In this interview, we are joined by Miriam Sheridan, a Specialist property photographer based in Reading and founder of Miriam Sheridan Photography. With clients primarily interior designers, architects, and estate agents. Her photography skills are genuinely inspiring as she can turn any property into a beautiful, engaging marketing showcase.
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Who are Miriam Sheridan Photography and Miriam Sheridan?
My name is Miriam Sheridan and I’m a specialist property photographer and videographer. I shoot for design-based businesses such as architects and interior designers so that they can show off their work, boost their portfolio, and impress prospective clients. I also shoot for estate agents and homeowners to bring in more buyers and sell faster.
I launched Miriam Sheridan Photography back in 2011 so my business is 10 years old. I started specialising in property photography at the beginning of 2016.
Last year I took on an office manager called Joanna. She deals with everything that is not shooting – customer enquiries, bookings, social media, virtual staging requests, invoicing, everything like that.
How did you get interested in photography?
I’ve been interested in photography for, I mean, it’s a bit of a cliché, but for as long as I can remember. I remember begging my parents for a camera for my sixth or seventh birthday, and then for my 18th birthday I asked for a DSLR.
I was fortunate and got one, and whilst I did a psychology degree at university, I think I spent more time photo hunting than I did studying! So yeah, it’s been a long-term interest of mine.
In 2011 I was doing a PA desk job and just staring at the beautiful sunset out of the window. All I wanted was to be out there photographing that sunset. So I quit my job and set myself up as a photographer.
What are the main responsibilities of a real estate photographer in 2021-2022?
I consider that one of my main responsibilities is to evoke an emotional response from the viewer with my photographs. Showing the space is one thing, but I use light and composition and styling to make the viewer feel like they want to be in that room.
That’s what I’m ultimately aiming to do. Whether I’m shooting for an estate agent, architect or interior designer – you want the photo to be aspirational and for the viewer to want to live in that property and dream about it.
To achieve that, it has to be more than just sharing the space via photos. It has to make a connection with the viewer.
Tell us about your most recent encounter with obstacles at work?
The biggest obstacle that I’ve had recently is time, and there not being enough of it!
Last year I was working crazy hours just trying to keep up with everything that was coming in. I was booked up for more than a month in advance, and I was working a lot of editing and admin hours on top of the shoots.
The solution: I employed Joanna to deal with all of the enquiries, virtual staging requests, delivering photographs, and also she took on bookings and managing my calendar and things like that, which means that when I get back from a full day of shooting I’m not answering emails until late, which is fab!
It didn’t take her long to get up to speed on dealing with everything. The other thing that I’ve done is taken on an apprentice called Gemma to train up to be another property photographer.
Joanna is already making a big difference to my work-life balance.
Gemma being on board means that my clients won’t have to wait such a long time for a booking because the idea is that she should be trained up to the same standard as me.
It also means that I can go on holiday, which is going to be good.
TALLBOX: Everyone dreams about going on a holiday and the business to run as expected.
Yeah, she’s only just started so I think it’ll be quite a while before she’s fully trained up.
What milestones have you set for the firm in the next 12 months?
Of course, the main project is getting Gemma trained up to start shooting on her own – I’ve got a timescale in mind mapped out for that; when she will begin shooting under my supervision when she will be going out doing some shoots on her own, and then finally having her fully-fledged.
However, I’m keeping that timescale to myself because I’m more interested in making sure the timing feels right. After all, it’s hard to judge exactly how long it will take to get her to be confident and capable. If she’s ready sooner than I’ve anticipated, then brilliant – and if it takes her a bit longer to get there, that’s also totally fine. I just want to make sure that it’s all timed right so that my clients are super happy.
My end game is always for my clients to be super happy!
How to recognise a Miriam Sheridan Photography project signature?
I use off-camera lighting which is a different technique to quite a lot of other photographers. There are quite a lot of benefits to this, to do with getting ‘clean’ colours and nice crisp edges around window frames and lighting fixtures, but ultimately this results in a modern, magazine-like feel to the image that draws in the viewer.
