Looking for inspiration to pursue your passion? In the latest episode, Mica talks to photographer Kathryn Barnard about her journey of self-discovery and the importance of following your dreams. Don’t miss out on valuable insights and advice from these experts.
Plus, The Savory Shot is excited to announce a new way for listeners to leave feedback and ask questions for future episodes through a link on our Instagram bio. Join the conversation and help make this podcast even better! Tune in now to The Savory Shot for an optimistic and empowering message about the importance of pursuing your passion.
Kathryn is the product of an Architect and a Politician. Kathryn has the gift of gab and an eye for design – the perfect combination for a commercial photographer. She is an avid gardener and loves a good project. Whether renovating a run-down house or rescuing an abandoned pup, she loves working to bring things to their full potential. This is the same passion she exercises when shooting for her clients. She has a keen instinct for what a client wants, and the agency strives for. Kathryn splits her time between the West Coast and Portugal but considers the world her home, so she is comfortable shooting wherever the client needs her to be.
023: Episode 23 - From Waitress to Photographer: Kathryn Barnard
Mica: [00:00:00] Welcome. To the 23rd episode of the Savory Shot. I'm your host with the most Mica. Heyooo. First off, y'all, I just wanna say how truly grateful I am that you my, Savory Squad, are giving your time to my show. Y'all. I tell you what, you could have been anywhere, doing anything, but you're here with me, and that means so much to me, y'all. I promise to keep delivering bombass content for you to enjoy.
Mica: Now, y'all, I got a doozy. I got a doozy of an announcement. Y'all remember in the last episode how I mentioned my little experiment and how it was in the works. Well, hold on to your headphones because I've got a game changing update on [00:01:00] that. You can now leave me, Mica McCook, feedback on my new page, Pod In A Box. That's right y'all. You can leave a voice message and ask me anything.
Mica: Anything you wanna know or give me feedback about the show. And guess what, y'all? The link to Pod In A Box is in the Bio link on Savory Shots Instagram page. This show is as much yo's as it is mine. And y'all, my job as a host is to serve y'all my fabulous Savory Squad. So head on over to Pod In A Box via my Instagram biolink, and let me know what y'all think.
Mica: What topics do you wanna hear about? Who would you like to see as a guest on my show? Y'all, your input is valuable and I can't wait to hear y'all's thoughts and ideas. You can also [00:02:00] just leave me a comment about how awesome I am.
Mica: One way or the other, let's keep making the Savory Shot a banging podcast. And the only way we can do this is if we do it together. Now let me tell y'all about my incredible guest today, Katherine Barnard. Katherine joined me all the way from Portugal. Y'all. How crazy is that? Technology baby.
Mica: I have a question. Have you ever met someone that you instantly connected with and could talk to for hours and hours and hours going down segues of topics after topics? Y'all. That's how it was with Kathryn. We dived dove. We dove in our captivating conversation. We dove into her [00:03:00] unique background as the daughter of an architect and a politician, and how those values shaped her amazing photography career. Y'all get ready. Get ready to be inspired by Kathryn's journey of self-discovery from bouncing around various jobs and cities to finding her passion behind the camera, all while staying true to her tomboy roots.
Mica: You'll learn valuable lessons on overcoming obstacles, the art of connecting with others, and the importance of being literate and attentive in your work. But before we get into that, let's start the show.
Mica: Well, I just wanna start the show off by saying thank you so much for being here. You are in Portugal, so this is your afternoon and I appreciate you spending an afternoon with me.
Kathryn: Yeah, it's fun and thanks for having me on. I'm excited.
Mica: Yes. So, I want to jump right into this interview cuz I've got all the questions on the planet to ask you.
Mica: And the first one I wanna dive into is I read your bio on Big Leo's production page and the first line that like jumped out to me that I thought this is fun.[00:05:00] You said that you were the product of an architect and a politician. I'm interested to hear about that. What values did your parents instill in you that helped shaped you as a photographer today?
Kathryn: Well, good question. You know, it's like my dad. I mean, I think I'm the most, I think I'm most like my dad. He was a self-employed architect and he just had a passion for drawing and he was definitely the artistic one in the family and hard worker like worked in basically until the day he absolutely couldn't work anymore. And, had an eye for architecture and a good eye for space and composition and things like that.
Kathryn: And so I think that part just kind of came naturally to me. In fact, I have three architects in my family. My uncle and my cousin are both architects as well. So there's something in, in the blood. And he was always like, not that this has anything to do with photography, but he, he was just like, you need to be literate.
Kathryn: You need to [00:06:00] spell, you need to know how to spell. That was his big thing because he had so many people come through his, his practice that couldn't spell or couldn't write a letter or couldn't. In the long run I look back and it's like, it totally helped me be able to communicate to clients and reach out to people and do cold calling and, and to do whatever I needed to do.
Kathryn: It also made me, when I was writing emails, like double check everything and make sure spelling is correct, pronunciation is correct, and that's a big deal. Like a lot of people don't think it is, but it's a big deal if you get something that's misspelled. It just turns you off right away.
Kathryn: So I think that's what he gave me. And then my mom was a politician and you know, she grew up, she didn't she go to college? She didn't go to college. She graduated from high school and my sister was born when she was 21, so she was young and she didn't actually kind of find her way until later on. Certainly when I was young, because she wasn't the stay-at-home mom, she was [00:07:00] gone. She was like on her own path. I'm four and six years younger than my sisters. And so she was just like, see you later, bye. And it was actually great because I, I grew up extremely independent and just watch my mom become this, she was mayor of Spokane, Washington, without a college degree. She went up against like these, these really strong guys that wanted to rule with more of an iron fist. And like to this day we go to the grocery store and it's like, Mayor, I remember you and, and you know, she was just really comfortable in her own skin and could had the gift of gab and could talk to anybody.
