Tag: photography

How to choose the perfect photography mentor for you

Working with an experienced mentor is a great way to develop as a photography but choosing the right mentor can make a big difference.

This week has been a very successful week for my lovely mentees with four talented photographers passing their qualifications! I feel very proud to have helped them achieve their goals and am very much looking forward to helping them develop even further in their photographic journeys!

I always have a great relationship with my mentees which I believe helps! So if you are looking for a photography mentor? What are the questions you should be asking!

Whether you’re a complete beginner learning the basics or seasoned pro looking for a bit of a creative boost there are certain questions you should ask a potential teacher to se if they are the right choice for you!

There are many incredible photographic trainers and educators out there all with their unique ways of inspiring and encouraging.

One persons teaching approach can be very different to the next and may not fit your particular style of learning.

We all take on information in different ways and at different paces it is down to the skill of the mentor to develop a personal programme for each student rather than a one fits all approach that you would expect from a training course.

When deciding on your choice of mentor there are a few pointers that may help you decide!

Can you work well together?

If you are aiming for a qualification or developing a style of photography you may well spend a great deal of time chatting things through with your mentor so it is important that you can work honestly and communicate well together.

Some mentors offer great shorter getting to know you mini mentoring sessions as an introduction so that you can get to each other before committing to longer sessions.

What level of expertise do you need?

Are you looking to just simply learn how to use your DSLR or Mirrorless camera competently for taking images of your family or aiming to gain qualification with a photographic body? You must ensure that your chosen mentor has the ability to do so at the level required.

Has you chosen mentor a proven track record and achieved the level and photographic skill that you are aiming for?

Is your mentor an expert in your chosen genre?

This may seem like an obvious point! But if you are interested in qualifying or developing a style as a portrait photographer it makes sense to be mentored by a photographer with those particular skills, and especially one whose work you admire!

I have experience in mentoring many genres of photography with my 15 years of mentoring and training experience. I do however have specific expertise in both portraiture and travel photography, both are genres where I have qualified at the highest level of Fellow of the British Institute of Professional Photographers.

Does your mentor offer ongoing support?

The best sort of mentoring is in my mind ongoing as the relationship will build and grow stronger with your mentor really getting to know your way of working and your particular style of mentoring.

The stronger mentors encourage and develop their mentees own personal style over time rather than creating clones of themselves.

I am able to do in person consultations at my studio in Cheltenham on location at a venue of your choice or virtually via Skype or Zoom.

If you are interested in learning and being photographically inspired to achieve your goals lets get to know each other!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Saraya x

Speaking Engagements 2019!

2018 was super busy for me with lots of public speaking, inspiring talks and photography workshops, 2019 however has literally gone crazy!

Each month I can be found somewhere in the country! So if you are nearby please do come and say hello, you will be most welcome at many of the lectures or events, but please click on the date to check for further details!

More dates will be added throughout the year, but this little lot should keep you going for a bit! Please contact me if you would like me speak at your event or would like further details of the dates below!

The workshops will generally be focussed on my Award winning Children’s Portraiture.

With the evening talks covering both my Childrens portraiture and my Travel portraiture, please click on the available links for further details of each event.

16th 17th March, FUJIFILM talks at the NEC The Photography Show.

24th April Royal Photographic Society Childrens Portraiture Course, Amersham.

16th May FUJIFILM Childrens Portraiture Course, London.

22nd May BIPP Yorkshire Region Evening Lecture.

25th May FUJIFILM  Cambrian Photo and Optic Show, Wales

26th May Royal Photographic Societ Childrens Portraiture Course, Amersham.

1st July BIPP South West Regional Awards.

2nd July London Portrait Group Evening Lecture, Hertfordshire.

25th July FUJIFILM Childrens Portraiture Course, Bath.

29th August FUJIFILM Childrens Portraiture Course, Cardiff.

10th September Hampstead Camera Club Evening Lecture.

22nd September RPS Childrens Portraiture Course, Amersham.

13th November FUJIFILM X Weddings Conference, Bath.

15th-24th November Photojourney, Nepal.

23rd January Milton Keynes Camara Club Evening Lecture.