I use a technique where I blend natural shadows back in so you can’t tell that I’ve used off-camera lighting – it looks natural and you get the benefits of these cleaner, crisper edges and colours as well as lovely views out of windows.
I’ll also put a blue sky in the window views using Photoshop, regardless of what the weather is actually like, this will often help lift an image and add to the overall impact.
The other thing is I will very much take my time to find a balanced composition. I might tweak the position of an orchid in the room quite a few times before I’m happy that it balances the rest of the pieces in my frame perfectly. I take care to get everything just right; I put a lot of effort into it.
How many miles do you do in a month?
Somewhere around 800 miles per month, although it varies quite a bit depending on the time of year and on the location of the shoots that are booked – if I’ve got a couple of jobs in the Cotswolds or London or Surrey or similar, then I’ll be driving a bit further.
Most of the jobs that I do are within a 20-mile radius of where I’m based, just south of Reading.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I’ve got quite a variety of jobs going on at the moment. The estate agency work is relatively steady, but also I’ve got quite a few bookings on the calendar for architect shoots, and some interior design shoots.
I shot an absolutely fantastic house on Tuesday – I did photos and a video of one very whimsical, quirky, cute house that was part Tudor and part 17th century. That was a real pleasure to shoot.
What do you love doing?
My favourite clients are interior designers. I love shooting for interior designers. Everything looks beautiful and I can concentrate on finding the shots.
I enjoy looking at the textures and the colours and combinations that have been used to produce the ambiance that they have created. I always try to take a few minutes to soak that up. Then I look for how to convey that feeling in a photograph.
What software do you use to edit your photos?
I use Lightroom and Photoshop. A combination of both because I shoot with off-camera lighting. I take a couple of exposures just using natural light, and then I’ll generally take another; it depends on the size of the room, but about another three exposures using flash in various places around the room.
Then I open them all in Photoshop in a stack. And I pull through the best bits from each photo.
That, in very brief, is what I do!
For videos I use Finalcut Pro. I tried using the Adobe Video editing software – Premier Pro, but I didn’t get on with it. Finalcut Pro seemed more intuitive to me.
How did you find your first client?
Door-knocking! When I first started to specialise in property photography I went around introducing myself to lots of estate agents.
My first couple of clients resulted from targeting estate agents who didn’t necessarily have the best photos they could have.
I would show them the photos that I take and explain to them how much of a difference it would make. Studies have shown that professionally photographed listings generate a 139% increase in click-through rates compared to similar listings that aren’t professionally photographed.
The thought of having 139% more people looking at your listing is obviously enticing for estate agents!
I also joined the Athena networking organization quite early on, and quite a lot of my clients have come in one way or another through that.
How do you organise your time around photoshoots and personal life? Any tips?
Well, I’m trying to get better at organising my time around photoshoots and personal life, but to be honest, that’s something where I’ve still got a fair way to go.
Employing somebody is the first tip because that has made a big difference.
That, and if you’ve got too much work, to start saying no. Last year I would get asked to fit in a shoot and I would feel a bit sick with panic at the thought of trying to fit it in, but I didn’t want to let my clients down so I would say yes. I got so exhausted trying to keep up (and my husband said that he saw me so rarely that he forgot what I looked like!).
I’ve discovered that the world doesn’t actually end if you say that you don’t have any availability for when they’ve asked, and that they’ll have to wait a few weeks.
So sometimes if you’ve got to say NO, that’s okay.
If you were to advise your younger self, what would be?
I don’t know, I think you’ll have to come back to me when I’m wise!
I use carefully balanced compositions and lighting to create photographs that evoke an emotional response from a viewer. So if it’s for a design-based business that’s wanting to show off their work, the photographs need to do justice to the project and convey the feeling that the room has when you’re in it.
And similarly, for estate agents, the photographs need to make the person feel like they want to live in that house. People house-hunt with their hearts as much as their heads.
The easiest way to understand what I’m talking about is to look at the photographs that I take.
Find me on Facebook at Miriam Sheridan Property Photography, and on Instagram, LinkedIn, and my website.
So there you have it. I’m Miriam Sheridan at Miriam Sheridan Photography.