Katie Shaw: Contributor Interview

Katie Shaw (A.K.A. Kate Suzanne Photography ) is a photographer based in Asheville, North Carolina. She specialises in contemporary portraiture of families, high school seniors, newborns, weddings, engagement sessions, and even wedding proposals.
As she said “My style is fun and laid-back with a little whimsy thrown in. As the mother of two busy boys and wife to a bigger one, I’m more than prepared to capture your wild kiddos, reluctant hubby, or fussy baby and make it a pleasant experience producing some beautiful images”


1- Tell us a little about yourself, and how you became interested in photography!
I first got into photography during college while I was working toward a degree in art education. I took a photojournalism class and at the end of the semester, the professor came up to me and complimented my work suggesting I continue on in photography. As a college student, there’s always that question if you’re pursuing the “right thing” so to have a teacher take notice really made me reconsider my future plans. A job came open as photographer for the college newspaper, which I took, and that was the start of my photography career. That led to jobs as a photographer and reporter at small town newspapers and then as a freelance photographer at a major metropolitan newspaper. Once I got married and had my two boys, I decided to open my portrait photography business.


2- How much has having two kids in your home shaped the way you approach your photography?
I would say two things shaped my photography approach – my background in photojournalism which taught me to capture “the moment” instead of posing or faking it, and then raising my two busy boys who made capturing “the moment” challenging with their energy and, more recently, their distaste for having their photo taken.

3- How do you balance your photography with your family life?
Both of my boys are in school so I’m able to edit and take photos during the day. For photo sessions through my business, I usually schedule those in the late afternoon/early evening for the best light which can be hard with a family. But my husband is a huge help and very supportive. I also carry my camera with me when I’m out with the family, something my boys just love. (Note the sarcasm.)


4- What changes in your approach when you’re shooting your own family and children, as opposed to professional models?
Now that my boys are older, a camera makes them run the other way or pose with an obnoxious face no mother wants to document. So now I have to be sneaky. I photograph quickly without the boys knowing, sometimes with the camera at hip level. I’ll also pretend to photograph the scenery and sneak the boys in the bottom corner of the image and then play dumb when I’m caught. It’s a process!

5- Your images seem so full of life! Is that a matter of planning or spontaneity?
I guess a little of both. For family sessions, we always start with the posed shots to get those out of the way. And then we have fun. Lots of running, laughing, acting silly.


6- Do you carefully pose your photos or do you take a more candid approach?
Most of the photos I submit to Arcangel are candid, especially the ones with kids. When I’m photographing a family or high school senior for a photo session, I’m always on the lookout for a good book cover. I’ll take some shots vertically if I think it would work for Arcangel. When we’re on vacation or simply grilling out with friends, I’ll take my camera and capture the kids playing, again, with Arcangel in mind.
7- Many of your pictures are shot outdoors. How do natural environments influence the way you shoot?
I love shooting outdoors, especially in locations with unique elements that add to the scene like a row of trees, a long staircase, ornate archways, etc.  We live in a naturally, beautiful and historic area in the mountains of North Carolina with lots of options…the Biltmore Estate, Blue Ridge Parkway, waterfalls, so many possibilities!

8- Do you have any strategies for keeping children at ease while shooting?
Oh yes! My husband describes me as “childlike,” but I prefer to think of myself as a goofball who “plays well with others” which means I get along great with kids. I talk to them on their level and let them know it’s okay to run around during a session. If a parent gets agitated because their child won’t sit still, I tell them it’s okay. We’re here to have fun and capture natural smiles. And those smiles can only come from being yourself. I might be exhausted at the end of the session from running, rolling in the grass, playing ball, climbing up a hill, but that’s just part of it. (I’m also pretty good at balancing a stick on my head to get a child to sit still for the posed family shots. And mentioning my treasure box full of toys to be opened at the end of the session always works!)

AA16901449- What has been your funniest or most awkward moment on a shoot? Oh gosh. Did I mention I’m a goofball??? So…there was the time I accidentally walked through a giant spider web during a session and, without thinking, threw myself onto the grandmother in a crazed attempt to wipe the web on her. It was purely a reflexive move.
When I was first starting my business, I was photographing a toddler with the child’s mother and who I assumed was his gray-haired grandfather. As I was talking to the toddler, I said in my best baby voice, “And what do we call your grandfather?” The gray-haired man standing behind me answered in a deep, annoyed voice, “We call him Dad.” Lesson learned.
Last one…I’ve photographed one live birth which was truly an experience. The woman gave birth in a blow-up pool in their living room. In the kitchen nearby, her mother had a spread of food on the counter for hungry guests. And in the sink, on that SAME counter, was the placenta. The grandmother asked if I wanted a plate of food. I took one look at the sausage balls, carrot sticks and placenta laid out in a two-foot area and kindly declined. I could go on…

10- Personal projects can be so beneficial to a photographer’s growth and creativity.  Do you have any you’re working on right now?
Yes, I do! I’m working on a fine art series based on the funny side of motherhood. It’s still a work in progress and I have a notebook full of ideas. It started when a photo I created with that theme in mind was selected for an exhibit and received an honorable mention by the juror. I was shocked to even be selected for the exhibit much less receive that honor because the other images were so dark and serious. But the juror said we all need to laugh at ourselves more, something I think I do quite well thanks to my family’s bout of self-deprecating humor. It was then I realized there was a need and a space for more humor in fine art photography.


11- How would you describe your style to someone who was unfamiliar with your work? What do you think sets you apart as a photographer?
I always describe my style as fun and laid-back with a touch of whimsy. I want people to smile when they see one of my photos, either from the subject matter or the color and light. I love color! And I love images that tell a story. I hope to create photos the viewer can relate to and see in those images a bit of themselves and their experiences.

12- What do you think the challenges are for the stock photography industry at the moment, and what changes do you foresee over the next few years?
I imagine that apps like Instagram are greatly impacting the industry. Anyone can take a photo, add a filter and post it. I think for photographers, finding a way to stand out, is a challenge. I would hope that stock photography would become more selective and in turn, pay photographers more for their work. Before I discovered Arcangel, I looked into other stock agencies but was shocked at how little photographers were paid for their work. Arcangel was a nice surprise.

Click here to discover Katie’s portfolio of work.