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Podcast Episode 13: This is Anna Rowland

Really excited to have the fab Anna Rowland with us for episode 13! Based in the UK, Anna has been shooting for over ten years, winning awards left, right and centre, and was ranked tenth overall on our Top Photographers of 2018 list. Loved talking to Anna; she had so much to share, including:

  • her first camera and shooting her first wedding on film,
  • her thoughts on the way the industry has changed (or not) over the past 12 years,
  • why she thinks workshops and conferences are important,
  • being a bit of an introvert and why she often shoots with seconds,
  • tips for people wanting to get better with flash,
  • the importance of pushing through the fear zone,
  • a controversial ‘last meal’ choice,
  • her previous life as a phlebotomist,
  • some memorable moments from her experience of shooting over 600 weddings,
  • how to pronounce scone and Bath,
  • how she deals with anything that bugs her about this industry,
  • her experience of being the photographer for the Nine Dots Gathering 2019,
  • what she does in the quiet season,
  • how she balances being a mum and being a wedding photographer,
  • her most effective marketing avenue,
  • her soon-to-be-announced joint workshop with Nadine van Biljon,
  • the two days she would choose to live over and over again,
  • what she’s afraid of,
  • her bucket list and love of Lemurs,
  • her top tips for better documentary wedding photography,
  • and much more…

The interview with Anna Rowland is available to listen wherever you listen to Podcasts, including iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and even on YouTube. You can also listen within this post, where there’s also a full transcript.

Thanks again to everyone who has left us a kind review on iTunes; we really can’t thank you enough, as each review increases the chance of these fab photographers being heard by more and more listeners. If you’ve got a minute or two, we’d really appreciate it if you could leave us a little review and/or rating.

Alan Law:                           Hey, Anna. How are you doing?

Anna Rowland:                Hi, Alan. I’m good. Thank you. How are you?

Alan Law:                           I am really good, really good. Yeah, thank you. How’s things? I saw you quite recently at the TiR party. Yeah, how are you?

Anna Rowland:                You did, yes. That was fun. Yeah, I’m very well, thank you. Yeah, I’m quite excited today, but a little cold.

Alan Law:                           Oh, it’s horrible at the moment, isn’t it?

Anna Rowland:                It really is unpleasant here. I live quite rurally in Devon on a farm, and it just looks horrible outside.

Alan Law:                           Yeah, miserable. Cool, on a farm then. Do you do any kind of cattle herding and stuff?

Anna Rowland:                Oh, all the time. All the time.

Alan Law:                           The normal wedding sideline.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, absolutely. That’s my main job. No, I just look at the sheep. I don’t get involved with them.

Alan Law:                           Okay, probably for the best. Probably for the best.

Anna Rowland:                Probably is.

Alan Law:                           Have you always … did you grow up in Devon? Are you from there?

Anna Rowland:                No, I’m not actually. Well, I actually was born in Rotherham. So, I don’t know if I should admit to that. Yeah. No, I’m from Chesterfield originally, moved down here when I was 12. So, I’ve kind of grown up in Devon I guess. But not always on farms.

Alan Law:                           Okay, cool. You’ve been in some big, major cities that they have in Devon.

Anna Rowland:                All of them, yeah. The sprawling metropolis of Exeter.

Anna Rowland

Alan Law:                           What were you like as a kid growing up? Tell us about the young Anna.

Anna Rowland:                She was a bit strange, yeah. The young Anna was going to marry a horse. But has always been a photographer, funny enough. I got my first camera when I was eight. So, I am the cliché. I am the cliché that picked up a camera at the age of eight and never put it down.

Alan Law:                           Oh, wow. That’s cool though. Yeah, cool.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah.

Alan Law:                           What was your very first camera?

Anna Rowland:                It was called a Flash Dude.

Alan Law:                           Oh, OK, sounds good!

Anna Rowland:                Genuinely. It was just like this little plastic thing with neon zigzags and stuff all over it. It was very cool. I do wish I still had it actually.

Alan Law:                           A Flash Dude?

Anna Rowland:                It was called the Flash Dude, yeah. I think my-

Alan Law:                           They couldn’t release that these days could they?

Anna Rowland:                I think my nana bought it for me from Boots or something.

Alan Law:                           Nice. Cool. So, as soon as you got that, you wanted to be a wedding photographer?

Anna Rowland:                No. I used to want to take pictures of horses.

Alan Law:                           Oh, okay. Cool. Nice. Do you still do that now?

Anna Rowland:                No, I don’t. I don’t. I didn’t marry one either.

Alan Law:                           That’s good to know.

Anna Rowland:                I grew out of that.

Alan Law:                           So, how did you go from horses and your love of photography to getting into weddings then? How did that happen?

Anna Rowland:                Well, as a teenager, because I was quite quiet and quite shy, I was always the one that took the pictures. I think it was my way of connecting with the environment without getting too involved. So yeah, I just was always the one that took the pictures of my friends. Then, when I got to 18, there was a friend of mine who was a little bit older and getting married. She said, “Oh, you’re always the photographer. You should take the pictures at my wedding.” I was like, “Oh yeah, cool.” At this point, I don’t think I’d been to a wedding. I think I went to one as a little bridesmaid when I was about seven. So, I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for, really. I went, “Yeah. Yeah, cool.” This is shooting film as well.

Alan Law:                           Oh, wow. Man, what year was this then?

Anna Rowland:                I think it was … oh, wow. I don’t know, I was 18. So, I don’t know what year that would be? Many, many, many … no, not that long ago. A few years ago now. So, at that point, I had a little Pentax MZ-50 that I got for my college course. I shot so many roles of film, I was absolutely terrified when I realized that not only did she want me to just take natural pictures, she wanted me to do group family pictures and she had about 100 guests. So, yeah. I was terrified because I was still really shy at that point. So, it was just like, how am … I don’t know what to do. Help. So yeah, anyway-

Alan Law:                           That must’ve been scary.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, it was. It was terrifying. So yeah, I didn’t get paid for it because it was a friend’s wedding. I ended up paying, I think, about £200, which was still a lot now to get all these mega rolls of film developed in color and in black and white. Then, I just delivered her this massive stack of prints, were like, “Here you go.” And when I looked through them I thought, “They’re quite good actually. Maybe I could do this as a job,” and then I went, “No, actually, I never want to do that as a job. That was terrifying.” But then it just did that thing when somebody saw her pictures and so, it kind of went from there. It was never really like a, “I’m going to be a wedding photographer.” It was a very gradual thing.

