If you’re anything like me, I’m curious, perhaps even nosy to know how other people make things work for them. Call me a swot or an A-type (well former A-type, now I’ve downgraded to B of my own volition and for my sanity), but I’ve always been one of life’s serial self-improvers. Keen to do my best, be the best version of myself, what the Italians call La Bella Figura attitude and all that. It’s got me into a lot of trouble in a way (see Sunny Side Up) but the flip side to this is, that I like to know how others tick, how they make their everyday lives function and what they do. I’m always intrigued that behind the one-dimensional facade of the school drop off, there are women (and men!) with other lives waiting for them on the other side of 9am. Responsibilities, stresses, hopes and dreams. Be it juggling a healthcare business with three children, commuting to London every day as an accountant or just managing the lives of your kids (a full time job in itself), there are so many variations that I find intriguing and admirable in their own way. What She Does will regularly showcase everyday, creative, entrepreneurial and interesting women and mothers, whatever their chosen domain.
First up to feature is Katie Knight-Adams – a Sussex-based freelance photographer, specialising in portraits (and who also did the photos for Sashdujour). Katie is also a successful theatre and film actress and has starred in leading roles for West End shows including Cats, West Side Story, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard and Trevor Nunn’s award-winning production of My Fair Lady.
1. How and why did you make the transition from actress to photographer? / Why did you start this business?
I’ve always been a keen photographer, ever since I was very young. As an actress I was also photographed quite often, especially when involved with press launches for new shows. I soon got to grips with the types of photographers I liked working with and the styles of photography I was more drawn too.
My move into photography was a very natural one, because it was my other passion. I find being a photographer fits into my lifestyle and enables me to be there for my children as well as still be creative. Theatre life takes huge commitment and hours of your time. I completely loved it though, more than anything. After having my first child Lara, I guess I realised I found something I loved even more! I went back to playing Christine in Phantom of the Opera when she was only 6 months. I missed her so much I found it really hard to balance everything. After having my second child Jack, I was even more committed to family life. Eight shows a week and super-late nights seemed impossible with two kids and a husband who was very committed to his growing business. I made a decision to be there for them, and photography was perfect as it didn’t take me away from home all the time. As they got older I was able to immerse myself into learning all the technical sides of being a photographer and then pushed myself to take on challenges and learn as much as I could. I then started taking on lots of different jobs and the creativity began!
2. Do you miss the stage?
Yes in some ways I do. I don’t miss the pressure of having to always be perfect. I think since I have had children it has diluted my ambition a little as you really do put things into perspective. I sometimes think about it and think that I used to perform show after show in front of thousands of people every night and became so used to it, it was my way of life. I think I’d be a little bit nervous now! The pressure is immense as a leading lady. I miss the fun of it more than anything else, and the team work! Oh..and also having a dresser with you at all times asking if you would like tea, water, a tissue, anything really that you needed! Very different to being at home clearing up after everyone else, and no one seems to give me a standing ovations for that either!
3. What did you want to achieve when you first started your business and have you done this?
I wanted to have my own thing. My own passion. Also my own independence again, as I was always so used to earning money and having a strong identity. I didn’t want to go back into a year’s contract in the West End because it takes me away from my kids, so my photography business is a perfect balance. I am also able to use my creativity. I love people, so working with people – from musicians, actors, bloggers to the corporate world is perfect for me. It’s really social and also really good fun. It challenges me and makes me think on my feet. So yes, I have begun to achieve what I wanted to, now I just need to continue and keep pushing my self and keep learning.
4. What attributes from your acting career can you bring to being a photographer?
I have worked with a few actors lately for magazine editorials. It’s perfect because I really do understand them, and I also understand how important it is that they are portrayed in a certain way, depending on who they are and what they want to say. I work closely with them so there are no surprises when the finished product is released. I had a faIr few of those experiences happen to me and it’s never very nice!
5. How do you balance your business and family life?
By making sure I don’t take too much on. If someone is desperate for a shoot I will always do my best to make it work, but otherwise I’m careful about balancing it all out so my kids and husband don’t suffer in the process!
6. How do you go about getting the kind of jobs that inspire you?
I am not a big fan of Facebook but so many of my jobs have come through it. I think one person sees what you are doing and it has a positive knock-on effect. Word of mouth I guess. I’ve been extremely fortunate this year and worked with some really wonderful people. Some jobs are more challenging than others, but each and every job has its magical moments!
7. Has it been difficult being a female photographer in a man’s world?
No, not at all. I think one of my benefits has been that I’m a woman, so I understand what other women need and people are able to trust me.
8. What’s the secret to taking the perfect photo?
It’s just catching that moment. Building up a relationship with your client in a very short time and knowing exactly what angle works for them. The secret is the rapport you have with your subject, the rest is all the technical stuff, that’s the complicated part!
9. What’s the one bit of advice you would give to an aspiring photographer?
Challenge yourself, never say you can’t do it. Find a way, explore speedlights and strobes, work in all different settings, know your camera inside out so it can’t trip you up! Be brave and always have a go…the worst that can happen is you may have to re-shoot!
10. Who / what inspires you?
Music inspires me, I have to have music in my life. Love inspires me, my kids inspire me and my family and friends inspire me. Nature inspires me.Photographers that have inspired me include, Annie Leibovitz , Avedon, Martin Schoeller, Mario Testino, Rankin, Steve McCurry and Jane Bowen. There are so many…But portraits that capture the soul of the person are the portraits that move me.
11. What do you know now that you’d wish you’d known when you first started?
Always be brave and just have a go. Remember that however scary or important someone may seem, they are just a person like you. They have the same problems, the same issues, they may just have bigger egos!
12. How do you think social media has affected photography?
I think it has it positives. It gets photographers out there. People are able to see their work instantly and gives them the platform to promote themselves.
13. What do you think about the selfie culture?!
I think it’s very sad in some ways but the world changes and we have to go with it. If it’s a selfie that’s fun and for all the right reasons it’s fine. If it’s all about how perfect you can make yourself look on a day to day basis I think it must be exhausting. I feel the pressure for our children is immense and so unrealistic when it comes to social media and self image. How are girls and boys ever going to be satisfied with how they look? So…my main aim as a mum is to make sure my children have as much self esteem as possible and to make them realise that natural is far more beautiful. I will keep you posted on how that goes!!
14. What’s the secret to taking a good photo on an iPhone?
It’s all about the light! Direct sun is a nightmare! Clouds act as big diffusers. Filters are great too afterwards.
15. What’s the future of photography do you think?
I think it has longevity, everyone should invest in some professional images at some stage in their lives. They are your keepsakes, they can go from generation to generation. Photoshop gets better and better so the technical side seems to be more and more exciting. Lighting rigs are becoming ever more advanced. The funny thing is so many photographers these days have gone back to film and dark rooms – it’s a little like vintage cars I guess! I love digital photography because the editing possibilities are mind blowing.