Inspiring Creator Series: Marianne Taylor from Hiya Marianne

Post by
Marisa Young
Inspiring Creator Series: Marianne Taylor from Hiya Marianne

Marianne Taylor from Hiya Marianne is a creative soul, a wealth of knowledge and a vibrancy ambassador. Hailing from Finland and after a stint in London, Marianne now embraces a slower pace of life and calls Cornwall in south-western England home. A former a magazine designer, wedding photographer and creative brand educator, moving to the coastal town is where Marianne transitioned into commercial photography and stop motion animation telling a brand’s story in beautifully considered and wonderful ways.

Drawing on her artistic flair and art direction, Marianne revels in the creative process and is certainly an advocate for the adage ‘stopping to smell the roses’ in so many ways. Not only does she document her process to embrace the journey herself, she hopes it will inspire others to surrender to their own creative story too. Her finished still-lifes and motions are a testament to this journey and her love of colour and thoughtful composition are the result of her master artistry.

So keep scrolling down to stop and smell the roses with us and let Marianne fill your world with flower power and creative storytelling.

Meet Marianne Taylor

Hey Marianne! We'd love to find out how you got started as a commercial photographer and stop motion artist?

Hi, I’m Marianne! I am originally from Finland, but I have lived in the UK since 1999. I moved from London to Cornwall at the South Western tip of the country eight years ago. The rugged coastline and slower pace of life down here have been very healing after the hectic life I lived before.

When I was a kid I used to draw and paint constantly. I got my first camera when I was 11 and it started me on a journey of documenting life. Later, there was a long period where I was creating conceptual work and sharing it on different photo-sharing sites.

During that time I worked as a magazine designer, and photography was purely a creative outlet. Eventually, in 2008, I quit my job and started shooting weddings. The timing of it was like the perfect storm as at the time wedding photography was very stiff and formulaic and there were very few people doing wedding reportage with a more artistic style.

My business took off very fast and in 2012 I was named the national winner in the Wedding Photographer category at the Wedding Industry Awards. I shot hundreds of weddings in the UK and abroad and got to see some amazing things. Around the same time, I started my educational brand and was also travelling to talk at events, and life was super hectic as a result.

I decided to move to Cornwall for a slower pace of life, and that's when I had to pivot to a way of working that didn't require so much travel, so I moved into commercial photography. It was a completely different field and a different clientele, but I found that I could use all the skills I had learned along the way. As a wedding photographer, I had to be able to do so many different types of photography from reportage to portraiture and food and still life. I had to adapt to working under unpredictable circumstances and light or weather conditions. I had to be an on-the-spot problem solver because there are no second takes. All of that was hugely beneficial when moving into any different field of photography.

The years of making conceptual work as a hobby taught me how important it is to have a specific style and aesthetic to your work, about studio lighting and creating a pleasing composition. The years I spent as a magazine designer left me with the skills to design my marketing materials and websites. The times I have written various blogs have thought me how important workflows are. It all adds up and nothing you do along the way is wasted.

Marianne’s beautiful compositions often draw on floral inspiration or the ingredients of the product. Source: @hiyamarianne

What are some things people might not know about you?

  1. I love flowers and flower arranging, and I try to grow as many flowers for cutting in my garden as I can. Gardening and flower arranging is a form of meditation to me. I've also started using more and more florals in my work.
  2. The ocean makes me feel grounded and connected to everything. My husband is from Barbados and it weirdly makes sense that we live by the ocean between both of our native countries. Water connects us all.
  3. Before I moved to Cornwall, I built up an educational brand with the purpose of helping creatives run their businesses in a way that felt more natural to their personality. I ran a website and blog full of advice and information, offered workshops and 1-2-1 mentoring, gave talks at events and even built a membership site. After five years, I sold the brand forward and, unfortunately, none of it is online anymore. It feels sad as it all was such a labour of love, but lately, I've been feeling like I'd want to dip my toe back into teaching in some format. So, watch this space.
Two of Marianne’s signature images that are widely ‘pinned’ on Pinterest as a source of the creative inspiration. Source: @hiyamarianne

What equipment do you currently use to produce your content?

I have acquired my gear over a fairly long period of time, and I tend to only upgrade when a piece of equipment has truly come to the end of its life, or the technology is completely outdated. I currently shoot with a Canon EOS R5, and have a 5D mkIII as a backup body.

The main lenses I use are:

My lighting setup is a bit of a mix of things I’ve collected over the years. On the flash side, I have three Alienbee B800’s, two of which are from my old conceptual days but still very reliable. I also have several old Portaflash wide-angle slave flashes that come in handy as fill light in tight spaces.

My continuous light setup is a bit newer and consists of some Godox and Aperture lights. As any photographer, I also have way too many modifiers and stands and bits and pieces hanging around the place. But then once in a while, there’s that job which requires a specific piece of kit, which makes it all worthwhile. Having said that, I am much better at not buying useless crap these days!

Do you have a favourite lighting setup?

