Talking Photography with Katie Portman from Pouting-In-Heels Read all about my experience as a boudoir and portrait photographer.
Hi Helen! Thanks so much for being a Wisdom In Heels interviewee. I’ve featured your amazing photos so many times on my blog so it’s such a pleasure to have you! Please take a moment to tell us all a little about who you are, what you do and what you offer?
Hi Katie, thanks for inviting me! Well I’m a married mother of two and I run my own photography studio in Barnsley, specialising in boudoir and contemporary portraiture.
I offer glamorous make-overs for women, couples, mother and daughters, friends etc. and I also shoot maternity. I even have a unique experience called ‘love you, love your dress’ which celebrates women’s favourite dresses and I also offer some commercial work too.
Today, we’re going to be talking about photography as it’s something that I know so many of us would like to be better at or get to grips with more. Can you please tell us a little about how you first started with photography properly and how it became your business?
I have always owned a camera ever since I was a child and have always loved taking photographs. I went to University to study design and photography and my first proper job was working for Maplin Electronics. I photographed new products and events and designed their promotions and catalogues.
When I had my daughter in 2007 she became my world and I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her, so I decided now was a good time to follow my heart and carve a creative, independent life for myself through photography.
Boudoir was not commonly known about back then, in fact there weren’t any in Yorkshire when I first set up, so I decided this would be perfect for me to explore. I began photographing my friends and knew right from the start this was definitely what I should do. They were as excited by the idea as I was, as it was something so new and exhilarating. They felt great, which made me feel great!
I opened my doors in 2009 and have never looked back. Now I have a lovely life where I can be there for my children and work doing something I love too.
I personally love photography and as a blogger, it’s one area that I’ve really had to try to improve over the years. What tips would you give to a busy blogger or business owner like me that would help me to improve my photos overall?
Tips to improve your own photos would be try using the rule of thirds, so that your point of interest is on one of the cross sections of an invisible grid of three lines.
Try and use white/vacant space in your images to draw in the readers eye. Great photos to me don’t just show you the reality of what is in front of you, they show you a creative new interesting angle, so try to move around your subject, get down low, get up high, tilt the camera until you find an interesting view point.
Don’t waste time by taking the same photo over and over again if it has worked, move on, if it hasn’t move on!
When selecting your best shots choose quickly and go with the gut. If an image moves you instantly, choose it!
Lots of women seem to really struggle with having their photographs taken. (Clearly not me as you’ve ‘shot’ me many times! *laughs*) I always think this is tremendously sad, especially when so many mums are never ‘in the picture’ when it comes to capturing their family lives. You do THE most amazing job of capturing women looking their very best so I wonder what would you say to women who don’t like being photographed? What advice would you give so they feel happier being ‘in shot’?
I am so flattered that so many women who hate having their photo taken, come to me. It’s a crazy thing to get your head around, but I can guarantee you will look amazing and look like the most beautiful version of you if you have a go.
With boudoir I always start with one of the more conservative outfits and the best thing about boudoir is that you don’t always need to look at the camera, so you can look down your body, smile and close your eyes, slip off your shoe etc. so you are doing something in the shot and not feeling too intimidated by looking directly at the camera all the time.
Believe in yourself, you are beautiful just the way you are!
Bring out your confident side or just do what Beyonce does and become Sacha Fierce. Pretending to be a super version of yourself or someone else can really help.
What’s your best photography tip when it comes to taking better photos?
My best photography tip would be to remove distractions and pay attention to the little things. Anyone who has been to see me will know I am very particular about relaxed hands and pointy toes!
Lots of mums are now setting up their own businesses and working for themselves these days and I know lots of women who would love to have a photography business like you. What advice would you give to someone who feels they’d like to make a living out of taking photos?
Go for it! There is absolutely nothing to stop you finding a way to making a success of yourself. Practise, practise, practise, create a portfolio you are proud of and make sure you tell everyone you meet. You never know who they know!
Reader question – “I would LOVE to know a bit more about what metering is and when and why to use it? Thank you!”
Metering is all about finding the correct exposure. On a DSLR there is light meter built in to it and within the viewfinder you can see an exposure level indicator showing you whether you are over or under exposed.
If you are shooting film or in a studio you will need a light meter to take the guess work out of it.
Like so many of us, I could spend hours taking or looking at photographs. So I’d love to know, when it comes to photography, what or who inspires you?
I have long been a fan of Christa Meola, a Boudoir photographer from America, who I have been mentored by over the last few years. I am looking at going to New York to meet her at some point. The way in which she poses women is so beautiful, I take a lot of inspiration from her.
