Liz Watts is a professional photographer. She lives in Ramsbury with her husband Dougal, their three children Mollie, 13, Annabelle, 11 and Barnaby, 7, plus Chester the Labrador.
Tell us about yourself
I grew up as an army kid, which meant I lived all over, including periods in Germany and Cyprus. I went to boarding school from the age of nine, which was great for consistency. It was difficult to start with, but I grew to love it and made some lifelong friends there. It would have been difficult to go to normal schools because we moved around so much – in my lifetime I’ve lived in over 40 houses!
I met Dougal in Cyprus, I was staying with my parents and working in the Army Press Office. Dougal was stationed there at the time. We were together a year before he started being posted to other places which cemented our relationship, and meant the long distances were OK.
I moved to London and for the next 10 years worked in various Press Offices across Whitehall.
When Dougal left the Army, he went into banking. We had two children by the time we moved out to Malaysia, followed by Singapore. We had Barnaby while out there and moved back to England with three children in tow. A family of 5 in a two-bedroom flat in London was not working, so we decided to move out, and ended up in Ramsbury.
What appealed to you about Wiltshire?
There were several things; it was commutable for Dougal’s job, yet far enough away from London to make houses more affordable; Wiltshire has connections to the Army, so had that familiarity; schools were good; the countryside is beautiful; and we already had some friends here. We liked Ramsbury straight away.
Were you always interested in photography?
I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures, but a more serious interest was sparked when we went on holiday to Vietnam whilst out in Asia. I took loads of photos with Dougal’s camera expecting to get some great shots, but they were all terrible! I decided to learn more about the technical side of photography, and the more I learned the more I enjoyed it.
I took a Diploma in Photography, which took a while fitting it around the family, but was great to be doing something different and to get a qualification.
When did you start professionally?
When we moved to Ramsbury in 2018. When we moved to our current house, we built a photographic studio/office in the garden. Now I have an excellent set-up with quality professional lights. The business was just starting to take off when the pandemic arrived!
Did you manage to keep going?
Not really on a paid basis. I did manage to keep my hand in whilst raising money for NHS Together, through taking doorstep photos of people during lockdown (all within government guidelines). It started off as a local thing and spread more widely as lockdown eased. I got to keep taking pictures, while people donated to the NHS. It was great to still have people contact, even at a distance. We raised around £1200 for charity.
What sort of photography do you specialise in?
I love taking photos of people, especially Family Photoshoots, as well as photographing family occasions, such as special birthdays, anniversaries, Christenings etc. I’m hoping to also do weddings when restrictions ease. I like working with children and have done shots for Ramsbury pre-school a couple of times.
I enjoy reportage/event type of photography, where you catch people in the moment. You get some amazingly natural and relaxed shots when people aren’t really aware they are being photographed.
I also like working with businesses who need headshots or branding shots for their business, I like the challenge of getting relaxed but professional looking photos and can draw on my years in PR to help tell the story of their business.
Everyone has a camera in their phone these days, why do you think people still want professional photos?
I think people enjoy the experience of a photo shoot, and often enjoy the time spent as a family. It’s special for them to have really nice pictures, and the pressure is on the photographer, not them, to capture an event. Also, if you’re taking the picture, you tend not to be in it – selfies have their limits! Additionally, many people acknowledge that taking good photos is not just about pressing a button, and are looking for great composition, lighting, as well as direction on what makes a good shot.
What did you learn during lockdown?
It really cemented the fact that I love taking photos, as I carried on all the way through – despite the fact that my husband works away, and I had 3 children to home school as well as everything else!
I also found a lot of wonderful local walks around the area, that I may not have come across if lockdown hadn’t happened. I’s been great for getting to know the village even better, and I’ve found some great locations for shoots.
Is business picking up now lockdown is easing?
Yes, enquiries are starting to come in, and I can’t wait to get back to it properly. I’m looking forward to doing bluebell shoots in May.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Take more pictures! I really do love photography. I take loads of family pictures, and like trying pictures that I probably wouldn’t get chance to do as part of the job. For example, I have a great photo spelling out “Lockdown 2020” with the patterns made by sparklers, which was great fun to do with the kids. (Again, was done within government guidelines at the time)
I make a photo book each year for a family record which I enjoy putting together. I do have to make an effort to ensure that I am in some of the photos – the perils of being the photographer!
I enjoy cooking, and like making curries and Asian food. I particularly like Vietnamese food, less so Thai. The children enjoy that type of food too; having spent so much time in Asia, rice is like comfort food for them.
We like to travel as a family, and when we’re allowed, I would love to go to Sri Lanka. I’d also like to take the kids to Cyprus so they can see where we met and got married.
What do you like about living in Ramsbury?
It’s a beautiful village and very friendly. I love the fresh air and lovely surroundings, and the fact that the children have friends close by. We have no intention of moving – I like the fact that my children will be able to say they are from here, which I never had as a child. Although I enjoy having lived in seven different countries, I’m glad now to settle in one place.
Apart from getting back to work, what are you looking forward to now lockdown is easing?
Seeing family and friends -it’ll be nice to eat out and see other people in person! I’m also looking forward to shopping and actually trying on clothes – online shopping is just not the same.
What do you like to read?
I’ve just finished Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, which I would thoroughly recommend. I like authors such as Elizabeth Day and Meg Wolitzer who tell great stories.
What do you listen to?
I enjoy listening to random playlists on Spotify – from current music right back to the 60s, depending on mood. I edit my photos with a classical music background, mainly because I can focus on the editing whilst still enjoying the music. My school was a music school, so I guess that’s where that came from. (I learned the flute at school, but was not particularly musical compared to some of the incredibly talented people there).
How about watching?
I’m excited about going to a theatre when possible. I enjoy taking the kids to musicals, but I’m also partial to a wordy play.
If you are interested in Liz’s photography you can contact her on 07484618329 or visit her website www.elizabethwattsphotography.com