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Saturday, 8 March 2014

Professional Photographer Column - April 2014

Attitude Problem?


I get to meet lots of you these days – photographers who make the industry what it is now and what it will be in the future. It has been very interesting because I have been exposed to a spectrum of attitude – positive to negative.  And the negativity seems to get blamed on the fact that our industry is experiencing a great deal of change.

But isn’t that just an excuse?  It’s the easy way to explain negativity rather than accepting that attitude is everything. Your attitude governs the way you perceive the world and the way the world perceives you.

You might wonder why I’m mulling this one over?  The truth is that every other day or so I see or read something that makes me literally shake my head in surprise and disbelief.  Sometimes it is related to my business and sometimes I am merely a third party observer – which is so often the case on forums and social networks.

For example, last week I was out and about when I received an email enquiry which read, “Hi Kate. Love your work! Could you please provide a full cost breakdown of your collections. Thank you X”.  I replied saying thank you for the lovely comment and asked whether they were interested in weddings, portraits or boudoir and they responded to confirm portraits.   I had cc’d Becky (my studio manager) so that she could reply with the information.  A little while later I got an email from Becky who, having had some strange sixth sense, had googled the hotmail address and found it linked to a Facebook photography page and business.

So I wrote back to X and asked if he was interested in a shoot or just wanted the full cost breakdown to compare to his business.  I politely caught him out in other words.  He responded with an email lamenting the attitude of his clients, the market need for digital images and the effect of the north/south divide.  Without an apology about his intent he was asking for my advice on various issues.  I responded by saying “If I’m totally honest with you the way you tried to get my pricing information has bothered me – I know photographers do it all the time – but I don’t like it. That’s why I train for myself, Nikon, The Guild and Aspire – because I’m very happy to share my experience and knowledge that way. I wish you all the best, Kate”.  His email back to me was something else – but this was my favourite bit “Sometimes it's nice to share; not everything in life is about money you know? I guess you're still to learn that though!”.

Head shake. You see the truth is entirely different.  In reality if you are lucky enough to have some influence in the industry you absolutely must be prepared to give back.  A positive, generosity of spirit is a pre-requisite to success amongst your peers.  Of course I gain financially by writing columns and training but I rarely earn a penny for industry talks like SWPP, The Photography Show or the camera clubs that ask me to speak.  I fill in lengthy questionnaires for students on a weekly basis – in the hope that I will give them a commercial perspective to compare to the theory they are studying.
You see I believe that attitude is a choice – good and bad things happen to all of us and it’s how we choose to respond that matters.  Truly understanding this does mean you are forced to accept responsibility for your situation – you can no longer blame anyone else for where you are and what your business looks like.   Log on to any photography forum and someone will be blaming weekend warriors, postcodes, Groupon, burning to disc etc as the reason their business is not successful. Running a photography business is HARD and like restaurants many will fail. I have no doubt that if an outsider was sent in to a stuggling photography business Gordon Ramsay styley (think Photography Nightmares) they would soon unearth the boxes that are left unticked.  Think about what those boxes are: technical competence, professional level kit, vision and a good compositional eye, effective branding and positioning, a consistent and recognisable portfolio, business and admin skills, web and social media presence, work ethic , ambition and people skills. 

That last one really matters – in many ways more than the rest.  My clients would tell you that I am always positive and engaged with a real concern for their well being and satisfaction.  I don’t always have the right energy to deliver this – of course I can have a negative attitude sometimes because I’m human and stuff happens in my life like it does in yours.  When my attitude is less than positive I am aware of it and I don’t answer the phone or respond to my email.  I have to shut the world out, maybe edit with music on and get my head back into the right space to run a people business.  What I don’t do is log on to a forum and have a moan and a bitch – it’s just not cool and it leaves others with a bad taste in their mouth.    I know I am not alone in my feelings about the attitude problem in the industry and some could argue that my role is to be only positive and encouraging.  However many people have told me that they value my honesty in this column and this is something I feel quite strongly about.  Together, individually, let’s make ‘photography’ a nice place to work.