I also love Sue Bryce, an internationally renowned photographer from New Zealand. She is able to create a connection between the subject and the viewer. It is a sparkle that comes through the eyes. All her work is feminine and evocative, I love it!
Reader question: “I’d love to know how to take a flattering photograph – the best angles, the right pose etc.” (Me too!)
I could write a whole book on this topic honestly, but it’s all to do with angles and shaping of the body to create an hourglass shape.
Some positions I ask people to do feel really strange and they are probably thinking how the hell is this going to look any good, but from where I am standing it looks great. General things like pushing your chin forward to eliminate a double chin, not squashing your arms, legs etc. to your body as they will appear larger are all good tips.
Shooting from a lower angle will make your look taller and pushing hips away from the camera will slim you (as anything further way from the camera appears smaller).
If you’d like to know your best angles take some time to study yourself in the mirror.
I know that sounds strange, but if you know which is your best side and how you like your smile best you can pose like that when someone starts snapping.
What do you use to edit your photographs and have you any tips for the rest of us when it comes to enhancing our snaps?
I use aperture, lightroom, photoshop and alienskin. You can play for hours with your photographs if you let yourself, but I try to keep things simple and not do too much to my images to be honest.
I use the dodge tool to lighten areas I would like to emphasise, as well as using the sharpen tool. I recover my highlights if any areas have lost details in the lighter areas on my image too. I use Alienskin to create dramatic black and whites and another gorgeous vintage filter, which my clients seem to love too.
My tip would just be to experiment with the different edit options and see how you like your images to look. Sometimes adding grain to an image can look really nice, but its all down to personal preference.
Having your photograph taken can be pretty daunting I think, especially when you’re a women. One of the most frightening things I’ve done photography wise is have some glamour shots taken by you. Do you remember when I tried to emulate ‘Monica Bellucci’?! So I wonder what advice you would give to a woman who would like to have some professional images taken but is worried or fearful about it?
I find that everyone is nervous to some degree, but as soon as we start chatting and get into it, the anxiety soon subsides and you’ll start to enjoy yourself. You’ll be concentrating so much on what I am asking you to do that you will soon forget about your nerves.
My sole job to take beautiful portraits so trust in my experience. I will guide you and give you plenty of encouragement and support. I always show one of the first photos, so you can see how amazing it looks, which I think really helps.
My advice would be not to put it off for too long, just do it and to make sure you bring with you clothes/lingerie you are really happy with.
Reader question: “How can I get good lighting on a dreary day (like today!)?”
On a dreary day the light is very flat and even, but that isn’t such a bad thing! At least there are no harsh shadows to negate. I would try to add some light and colour of your own if you think you need it.
Use a flash, video light, soft box/umbrella or reflector or add some bright colours to your image to liven it up. Wait for a break in the clouds and catch the sunlight however small.
There is an app called ‘Golden Hour’ which is specifically for photographers to find the best time of day for light in their location and it even works with internet connection in case you are in a remote area.
What’s the hardest thing about your job?
The hardest thing about my job for me is overcoming technical issues and teaching myself how to use programmes to their fullest capacity. I find working on the SEO of my website can be a challenge too!
What’s the shoot you’re the most proud of and why?
Creatively I am most proud of a shoot I did at Newburgh Priory. The setting was incredible and I loved the teal-coloured victorian room with lots of natural light. It was amazing!
But more generalIy I am so proud of the brave women with low body-confidence, who come and see me. I absolutely love seeing them let their hair down and capturing that on camera. To see how much it boosts their confidence is amazing. I am super proud of that.
I’m always fascinated by your work and love watching you in action! So I wondered if you’d care to share what’s in your bag of tricks and what camera you would recommend to a beginner?
I have two Canon 5D Mark ii’s with a 24-70mm 2.8mm zoom lens and 85mm 1.4 prime too. I have a flash gun, video light and my favourite is my reflector.
It’s quite hard to say, but it would be fair to say depending on how keen you are to get into it, get the best you can afford.
Finally, thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us Helen! Please can you tell us a little about the pair of heels you’re wearing in the photo above and why they spoke to you?
I bought these heels for my 30th birthday to match with a sculptured dress of the same colour. I loved their height and slender heel. Now they are worn mostly in the studio (some of my clients will recognise them!) as they make women’s legs look amazing!
Want to get in touch with Helen or find out more? Here’s all the info you need.
Special offers or news?
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