Kathryn: And I would say that's been the biggest thing from her is that I just know how to come in and read the room and talk to people, and talk to clients and make everybody feel comfortable. And, and my subjects, it's like people get in front of a camera and they freeze and you have to be able to work with them and get them out of their shell.
Mica: For sure. I like what you said earlier about checking your grammar and [00:08:00] double checking everything before you send a message out because gosh, it's so true. That that one little typo can be the one thing that it takes you out of whatever experience that you're creating for that person with that email.
Kathryn: I remember when auto correct just came out.
Kathryn: Or you know, like when you're talking into your phone and it auto corrects for you. well, no, I was typing a message and it autocorrected, and I was like, okay, before I send it, I'm gonna go back and reread it. And the client's name was Maggie and I said, "Hi Maggie." And it had changed it to Maggot and it said, "Hi Maggot!"
Kathryn: And I was like, ah. And so I at least caught it before I sent it, but it was just like, I always go back to that because I'm like, oh my God. So you really have to be very careful with that and double check it and make sure. This has been a huge problem for me, especially when I'm extremely busy reading emails fully and knowing what they're [00:09:00] saying, because another thing that drives creatives crazy is if you ask a question that they've already answered, and I'm sure everybody has been on the receiving end of that.
Kathryn: But when you get a document or you get an email from a client. Make sure you take time to sit down and read it and know what they're asking.
Kathryn: And then you know how to respond. If you're busy, you just look it over and you're like, but wait, they're not, I didn't read that part. And then they're like, I sent it in the last email.
Mica: We're not 10 minutes into it and you're artist speaking gospel about reading the email fully.
Mica: I like to schedule my emails to go out like the next day or a few hours from now because then that gives me the opportunity to like, go back in, recheck the email make sure there's no typos or that I didn't miss anything. Yeah. And I've actually caught mistakes. How did your parents react when you started getting into photography? What advice did they give you?
Kathryn: Did they give me any advice [00:10:00] ever? I don't think so. Sorry mom, if you're listening to this. You know, actually they did. My parents are, they were on their own path. You know, it's like we grew up watching our parents go do what they wanted to do and, and do what they loved. They always said, do what you love and the money will follow.
Kathryn: I actually just sent my mother an email last week and CC'd my sisters on it and just said, I just wanna tell "Mom, you know, that, like, that was huge for me." I'm now in Portugal and it's just interesting to go into a new culture and see how people are raised and how they lived and, and Portugal was under oppression until 48 years ago.
Kathryn: And so a lot of the parents have raised their children to not be hopeful for the future and to not get their hopes up. Don't get excited. I hate to say to say that because not everybody's alike, but I've met a lot of people and I have a lot of good friends who here who, who have this really interesting view of [00:11:00] life and it's just made me realize like, "Wow. I was really lucky to have parents that really pushed us to all be extremely independent, to just go after our dreams and to figure it out." And, and, you know, I graduated from high school. I didn't wanna go back. I needed to be out of high school. Like I'm not a professional student. I remember telling my mom, like, I don't wanna go to college.
Kathryn: And she said, "Well, I don't care what you do, but you have to have a job." And so, I jumped around from East Coast to West Coast for years and worked in all kinds of different restaurants, dog kennels, all kinds of things. I was managing a bar and it was three in the morning and I was like, this is not what I wanna do with the rest of my life.
Kathryn: And so I didn't really have like this deep seated passion for photography. I wasn't like you know, studying photographers and going out, I didn't have a camera on me. I didn't have, I didn't have anything. I was just really looking for something. And I [00:12:00] remember I'm a huge tomboy. Like I've never been one for fashion.
Kathryn: And I was like, what can I do where I don't ever have to like wear Nylons or put a business suit on or you know, like figure out what my fashion necessity is and I'm like, oh, I'll be a photographer because they can wear jeans and a t-shirt. And I'm serious. That was like one of my biggest criteria was like, what do I wanna wear for clothing the rest of my life?
Kathryn: I'll be a photographer.
Mica: That is a big deal. I worked in in offices for 10 years and the biggest gripe that I had was the fashion because the clothes were so stuffy. I'm big breasted, so no matter what I wear, there's always gonna be cleavage. I can't count the number of times that I was sent home to go change.
Mica: It got to a point where I would just have to like keep an alternative shirt in my car. In case I had to go change. Being in a career where [00:13:00] what you wear doesn't matter or you can express yourself.
Mica: Gosh, like that's such a huge, huge, huge, huge, huge deal. Yeah. Yeah. I love that. I love that. So photography. You were like, "Okay, I can, I can be casual and wear the casual clothes.
Kathryn: I also liked taking pictures and I didn't even really realize how much I liked taking pictures until I got into it.
Kathryn: And then school kind of killed me for a while. Like, I went to school and I graduated and then I, I went back to waiting tables for probably two years. But then my student loans, I guess maybe a year my student loans came due and I was like, "All right, I gotta get back into it if I'm not gonna pay my student loans by waiting tables."
Kathryn: So I went back into the field and started assisting. But that's the other thing is I went to school for photography and they sucked you in to the school saying you're gonna leave as a photographer, but then once you get in school, They're like, "Well, you're gonna leave in a, you know, being able to assist other photographers."
Kathryn: And it's like, [00:14:00] well, wait a minute. So you know, I didn't have any money. I needed to pay bills. I had rent, I had car, all that stuff. Credit card debt, school debt. So I had to wait tables. And then I got a job assisting during the day and waiting tables at night. And it was like, you know, I was full on for many, many years working my way up through the, the ranks. So, yeah, it was a long journey for sure, but it was worth it.