Alan Law:                           Oh, okay. Cool. So, she must have been really happy with those prints though.

Anna Rowland:                Well, I think she didn’t get back to me for about a week. It was the most terrifying week of my life probably, “Oh, she’s going to hate them.” But yeah, she must have been. They’re not together anymore though.

Alan Law:                           Oh, okay. I’m sure that has nothing to do with your photos.

Anna Rowland:                Hopefully not, no.

Alan Law:                           Your first wedding’s on film. So, you’ve been doing this for like over 10 years have you now?

Anna Rowland:                Wow, yeah. I went full time in 2007. Yeah, and prior to that I used to do it part time while I was temping. So, I think I shot my first ever wedding, after that terrifying one, I think my first one was in 2003.

Alan Law:                           Right, okay. Was that on digital, then?

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, that was on digital. I very quickly moved to digital after that massive mistake and expense. I was a student at the time, so I couldn’t … you know, to lose £200. But then they did, bless them, give me … I think they gave me £100 as a thank you.

Alan Law:                           Oh, okay. But you still were out of pocket.

Anna Rowland:                I was. Yeah, I almost felt like saying, “Maybe you could just double that.”

Alan Law:                           Well, if she’s listening now, maybe she’ll send you a little retrospective cheque or something.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah. We’re not in touch these days, so yeah, maybe. Maybe I just send it to her.

Alan Law:                           So, you said you were a student at the time. What were you studying?

Anna Rowland:                Studying photography GCSE-

Alan Law:                           Oh, you were?

Anna Rowland:                I know. Because I went to college to do GCSEs because I left school early. So, I did GCSEs in college. A few things really. Maths, which I think I ended up getting a U in because I just never turned up. So, there was never going to be a career in accounting for me. English and photography, and I think I did like a business admin course or something.

Alan Law:                           Oh, okay. That’s all very useful though I guess. Especially the business side because it’s so important for our work.

Anna Rowland:                It is. It is. They’re not skills that came that quickly to me, so it was a bit helpful.

Alan Law:                           And as I said earlier, you’ve been doing it for over … well, it’s like 12 years now. How has the industry changed since you first started, do you think?

Anna Rowland:                I think a lot of people are saying there’s a lot more photographers. But I don’t … yeah, there may be a few more, but I think a lot will come and go because i think a lot see this job, they maybe go to a wedding, and they quite enjoy photography, and think, “Oh, this is cool. I want to do this.” They realize it’s actually quite hard. So, people come and go. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go in my time. I know that makes me sound like a right old sage, doesn’t it?

Anna Rowland:                But I don’t think it’s just changed vastly. I think the documentary style was still a thing when I went full time back in 2007. So, I’ve not seen huge changes. I’ve seen a big change in the industry side in the conferences, and workshops, things like that. They weren’t really around when I started out. I feel like that’s quite new.

Alan Law:                           Do you think that’s for the better, in general, or what are your opinions on those?

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, I think they’re cool. I think you should always keep learning. I’ve been doing this, like I said, forever. You can learn something from someone who’s been doing it for a year. We’ve all got things to learn from each other. So, I think it’s super important to stay connected with that and make friends who are doing the same job. I think it’s definitely a community … it’s a good idea.

Alan Law:                           Yeah, that’s so true because it is … I know I’ve mentioned it before in other ones, but it is kind of a … I find it quite a lonely industry, so it’s awesome to meet those people at conferences and things.

Anna Rowland:                It really is. It really is. I hit a bit of a low point, I think it was 2013, and I actually remember, I had this Tipi wedding in Somerset and it was a lovely wedding, people were really lovely. And I went and sat in my car while they were eating to go and eat my sandwiches and I felt really lonely and I just felt like, oh, like, it’s such a sociable job but you still ultimately, you’re an outsider. Even if you do get involved and everyone’s really friendly, I did get to that point, and I didn’t really know that many other wedding photographers at the time, I don’t think. I just remember sitting there going, “Oh, I think I’d quite like a second shooter or something. I feel quite lonely.”

Alan Law:                           Yeah, I totally agree with you. It’s strange, you’re at this huge party and yet, you’re not really properly part of it. It’s bizarre, isn’t it?

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, and I think maybe that’s because I’m a bit of an introvert as well. So, I do get involved as much as I can, but I am still quite shy. I don’t really dance on the dance floor, I might sway a little bit. But I don’t get fully … I know some of the guys that we know get fully involved, and I try to a bit, but I am ultimately still that shy kid with a camera. So, I tend to just sit back.

Alan Law:                           From that point when you felt a bit lonely, did you change things? Did you start having a second photographer? Do you shoot on your own now, or more with seconds and things?

Anna Rowland:                A bit of both really. But yeah, I started working with seconds after that point. So, it wasn’t really that I even felt like … you know, obviously the duo coverage in the morning is useful because you don’t have to run around between the two and try and work logistics out. But yeah, it was mostly for company. I ended up paying people £250 just to be my friend.

Alan Law:                           “Be my friend for a day!”

Anna Rowland:                It’s sad. I just want a friend for the day. You know, it’s good to bounce ideas off each other because at that point, I was kind of getting into off-camera flash and trying to just do something a bit different. So, it was good to have someone there that I could use as a light tester as well and talk about ideas and things like that. I made a lot of friends that way as well, so that was cool.

Anna Rowland

Alan Law:                           Yeah, that’s really cool. You mentioned your off-camera flash there. You wrote a really good This is How piece for us a while ago about how you got a certain Reportage Award. I’ll include a link to it in the post (and see the image above) if people are checking out this podcast on the site. In that post, you talked specifically about your use of flash, which is brilliant. Do you have any kind of tips, bits of advice to people who are looking at getting better at using flash specifically?

