We’ve written endlessly about the need to be versatile in today’s day and age when it comes to working in any field, photography being no exception. But when we’ve broached the topic in the past, we’ve talked mostly about being multifaceted within photography, not necessarily about photography being one of many skills a freelancer has in her arsenal.
Kate Holliday has used her substantial work history in fields proximal to photography — namely modeling, styling, and hair/makeup — to bring fresh ideas to shoots every step of the way. She began her modeling career right as she hit teenagerhood and hasn’t looked back.
I started modeling when I was 13 years old, so after almost 27 years in the business, I’ve definitely picked up a thing or two! One of the main things I’ve learned after spending so much time in front of the camera is how to communicate with your models.
While Kate has gained a ton of knowledge with regards to the DOs on set, she’s also figured out, perhaps even more crucially, the DON’Ts.
I’ve worked with photographers who don’t communicate, aren’t friendly, and have made me feel downright uncomfortable in the past, so I do my best to make sure I give the opposite experience. I find that the more relaxed my subject is, the more trust they have in me, which ultimately leads to their willingness to step outside the box and do whatever it takes to get the best image. I always say, ‘it may feel ridiculous and awkward, but it looks amazing!’
One of Kate’s (many) aces in the hole is that she can tell her subject that she’s been on that side of the camera before. Still, she makes sure to only play this card on a case-by-case basis, lest a client feels her focus is in any way divided.
If I’m working with a new face, I find that sharing my experiences and communicating what I need from them and why is very helpful. If I’m working with a client on a commercial shoot, I tend to not share that aspect of my background. I find that some clients are turned off because they view me as not being a “serious” photographer, which is most certainly NOT the case!
If there’s one word to describe Kate’s approach to creating images, it’s “holistic.” This is where the styling and makeup background come into play, with the Florida-based photographer thinking about the entirety of the final deliverable during the process of making it.
Having worked as a stylist and makeup artist gives me the ability to really imagine an image as a whole. Styling and makeup are key elements when photographing models and, when not executed properly, can really throw off the entire concept.
It also helps to be familiar with basics such as foundation colors, which can sometimes photograph differently than what you see with the naked eye. Having the capability to recognize when certain colors or applications aren’t going to work can save you a lot of time in the retouching process.
Kate’s transition from in front of the camera to behind it was inevitable, as her website bio explains. The mother of one made the decision to get “a real job” upon turning 30. Instead, she applied to Savannah College of Art and Design and got a degree in photography — “real jobs” would’ve been too boring, you see.
I was trying to figure out what degree I wanted to pursue, but there was literally nothing else that even remotely interested me. So, I gave up the idea of “getting a real job” and applied to art school. I was fortunate to have been accepted to SCAD and am so happy I made that choice! It was a great foundation but, honestly, there’s nothing like actual experience to really learn a craft. I learn something new every time I shoot.
If you really needed one person to complete a specific job, this swiss army knife of an artist is as good a bet as anyone to get it done. But Kate, who says she does not miss the pressure that comes with being in front of the lens, loves to work with people on both sides of it come shoot day. The collaborative effort not only gives her the opportunity to exchange ideas, it helps her realize that, since there are so many other accomplished professionals on set, she can focus on her part of a given assignment.
Collaboration is one of my favorite aspects of photography. I can do it myself, but I’d much rather have a team to bounce ideas off of because I love hearing someone else’s perspective. Overall, I find that people are more surprised than anything when I share my background, but I am very careful to stay in my lane when I’m working with a team and only give input when asked if it’s not my job.
Nevertheless, Kate’s wide swath of knowledge has been a boon to clients, who end up looking at their own projects differently based on her thoughts during pre-production meetings. From start to finish, this model-turned-photographer knows how to plan and execute a shoot and becomes an even more attractive candidate for jobs with each assignment she lands.
I have definitely gotten positive feedback from clients about how thorough I am when on a project. Even from an initial conversation, I’ll mention aspects of a project that the client hadn’t thought of. I think it’s important that clients understand every detail involved with a shoot and I’ll be the first to raise any potential issues or suggestions. I find that me having so much experience in other fields gives them a sense of comfort. They know they’re in good hands with me.
See more of Kate’s work at katehollidayphoto.com.
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