Mica: I like what you said earlier about how your school is like, they pulled you in and they're like, Hey, we're gonna teach you how to be a photographer, and you're gonna be a photographer by the time you leave.
Mica: And then you get in there and they're like, actually by the time you leave, you're gonna be an assistant. That is something that my community college did. I had a great conversation with another photographer who's like super established and he mentioned that the things that some schools tend to do is that they put this unrealistic expectation that[00:15:00] you're gonna be able to leave right away and just start booking top dollar gigs and that's just not how the industry works. That the idea that you can go from school to automatically being a photographer. That's just not a realistic thing.
Mica: And so that's the lesson that I wish I had known when I finished school. I wish that I had started assisting right away cuz when I finished I was just like trying to book as many gigs as I could and I learned so many things the hard way. Here's another question. So you got into photography, you started doing assisting and working your way up, when you got into the shooting when did you realize that you were ready to transition from assisting to being a shooter?
Kathryn: I don't think you're ever ready. I think opportunities come along and you need to seize them and try and, you know, if you fail, you fail, but [00:16:00] you, you have to just keep going. And so I overlapped. It's not like I stopped doing one thing and started doing the other.
Kathryn: And I didn't just assist. I assisted and then I produced, and then I styled. And maybe it was ever way around. I styled, and then I produced, and then I started shooting and all those things, it was such a good lesson for me to go through all three of those things because, you know, now if a client comes to me with a, a deck and says, I wanna, you know, shoot this, how do we do it?
Kathryn: Like I, I totally know like every part of exactly how to do it. And when I was producing, it was crazy. I worked with all these big photographers that didn't know anything and it was just like you have to know how to pull a photo, you know? And they're like flying in from Europe and they would show up and they would be like just clueless on anything that was going on.
Kathryn: And I think to be a successful photographer, you really have to know [00:17:00] what is involved in all the different aspects of every job and what it takes. So it was really helpful for me anyway, to kind of go down that road. And how did I know I was ready to shoot? I, I don't think I was, I just started taking jobs and I had opportunities and, you know, I remember shooting for a client in San Francisco and it, it went horribly.
Kathryn: I don't think I was ready, but I got this job and it was a big production. And, I remember that feeling of like, "Oh, they're not ever going to ever call me back." And I remember sitting on the back of the, the rental truck with all our gear, and I was just like talking to a friend and just like crying.
Kathryn: I was so upset because I don't like to fail and I, I don't think I fail, but part of being a photographer is the show, right? You gotta have this personality and you have to have this and you know, air [00:18:00] about you and I and that that was the hardest thing for me to switch from producing to shooting because I knew my personality as a producer.
Kathryn: I did not know my personality as a photographer yet, and I just remember really struggling with that confidence and that strength because I didn't have it yet. I hadn't had enough of those situations and scenarios. When you're inside a a house and it's dark and you're supposed to be lighting it like spring or like summer, and the art director doesn't tell you it's supposed to be summer, it's still supposed to be spring, and then it's like, oh, no wait, it is summer.
Kathryn: And it's like, okay, wait, you told me spring. Now I'm lighting for spring and it's summer. And you're like, Oh my God. And then it's like, you have like 10 minutes to switch to summer. Really stressful. For sure. I had moments where I was like, what the hell am I doing? And then I, you know, I got it. I figured it out. You have to get this feeling where you know when you have to, I mean, [00:19:00] I just know this feeling about like having to reach deep down in your soul and pull something out that you did not even know existed to get it, to get to succeed and to get your client happy and to not fail.
Mica: It's interesting you said that you knew yourself as a producer, but knowing yourself as a photographer, that was like a whole different ball field. And there's a whole different kind of pressure when you're the lead photographer on a project because ultimately everything, all decisions, I mean, of course the client has the final decision, but when it comes to problem solving, when it comes to making sure that things are happening, all eyes are on you.
Mica: And that's a lot of pressure. The bigger the production, the more eyes that are on you. I've done one shoot where it's just me and the client and, and that's as small of a shoot as you can get. And then I did a shoot where it was [00:20:00] me and there was like eight people from a team in addition to my team, and they're all here in, in my home studio.
Mica: And I was like I think I wanna go hide in the closet. Like, this is terrifying.
Kathryn: It can be terrifying. I've been flown to New Zealand to shoot cheese. And you're like, oh, all right. I mean, I was awesome. But you know, there's, there's probably 20 clients there and they're all looking and.
Kathryn: You know, they all have a say and sometimes those guys, there's like a lot of inner struggle between usually ad agencies and clients, and you have to learn how to navigate that situation and give the clients what they want, but give the creatives what they want and it's very tricky. Very tricky situation.
Kathryn: And that is more exhausting than lighting or, you know, photography is a very small amount of what you do when you're in set.
Mica: It's the relationships you have with people that are the hardest, [00:21:00] which is really cool that your mom being a politician and teaching you how to have conversations with people. That is a skill that I think is even more valuable than being able take a photo, being able to talk to people. It's like that book, "How To Win Friends and Influence People,". Huge chunk of that book talks a lot about relationships and building relationships and just how to be a better listener and how to handle conflict in a better way and yeah, things to not do.
Mica: Like one of the examples it brings up, if you know that someone is wrong, like a fact that they're sharing is wrong. To not call them out or correct them in a group setting. Cuz that's, yeah, you're right. But you still kind of look like an a-hole because you just need it to be right. So I wanna take it to your recent move from Seattle, um, and you moved to [00:22:00] Algarve. In Portugal. So what inspired that, that move?
Kathryn: The lack of sunshine for the most part. For years I had a studio and I shot in the studio and was in there every single day, but I started kind of out in the field, right?
