Photographer Helen Messenger is an acclaimed wedding and music photographer. She tells us how she began - and about her passion for her work

I’m Helen, I’m a local photographer specialising in live music, festivals, weddings, families, pets, equine and small business branding.

I really started getting into photography when I started taking photos at local cricket matches. My dad played for Horspath CC and I grew up spending most of my weekends and weekday evenings watching and supporting. The feedback from photos and seeing people use the images was great and pushed me on to being the annoying person at every event and party with a camera

I’ve always loved the candid natural shots where people are enjoying themselves unaware the camera is on them. This documentary style from the early days has flowed through to my wedding work and even festival work.

Oxford Mail:

I started with music photography as a way of going to gigs on my own when no one wanted to see the same bands as me. Having a camera on me gave me a sense of purpose and a reason for being there, not that you ever need a reason to go to a gig on your own; it’s a very freeing experience.

I started social media accounts, tagged bands and venues then once I had a portfolio of shots in a basic website I reached out to publications who might be looking for music photographers.

I also contacted the O2 Academy in Oxford and became one of their in-house photographers. That was a great job for shooting all different types of artists from different genres.

Working for music publications I got to shoot in venues such as the O2 Arena in London, Reading and Download festival but my favourite gigs are the ones in Oxford’s (now ex) Cellar or the basement of the Library pub on the Cowley Road – gigs where I can turn up on my own and know I’ll see a room of friends.

Oxford Mail:

The music scene in Oxford has been so supportive to me, from hiring me for artists shoots to recommending me for their friend’s weddings! I think the DIY spirit also rubbed off on me. Showing me that if you really want to do some, give it a go, promote yourself, put the time and effort in, always carry on learning and improving and be nice to everyone around you, you never know where the next opportunity might come from!

I really think music photography is a fantastic area for learning. You have to be quick (quite often three songs and out in a crowded photo pit) you have to learn how to deal with ever changing and difficult lighting while trying to focus on a moving target. Festivals involve long days in all weather with tight schedules but are also so rewarding. I feel the same level of excitement waiting for a wedding ceremony to happen as I do waiting for a band to come on stage. You know you need to nail those shots and you’re never quite sure what is going to happen next! (I cry more at wedding ceremonies though).

Oxford Mail:

After years of running both my own photography business and a joint wedding photography business alongside a full time job as an accountant I finally took the leap into full time freelance photography. Giving myself the extra time to devote to not just shooting but marketing, SEO, social media and developing news skills such as video really gave everything the boost I needed. It’s a scary transition going from a guaranteed income to freelancing but sometimes taking the leap is worth it (and a good cash flow projection is essential!)

I’ve kept that love for relaxed and real images and fed that into my work with small businesses, creating informal headshots and content for websites and social media but also with lifestyle shoots for family and pets (yes I do love working for children and animals! The more unpredictable the better).

A few years back I also started a wedding photography business with my best friend Vicki (

Oxford Mail:

We’ve photographed weddings around the country and at some beautiful local venues. It really feeds into my need to find real and genuine emotions within my photographs. Getting to capture moments people will look back on for years to come is such a privilege and something we can’t wait to get back to in 2021.

Photography has changed my life. I’ve met so many wonderful talented people, I’ve travelled to new places, I’m constantly learning and I’ve managed to turn a creative passion into a career.

* helenmessenger