny times of the day or night so always keep a notepad handy. I love to use Pinterest to search and pin inspirational images onto a private board so that they are altogether when I have time to develop new ideas. I try and keep my mind open to inspiring thoughts, images and ideas as soon as I’ve finished one collection, so that they brew in my head for several months ready for when I am designing my next pieces.
“Inspiration comes from all sort of places, going to exhibitions, watching films. Looking at other photographers work inside and out of the wedding world is very important as it keeps us up to date with current trends and looks. I try and look at as many interesting magazines whether on design, craft, fashion as much as possible as it all feeds into my practice. I also work very spontaneously and react to the environment I am in, often the wedding locations help us come up with ideas for shots. Ideas for the more creative styled shoots are also linked to specific locations, interesting evocative spaces are always the source of new ideas. I love what I do, the challenges, the beautiful locations and people we get to meet and work with are all amazing motivations to carry on doing what im doing and wanting more!”
I am always interested in how creative business owners utilise their spare time. In the first few months/years of setting up a business it will seem hard to have time off but it’s so vital to keep your productivity, energy levels and overall happiness up.
“As we work from home on weekdays and then away at the weekend, it is very difficult to find time to socialize so whenever I have some time off I try to meet up with friends and family. When I’m not in front of the computer I also like going to places like Chorlton and the Northern Quarter and visiting my favourite shops, going for a coffee and soaking up the cool atmosphere. Picking up some fresh flowers is also often part of the ritual. We try and squeeze in travelling in between weddings too so whenever there is the possibility we love going away. Sometimes the laptops come with us too for some processing in the sun. Once the wedding season starts to slow down I tend to go back home to Italy. Late October is olive picking season so I go home then if possible for as long as 1 month for this very special time. The very physical work involved means I can completely switch my brain off, it’s a very different kind of exhaustion almost therapeutic! This is time for family and olive oil.
I asked Giulia where she sees her business in 10 years time,
“Wow I haven’t really thought that far, I hope I would still be doing this and I would be doing it even better. Age concerns me sometimes as I don’t want to one day become ‘an old fashioned photographer’ I see old school wedding photographers now and think how they are stuck in the past and totally not in tune with the contemporary look and ideas. Things seem to move very quickly in this field, what was on trend when I started now seems outdated. So yes I guess I hope the business would have moved on and developed with time. The dream is also to set up a sister company exclusively for destination weddings (watch this space) and one day perhaps live and work in a warm country!”
Giulia had some advice to share for new creative start-ups and students,
“Just go for it!!! Follow your instinct and your heart as they know the way, and also ask questions, speak to people who have done the same, find help its out there, do lot of research. Don’t be scared or intimidated by other’s success but see it as an inspiration and something to aim to as I can promise you will get there too! Don’t give up.”
Thanks Giulia for sharing so much with me. I hope you have all enjoyed reading. Please do share with your networks if you think it would be helpful for others.