Kathryn: Like, I started shooting for magazines and, and, and then doing a lot of lifestyle type of stuff way early on. And then I, I kind of focused on food and went into the studio and was there for like, I don't know, 10 years. I knew I wanted to live in Europe at some point in my life, and I don't know why.
Kathryn: I just needed to be out of the country. Right? I wanted a new experience and I, I couldn't find any place in North America or South America that I really wanted to live. And somehow Spain was always kind of my, like, I really, I don't know why. I just really loved it and so even though I'd never really been there or spent any time. So I started looking for houses there and, and then I [00:23:00] found this place in northern Spain and it was amazing. I flew over to see it and it was like this old farmhouse from the seventeen hundreds.
Kathryn: But then it was like a disaster. Everything needed to be fixed. Then I realized it rained more in northern Spain than it did in Seattle. And so I was like, oh, shoot. Dang it, I can't live there. But I always wanted olive trees. I heard a friend once say that she'd been to Portugal and loved it. Maybe I'll go there. So I went there and I got connected with a realtor and I gave her like specs of my house and I literally bought the first house she showed me, like she just nailed it on the first house.
Kathryn: And I had seen this house online and, and not wanted it because the photos were so bad. The thing is, in Portugal, they don't style anything. So if you are selling your house and it is a disaster and there's crap all over the counter, doesn't matter. Doesn't matter if the windows are open.
Kathryn: Doesn't matter if anything's styled, they just go in and take like a little flip phone picture and they're like, here you go. And then they put it online and you're like, [00:24:00] what?
Kathryn: And I think that's probably why this house was still available was because the photos were so, I was assuming. So I bought it and I've had it for four years and I used it as an Airbnb for three and then after Covid I was just like I don't need to be walking my dogs in the rain in Seattle four times a day. I have this house in Portugal, like, go there because it's an easy flight to New York. It's not even a bad flight to San Francisco or, or LA. So now I just fly home. I give myself an extra day.
Kathryn: I don't charge my clients for the airfare from Portugal. There's no way. I have been able to make it work by being here, which is really great. I do all night shoots. I have one client that still shoots in my house and my crews in my house, my food stylist and my digital tech are in my house, and then I'm in Portugal.
Kathryn: And so I'm up all night and they're shooting from eight to four. I love it because in during Covid we did, we did the [00:25:00] opposite, right? The clients were in their offices or in their homes, and then we were shooting remotely.
Kathryn: But now it's like, I can be here and they can be there. It would not work for every client. This client's extremely chill and an old client and we kind of have our, you know, system down. So it's really fun.
Mica: It's just so cool how technology allows us to work from places and talk from places that otherwise we'd never, ever, ever would've been able to do something like that.
Kathryn: As horrible as Covid has been, there's a couple things that have come out of it to the point where it's like, okay, this actually has helped our industry be more flexible.
Mica: What are some of the unique challenges that you've encountered since moving to Algarve?
Kathryn: Well, for one, the humidity here, this winter has been [00:26:00] insane because there's been so much rain and I had my camera case sitting on the floor of my house and it ruined both my Cannons because moisture got into the cameras. So I can still shoot with them, but I can't see, uh, any of aesthetic. Well, one of 'em I can't shoot with, it's stuck it like F 11 and a lot of times when I go back to the states, I rent anyway, but it's like, I don't even know if I'll go get these things fixed and it's like, is it even worth it or do I just buy new ones?
Kathryn: And so I'm camera repair. Oddly enough, where I am has been, uh, as far as a unique photography challenge, that's been the, the hardest place.
Kathryn: So maybe next time I come to the states I'll bring 'em with me or just buy a new one.
Kathryn: It's not like they're, that they're expensive, but it's not like a phase back or something, you know? And they've [00:27:00] definitely seen their day. I mean, they have been used, so it's okay that they go to the camera graveyard. But it was a really good lesson of like, oh shit.
Mica: I wonder what other photographers do in Portugal.
Kathryn: So I'm remodeling my house right now and I'm in this little cottage that's on my property, which is awesome.
Kathryn: They don't build architecture here like they do in the states. So there's a lot of times there's no heating, there's no, air condition, like you have to put everything in. And so in the winter when it gets damp like when I go into my bathroom, there's literally water coming through the tile into the bathroom.
Kathryn: Like it's dripping down my bathroom wall. It's crazy. I've never seen anything like it. So you just have to be really aware of where you're putting things, like hard drives. So I have all my stuff, like outside of closeted spaces, like I couldn't put anything in the garage.
Kathryn: I had to bring it all in because there's no climate control. You just have to be really careful that you put your important things like up [00:28:00] off the ground in a sealed container or in a camera case. I had it in a, a suitcase because when I travel back and forth, if I have my camera case, I get pulled over by customs.
Kathryn: And so I put it in a small suitcase and I hadn't put it back into my camera case yet. And so I just left it on the floor and I went to use them and I'm like, oh no. I can use 'em, like I can shoot, I know how to shoot with one, I can use one and, you know, get by on one.
Kathryn: And then I have my phones.
Mica: You can use your phone. The phone camera has definitely advanced.
Kathryn: I've shot jobs, like entire jobs on my phone.
Mica: My first camera I took with me when I was 18, I visited Los Angeles. It was the first time I ever left Texas. That I think is where I got bit by the travel bug.
Mica: I was going to Los Angeles for a slam poetry competition. I came from like a super poor school, you know, super poor family.
Mica: Me going to LA is like a huge deal. And [00:29:00] my sister-in-law gave me to use her camera and it was your typical film camera. And I had like 10, 12 rolls of film that I took with me. I could take the pictures and I did take the pictures.
Mica: But getting them developed is a whole other field. So I just held on to them for, gosh, so many years. I just recently got them, most of them developed, in the last few years. I remember thinking at 18 how cool it was that I had a camera and I had rolls of film and that I was photographing this really cool experience and now I have my iPhone and I'm like I can shoot photos from my phone, I can edit them from my phone, I can export them, and they're a large file.