5th-24th February Photojourney, Nepal.

I look forward to seeing some of there!

Big Smiles! Saraya xx

When big Saraya met little Saraya

Having lived with the name Saraya for then last 45 years, I am constantly asked, how do you pronounce it? Where is it from? What does it mean?

In answer to those questions, the first is easy, phonetically, Sa ray ah, easy right? But you would be amazed at how many people struggle with it! I even once had a teacher who refused to call me Saraya and called me Sarah.

Most people think that my name is Soraya, which is a beautiful name, but pronounced slightly differently, and most of the time when people ask me I say that my parents didn’t know how to spell!

Soraya is an Iranian name referring to the Pleiades, a star cluster in the constellation of Taurus. It has connotations meaning “rich” (I wish) and “princess” (again I wish). I believe that my name means something similar, and where the name comes from.

So when I was contacted by one of my old clients to say that they would love shoot for their little Saraya, it was a really happy surprise!

I have never ever met another Saraya, there are a few around the world, but really not many, so we are pretty unique!

I had met the parents a while ago at a shoot in my studio in North London a few years ago, and they contacted me last year when Saraya was born to book a shoot, it is always lovely for me to see past clients. (Although it does sometimes make me feel old! Especially when I see the kids growing so quickly!)


We met in a lovely park in North London, and with that gorgeous Autumn sunshine, we couldn’t help but make some lovely portraits of this smiley little lady.


At not even two, Saraya was brilliant to picture, very chatty, telling me about her favourite dinosaurs and I was so impressed with her attention span. (mum and dad helped with that too!)

It was funny for me, when mum and dad kept calling the name Saraya, I answered sometimes too! It was a first for me, to have a client with the same name! So here we are… the two Saraya’s! And I am sure we will see each other again in the future! (thank you Mummy for the image :)!


If you would like some Autumn portraits of your little one please contact me for shoot details and prices.

Lots of Love Big Saraya xxx


Beautiful Bluebell shoots for Spring!

I have found the most beautiful location in Worcestershire for a weekend of Bluebell shoots! I have pencilled in the weekend of the 12-13th of May, in the hope that we will have beautiful carpets of the purple beauties! 🙂 The wonderful Croome Park in Worcestershire is the perfect location for children’s portraits anyway, and I have taken some gorgeous shoots here over the recent weeks…

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Find out more about my portrait shoot packages.

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Portrait Shoot Packages

Find out more about my portrait shoot packages.

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And with the Bluebell season fast approaching we should have the added beauty of spring to add to the frame!

These shoots have no shoot fee, just a deposit of £50 to ensure your appointment, the deposit will then be taken off of any orders made 🙂

To secure your place please book here… appointments are strictly first come first served so book now to avoid disappointment!

I look forward to seeing you in the lovely Spring sunshine!

Saraya x


The X-T20, for the Junkyard?

Just before christmas last year, after my trip to Nepal, I was involved in a really exiting little project…….

I am lucky enough to be able to shoot some of my children’s portraits in some of the coolest places in London, and Gods own Junk Yard, has to be high on the list of SUPER COOL places to shoot!

Hidden away on an industrial estate in Walthamstow, the exterior really hides the secrets of this amazing place.

I first shot a lovely family of 6 here last summer, and knew I needed to come back! It was just amazing!

The images below were both shot on the Fuji X-T2, when the junkyard was open to the public (its a coffee shop also!) it gets very busy! And we needed to be quick.



I had since been asked to create a short film of me using the new X-T20, that I had been given a prototype version to test, and knew the perfect location to do this!

My model was the amazing Misha, whom I had worked with before, so I knew she would perform under pressure! This time we were lucky enough to have the whole place to ourselves for a couple of hours and this gave us a good time to explore and use the entire space, what a treat! If you ever get a chance to visit the Junkyard you must, its a real gem!

We managed to give the camera a proper trial, and it performed as expected, the fast focusing, wide focusing points, and ease of control were perfect to use in this situation!

The new touch screen feature was brilliant, and allowed me to quickly see if the images were in focus and colours correct, an action that is something that we are so used to doing now with our phones, it doesn’t take much to figure out what you are meant to do! Swiping from shot to shot or zooming in or out, its fast and makes sense.

