By Alex Matthews
This photographer has turned herself into Cupid’s little helper – by becoming the UK’s first dedicated dating profile snapper.
Online dating connoisseur Saskia Nelson knew she needed to find a niche when she decided to turn her hobby into a full-time job.
Keen to avoid becoming a wedding photographer, she instead turned her lens to boosting her friends’ dating chances.
But following several successes she quickly spotted a business opportunity and started Hey Saturday, taking better and brighter photos for those looking for love.
Three years on, she and her seven photographers see up to 50 clients every week in cities all around the country.
And for Saskia, 47, from London, the dating scene is changing.
She said: “It’s absolutely the best feeling to hear how we have helped people fall in love.
“It’s a lot different now to when I started.
“I used to take more photos for traditional dating sites, but I find more and more that people want great photos for their Tinder profiles.
“I guess there’s such great competition to get people to swipe right now, that people will look for any edge that they can.
“We’re also seeing a lot more younger people than I imagined.
“When I started I thought I’d mostly be helping people over 30, as younger people have grown up with the idea of taking great photos of themselves for social media.
“But it’s not the case. I think everyone realises the value that great photos can have when people are making instant judgements about you.”
Four years ago Saskia was working in East London on the Olympics legacy project.
However, the long hours and wish to try something new led her to hand in her notice on a whim.
She had taken up photography as a hobby eight years earlier and wanted to turn it into her full-time job.
She said: “I felt I was living for the weekends when I could go out and take pictures, and it got to the point I wanted to make a living from my hobby.
“But I didn’t want to just become another wedding photographer.
“I had tried a lot of online dating over the years, and it always struck me how many people don’t use good photos.
“They were often either too poor quality or overly professional, and both of those don’t really send the right signals.
“I thought I could do a lot better, so I started taking pictures of friends and a few others and it grew from there.”
Clients are given a questionnaire beforehand so the photographers can help with ideas.
As Hey Saturday prefer to do shoots outside, people are also offered the chance to reschedule if the weather forecast does not look good.
All photographers who work for Hey Saturday also have to fit into Saskia’s ideal of being a fun and friendly aid to people’s dating lives.
She said: “We try not to make the shots look too professional, as that can give the impression people are trying too hard.
“We aim to catch people as candidly as possible, so it looks like they were out with their friends when the picture was taken.
“Obviously it’s a friend with an interest in photography though – the quality has to be good.
“We try to take people to colourful outdoor places, as they provide the best backgrounds and the best light.
“It’s great if they can bring one or two props and a change of outfits to the shoots too.
“That way we can include talking points in their photos and get several different looks.
“We often ask people to bring outfits that would be suitable for a first date, so people can get a good impression of what it would be like to meet them.
“The best shoot we ever had was with a girl who was really into fashion, and it turned into an editorial style session. I really enjoyed it.”
Over the years Saskia has had considerable success in helping people to find their dream matches, which she says is the highlight of her job.
In 2014, she did a shoot with Beryl Thatcher, who went on to meet her new husband through a dating website using the photos Saskia took.
The 36-year-old, who lives in London with her husband and their 16-month-old twins, said: “I had tried online dating before, but I’d not had a lot of interest, mostly because of my photos.
“I booked a shoot with Saskia for fun, and she let my daughter come along and get involved too.
“It was great, and I remember seeing the bright orange background when I was wearing a purple hoodie and thinking, ‘that’s it, that’s the shot’.
“Saskia took it and I really liked it.
“It goes to show how important photos are.”
Hey Saturday now operates in London, Brighton, Birmingham, Leicester and Edinburgh.
Her top three tips for instantly improving your dating profile are:
1) Wear something colourful and go somewhere colourful. It instantly makes the photos more attractive and interesting. If possible, wear something red.
2) Choose photos that are of good quality. They need to be in focus and have nice lighting. The easiest way to get good light is to go into the sunshine.
3) Think about holding something you love and that reflects you. It provides an interesting talking point people can begin a conversation with, and it instantly reveals a little more about you.