Mica: I could never have imagined doing that when I was 18.
Mica: When you take on a new project, what's the the first [00:30:00] thing that you do to like get yourself in that mindset of here's this project, let's make this magic?
Kathryn: You have to connect with it at some point, right? Cuz who knows?
Kathryn: You could look at it and be like, oh no, what am I gonna do? Or you can look at it and be like, oh my God, this is amazing! But either way you do that, you have to find what excites you about it or where you know that your talent can go to pull out what the client's looking for and, and so it just really depends on the project.
Kathryn: Like there's not one thing I go to every time, but I try to find the one thing where I'm like, oh, I can do this and I can do that. And then I always try to look at it differently, you know, because, Because with a phone, anybody can be a photographer, right? Anybody can take an amazing shot of what, an overhead setting.
Kathryn: For me, lighting is everything. Where's my light? How do I get this to do whatever I need to do? How am I gonna light it? I just start kind of looking at it as a big picture and how it's gonna be, [00:31:00] and then I start dialing in on that detail.
Kathryn: I know some photographers who pencil everything out and they go in with like this fine tune tooth comb, and then they go on set and they do exactly that. And they don't do anything else, and that is not the way I work. It's like I go in knowing my safe shots and I know what I need to get for the clients.
Kathryn: I try to get that done and get it out of the way, and then the spontaneity happens, and as I see the product or I see somebody doing something with the product, I'm like, oh wait, this could be really cool if they do that. Nine times outta 10 the stuff that at least the creatives like is what happens organically on set.
Mica: That makes total sense. I like the idea of you have your safe shots. Those are the shots that the client absolutely needs, absolutely wants. And then if there is time to play, play. You mentioned earlier that that lighting is everything for [00:32:00] you. How do you decide on the mood or tone that you wanna convey?
Kathryn: A lot of times they, the creatives know what they want. If it's a breakfast shot or a dinner shot.
Kathryn: So I just go off of that. How I light it is just, again, you can't say, oh, I light like this, because it's like going into every job, you really don't know what you're gonna do or how you're gonna do it. You have to be able to get on set and be like, okay, I want this. We want that.
Kathryn: And I used to work with an assistant who, I drove him crazy because I'd be like, oh wait, grab that piece of tinfoil over there and now let's shine a yellow light into it and it's gonna have this gold. And he's like, oh, it's not for that. And I'm like, it doesn't matter how you light. It's like the boring, you know?
Kathryn: And like he ended up just like ghosting me and walking away because he couldn't handle my weird lighting. I lit a latte with a jar of weed. Sorry. But the buds were so, oh my careful. And the light was coming through and I was like, oh my God. [00:33:00] And we were doing a weed shoot, which in Washington you can do with legal.
Kathryn: There was looking help jar of buds sitting there and I was shooting a latte and I was like, oh my gosh, this is gorgeous. Like, and so I just used that jar of weed.
Mica: That just goes to show that you can use what's around you to create whatever it is that you're trying to light. I actually did an interview yesterday where I was a guest, and that was like really weird for me. One of the questions they asked me was like, about the lighting. They're like, how did you, your lighting?
Mica: And I'm like, there's not a one fits all, answer. A lot of what I did was I studied a lot of classic art and I said, photographers who are just now getting into it. I learned more about lighting by studying classic art than I did in any classroom that I've ever been in.
Mica: And every time I look at a photo, I just study the lighting. I'm totally on board with you when you say lighting is everything, but how you learn it, there are so many different ways of learning it, but [00:34:00] you just have to become obsessed with it as much as you're obsessed with whatever else that you're obsessed with in life, to the point where you can look at a picture and know exactly how they lit it. I never imagined a latte being lit by a jar of weed. I have a little visual of like a giant weed plant and hovering over a latte, and I'm like, oh wow, this looks so much fun. Yes.
Kathryn: It was!
Kathryn: The way the glass, the light went glass and then went through the buds and it was like, I since tried to recreate it and it, it didn't work.
Kathryn: I'll use anything to light or, and sometimes it's not about adding light, it's about taking away light.
Kathryn: I think that's really important. Somebody told me that once, one of the gaffers I was working with, and I was like, that is actually a really interesting way of looking at it.
Mica: I have a quick question. It just popped into my head. I don't think we ever, we ever talked about this, but how did you get into food photography?
Kathryn: I didn't know [00:35:00] what I type of photographer I wanted to be. In Seattle, you have to do a little bit of everything if you wanna work consistently as a photographer.
Kathryn: So you can't just be fashion, you can't be, food, you can't be this, you can't be that. You've gotta do it all. And so I remember my first agent, like really wanting me to be this one type of photographer. I've had actually a couple of agents like that and I was like, I don't wanna do that. Because they have a client that is an adult diaper client, so they want you to just shoot adult diapers and you're like, I don't wanna shoot adult diapers.
Kathryn: And so you have to like figure out what kind of photography you wanna do. There's a lot of people that wanna shoot adult diapers and they say, go for it. Awesome. Have at it. And so, you know, it's like they, I didn't know what I wanted to do and I was like shooting some lifestyle, some interiors, some food, some fashion, some kids, I was just all over the place and I still am.
Kathryn: Like I [00:36:00] still shoot a lot of different things, but the crash of 2008 I think happened and it was the time when.
Mica: I remember that. Yeah. Scary time.
Kathryn: Yeah, it was scary. Most of the photographers I knew that were making big money were the type that were like doing super stylized photography and like taking a grocery store and styling it perfectly, and then putting a buffalo in a shopping cart in a woman with a.
