Kate is a NZIPP Accredited Professional Photographer based in the Canterbury region of New Zealand’s South Island.
Tell us about yourself, your childhood, where you live and how you first started in photography?
I’m Kate, I was born and raised in Invercargill. I left home when I was 17 to be a cherry picker and apple packer in Roxburgh in Central Otago. This is where I met my husband Ross, and after two years living in a small town we moved to Queenstown, where I took on my first photography related job at Smile-Click. I did everything there – I was in the shop with tourists, out on location photographing jet boats and rafting, and worked in the photo lab. We spent two and a half years in Queenstown, then moved to Christchurch where I worked at Fuji Image Plaza, and then we moved overseas for seven years and I didn’t work in photography at all while there, Ross and I were busy enough running a pub! I was a great landlady! We came home to Christchurch and I went back to working in a photo lab part time and then had my babies (Jack is now 13, Freya 11 and Liam 10).
When Liam was 6 months old I needed to get back into the workforce, so I opted to start a business. I decided I was going to be a Wedding photographer (I’m really not a wedding photographer!) Three weeks after the Canterbury earthquake in March 2011, I photographed a wedding – it was held in a field in a marquee as all the venues were damaged and the couple couldn’t find anywhere else. I happened to bump into Lisa Gane at the photo lab and showed her my wedding photos that I’d taken. She said my photos were good and that I should join NZIPP. So, then I heard about this conference that NZIPP was holding in August in Rotorua – there were a couple from Vancouver who were amazing Wedding photographers and I really wanted to hear them speak. I borrowed $1000 from my parents to pay for my ticket, flights and accommodation and arrived in Rotorua where I didn’t know anyone! I attended the first day of the conference and found so much inspiration from all the speakers there. I took four pages of notes that day – and anyone who knows me won’t believe this but I went back to my hotel room that night instead of socialising, and created a two year plan on what I was going to do with my wedding photography and how I was going to run my business. I got up in the morning and wasn’t going to go to the second day of the conference. I felt I’d got what I needed already, but then thought that I’d made the effort to get to Rotorua so I may as well attend. The first speaker up that day was Sue Bryce. She wasn’t that well known back then – this was before she was on Creative Live and became a household name in the photography realm. Her talk blew my mind. All I wrote down was her website and a reference to “the golden circle” and that we should go and research that. Something in that really resonated with me – people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. At the end of Sue’s talk I knew I had to go and speak with her. So I introduced myself and told her that it was the most amazing thing I’d heard or seen, and decided from that moment on I was going to be a glamour photographer. When I got home, I told my friends and family I was going to be a glamour photographer and they all told me that no-one wants glamour photos. I found a place to shoot within 3 weeks, an old school room that I could take on a 3 month lease. Just 3 weeks after the conference in 2011, I started my business as a glamour photographer, and I’m still here 9 years later (although no longer in an old school classroom!).
What clients make up your client base?
Most of my clients are women over the age of 50. When I first started doing this, I thought it would be the young 20 year olds that would be my clients but that’s not the case. Women over 50 tend to be more comfortable with who they are, they have done a lot in their life, have lived life and most have had their kids, and they tend to have a bit more disposable income.
What was your biggest challenge when you started?
When I first started it was the business side of things. The aspects of running a business – the behind the scenes stuff you need to do. I know that you’re meant to start with your end result (i.e how much you want to earn in a year) and work backwards from there and I didn’t do that at all. I looked at what Sue Bryce was charging and did something similar with my prices. I did one “treat me deal” for maybe $45 a session fee, but that immediately got me 28 clients and this was my folio build. When I started I charged $250 for an 8×10 matted print. After a little while I added in folio boxes. I got a sample box of 5×7 prints matted at 8×10 size, and a folio box of 8×10 images matted at 11×14 size. My first client to purchase a folio box was shown the 8×10 and 11×14 boxes and said, “it’s something I’m not going to do all the time so I may as well get the bigger one”. I stopped selling the 8×10 and never offered it again. She paid $1200 for ten portraits for that box. Now that I’ve had more time and know much more about running a business, I know that my prices need to work for me and aren’t just numbers pulled out of thin air.
What 3 words describe your photography style?
Simple, Connected and Feminine.
What or who inspires you?
Sue Bryce was my biggest inspiration when I first started and still is. Annie Leibovitz and Joyce Tennyson inspire me. Old style vogue photography. Esther Bunning, Russell Hamlet and Lester De Vere inspired me in the early days of NZIPP. They were the cool cats and I wanted to be like them!
The compliment that has touched you the most?
Not one in particular but a lot of ladies when they see their portraits say things like, “I never thought I could look like that in a portrait”, “I’ve captured the true “them” and I understand who they are.” It makes me feel like I’ve done my job well, and that my clients are comfortable with me as their photographer.
How important is photoshop in your final product?
I don’t edit anything because I removed myself from that job years ago! My editing is outsourced locally – I struggled for four years editing my own photos and it was a job that I felt someone else could do which would free up my time, meaning I could do more shoots. My editor uses photoshop but we still want clients to look like themselves. I tell my clients, “my editor photoshops responsibly”.
Do you have any words of wisdom for someone starting in photography?
Get an Accountant! Do that first. Don’t go into business unless you have a good Accountant. Use programs like Xero, it makes life so much easier. Get rid of the jobs of the jobs that take up your time that could be better spent photographing. Fire yourself from the jobs you don’t like doing. I recently contracted an Admin person who does all my bookings for me, although it was hard to give up that part of the business because now she’s the first contact with my brand and business. Looking at what she’s done over the past couple of months, I can see that’s freed me up. I can see my calendar is booked, and it takes a lot of stress out of everyday life. She started on 4 hours a week and is doing up to 8-10 hours a week now.
Why did you join NZIPP?
I joined because I felt that if I was going to enter this industry and I was going to create a business around it, I wanted to be a professional. I wanted to charge a professional rate, I have a business that needs to make money, and joining would help with that and I knew I would learn a lot. When I joined I was like a sponge – wanted to soak up all the info that NZIPP provided to me. The workshops and conferences and camaraderie – I’ve made fabulous friends through NZIPP and worldwide through this connection.
I also remember that when I first joined they had these incredible masterclasses following the conference, but you had to be a certain level of photography to be able to attend (Master of Photography perhaps?) It annoyed me that I couldn’t attend because of that, but also, I wanted to be able to go to those workshops so it made me realise I needed to raise my game if I wanted to learn from these people. It made me want to get better, and I didn’t want to miss out!