Anna Rowland:                Yeah. I think it’s a lot easier than a lot of people think that it’s going to be. I mean, I remember for years, I used to say, “Oh, I’m an available light photographer. I don’t use flash.” Most of that, for me personally, I’m not saying it’s the same for everybody, was that I was a little bit scared. I used to turn it on, on E-TTL and it would just be this uncontrollable burst of light that I didn’t know how to manage. So, I’d go, “Oh no, I’ll turn that back off again,” and put it back in my bag.

Anna Rowland:                When I did learn to use it properly and just worked around the very basic settings, I just found that it lifted my coverage for things like … you know, you go into those rooms sometimes in the big, dark, oak panels, and you can’t bounce your flash off it because everyone ends up with bright red faces. For things like that, with speeches, I just think it made life so much easier when I was editing more than anything. Yeah, I just think it lifts the coverage just a little bit. Some weddings, I don’t even take them out of my bag again. It totally depends.

Alan Law:                           Yeah, and it’s cool, and you’ve got that toolkit to bring out if you need to or want to, which is great. How did you personally get better at using flash then? Did you go on workshops or did you just learn yourself?

Anna Rowland:                A bit of both really. I think a lot of it was just trial and error and just getting over the fear of it. So much of it was fear. Did I do any workshops? I should remember if I did.

Alan Law:                           Well, you’ve been in it a long time, Anna. It’s all right if you’ve forgotten.

Anna Rowland:                I know. My memories are starting to fade. I’m getting to that age.

Alan Law:                           No, but that’s cool. You do training and mentoring yourself though, don’t you? So, if people want to learn about flash, I guess that’s something that you could cover? But I guess you cover loads of things.

Anna Rowland:                I do. It’s funny because I see myself very much as a documentary photographer, so I don’t see myself as the portraits guy. But I remember you saying to me, I think it was one of the Nine Dots parties last year. I remember you saying, “Oh, I know you for portraits.” I’m like, “Really?”

Alan Law:                           I meant that in a very complimentary way though.

Anna Rowland:                I think you were quite drunk at the time! But yeah, and I was just a bit like, “Am I? Wow. Well, that’s new.” I think the reason I started doing portraits or trying to make portraits look nice is because I was so uncomfortable doing them because my background was documentary. When it came to portraits time, I just started getting nervous and thinking, “Oh man, I’ve got to perform. I don’t know what I’m going to do. What’s the light doing?” So, I really pushed myself into that. I went right straight into that fear zone just so that I could feel more comfortable with it.

Alan Law:                           That’s cool.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah. So, I do a lot of training with that because again, I think a lot of people that come to me for mentoring, again, maybe don’t use flash as much and they’re quite documentary based. So, similar sort of background to me. I think that’s maybe why I can relate and help with that.

Alan Law:                           That’s cool. That’s so good to push through your fears like that. I think that’s so important. So important in life. Yeah, I get nervous. I still get nervous shooting weddings, you know, like in the morning of each wedding-

Anna Rowland:                Yeah. Yeah, I do.

Alan Law:                           It’s mad, isn’t it? It is mad.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah. Once I’m fully in it, I’m fine. Once I’m in it. So, once I go in and start chatting to people, and again, it’s a funny thing because even when you are quite a quiet person, you do build a bit of a persona for weddings, don’t you?

Alan Law:                           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Anna Rowland:                So, you go in in the morning and you start chatting to everybody and I think if that was real life me, I would not walk into a room and start chatting to everyone like that. I’d sit in a corner drinking tea and feeling awkward probably.

Alan Law:                           That is so true. That’s funny. Cool, let’s change tack slightly. What would be your last meal on death row?

Anna Rowland:                Oh, goodness me. What would it be? I like eating. I could be really controversial here. So, I’m going to do that. It would be pineapple and cheese pizza.

Alan Law:                           Wow, that is controversial.

Anna Rowland:                I know.

Alan Law:                           You’ve probably lost like the whole … 50% of people listening have just like stopped it now.

Anna Rowland:                I know, right? But I like to be controversial. So, yeah. Margherita or pineapple. That’s my go to. Or, failing that, it would just be loads of mashed potato because that’s my other favorite. So, I’m very classy with my choices there, aren’t I?

Alan Law:                           That is very classy-

Anna Rowland:                Could say something really fancy, but no. Mashed potato and a pineapple pizza.

Alan Law:                           Cheap date. That’s good. Cheap date.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, that’s me. That’s me.

Alan Law:                           You know what, though? I’ve never even had pineapple on pizza. I’ve got to try it. It might be good!

Anna Rowland:                Why would you not do it? It’s so good. You know, like the parties in the 80s where they had cheese and pineapple on sticks.

Alan Law:                           Oh, yeah.

Anna Rowland:                Best thing ever. Why do they not have that at wedding buffets? I mean, I have to be honest, I don’t do that many weddings with wedding buffets but I think they should be brought back.

Alan Law:                           Let’s do it, let’s make a stand.

Anna Rowland:                With cheese and pineapple on sticks and vol-au-vents.

Alan Law:                           What are vol-au-vents?

Anna Rowland:                You don’t know what a vol-au-vent is?

Alan Law:                           No, I don’t. No.

Anna Rowland:                Come on.

Alan Law:                           It sounds cool.

Anna Rowland:                They’re like little puff pastry things with a hole in them and you fill them up with, I don’t know, whatever you want. Mushrooms, prawns.

Alan Law:                           That sounds good.

Anna Rowland:                It’s been a while since I’ve had a vol-au-vent actually. I think it might have actually been the 80s.

Alan Law:                           It’s a cool word. It rolls off the tongue nicely.

Anna Rowland:                It is, isn’t it? It would fit in well at a wedding these days, I think. A vol-au-vent. Maybe we should bring those out for the canapes.

Alan Law:                           Let’s do it. Next year at the TiR party.

Anna Rowland:                That would be amazing. Cheese and pineapple on sticks and vol-au-vents. Yes, do that.

Alan Law:                           Let’s do it. We’ll do it.

Anna Rowland:                I’ll be there.

Alan Law:                           So, if you weren’t a wedding photographer, what do you think, what would you do for a living if you weren’t doing weddings?

Anna Rowland:                I would almost certainly be one of two things. I would have either have stayed doing what I was doing, which was working in the medical profession. I used to be a phlebotomist .

Alan Law:                           A what?

Anna Rowland:                Phlebotomist. So, I used to do nurse training. I did taking blood from people.