Kathryn: A dress and then like a fifties dress, you know? And like everything was like cut out and overprocessed and over styled and I like that. It had, its its day and its thing, and, and those photographers went from making a ton of money to nothing. Like, nothing. They went to like flipping houses.
Kathryn: And never being a photographer really again. Like they, they just stopped. I knew quite a few people like that and I just thought, what's gonna sell right now? Like what's gonna, what is gonna withstand this? And I was like, food [00:37:00] and warmth around the table. And like family and community, like people will not stop advertising their macaroni and cheese.
Kathryn: And so that's kind of what geared me towards food photography was just survival. When people were looking in my book and that was when you still had to print portfolios and take them to ad agencies and show them, which was awful. They would react to my food, like people would visibly like be like, oh my God, this is so great.
Kathryn: I'm hungry, blah, blah, blah. And they wouldn't really react like that a lot of times to my lifestyle or my anything else. Or you know, in an interior you can only react so much, but people really got excited about my food, so I just kind of ended up focusing on that. Now I do lifestyle and food where I do a lot of libraries for clients where I shoot everything like the landscapes, establishing shots and then people using them and then people using the product and then the product shots. And I actually really enjoy that. [00:38:00] That's like my favorite thing to shoot. But food is a big element because it just brings people together.
Mica: You mentioned something earlier about how you can't just do one niche of photography, It reminds me of a conversation I had with Brio. She's mainly a wedding photographer in Austin, but she does a little bit of everything.
Mica: She does editorials, she does food. She does sports. There's not a gig that she'll say no to and weddings just happened to be the thing that she makes most of her bread and butter. She was like I wanted to pick a niche that was recession proof cuz 2008.
Mica: It was a really scary time and people are always getting married and people are always gonna find the budget for a nice wedding. Doesn't matter what time of the year it is. Doesn't matter how hard finances are. Your wedding is a big deal. And I thought about that and I'm like, that is just so true.
Kathryn: So when it that happened, I rented this [00:39:00] massive studio.
Kathryn: That became a wedding venue because I thought the same thing. I thought people are gonna advertise for food and they're gonna get married. I do not ever, ever want to be a wedding photographer. No way. No shape, no form.
Mica: I did one year of weddings and each of them got harder and harder and harder. My friend Cayla and her husband, David, they own Carhart Photography and they're just killing it right now.
Mica: And they are at it every single weekend. And I'm like, I don't know how they do it. They are on their feet from sun up to sun down, and she just absolutely loves what she's doing. I have so much respect and admiration for the wedding photographers of the world because I couldn't, I couldn't do it, couldn't do it.
Mica: My, my feet would not survive.
Kathryn: Well I did two weddings. One was my sister and the other one was this girl who hired me. And I was fairly new outta school and I remember I didn't know how to light, and I live in Seattle and it was [00:40:00] February and it was so dark, and so it was the darkest rainiest day ever in Seattle.
Kathryn: And it's in southern Seattle and I'm driving to this church and within the course of the wedding, five people died in different parts of the wedding. And I was like, this is a massive sign that I am never supposed to do another wedding ever again.
Mica: What? Five people died?
Kathryn: Yeah. This guy stabbed his roommate and threw her out the window.
Kathryn: And so we were all stuck in this traffic. And you could see the yellow tarp on the side of the road. And she was stuck in the traffic on the way to the church. And we get to the church and it's like, we're getting ready. And I'm like, I don't know how to light these people. Like there's no light, there's no nothing.
Kathryn: I can't, there's nothing. And I was just like, oh no. And then we're starting the ceremony. And the ceremony doesn't start. Doesn't start, doesn't start. And I'm like, okay, I'm gonna go down and check it out. I go down and the neighbor woman, was walking like about to walk down the aisle to her seat and boom, [00:41:00] drops dead of a heart attack.
Kathryn: So we had to wait for the ambulance to come and they're working on her for like 45 minutes and then we have to wait for the priest to go give last rights to her. But then they don't tell the bride that she died. And this was years, years, years, years, years ago. And then that happened.
Kathryn: We finally get through the ceremony and we go to where they're having the dinner and an ambulance is leaving the place because somebody had like fallen, it was very critical. I don't actually know if they died. They were leaving. In the reception, they had to stop the first dance because her uncle had shrapnel in his head and was dying and seizuring.
Kathryn: So they had to take him away in an ambulance. I talked to her three weeks later. I'm like, how is the rest of that wedding? And she's like, well, you know, my neighbor died. And I was like, oh, I didn't, that's really sad. Sorry. I said, how did the rest of the night go?
Kathryn: And she goes, well, not very well. We got to our hotel and we had to wait in the lobby for 45 minutes cuz the floor of our hotel was on fire.
Mica: Oh my God.
Kathryn: And her sister was [00:42:00] like, Hey, I'm getting married and I would love for you to shoot the wedding. And I'm like, yep, nope. Not happening. Thank you.
Kathryn: And even the videographer was like, can you believe this wedding? I'm like, no. So that was my actually first and last paid wedding that I will ever do.
Mica: If that was my experience as a wedding photographer that many people died in, I would take that as a sign too and be like, you know.
Mica: When you're photographing a dish, how do you balance capturing the food with the practical considerations of like what the client wants? Do your clients usually allow all the creative freedom?
Kathryn: Usually the clients I work with are the big, big corporate clients and most of them are in like the Midwest belt, right. And they're very numbers driven. Like they don't necessarily, dial in with the creative [00:43:00] aspect of the food. They want it to look perfect, clean. If it's supposed to be hot, they need it to look hot and they, they just wanna sell. That's it.
Kathryn: And they're, they've, they've been using the same shots for years and the ad agencies always come in and they're like, oh, we're going to bring it to life and do this and do that. Usually the people that are working with the ad agency do not agree with that aspect. So what I usually try and do is like a level one through six, right?
