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Belinda Burton: Contemporary sensuality

Can you tell us about your journey as a photographer, from your beginnings to where you are now as an internationally award-winning photographer?

I had a long time love affair with photography before I become a full time professional photographer. I have always been artistic and creative, and I found photography a great form of expressing what we see in a visually poetic way. I used to work in corporate when I discovered photography; I spent a lot of my evenings and weekends attending different photography courses and experimenting with my camera. I also ventured into the dark room – it was in the days before digital camera was born! Film photography was much more nerve wrecking as you never knew how things turned out. It was a great training base though.

Over time friends asked me to take photos for them after seeing my work. As I got great feedback on photos I took for them, I got the confidence of building a part time photography business as a side hustle. I started with wedding photography which had minimal conflicts with my corporate work schedule. Eventually I left corporate after working up to senior management level. I felt ready for a change, developing a creative career in something I was passionate about seemed a dream coming true. Over the years it was about bettering myself at all times, progressing as a photographer and servicing my clients at my very best. Submitting for and winning awards is one form of recognition – to drive me forward and give me an idea of where I stand.

What inspired you to specialize in portrait, boudoir, and branding photography, particularly focusing on empowering women?

I started off with landscape and travel photography when I first picked up my SLR camera. When my friends started asking me to take photographs for them, it was always about people – birthdays, christenings, weddings. The subject of people photography really drew me in; I found photographing people much more challenging as a subject. I discovered that not everyone is equally photogenic; when people see bad photos of them that really dented their confidences. I like challenges and I like the satisfaction defying problems.

I focus on empowering women through portrait, boudoir and branding photography because women are often feel judged by their looks, and often they are not satisfied with their appearances. I love proving to women that everyone can indeed by beautiful, that they don’t have to be models or celebrities. It is a great feeling when I see the sparkles in my clients’ eyes when they see their photos. Being able to put people in a positive zone and feel confident about themselves is a very special job!

How do you believe your diverse cultural background has influenced your approach to photography and your understanding of beauty?

I was born Chinese and have spent substantial durations of my life in Hong Kong, Sydney and London. I also travel extensively. I find that no matter which major city I am in, women have the same insecurities. We are all prone to heavy influence of the media and how women are portrayed. We compare ourselves to the media interpretation of perfect women and question our self-worth. In the more backward countries and villages, women are much more comfortable in their own skin and less concerned about their aesthetic presence.

Even though photography is about capturing what we see with our eyes, I think beauty also comes from confidence within us. It is my goal to reinvigorate this confidence in women by capturing photos of them that they feel proud of. And I want them to think: look, I am not a size 0, I have curves and flaws, but I can look good too.

How do you approach each photoshoot to ensure your clients feel comfortable and empowered throughout the process?

A successful photo shoot starts from good preparations. I often spend time with clients to plan the shoot together, so we are connected before they come to the studio. It also helps them ease their nerves, knowing they are not left on their own.

I tend to take care of every single detail in the shoot. When all the right elements are thrown together, we get the best results. What my clients find very useful is that I also give very detailed posing guidance. They make significance difference to the outcomes! Often clients pick up their confidence just by having a peek on the back of my camera and see those instantons transformations.

Can you discuss the intersection between your previous corporate career and your passion for photography? How has one informed the other?

My previous corporate career definitely benefits me in developing my second career as a professional photographer. Running a creative business is not for the faint hearted, there is so much in keeping it running, getting ourselves known and attracting customers. In reality, me behind the camera taking photos only represents one proportion of my time spent on the business. My business understandings give me the commercial acumen in establishing my strategies, evaluating investment and returns, keeping my costs and revenue in check.

What do you consider to be the key elements of a successful portrait, boudoir, or branding photograph?

To be considered a successful portrait, boudoir and branding photographer, I think on one hand it is being regarded as making great deliveries. As my work is visual – clients can clearly distinguish the quality and whether they like my style. One the other hand, it is about having a viable business. Many photographers charge at price points that are not sustainable, considering all the time and cost elements involved.

How do you balance creativity and technical skill in your photographic process?

To be a good artist, I believe that it starts with a good ‘eye’. Then we need to back it up with the right skill sets. Having the creative talent is a pre-requisite; however execution is key too. I pursue my technical skills endlessly (even as of these days) so I can wow my clients with my work. With my clients, luckily I tend to have full trust from them and I can push on the creative aspects in most occasions. My clients constantly comment how creative I am – I adapt and design my shoots based on who I am photographing.

Can you share a particularly memorable or impactful experience you've had while working with a client?

My clients often become emotional when they see their photos, especially the more intimate ones e.g. boudoir photography. They often have doubts about themselves when they come into the studio. They walk out thinking much more highly about themselves. This is a big part of why I love my job.

In your opinion, what role does photography play in shaping society's perceptions of beauty and self-worth?

Over the decades, photography becomes much more accessible, thanks to the digital era as well as camera phones. I think it is a blessing as well as a curse. Together with social media, people become more obsessed with their appearances. Photos take a key part in how they see themselves, and people constantly benchmark themselves against influencers, celebrities and media-perfect models. There is an unattainable bar of beauty that a lot of people try to achieve; they easily get disillusioned. It is among my mission to dispel those beliefs – we are beautiful as we are.

How do you stay inspired and motivated in your artistic practice?

I appreciate all form of art. Reading magazines, visiting galleries, travelling and seeing places, all give me inspirations. I am very much drawn to fashion, I am always fascinated by structures, layers and textures of clothes and how they can all mix and match. Not least to mention – choosing the right clothes make a big difference in the portrait and boudoir photo outcomes!

What advice would you give to aspiring photographers looking to specialize in portrait, boudoir, or branding photography, particularly those aiming to empower their subjects?

My biggest advice is: go with your heart, see the big vision but take care of all the details! Never stop learning.

Model: Anatasiia Halukh @_n.estea_

Photographer: Belinda Burton @belindaburtonphotography



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