Alan Law:                           Oh, right. Okay. Wow, gosh.

Anna Rowland:                That’s what a phlebotomist is. So yeah, I started off doing nurse training and did blood pressures and phlebotomy.

Alan Law:                           You like that word.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, I know. It is a good word and people normally go, “To do what?”

Alan Law:                           So, you’ve seen a lot of blood then?

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, I quite enjoyed it in a sadistic way. It’s quite satisfying actually.

Alan Law:                           Are you not squeamish at all?

Anna Rowland:                Not really, no.

Alan Law:                           Oh, okay.

Anna Rowland:                But I don’t watch horror films. I don’t like seeing anything suffering at all, so I don’t watch horror films. But when it comes to real life, if somebody bleeds, I’m pretty good. I’m pretty good to have around if someone gets hurt.

Alan Law:                           That’s cool, that’s good to know.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah.

Alan Law:                           So, you’d either do that, did you say, or what else would you do?

Anna Rowland:                Or, it’d be working with animals.

Alan Law:                           Oh, okay. That’s nice.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah. I have a background in conservation. That was how I … what I really wanted to do with photography actually was be a wildlife photographer.

Alan Law:                           Oh, cool. You could still do that.

Anna Rowland:                I still could. Yes, I still could. I’ll look into that. This chat’s inspired me to do it.

Alan Law:                           Inspired you to get out of weddings and into-

Anna Rowland:                Yep, that’s it. I’m off. The moment of clarity.

Anna Rowland

Alan Law:                           So, you’ve shot over 600 weddings, which is like a massive number. You must have seen almost everything now. Have there been weddings that have really kind of stuck in your mind for some reason out of that huge 600?

Anna Rowland:                You know what, I get asked this almost every wedding. I think it’s even more than 600 weddings now. I must try and count again. I don’t know how I’d start that. No, I get asked at every wedding, “What’s the most interesting? What’s the most crazy? What’s the worst thing?” You know what, nothing really that crazy has happened. Honestly, I’ve not had any big fights break out. I’ve not had anyone not turn up.

Alan Law:                           Oh, that’s good.

Anna Rowland:                I had one bride who was so drunk she couldn’t stand up and nearly didn’t get married.

Alan Law:                           Okay.

Anna Rowland:                But I mean, that’s not that noteworthy.

Alan Law:                           Well, that’s quite noteworthy. Wow, she couldn’t even stand up? Wow.

Anna Rowland:                No. Well, I mean, the poor girl, she had somehow, I don’t know how it happened beautiful she had something like eight flower girls and none of the parents for these flower girls are present. So, it was just her, the bride, getting ready on her own with eight flower girls and I think she just drank loads of champagne and got really, really drunk. But I think anyone would have done the same in those circumstances.

Alan Law:                           Yeah.

Anna Rowland:                When it came to the ceremony she was just swaying all over the place.

Alan Law:                           That’s funny. At least she had the photos to remember her wedding by, though.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah. The ones where she’s standing up straight are the ones that I put in.

Alan Law:                           That’s funny. You’ve done quite a few destinations though, as well, haven’t you? Any really memorable one of those that you’ve really enjoyed?

Anna Rowland:                Yeah. Iceland this year, that was a highlight.

Alan Law:                           Oh, cool.

Anna Rowland:                That was super cool. Yeah, and the bride is a photographer from Mexico.

Alan Law:                           Oh, wow. Did you feel extra pressure doing another photographer’s wedding?

Anna Rowland:                You know, funnily enough, no. I didn’t actually feel that because I wasn’t really thinking about it. It was such an amazing wedding. Everything about it was absolutely perfect. We had golden light and rainbows. The couple were just so good together that I was just fully in the moment. I didn’t really think about pressure or anything like that. Just loving it.

Alan Law:                           That’s good-

Anna Rowland:                This is a peak. I can retire now. I’ve peaked.

Alan Law:                           I thought you said, “This is a pig,”-

Anna Rowland:                No pigs in Iceland. No. Well, there probably are somewhere. I didn’t see any.

Alan Law:                           I’d like to go to Iceland. I’ve never been. You’re going to Norway soon, aren’t you, as well for fun?

Anna Rowland:                I have, yeah. For fun. I’m going to Norway tomorrow.

Alan Law:                           Nice, and you were saying … we chatted just before starting this, how it’s going to be kind of dark almost the whole time you’re there.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, because this is exactly what you want to do when you leave the cold, dark UK is go somewhere colder and darker. We started off going, “Let’s get away in December and let’s go somewhere nice and warm. We’ll go on a bit of an adventure.” Somehow, we ended up in Norway. I’m not quite sure how-

Alan Law:                           That’ll be awesome though. How long are you going for?

Anna Rowland:                Only a week, but I’ve always wanted to go. So, I’m super excited about it. Although, I’m not going to see a lot of it because it’s going to be dark. Could be anywhere. Could have gone to Cornwall.

Alan Law:                           Hey, don’t knock Cornwall. Cornwall’s great-

Anna Rowland:                Nothing wrong with Cornwall. I like it. Other than the way that they do cream teas obviously.

Alan Law:                           Oh, the whole … oh, I still don’t know which is which. The jam on the clotted cream or the other way around. I don’t know.

Anna Rowland:                Are you not a proper Cornish person? I was going to say man then, I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that. Are you not a Cornish person?

Alan Law:                           I’m not, no. I’m from the Midlands originally. I’ve only been down in Cornwall the last like, 12 years or something like that.

Anna Rowland:                Oh, wow. Whereabouts in midlands?

Alan Law:                           From Redditch, just south of Birmingham.

Anna Rowland:                Oh.

Alan Law:                           Yeah, nothing else to say.

Anna Rowland:                No, not really. Oh. Lovely. Well, I’m from chesterfield so there’s nothing really to say about that other than, “Oh, crooked spire. Yeah.”

Alan Law:                           That’s funny. I do like scones though. No, what were we … yeah, cream tea, that’s scones isn’t it?

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, again. Controversial. Scone or scone.

Alan Law:                           Oh, yeah. What do you say?

Anna Rowland:                Scone.

Alan Law:                           No, it’s scone.