I love flashes as I don't have to rely on the unpredictability of natural light, I can create any kind of lighting conditions or atmosphere, and there's enough power to freeze motion.

One of Marianne’s most popular stop motions along with the behind the scenes which has proved just as loved by her followers. Source: @hiyamarianne

Do you have any advice to share with aspiring photographers and stop motion artists?

Slow down. Life's not a race. You don't have to get anywhere fast, so allow yourself the time to learn and grow. There's never a point where you've 'arrived' at your ultimate goal, even if it might feel that way when you look at people you admire on social media. Even the things that look like big successes are just points in life's journey. You'll move past some and realise there's a whole new universe of learning ahead. Just enjoy the ride and take care of yourself and remember to have a life outside of work.

Your reels are really fun, any advice for creatives wanting to produce this type of content?

In the beginning, I really struggled trying to figure out how to add reels to my workflow. I really didn't want to be talking or dancing on camera, and I felt a big resistance to having to branch out beyond still images. For me, the solution was to document what I was doing, whether recording a time-lapse of a shoot, making stop-motion animations of tidying up the studio, or sharing creating sketches for shoot plans. I could then use this material to make reels that show a glimpse behind the scenes of the journey of how an image comes to life. To me, these kinds of reels feel most authentic to create. I do love watching other people talk or dance on reels, though! :D

Marianne’s fun stop-motions showing her studio clean ups have quickly become one of her creative signatures. Source: @hiyamarianne

Your sketch to final composition reels are one of your creative signatures, any tips or tricks? How do you create these?

Sketching is a big part of the Art Direction process for me, and I feel like it's the most creative part of a photo shoot. Creating sketches has a multitude of benefits.

First, it's a way of making sure you and everyone on the client's side are on the same page. I try to create sketches that are as close to the final image as possible, and once the client has signed off on them, you know you can create the final images without worrying about any miscommunications.

Second, it relieves you from creative pressure on the shoot day. We all know that you don't always feel at your creative best, but despite of that, you have to deliver on your shoots. When you frontload the creative process and create your sketches at a time when you ARE feeling the most creative, on the shoot day you can just turn up and follow the plan and know you have already done the hard bit of conjuring up ideas from thin air beforehand.

Third, creating sketches helps you play with angles, compositions, and colour combinations before setting foot in the studio. It's much easier to try out different colours next to each other in advance before you start building a set and moving rolls of seamless paper around! I used to sketch with a pen in a notebook, but once I started sketching in the Procreate app on my iPad, the ease of trying out colours has taken my Art Direction to the next level.

If you don't like drawing, you could always create digital mockups with rough shapes in something like Illustrator.

Marianne’s favourite part of her art direction, showcasing a product photo’s journey from a sketch to the finished image. Source: @hiyamarianne

How do you keep learning and evolving your skills?

I am a lifelong learner. I love reading books, listening to podcasts, and consuming courses, anything that pushes my mind and creativity further. I think it's a crucial component in having career longevity (15 years and going strong!). I love the fact that these days there is so much choice in online courses, and you are able to easily learn from such a huge variety of people. I like short-form courses that concentrate on a specific area, making it a lot easier to find the time to consume and digest the information. Some time ago I wrote a blog post on some of my favourite courses for Photography & Art Direction, which you can find here.

Where do you find inspiration for your own work?

I do obviously have favourite photographers, but I feel like I get the most inspiration from artists in other fields. I love movies and @colorpalette.cinema always inspires me when they post colour palettes from visually inspiring movies. I am always mesmerised by @byadelinewang punch needle reels. The art of @chadlittleart is just insane in its realism and I also get so much inspiration from the colours. The installations of @jesseswoolston never cease to blow my mind. If you haven't seen the collage work of @jessadupuis you are missing out!

I have an 'inspiring art' highlight collection (or two) on my Instagram where I try to save things I see that move me.


What are your top go-to props to use on shoots?

I think my number one favourite has to be flowers. I also have a huge collection of plinths and columns, those are such a workhorse of a product photographer. And I do have a soft spot for my miniatures and toys collection of props.

Marianne’s creative work showcasing her client’s products in beautiful and fun ways using flowers, columns and tiny props. Source: @hiyamarianne

and lastly, we'd love to know - what's next for you?

That's the million-dollar question, isn't it! :D I'm happy with where I am with photography and the clients I get to work with, but I do feel a pull towards something in the educational space, I just couldn't tell you quite what yet. It would have to be something that's in a different format from what I've done before, something that would feel very natural and authentic.

I have started contributing more educational content to different outlets. For example, I'm writing a series about running a photography business for the Professional Photo magazine. The first episode is out in the next issue. The current issue has an article I put together about the importance of Test Shoots as a commercial photographer, which got me a picture on the cover of the magazine. You can check out the issue here.

Marianne’s recent article and magazine cover talking about taking on challenging test shoots that can push creative boundaries and polish fresh skills. Source: Marianne Taylor

Thank you Marianne for sharing your own creative story with us and inspiring our community with your experience. You can follow along with Marianne’s journey too over at @hiyamarianne or visit her website to learn more.

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