The X-T20 coped extremely well with some tricky lighting and colour scenarios, which for me was reassuring, I should have expected this from the Fuji team, with colour a speciality. We lit all of the portraits with continuous LED’s to combat the colour casts from all of that lovely neon, and the EVF read the light perfectly!

Yet again, I am left feeling that Fuji has made a body that is just instinctive, something to just pick up and shoot, without have to trudge through pages and pages of instructions.

The retro feel and design of the Fuji X system cameras that we already love, paired with the technologies of the present and the future all rolled into one! A great little camera that I am looking forward to introducing into my kit,  I may even go for the silver X-T20 how gorgeous is that!


At the end of the project the final out come was this lovely little film highlighting some of the features of the X-T20, movie of portrait photographer Saraya Cortaville. Please take a look!

And of course some great vibrant images for Misha and her mum!



What a little superstar!

And thank you very much to the wonderful Neal James for all of his hard work producing the film.

Saraya x



The perfectly formed, FUJI X-T20!

I am sure all of you by now have read all of the amazing reviews of all of the new Fuji film products that were excitingly released on the 19th of Jan! So my experiences? Well where to begin

As a portrait and travel photographer the obvious choice for me of the new arrivals was the X-T20, a smaller more compact little sister of the the X-T2 (a camera that I now use for ALL of my portraiture and travel commissions).

In November 2016, I was approached by Fujifilm asking if I would be interested in having a trial of another of their prototype cameras. Now is any photographer going to say no, to such a great opportunity? You’d be a fool not to get involved!

The very next day I was off on my travels again as a trainer for the wonderful Photojourney in Nepal, I packed up the x-T2 in my Billy bag and  just popped in the X-T20, and hoped that I would get a chance to give it a go.

With most of the prototypes that are sent out there are always some initial glitches, but I managed to get it up and running for a few days whilst up in the hills of Barpak, Nepal.

It was so small I would often take it out on my golden hour walks, something that I try and do everyday whilst visiting a new area, I would pop on either the 90mm or 56mm prime lens on and that would be it!

The following images were taken a year and a half after the devastating earthquake in Nepal, and I wanted to really highlight the way the town had managed to regenerate and develop with vigour and pride after such an epic event, it was really very inspiring!

As the X-t20 was a pre-production model, I was unable to shoot RAW so shot all of the images in Jpeg, and then processed after in Nik software as I love the BW conversion, I was amazed by the quality and depth of the files and the sharpness! Sheesh! That 56mm APD lens is something else!

The biggest benefit to the size was that I found was that I could very discreetly hand hold the camera, in all situations and it is pretty much unnoticed, really nice when you are trying to get natural portraits.

Even more so when imaging the children of Barpak, (and there were LOTS of children!) as they were certainly less intimidated with the smaller body, I was amazed how close to the subjects I was able to get.

I’m not one to go into to all the new technologies and features, but as a photographer who likes things easy I just like things to work the way they should!

Photography for me is more about the connection and interaction with the subject, and this lovely little piece of kit certainly allowed me to have that! The eye contact that I was able to maintain was easier as I was not behind a huge DSLR,  quite often I would use the flip screen with my eyes above camera to draw an expression from the subject!

The controls and menus are pretty much the same as the X-T2, so I was used to where everything was, just slight differences were noted but nothing too out of the way.

After returning from Nepal and a couple of firmware updates (very normal for the pre-production models) I was able to shoot RAW and the files as expected did not disappoint! The files are BIG! And again lots of depth and clarity.

I am still experimenting with the body and it has also recently been in my kit for a recent family holiday to Costa Rica, it was a great to take out on days and to the beach, and I am sure it will be a great add on to my work kit also!

I am now thinking of carrying two bodies (this one being the extra) to my portrait shoots, so that I am able to seamlessly shoot both wide and long lenses quickly! When shooting children at speed this can only be of benefit! I will update you when I have started my London portrait shoots in a few weeks! (its just too cold out there at the moment!)

In the meantime for all of the camera details just click on the images above we really could learn a lot from their strength of character!

Saraya x






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