Anna Rowland:                No. No, well-

Alan Law:                           It’s like the place name. How do you say the town that’s spelt B-A-T-H.

Anna Rowland:                Bath.

Alan Law:                           Bath?

Anna Rowland:                Yeah.

Alan Law:                           Oh, good. Yeah, so do I. Yeah.

Anna Rowland:                Exactly. This is the thing, you know? You can say I’m going to have a scone on the grass next to the castle in Bath.

Alan Law:                           Yeah, that sounds good. Apart from the scone bit.

Anna Rowland:                Oh, well. You know. Yeah, controversial, what can we do…?

Alan Law:                           That’s funny. Let’s go on a slight downer instead. Is there anything that kind of bugs you about our industry at all?

Anna Rowland:                No, anything that does, I try and stay away from. I don’t use social media a lot. I’m not on that many groups really. I don’t like it when people start attacking each other on groups. So, I’m not on that many. I think I’m on your group and on the Nine Dots group and I think mostly that’s it. I don’t use that many. So yeah, you know, competitiveness for competitiveness sake, or not being nice to each other. I just don’t like that. Just be nice to each other. It’s all we want realy isn’t it?

Alan Law:                           Yeah. That is, that’s all that matters, isn’t it? Just being nice. It is so important though.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah. Absolutely. So yeah, I can’t say anything bothers me too much because I tend to stay away from anything that does. I’ve just learnt over the years to disconnect from anything that stresses me out.

Alan Law:                           I think that’s great, yeah. Because so many people they … things do bug them, but they stay doing those things that annoy them. So, it’s good that you just get out of it. Life’s too short, isn’t?

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, you know, like keyboard warriors. You know, people that just like to go on the internet just to fight with other people.

Alan Law:                           Yeah, bizarre.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, life’s too short for that.

Alan Law:                           It totally is. You mentioned Nine Dots as well. You recently were the photographer for the Nine Dots gathering, which I think must be really stressful. But I know I spoke to you and you didn’t find it too stressful. You did a brilliant job by the way. They’re so good, people should check out the images that Anna took, they’re so good.

Anna Rowland:                Thank you.

Alan Law:                           Did you enjoy it being the photographer? You know, photographing 130 other wedding photographers. I thought that would be so stressful, no?

Anna Rowland:                No. Not at all. You know, a lot of people ask me that. A lot of people said, “Oh, are you feeling the pressure? Are you stressed?” And I’m like, “No.” Genuinely not, no. I enjoyed it because like I said earlier, I feel more connected to the moment when I’ve got a camera. I think that’s just the way that I’ve always been. So, any time I feel a bit uncomfortable, I like to shoot stuff that’s happening because it just helps me connect to what’s happening. So yeah, for me … and also, I’ve got a very, very short attention span. So…

Alan Law:                           What were you saying?

Anna Rowland:                When I’m at workshops and conferences and stuff, I struggle to sit still and listen. I’ll find my mind just wanders off on all these little different tangents. So, I can’t say that didn’t happen when I’m shooting, because I was listening to these talks going, “Oh yeah, that’s super interesting. Yeah, that’s super interesting. Oh, what’s that over there?” Then, I realize that I’d lost what people were saying. So, in answer to your question, no, I didn’t really feel it was too stressful. I really enjoyed it. Yeah, I’d much rather have camera in hand at these sorts of things.

Alan Law:                           Oh, okay. Cool. I understand that I guess. But yeah, if it was me I would have been super stressed. You just nailed it so good. Were you not even nervous like handing over the images to the Nine Dots guys or anything, no?

Anna Rowland:                No, not really. Because I thought, “You know what? I’ve done the best that I could have done.” In fact, no, that’s a lie. I did do my best, but every set of images I deliver, it doesn’t matter who it’s to, I always see the holes in it and I always think to myself, “Oh, why didn’t I do that?” Or, “I should have done this,” or, “I wish I’d done that.” So yeah, there were certain regrets that I felt when I handed it over thinking, “Oh, I don’t really have much of this, and I should have got more of that.”

Anna Rowland:                But I do that all the time, that’s just something that I’m used to having that kind of internal dialogue with myself. But yeah, once I handed them over, I knew that I’d worked hard and I knew that I got a few good moments and a few reasonably creative shots. So, I thought, “You know what, if they love them, then that’s super cool. If they don’t, then that’s a shame.” But you know, I did what I did.

Alan Law:                           That’s cool. And you honestly totally nailed it though. They’re brilliant. People should check them out. I’ll out a link to the photos as well actually, in the post as well. So yeah, absolutely brilliant Anna. It was awesome. And you got a lot of the table tennis which is very good.

Anna Rowland:                I got a lot of the winning shots, yes, I did. I was there. I knew where it was going to be happening. I knew it was all going to be around you, so I put myself in place early.

Alan Law:                           Oh, it was great. It’s such a cool time. It’s the time of year now when most photographers are pretty quiet, thinking about maybe the next year ahead. What do you kind of generally do in the quiet season, in this downtime?

Anna Rowland:                I like to sleep and drink lots of tea and stroke my cats. No, I do do those things, but I do those all year. No, in the quiet time I like to … I’m going to be completely honest, I just like to rest and try and travel a little bit if I can because I love to get out and I’m a very kind of outdoorsy person. I like to travel, I like to see the world. So, even if that part of seeing the world is somewhere else in the UK that I’ve not been to yet, then I try and do that, or go mountain biking. Just something fun.

Alan Law:                           That’s cool. It’s so important. You have such a busy year. It’s important to have downtime and enjoy yourself at this time.

Anna Rowland:                For sure. I joke about it with my clients as it being my holiday, between November and February, that’s my holiday. And it kind of is. I use that time to work on the business and think about what I’m going to do differently next year. But yeah, and also reconnect with my physical self and get back into exercise again. Because over summer, you know, you’ve got … particularly when you’re a parent as well, you’ve got so many things that you’ve got to be doing that exercise is often one of the things that drops off. It’s quite important for me as well as I know a lot of people to stay fit. So, I try and get back into that as well.

Alan Law:                           That’s cool. What do you do to keep fit?

Anna Rowland:                I go spinning usually-

Alan Law:                           Oh, cool.