Kathryn: Where the one is the cleanest, pretty, uh, like pretty packaging shot, like everything's nice and neat and tidy, and there's no crumbs and no dripping cheese and no this and no that. And so you'd start with it very clean, and then you start to break it down a little bit and add some life and add some mess and, and then you take it to the point where it's actually too messy.
Kathryn: Then you save everything. You never empty the trash ever, [00:44:00] ever, ever. You don't put anything in the trash. You don't empty the trash. Sometimes you don't get to the messy, the super, super messy part because.
Kathryn: You know, screwed around with the nitpicking, the main shot so much. You eat time. And that's the hardest part is keeping it moving. And getting those safe shots done so you're allowed to explore and, and do the more exciting kind of freeform type of thing.
Kathryn: And then with the world of Photoshop, you can do everything and then I break it down and I shoot empty sets and then if they need to put it back together in a certain way, they can. That's kind of the way of the food world these days, which, digital has been great for that. And I have an amazing retoucher that knows me and knows my work. And so it's really easy for him to just go in and I'm like, this is what I need. And he's just awesome.
Mica: He knows, how to pick one photo from, one little crumb here to, put it in this photo.
Kathryn: Yeah. But we've also worked together for so long that he, he can retouch to my [00:45:00] eye. And my style, which is really important because if you have to use their retoucher or a retoucher you don't know, they don't know your photography and it can not look great really quickly. He's great because, we have a good dialogue and a lot of times he'll send me stuff and he's overdone, whatever, and I'm just like, okay, back off this, do that.
Kathryn: You know, when I kind of, I kind of back him down and then he totally nails it. He's made me look good on many occasions.
Mica: You said something earlier about, about the challenge of these shoes is like keeping everything moving, keeping everything moving. And how sometimes there's so much nitpicking going on that by the time decisions made, it's like, you've gotta start over.
Mica: Being able to have that skill of being, personable and being able to like talk to the client and keep the, the flow going. That is just such a invaluable skill to have.
Kathryn: Well, yeah, sure. Because you have to keep the flow going [00:46:00] positively, and you have to give it to them what they want. And I remember when I was waiting tables, I worked for this big ch it's not a big chain, but it's, they've got quite a few restaurants and they're all fairly high end.
Kathryn: Working in restaurants was seriously the best, best training, and even the first photographer I ever worked with seriously, he said, the only reason I hired you was because you worked in restaurants.
Kathryn: Because they knew I knew how to hustle. I knew how to work. I knew how to, talk to people. And it was like, he just knew that I would be a good assistant because I had worked in restaurants and it's true.
Kathryn: I was. But he told me to shut up once because I talked too much to the clients. He was like, you talk too much to, to our clients. You have to stop talking. And I'm like, well, they talk to me and you don't talk. So what are we supposed to do?
Kathryn: So I was just meant to be a photographer. I was not meant to be an assistant, really, because I couldn't keep my mouth shut.
Mica: It's like you can't talk to the client, be quiet, still don't talk to the client. It's like, but well, they're talking to me.
Kathryn: [00:47:00] Right. And I think, well, I now looking back on it, you know, like the photographer's supposed to be the main person, and if the assistant is overshadowing them, that doesn't look good.
Kathryn: And you don't want that as an assistant. I would tell my assistant the same thing, but it doesn't matter because I overshadow pretty much anybody anyway, like you just end up becoming this personality, right? And it's like you come in and you have to command the scene. Like you have to actually take charge and, and you do have to talk to people.
Kathryn: And you can't be this weird, reclusive photographer in the corner. It's not gonna work. It is not. And it's like people wanna relate to you, they wanna talk to you, they wanna like, you need to be entertaining. And that was the tiring, most tiring part of the job. By the end of the day, you're just like, oh my God, I'm so tired of talking and listening to music.
Kathryn: That's the other thing. And I never tell a client, no, you can't have something. They might not be able to [00:48:00] have what they are asking for, but I never say no.
Kathryn: I say, well, how about if we try and do this? I said, I'll try, but if I can't get that part, I'll do it like this. And I have a solution for their request. And so they always feel heard, they always feel acknowledged. And that's the biggest thing. You just gotta reassure them all the way through the process that you're doing a good job. They're not gonna fail, cause you're not gonna fail and that you're gonna give them the product they ask for in the end. If you ever ask me, well, how do you know if a client's happy in the end? Will they hire you again? And if they're not hiring you back, you have to take a cold hard look at yourself. If you're consistently not getting hired, you really have to kind of take a look at the mirror and be like, why? What's, what's up?
Mica: What am I not doing well? Something you said earlier about, how photographers have to be personable and they have to be talkative. It reminds me of the documentary, Twenty Feet From Stardom and the [00:49:00] documentary is about backup singers who never made it to being lead singers and why that is and what it takes to be a lead singer.
Mica: They interviewed several singers that sang backup for a lot of famous singers, including singers who ended up becoming leads of their own. There are some assistants that will. That is their career to assist. They're fine with doing that and they have no interest in being lead photographer. But then you have some assistants who are doing assisting for the sole purpose of one day being a lead photographer.
Mica: It's just interesting how some are just comfortable being in this space and then some are like, I don't think I could be an assistant because I just need to be in charge of everything and everyone. I can't not talk to the client. Like I, I need to talk to them. I need to, like, I, I'm a chatty person.
Mica: I'm not very good at sitting in the corner. And, [00:50:00] yeah.
Kathryn: No. Not putting baby in the corner here. It's really interesting because, not everybody has that and I've seen it. Some people, it's really hard for them to go in and the same guy who ghosted me because I used tinfoil to light. He tried to be a photographer and a, a DP and he just couldn't, cuz he couldn't talk to people.
