A Touch of Finesse
Kate Hopewell-Smith’s route into photography was a different one to most. After studying Fine Art and History of Art at university, a career in the media industry followed, but then everything changed when she became a mother. Kate found herself looking for a new passion and an escape from returning to the world of offices and commuting.
© Kate Hopewell-Smith | Sony α9 + 85mm f/1.4 | 1/250s @ f/4.0, ISO 320
“We had an old film camera and it piqued my interest, but the digital era was well and truly here so I asked for a DSLR for Christmas and it started as a hobby from that point. I then took an Open University correspondence course called The Art of Photography. It didn’t include much detail on how to use the camera, but more about composition and colour, and I realised it was all very similar to the fine art I had studied at university, but just a different medium. It sounds awful, but I’ve always found it interesting that photography is just faster, it’s instant. You get the results you want to see quickly, making it really gratifying to work on.”
© Kate Hopewell-Smith | Sony α9 + 85mm f/1.4 | 1/125s @ f/2.2, ISO 250
The years she spent at university studying Fine Art and History of Art really came into their own when Kate started her photography journey, and continue to provide her with the skills needed for photography to this day. "I take a lot from the fine art world,” she says, “and the vocabulary of visual composition is similar to what I’d been taught through studying art history. Some people can instinctively create an image better than others, but my theory is that anybody can be taught composition, which improves their work. I absolutely believe that teaching the basics of composition will make everybody a better photographer.”
© Kate Hopewell-Smith | Sony α9 + 24-70mm f/2.8 GM | 1/160s @ f/5.0, ISO 50
Kate explains that for her, light is the most important element of her images: “If you understand light you understand exposure, and then you can take control of the image and it becomes exciting. I know how I like to shoot light, and although it can be difficult at times as I work on location, that is the nicest part of the photography journey - the discovery.”
Kate’s use of light is a constant throughout her images of people. Whether it’s an individual portrait, family shot, boudoir image or a wedding, all showcase her own unique style and you can see how her use of light and fine art background shine through. Each image is very much a work of art in its own right, designed to be hung on a wall on display.
© Kate Hopewell-Smith | Sony α9 + 24-70mm f/2.8 GM | 1/200s @ f/3.2, ISO 640
Kate works with her husband when taking wedding imagery and explains that their role is to tell a story, but their philosophy is very different to documentary photographers. “We believe we make pictures as much as we take them,” she says, “I will move and direct the subjects and try to place them in the most beautiful light I can find - we create these moments rather than just shooting what is happening."
© Kate Hopewell-Smith | Sony α9 + 24-70mm f/2.8 GM | 1/125s @ f/2.8, ISO 400
In terms of her kit, Kate relies on two Sony α9’s for shooting, finding it a great combination of size and speed, both in terms of autofocus and shooting rate. “I also needed a camera that has two cards slots. For me that’s non-negotiable when I’m shooting a wedding”.
In terms of lenses Kate has a set of ‘go to’ lenses. “I use the Sony G Master lenses for all my people shoots. I have the FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM, FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM and the 85mm f/1.4 GM. I also use the FE 50mm f/2.8 macro lens, but this is really just for close-ups.”
© Kate Hopewell-Smith | Sony α9 + 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS | 1/320s @ f/2.8, ISO 160
Changing from DSLR to mirrorless cameras has had a big impact on how Kate shoots. “Having come from a DSLR there are features I now couldn’t live without,” Kate tells us. “The ability to see your final image in the viewfinder before you take it is unbelievable, and the Eye AF enables me to hold the camera anywhere and still get the eye in focus.”
© Kate Hopewell-Smith | Sony α9 + 85mm f/1.4 | 1/400s @ f/1.8, ISO 200
“I found the switch from DSLR to mirrorless so easy - it’s like getting a car you’ve never driven before. It’s unfamiliar at first, but then after a few drives it just becomes second nature. I honestly think it would be so odd now to go back and not be able to see my exposure, it’s something that seems so obvious. I think it would be really painful.”