Meet the UK’s First Dating Profile Photographer
She’s on a mission to banish blurry bathroom selfies and make poorly picked portraits a thing of the past. eHarmony met Saskia Nelson, the UK’s first dedicated dating profile photographer, and discovered that she’s out to conquer the world one photo at a time…
“As a visual person, when I was online dating I was looking at these blurry, dark, 10-years-out-of-date profile pictures and it was so off-putting.
“Just by having a good photo you can make such a difference. We live in such a visual world it makes sense that when people go to their online dating they want the same thing.”
Saskia Nelson is taking a breather for a quick cup of tea and a chat with eHarmony on London’s South Bank, before she heads off to shoot her second single of the day.
For the UK’s first dedicated dating profile photographer business is booming, with demand at an all-time high.
This is all the more impressive when we learn that just two years ago Saskia was working for a charity and studying portrait photography simply as a hobby.
She says: “I knew I wanted to work with people, because people are brilliant.
“I did a lot of model shoots and I models would swap numbers with me and keep wanting to work with me.
“I kind of realised that I wanted to make my hobby my job.”
So in January 2013 Saskia handed in her notice and set about starting her own photography business, but she was still missing a vital detail.
She says: “I read lots and lots of marketing books and they said you’ve got to have a niche.
“I thought ‘what do I know?’ My friends said ‘have you thought of being a wedding photographer?’ But weddings aren’t really my thing.
“Then I had this light bulb moment, where my eight years of online dating experience could come to use.”
And so was born Saturday Night’s Alright, bringing better dating photography to Britain’s singles.
Saskia knows very well what it’s like to be on the other side of the lens, having spent eight years on-and-off using digital dating sites, before finding her match.
She says: “I understand the journey you could be on when you are dating and you can be quite vulnerable.
“By coming to me it takes any embarrassment out of the situation, as I totally empathise. I have lots of advice I can share too.”
For Saskia being a dating photographer is not just a snap and run job, she takes the time to get to know her clients and understand what will work best for them.
She says: “I start to pick up clues about who they are from their first email.
“I send them a questionnaire which asks things like who their style icons are and what’s playing on their iPod.
“I ask them to send me a couple of photos of them they actually like. People often struggle with that one.”
Before she has even met her clients Saskia has built up an idea of what they’re like and how she might best display their personality.
Saskia can then use this knowledge to pick the perfect location for the shoot, and with London’s rich variety of backdrops she is often spoilt for choice.
She says: “The South Bank is good, especially for people with disabilities, as it’s very accessible. I also like Battersea Park, Holland Park, Dalston, Brick Lane, I’m always looking out for new locations.
“I will use the background: If they have got a really bright dress on, for example, I will pick a dull background to enhance the colour. But the photo is really about them.”
Chatty and relaxed, you can imagine that Saskia is an expert at putting nervous singles at ease when it comes to the shoot.
She says: “Rather than poses it’s more about the vibe they’re giving off. If they’re genuinely happy and relaxed I think that shows in the end photos.
“I ask them to think about happy places and happy thoughts to get a smile and a laugh out of them.
“You spend time with them and I feel like we develop a relationship almost. A lot of people turn up and say it’s like meeting somebody for a date.”
In true portrait tradition many of the singles bring props for their shoot.
Saskia says: “I had a woman the other day who loved music, so she brought headphones.
“People bring books, bikes, one person brought a glass sculpture. Dogs are always tricky, it’s hard to get them to do what you want.”
In just two years Saskia estimates she has photographed between 300-400 singles, and it’s only getting busier.
And for those who have passed in front of her lens the results have been impressive.
She says: “Just recently there was this guy Paul who sent me an email saying ‘my in-tray has increased five-fold since I put your photos up.’
“There was an older woman who had just come out of a divorce. She sent me a lovely message saying that she had met someone special who said there was something about her photos that made him stop and talk to her.”
It’s time for Saskia to rush off to her next shoot – she’s fully booked up for the week and has already had to take on a second photographer to cover growing demand. But her ambition does not end here, so say cheese and be prepared for a Saturday Night’s Alright world domination…
She says: “Next year I’m focusing on going national. Most people travel from London from outside, but I want to start setting some bases up around the UK.
“The third phase will be Paris, Berlin, New York, because I like to think big.”
Read Saskia’s top five tips to improve your dating profile pic here.
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