Milk & Honey Photography is a boutique photography studio situated in Sydney’s charming Summer Hill. Milk & Honey Photography is owned and run by wife and husband team, Anni Payne (Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) Master Photographer, judge and mentor, and very smiley) and Matthew Duchesne (AIPP mentor, Head On National portrait prize winner, and very gentlemanly).
Tell us about yourself
I am originally from Melbourne and have spent half of my life there and half in Sydney. I studied medical photography at RMIT in Melbourne and once I graduated, the job opportunities were better outside of Melbourne. I came to Sydney for a medical photography job and have been here ever since.
My strengths at school were science and math’s, combined with a love for photography. The science degree in photography was perfect for me as it combined my 2 loves. It is a very technical course but it also had lots of creativity within it and when I was working in medical photography I was also doing weddings and portraits after hours.
In Sydney, I worked at the Prince of Wales Hospital which is a teaching hospital, and took photos of anything for education such as operations or autopsies, studio work for clinical practice such as dermatologists, and as it was a large Eastern Area Health Service we would also shoot their PR and aerial shots as well as famous figures such as The Queen and Humphrey B Bear. It was a great grounding with a lot of variety.
I love having a business and a family and mixing it up all together in life.
I have a hubby Matthew and we have two fun kids Odette, aged 9, and Etienne, aged 10, and our third child, Louie the fluffy Cavoodle! We love the Inner West and the lovely mix of cultures and opportunities it brings.
Tell us about Milk & Honey Photography
Milk & Honey Photography has been in business for 20 years. We are a boutique studio specialising in family portraits and small business profile suites. We love meeting local families and businesses (like us), hearing their story and turning it into beautiful pictures for them to treasure forever or to use to promote their business.
What can your clients expect from Milk & Honey Photography?
We respect and value each and every one of our wonderful clients and they can expect to absolutely love and treasure the images that we produce for them. We are friendly and honest and use the highest quality materials for the best results. We have photographed some families from their wedding day through to their 5th child! We love to see their families grow and feel like we are a part of that journey. We have become good friends with many of our clients. What a fabulous business to be in to have such a personal relationship with them! It helps having a family of our own that grows with the business, going through these life stages as well including our wedding, pregnancies, toddler stages, primary school stage – I’m looking forward to the teenage years too!
We grow with the business and it also grows with us. As we reach new stages, we often focus on those areas in the business. Understanding, for example, how important each stage is to capture before the next stage comes along such as pregnancy portraits, newborns (scrunchie faces and tiny toes), preschoolers (before they lose their milk teeth), primary school age (while they still love to hang out with their parents and laugh a lot!), teenagers, (finding themselves) leaving home (an important milestone for family portraits) and extended family portraits, etc. We have even been asked to photograph a few funerals lately also an important part of life and one to capture beautifully.
Quality over quantity is the key to our work and what our clients value most in what we do.
I encourage our clients to invest in framed fine art wall prints of the highest quality. These images will remain part of the family’s history and be handed down for generations.
The framed wall art that we produce is printed on cotton rag paper and the detail is amazing. We have it custom framed using the finest materials and you can really tell the difference! Our clients often come back every couple of years to update their portraits. They often remark how the images become more valuable over time and how happy they were that they captured that special time in their lives with strong professional images.
How have the technology changes in the last 20 years affected your business?
It’s fantastic that we have such accessible technology now and that people can take hundreds and hundreds of images so easily themselves, but this does not replace the value and importance of professional photography.
The technology and workflow have changed dramatically but the fundamental values of great photography have not changed – it’s not just about having a good camera. It’s all about light, working with people, and composition and that doesn’t change with the tools that you use.
It is also about how you edit, choose and present the work. Artistically we aim to create a story with the images and help our clients have the best possible result from the whole experience.
You own and run the business with your husband, Matthew Duchesne, how do you make working together, work?
It took a few years to establish how it could work well. We naturally have a similar aesthetic and since photography is our passion and our business, we can go to an art gallery and enjoy it on both a personal and professional experience.
We find our strengths and what we each love most about the business and we do our best to concentrate on those areas. Matthew is often out and about photographing the families whilst I am in the studio helping families decide which images will work best in their home. The beauty is that we can change our roles as well and adapt to what is needed for the business and for ourselves.
Whilst running a small business is extremely absorbing and we’re often sharing roles to make it work both in the studio and at home it does give us flexibility as a family. We love that we can both attend school events for example and share the caring of our kids as well.
It’s funny that one of our most favourite photos is a large square framed print over our fireplace, it is of our daughter when she was one, leaning against some old French doors. It’s a beautiful black and white lifestyle portrait. That day we were using an old style film camera and were each taking shots with it. However, this photo is one that we both remember taking!
You both hold impressive photography awards – tell us more about those
The image I’ve included is of our son reading under a street lamp – it has won several awards including being a part of the Head On exhibition in the Museum of Sydney.
I have achieved ‘Master’ status with the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) of which we are both passionate members and have each won numerous awards. They hold state and national awards each year, which is an inspiring event to be a part of in the industry – it keeps us always motivated to challenge ourselves artistically and to keep our imagery evolving. I have been a judge of the awards on a state and national level for 17 years and love being a part of it.
I have also been invited to judge the Head On portrait awards this year which is a great honour since it is one of the largest photographic festivals in the world!
We have also had images accepted into the Moran National Photographic Portrait Prize and the Art and About, Sydney Life exhibitions.
Matthew was one of the winners of the Head On portrait prize in 2007 and it was so satisfying for both of us that he won such a prestigious award with an image from one of our family portrait sessions. We love to be able to combine our passion for the art with our way to make a living!
How would you describe your personal photography style, and Matthew’s?
Our style is very natural and fun, we strongly believe that so often the best photo from a session is the one that you don’t realise is being taken. We aim to capture the character of each individual in the portraits and create an image that reflects this and that is beautiful to look at too! We have a very similar aesthetic and style and often are inspired by some of the same artists and influencers in our work, which is handy! Matthew’s background is in film making so he brings a storytelling aspect to the photography and has a great eye for composition, lighting and detail. I bring a technical expertise to the table, a great combination really.
Tell us about your passion as a photographer. What types of photographs do you love taking the most?
Knowing the person’s story, their relationships and how they work as a family is what we love doing and what our business is based on.
I love creating a feeling within an image, one that can only be explained through viewing, I guess that is often what photography is about. This is also why I love judging other photographers work so much, it is the coming together of many elements that creates a pleasing image.
I gain inspiration from… everyday life and my children! Looking at the world from an artistic viewpoint is easy, we have such beautiful light and detail in our every day living that it is not hard to find inspiration from simple things. We also love to go to art galleries to look at all sorts of art and we both have a Pinterest obsession!
Favourite spots in Sydney’s Inner West?
Ballast Point Park in Birchgrove is one of our favourite locations for portraits at the moment because of the wonderful variety of backgrounds it offers, industrial machinery, harbour views and natural bushland.
We also love to photograph people in their home or around their streets in their own environment. It is part of their story and fun to incorporate it into the session. Sydney has such a wonderful mix of character and viewpoints, we are spoilt for choice!
We also help people choose what to wear for the session, it is important to make the outfits work as a group without making them look too much like you have dressed just for a photo session, it is really fun to mix and match and get a lovely combination of colours and details to work together.
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