Kate Hopewell-Smith shares her advice about portraiture and light with a packed Nikon School Live audience
‘I didn’t choose Nikon, it was chosen for me when I was given a Nikon D80 for Christmas. It was my first proper camera, and at the time I knew very little about photography.’
So says Kate Hopewell-Smith, who just a few years later is one of the UK’s top wedding and portrait shooters. She is talking to us in the theatre at AP’s HQ just prior to her Nikon School seminar for around 90 AP readers – the third that AP has hosted with Nikon School Live this year.
So how did Kate become such an accomplished photographer in so little time? Her images are extraordinary, not only in their staging, and in the visible rapport she has with the subjects, but for the beautiful lighting.
‘Well you have to like people,’ she explains. ‘You need people skills and you can’t learn those. But then it’s about learning to see light. I mean really see it. For me there was a Eureka moment when I realized I could read it and know how it was going to look within the limited dynamic range of a digital camera.’
Kate long ago upgraded her D80 for Nikon’s pro bodies and lenses and now uses a D810, D4 and D3S with a variety of optics. In her role as a Nikon Ambassador she had the chance to shoot with Nikon’s new 28-70mm f/2.8 VR lens and is full of praise for it. ‘I wasn’t a big fan of the 24-70mm before,’ she admits, ‘but the new one has changed my mind.’
Kate has her audience enthralled as she shows her work and talks about light in a way that many feel they really understand for the first time. Afterwards, as we enjoy a glass of wine and spectacular views over London, they are able to chat to Kate and the Nikon School team, and play with the latest gear that Nikon has brought along – including the first opportunity in the UK to see that new 28-70mm f/2.8 lens.
More Nikon School Live seminars will be held in the coming months, so look out for announcements in AP.
Forthcoming Nikon school courses that may interest you
The Art of Location Wedding Photography
Join Nikon School on location for a fantastic wedding photography workshop, hosted at the exclusive Buxted Park Hotel in East Sussex. You’ll learn how to shoot creative wedding images, how to work with a bride and groom on location, lighting techniques and a host of other invaluable tips and tricks. It’s a great chance to gain experience from the experts and to get some good images for your portfolio.
Waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales
This one day workshop will take you to the very best locations to capture the striking scenery of Yorkshire Dales’ waterfalls and impressive limestone outcrops. Under the guidance of our experts at Nikon School, you’ll be taken through the correct camera settings and cover techniques, as well as having the opportunity to try out a selection of lenses and camera bodies.
Getting Started with Street Photography
Be inspired and develop your creative photography with this one day workshop. Using Nikon School’s central London location as a base, you’ll be able to go to some amazing nearby areas to capture a range of images in the vibrant streets. The workshop’s excellent balance of theory and practical will leave you with a great set of pictures, and lots of creative ideas to use in your photography in future.
Kate’s top tips
Search for light, not locations
I rarely shoot within 10-15 miles of where I live, but I never do a recce first. I did when I first started and was fairly green, but that’s entirely the wrong approach. When you learn that photography is all about light and not about location you realise you can’t recce beforehand, because the light will never be the same. Have a rough idea of where you’ll shoot – I try to find areas where the subject is free to move around – but when you get there look for where the best light is.
Getting children to stay in one place for any length of time can be a challenge, so sometimes I introduce props that they can either get into or onto. My favourite is an old tin bath that I bought in a junk shop.
Three types of light
When I do a portrait shoot I like to deliver three types of light: frontal, side and back. Each type of light gives very different results. If you shoot the whole session with the light coming from just one direction the pictures will look a little ‘samey’.
If you shoot in aperture priority but find yourself using exposure compensation a lot then you’d be better off using manual mode. I used to be an aperture priority shooter, which is fine if you’re shooting in pretty safe, flat light. But as soon as you start working in more interesting backlight and sidelight you’ll find it won’t deliver what you need. But I still select the aperture first and work around that.
About Nikon School
Nikon School offers workshops that cater for photographers of every level of ability, from complete beginners to practising professionals.
The Centre of Excellence, situated in Central London, offers a wide range of courses that are suited to individuals wanting to learn more about photography, or those who simply want to expand their creative horizons.
The Nikon School workshops are a mix of easy-to-understand theory and hands-on practical assignments that are held in small groups to ensure everyone can benefit from the expert knowledge of the tutors. From understanding your digital SLR and lenses, image editing, HDR montages and location fashion shoots to capturing candid street portraits, making HD video films and taking inspiring landscape images or wildlife shots, Nikon School workshops cover a variety of skills and subjects that ensure there is something for everyone.