Anna Rowland:                … and do yoga. Yeah, so spinning and yoga are my two things that I actually enjoy. Running, I just can’t stand running.

Alan Law:                           Oh, nor me, I hate running. I can’t believe anyone who says they enjoy it. I do not believe them.

Anna Rowland:                I don’t enjoy it at all. I tried to get into it recently, running with my dog. But she didn’t enjoy it either actually. She got tired before I did and it was not fun for either of us. So yeah, spinning is where it’s at. It’s hard and the first one I did, I genuinely thought I was going to die.

Alan Law:                           Oh, man.

Anna Rowland:                But then, somehow went back. In winter, I try and go three times a week. But I don’t always-

Alan Law:                           Spinning is like just cycling in a room with loads of other people cycling?

Anna Rowland:                Cycling and not going anywhere, yeah.

Alan Law:                           Right, okay.

Anna Rowland:                But yes, it’s actually … around this time last year, I was chatting with Rousey. You know James Rouse?

Alan Law:                           Yeah. Yeah, lovely guy.

Anna Rowland:                He said to me, he’s like, “Anna, you go spinning don’t you?” And I said, “Yeah. Yeah, I do.” And he’s like, “Do you fancy going mountain biking?” And I was like, “You know my bike doesn’t go anywhere when I’m spinning? It doesn’t move.” And he’s like, “Yeah. Yeah, you’ll be fine. You’ll have leg strength or something. Do you want to go mountain biking on New Year’s Eve?” Because we went up to Aga’s last New Year’s Eve.

Alan Law:                           Oh, cool.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, and then he sent me the track that we were going to be doing the day before we went to do it and it was just this full-on downhill mountain biking. Like, okay, that’s mildly terrifying but I’m just going to say yes. And honestly, I think it was the best day of my life. So, that’s my new hobby. I love mountain biking now. I’m actually thankful to Rousey for that.

Alan Law:                           That’s cool.

Anna Rowland:                He gave me a new love.

Alan Law:                           I have not seen him in a couple of years. Not since we had our little badminton challenge, which I won, James. I won.

Anna Rowland:                He’s very unsociable these days. We need to get him out. In fact, I think he’s going to Elevate.

Alan Law:                           Oh, cool. I’ll see him in March. Are you coming?

Anna Rowland:                I am. I am.

Alan Law:                           Awesome.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, I’ll be there.

Alan Law:                           Just go out the room when I do my talk. You know, you can do that. It’s fine.

Anna Rowland:                Well, I don’t know. I think I want to be there absorbing everything that you have to say, Alan.

Anna Rowland

Alan Law:                           You mentioned earlier on there, as well, that you’re a parent. How do you find that balancing being a parent and being a wedding photographer? It’s a subject that I think a lot of wedding photographers are really interested in I think, that kind of balance. Yeah, so how have you found it?

Anna Rowland:                To be honest, when he was little, it was great. It was ideal because I had him all week so it wasn’t too bad going away at the weekends. Since he started school it’s been a bit harder because he’s at school all week and then-

Alan Law:                           How old is he?

Anna Rowland:                … I’m away on a Saturday. He’s eight now.

Alan Law:                           Oh, cool. Cute.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah. So, now since he’s got a bit older, I’ve been trying to get the work/life balance right my whole life. I still haven’t got it right. I don’t think anyone ever does. But yeah, now I try not to do weddings every Saturday now. I try to maybe just do two or three a month during summer, and if I can, pick up a couple of weekday ones, and I do that.

Alan Law:                           Oh, that’s cool.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah.

Alan Law:                           Yeah, because it’s trickier in a way isn’t it, when they’re at school, because then with a weekend job like we do, you’re never going to see them. It’s tricky.

Anna Rowland:                No, exactly. I’m lucky that my mum is a really great nana and he loves spending time with her. It works out well that he gets to spend the weekend with her. Yeah, I am conscious that they do grow up super quick and I do want to be spending these weekends with him as well and go away and do stuff. So, I did do that this year, actually. I think this year was the first year I actually implemented that and made a decision not to take weddings every Saturday and I’m glad I did.

Alan Law:                           That sounds like a really good idea, yeah.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah.

Alan Law:                           You mentioned earlier as well how you’re not into social media that much. In terms of marketing and getting yourself out there as a business, what’s been the most effective for you do you think?

Anna Rowland:                Word of mouth, I think. Again, because I’ve got the advantage that I’ve been doing it for such a long time. So, I do still get word of mouth, and also venues that I’ve worked at, that I’ve shared images with, suppliers. I’ve got to say, I think probably 90% of my bookings come from there. I don’t really do any marketing. My previous clients, looking after them, that’s my marketing really.

Alan Law:                           Well, that’s cool. That’s great. You can’t do better than that though, really, can you? That’s awesome, and it’s free as well.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, and I love it. It’s great because you get to do these groups of friends and you get to see past couples before, and I have a really good relationship with my couples. I think over the years, I tend to attract really cool people and I feel really lucky about that. I get really nice people. So, I get to see them again. And you get to do whole friendship groups, which is a really cool thing.

Alan Law:                           That is cool. That is cool. I said, it’s free then, that kind of marketing and you said you’re lucky, but in a way, it’s not free and not lucky. It’s because you’re putting so much hard work and great skill into those weddings that people then love the images and then recommend you naturally. So yeah, it’s awesome.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah. It is cool. You can’t be complacent though, because this industry changes all the time. You know, you hear everybody saying from year to year that this year has been tough for them. I know this year’s been quite tough for a lot of people.

Alan Law:                           Yeah.

Anna Rowland:                We don’t really know why. Could be Brexit, could be the fact that 2020 just sounds nice there. We’re all discussing it all the time. Nobody really knows. But yeah, you can’t be complacent. You’ve always got to be looking at your website. Because I think the average attention span of a user is something ridiculous like two seconds or something before you’ve lost them.

Alan Law:                           Right, yeah.

Anna Rowland:                All these things you’ve got to think about. So, I’m still always trying to stay in touch with that kind of thing as well.

Alan Law:                           That’s cool. I guess one of the things we can do to progress is to go on workshops and I know that you’re doing a joint workshop in 2020 with Nadine van Biljon?

Anna Rowland:                Yes.

Alan Law:                           Can you tell us about that? How’s the planning going for that?