This was a styled shoot that I really loved being a part of - it was truly a collaboration of talent and skills to create a stunning collection of images to inspire Brides and Grooms with their own wedding day.

Firstly, we came up with a theme and the movie “Casablanca” stood out for us all.  We wanted to capture the essence of this great Hollywood era with our own creative spin.

As a team we worked hard to capture the essence of the movie with all the passion and drama of the story.  We hope through our imagery we have transferred this into something that the modern day Bride and Groom can be inspired by and incorporate into their own personal wedding day but overall we hope that we have done justice to this romantic concept and visually stunning old Hollywood movie.

The story unfolds with Rick entering “Ricks Café” not knowing that his long lost love is inside.  With the use of dramatic lighting we are able to encompass Rick’s loneliness as he sits at the bar lost in thought while Ilsa waits anxiously inside also feeling lost without Rick desperate to meet him again.  Then the intensity of the couple finally meeting for the first time in a years and their passion dramatically re-ignites.  Finally, Rich & Ilsa embrace and passionately part at the end always knowing that they will love each other forever.  We consciously decided to use young models so that the modern day couple could connect to the imagery and our over all vision.

We all loved the idea of using the vintage theme along with the vibrant colours of Morocco to set our scene.  We found the most amazing house based in Hurst, Berkshire which is owned by an extremely creative and talented couple who have built in the Moroccan theme throughout their home and made it look just like a film set which worked perfectly. 

We then brought together the whole amazing creative team including photographers, a set designer, a props supplier, a make-up artist, a beautiful designer bridal dress maker, a hand- made vintage accessories company, a fabulous florist and stunning vintage car hire company along with a very beautiful modern day couple and together we went about creating a really special shoot with the overall aim to inspire Brides and Grooms to think about a different take on their own wedding day plans.

We wanted to re-create the Hollywood Film Noir look and so the lighting was key to setting the classic cinematic tone for the couple shots.  We wanted to invoke different moods to the scenes and achieved this by incorporating different lights and lighting effects which helped replicate the intensity and romance of the movie while showing Brides and Grooms how to use similar set ups and poses to achieve this beautiful style in their own couple shots on their wedding day. 

The Moroccan theme also plays an important part – wanting to create an impact for your guests with the use of strong, rich colours for the table settings and seating plan, the clever use of props, vibrant table cloth’s, vintage table accessories (menus, table numbers, table settings) and added to this the vibrant use of beautiful flowers on the table to compliment the look and to tie in with the gorgeous bridal bouquet again with the use of stunning colours looks truly striking against the bridal gown.

In terms of the hair and make-up, we wanted to replicate this striking flawless Hollywood look from the movie that is both soft and classic with a touch of glamour to make any Bride feel extra special on her big day. 

We also wanted to have a different take on the traditional Bride and Groom’s choice of dress incorporating a contemporary and elegant look for the Bride with a stunning timeless designer silk and lace gown together with some gorgeous vintage accessories for the hair and pieces of vintage jewellery to compliment this romantic style.  We loved the idea of white-tie for the Groom instead of the traditional black-tie that is so often used – we felt this will set you apart from other weddings.

Finally, to set the scene and arrive in true Hollywood style the stunning vintage car that will add a real touch of class to any big day. 

Now to introduce you to the wonderful creative team that made it all possible…..
Kate Hopewell-Smith


Nikki Sheffield
Assistant Photographer            


Christine Maciocia
Set Stylist & Props               


Jeremy Pratt
Vintage Wedding Car & Props       

Cat Fransham
Hair & Make-up        


Penny Hunter


Johanna Hehir
Designer Bridal Dresses            


Abby Gadd at Cherished Vintage
Vintage Accessories        


Marie-Francoise Wolff & Christopher Price   


Jolliffe & Co
Suite Hire Company


Alexandria Lindo
Wedding Invitation & Menu

Michelle Stewart
Table Rosettes               

Sandy Bahrich
Match Boxes               

Printed Rose Petals on the table           


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