Anna Rowland:                Well, we worked together a few times second shooting for each other and we’re good friends. We’ve both got a lot to give. I’ve done a lot of mentoring, but I’ve never done a workshop. I’ve been asked a few times in the years. But we’ve decided we’ve got quite a lot of skills to bring. Nadine has a lot of business skills and sales skills because she’s got a very strong sales background. We both have … what we were talking about earlier with the lighting, you know, just how to make off-camera flash a lot less scary, and how to use it in a very practical way to lift your coverage for dancing and speeches and portraits just to really simplify it. And also, just to discuss another thing that, again, I think documentary photographers struggle with is the portrait side of it. Not everybody does them at all, not everyone does them. But I think as wedding photographers, we’re expected to do them.

Alan Law:                           Yeah.

Anna Rowland:                So, really just how to work with couples to get these pictures super quick, super natural in any environment, any lighting. So, that’s what we’re going to be working on is those two things mostly.

Alan Law:                           Cool. Sounds great. I’m sure that’ll be really, really good. Do you know whereabouts you’re going to do that yet, or still planning that kind of-

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, it’s going to be somewhere around London.

Alan Law:                           Oh, cool.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, hopefully that’s going to work for everybody.

Alan Law:                           Cool. It’s great for people to come along and have two different kind of opinions and two different people kind of teaching them as well. Yeah, that’ll be fun as well.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, we’ve got a lot to bring to it. So, that’s the summary. There’s going to be a lot involved and we’re going to struggle to cram it all in. But we want it to be valuable because I know there are a lot of workshops around and we want what we offer to be really valuable to everyone that attends. We’re putting a lot of thought into it and planning. Yeah, end of February, that’s the plan. So, we’ve got a bit of time to make sure that it is as good as it can be.

Alan Law:                           Awesome. Cool. Well, I’m sure that will be great. People listening, get on it. It will be brilliant. Let’s change tack again slightly. If you could choose one day in your life to live over and over again, like Groundhog Day … you have seen Groundhog Day, haven’t you?

Anna Rowland:                I haven’t, but I know the concept-

Alan Law:                           Really? Have you not seen Groundhog Day?

Anna Rowland:                Dude, seriously. I’m this person that has not seen most of the classic films. Again, I think it’s something to do with that attention span thing. But all the classic childhood films that people talk about, no, I’ve not really seen any of them.

Alan Law:                           Man. Have you seen Four Weddings and a Funeral?

Anna Rowland:                No.

Alan Law:                           What?

Anna Rowland:                I’ve seen bits of it. Like, I know the film. But I’ve never sat and watched it all the way through.

Alan Law:                           Oh, you really should. I love that, and I love Groundhog Day. So yeah, but anyway, but you know the concept of it, of Groundhog Day, of living one day over and over again?

Anna Rowland:                Yeah.

Alan Law:                           Yeah, if you could choose a day in your life to live over and over again, what would it be?

Anna Rowland:                Can I choose two?

Alan Law:                           Okay, I will let you.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, because there’s two things. Most recently, I think the day when I shot the wedding in Iceland, that was just amazing. As a photographer to get a job when everything aligns, like all the planets aligned to just create this most perfect day. That was amazing. I loved every minute of that. So, I’d probably do that. Maybe not every day. But another one was in New Zealand, my brother lives over in New Zealand. So, I try and get there when I can.

Anna Rowland:                He organized this trip where you fly over the glaciers in a little plane and then you dropped into a little valley and you got to hike your way out for like five hours through the wilderness. At the other end of it, you get on this little hover boat that takes you back to the other end. So, that was a full day. But I spent all of it just saying to myself, “Absorb it. This is amazing. Take it in, take it in. This too will end, just enjoy it.” So, I’d love to go back and do that again.

Alan Law:                           Wow, that does sound amazing.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, it really was.

Alan Law:                           I’d love to go to … I’ve never been to New Zealand, sounds awesome.

Anna Rowland:                Oh man, honestly, it’s everything everyone says it is.

Alan Law:                           Have you seen Lord of the Rings, then?

Anna Rowland:                I’ve seen bits of it. I’ve not seen it all the way through. I know, it’s shameful. I do have films that I have enjoyed. I’m not, you know-

Alan Law:                           What films? Like, just 20 minute little short films or something?

Anna Rowland:                Five minutes.

Alan Law:                           No, what are your favorite films then?

Anna Rowland:                I’ve got a lot. It depends what kind of thing you’re looking at. One that I recently remembered, which is amazing. It’s not a very upbeat film, but it’s called Dead Man’s Shoes, it’s a very gritty British film, but it’s brilliant. Very sad though, so-

Alan Law:                           Yeah, it doesn’t sound the most uplifting.

Anna Rowland:                No, but it’s brilliant. It’s so well written, it’s really clever.

Alan Law:                           Oh, okay.

Anna Rowland:                I can’t say it’s my favorite film, but it’s the only one that’s been on my mind recently.

Alan Law:                           Cool, okay. I’ll check it out. That sounds good.

Anna Rowland:                Okay.

Alan Law:                           What are you afraid of?

Anna Rowland:                Oh, on a big scale or on a small scale?

Alan Law:                           It can be both.

Anna Rowland:                On a small scale, I don’t like daddy long legs.

Alan Law:                           Oh, really?

Anna Rowland:                At all. I really don’t like them at all. I don’t know what it is about them. I think it’s the erratic nature of them. Like, one minute they’re on the other side of the room and the next minute they’re on your face.

Alan Law:                           Yeah, I hate them as well.

Anna Rowland:                Oh, they’re horrible things.

Alan Law:                           I was a teenager once riding on my bike and I did a big yawn, and I saw this daddy long legs fly and it went in my mouth in the yawn. I couldn’t stop the yawn. That was honestly awful.

Anna Rowland:                Oh, my … I’m going to have nightmares about that. That’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard I think ever. That’s like pure horror to me. That does actually remind me of an experience in New Zealand. My brother made me do another walk in New Zealand. It was a really tough one. It was like eight hours just hiking through the wilderness in the rain with boots that didn’t full time me properly. That was painful. But yeah, there was this one part of the track where you just had to walk through all these cicadas. Do you know what cicadas are?

Alan Law:                           I don’t, no.

Anna Rowland:                They’re like these big flying insect crickety things that live in the trees. They’re massive. They’re like two inches. Anyway, so there’s all these cicadas just crossing the path. Yeah, I was screaming like a proper girl. They were getting tangled up in my hair and making their loud noises. My brother’s just stood there looking really unimpressed with the hands on the hips like, really? But I was just like, “Ah! Ah! Ah!” Just screaming at them, swearing at them, and they were just like, “Oh my god.”

Alan Law:                           Oh, that does sound awful. You wouldn’t want to go on I’m a Celebrity then?

Anna Rowland:                No, I don’t watch it. But no. I don’t … you know what, funny enough, I’m not that bothered about bugs. I don’t mind spiders, but I don’t really like hundreds of them flying into me. That was not fun.

Alan Law:                           Doesn’t sound fun. Yeah, so like daddy long legs is a small thing you’re afraid of. What’s the big thing you’re afraid of then?

Anna Rowland:                Probably psychopaths.

Alan Law:                           Okay.

Anna Rowland:                Genuine murdering ones, not borderline ones. Just the full on, the really bad ones. That’s why I don’t watch horror films because in my world, I think there’s a lot of real horror in the world, so in my view, I don’t want to watch made up horror because I feel like there’s enough of it out there. So yeah, I don’t enjoy horror films. I don’t like them. I don’t like gory things.

Alan Law:                           Yeah, I agree with you on psychopaths though. For me though, I kind of don’t mind horror films but I don’t like watching real life stuff. Honestly, I don’t like the news, I don’t like 999, and crime watch. Stuff that’s real, that kind of stuff scares me more than fiction.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, for sure. Well, that’s the thing. I don’t mind slightly supernatural things. Monsters and things that you know are not real, but horror films about horrible gruesome ones where they chop people up and stuff. No thanks.

Alan Law:                           Yeah, okay.

Anna Rowland:                I’m all right, I could leave that behind. I’m not up for that.

Alan Law:                           Cool. Let’s go off fears and scary things. If you won the lottery, what would you spend it on? Would you still do wedding photography if you were a millionaire?

Anna Rowland:                I do genuinely love my job. Whether I’d still do … I mean, I would definitely still be shooting, but I probably would shoot for charities or something. I would find a way to do what I love doing and put it to some good. So yeah, I probably would do that. You know, I probably would still shoot weddings for friends or for if someone came to me and they really liked what I did. Yeah, I would try and … I’d probably follow my dreams of getting out there and doing more wildlife photography and travel photography.

Anna Rowland

Alan Law:                           That’s cool. Good stuff. Do you have a bucket list in life and in weddings at all? Anything specific you really want to do?

Anna Rowland:                Probably more destination weddings just because, like I said, I love my job but I love to travel. So, those two things go hand in hand. Iceland was one of them. So, tick that one off. I really want to go to Madagascar. That’s one of my next trips. I don’t think I’d want to shoot a wedding in Madagascar. I just want to travel there because I love lemurs. Like, absolutely adore them.

Alan Law:                           Oh, cool. Okay.

Anna Rowland:                Yeah, I want to work with lemurs. That’s a big bucket list thing for me. That’s quite close to the top. So yeah, go there.

Alan Law:                           That’s sounds good. You could change, you could be Luna Lemur Photography.

Anna Rowland:                Should be. I could have a pet one that I could just have on my shoulder the whole time. I think that would possibly be quite cool. I don’t think you’re supposed to have wild animals. But I like the fantasy of it.

Alan Law:                           That would be very cool, you know. That would give you an edge.

Anna Rowland:                It definitely would. It definitely would. It’d be great, I wouldn’t have any trouble of anyone not looking at the camera. You know when you do group photos and everyone’s looking at their mates camera? No one’s going to be looking at anyone else, they’re going to be looking at the lemur on my shoulder.

Alan Law:                           That is so true. Man, you’ve got … that is sorted. That should be on your workshop.

Anna Rowland:                I would love that. If there’s anyone out there that can connect me with a lemur, I will love you forever.

Alan Law:                           I think we’ve got time for one question. It’s been so good, thank you. It’s been awesome. You’ve won loads of Reportage awards, loads of awards from lots of other associations as well. You’re so good. What would be your top tips to help someone get better at the documentary side specifically?

Anna Rowland:                I think just watch everything. Watch everything. Really think about your frames, think about the placement of people in them. When you’re shooting a frame, look all the way around it and how you can move just … because you know, I say sometimes, “The difference between a good image and a great image can just be a very slight change of perspective.” You know, a very slight change, a movement to the left or to the right. So, just watch all the time. Don’t bring your camera down, don’t talk too much. That’s a problem. Sometimes I see myself missing moments because I’m chatting too much. So, I think just to try and stay connected. Just watch everything and just be ready, really.

Alan Law:                           Cool. Awesome. Great tips. Anna, honestly, that was so good. That was so good. I really thoroughly enjoyed talking to you then. You gave so much great information. I loved it, thank you.

Anna Rowland:                Great information or just random ramblings, I don’t know. You decide.

Alan Law:                           Definitely both. Definitely both. It was awesome.

Anna Rowland:                Good, okay. Good.

Alan Law:                           People listening, definitely check out Anna. She does mentoring, and check out when she does the joint workshop with Nadine in 2020. That will be awesome I’m sure. Yeah, thanks so much Anna. That was just brilliant.

Anna Rowland:                Oh, you’re more than welcome. It’s been fun.

Alan Law:                           Cool, I’ll see you soon.

Anna Rowland:                Yes, you will. No doubt.

Alan Law:                           Bye bye.

Anna Rowland:                Take care, bye.

Alan Law:                           Bye.


Thanks so much to Anna for sharing with us! Here are the links we mentioned in the episode:

Anna’s website

TiR Profile

Her ‘This is How‘ piece where she discusses exactly how she captured one of her Reportage Awards

A slideshow of her images from Nine Dots Gathering 2019.

There’s just a few days left to submit to our first Collection of 2020! Deadline is 23:59 GMT on 24th January 2020. Members receive 60 Reportage Award entries and 18 Story Award entries per year, as well as many other benefits. See all the details and join us over here.

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