Kathryn: It can be very stifling as a photographer. So, you know, I would say if, if you're getting into it, that's something to really look at. You're not gonna be sitting in front of a camera and not talking to someone that's like a small, small part of it, you know? And if things start going sideways on set, you have to figure out you have to talk to people and reassure 'em, and you have to be able to manage like everything that's happening on set and really know what fires you have to put out before they start. That's like the biggest thing that came out of me producing is that I've produced [00:51:00] for so long that I know when things are about to go sideways or I can see it way ahead of time.
Kathryn: On set, I'm very good at being able to diffuse that or know what's happening. And I very rare, very rarely have anything come to the head that, that I didn't see. It's been a fun, certainly been a fun career. It was a great way to raise my son.
Kathryn: He came to set with me when he was being a dumb teenager. I pulled him outta school and I was like, okay, here you go. You get to come to school. You either are with Erin in the kitchen or you're with me on set. Which way do you want it to be? He's like, Erin.
Kathryn: We had an in-house chef because my studio was kind of in the middle of an industrial zone where there was like no decent restaurants or grocery stores around. So Erin was amazing, and she was also my food scientist. So for whipped cream, if it wasn't stabilizing or if a topping had to go on and it wasn't, you know, it was breaking the [00:52:00] foam, she would go in and the food stylist doesn't really have time to do that on set.
Kathryn: And so Erin would be in the kitchen and she would play with different milks and figure out different foamers and do all this food science stuff, which was awesome. She would cook our breakfast and our lunch, and so we had this whole setup and she really took Will under her wing and taught him how to prepare food and how to keep moving. And he ended up going down to CIA and NAPA and getting a degree as a chef. He just, he's like, I'm getting my GED and I wanna go to chef school. And I was like, great. And so he never finished high school.
Kathryn: I guess it runs in my blood. It runs in the blood. No college. Doesn't high school. How can we get her through life without. I've never fought, I've always been like the funny, weird black sheep. Like I've never done, I've never conformed to society and, and this career has been a really good avenue for [00:53:00] people like me, you know. It's like I've been successful, I've been, I've worked my ass off, but I have totally 100% reaped the rewards of it as well. And so it's been great. Been really fun.
Mica: That's so awesome. And, and it just goes to show that you can choose to go a different path. Yeah. And still come out the other end, happier and successful.
Mica: In high school and middle school, I mean, it was grained in my head. That to get out of poverty, you have to graduate, you have to go to college, you have to get a degree, blah, blah, blah. Yeah. And you know, I did all those things and yeah, I got out of poverty, but I was also working a career that I just was not at all passionate about.
Mica: Yeah. And it just makes me wonder how many more creatives could we have on this earth if we just fostered them and their goals just as much as we would someone who chooses to go to college and [00:54:00] follow that traditional path.
Mica: I wanna end today's interview with one last question.
Mica: I could talk to you. Oh my gosh. I can talk to you forever and ever and ever cuz I just love talking to you so much. I really do. If a new food photographer came to you and needed some advice on how to get into this industry, what advice would you give them?
Kathryn: It depends on where they're at and how long they've been doing it and things like that. But I think when I was building my website, like I knew who I wanted to be. I knew the outcome I wanted. Right. I knew I wanted to be a successful, I knew I wanted to be one of the, you know, more lucrative and also like well known photographers, and I don't know how well known I am, but, I wanted to, to have a career and be successful at it. So knowing that I, I started researching websites that I liked and that I felt like I was very far away from being that [00:55:00] photographer, right? Like I, I remember just searching websites and being so depressed by the end of the day because I was like, oh my God, I'm never gonna be that.
Kathryn: Like, I'll never have a website that gives. I would find one picture on that website that I liked and that I was drawn towards, and I would try to get inspired by that. I would not rip it off. But I would get inspired by the lighting or the composition or the whatever, and I would try and redo that shot.
Kathryn: I did that for years and I, I was like, okay, I've got that down and now I need a shot to go with this shot. And, you know, that's where I kind of started my storytelling ability because you can take a lot of pictures and they don't work together, right? It's like you need to, to be able to tell a story.
Kathryn: The biggest thing is like just start shooting and, and just keep shooting. My first agent told me also a long time ago, like, just because you shot it doesn't mean it's good. So we remember that every day. And when I look at my website every, when I [00:56:00] look at images, I'm like, just because you shot it doesn't mean it's good.
Kathryn: Doesn't mean you have to put it on Instagram or your website or whatever. And you have to really be able to be honest and be like, oh, I don't like that shot. The same goes like, you can put, you can do a whole shoot and hate it and put it away for a year or two years or whatever, and then you come back to it and you're like, oh, I actually really like this shot.
Kathryn: You know? Just keep shooting, keep, I hate to use the word test because if it's a test, people don't think of it as good. So I say promotional, you know, like I shoot for myself or I do whatever. I do not use the word test. I pay people. If you can afford to do that and you're doing a test, I will, or you're doing a a shoot for you, I pay my crew because then they treat it as an actual job.
Kathryn: You just keep, keep working at it, keep shooting, keep working down. Like if you're discouraged or depressed, fine. Go down to the bottom of the barrel, feel it, be done. And then [00:57:00] have one day where you feel like shit and you're like, I suck as a photographer. I'm never gonna go do this.
Kathryn: I'm gonna go bag groceries at, you know, the red apple, and then you're done. And you're like, okay, what do I do to fix this? And you figure out what you do to fix it. And then you start doing it and you pull yourself back up out of that dark spot. Feel the dark for sure, but then get out of it and keep going.
Mica: It's like feel the dark, but don't stay there.
Mica: Well, this. This has been one bomb ass interview. Man, I just, I, I can't thank you enough for being here. This was, I love, I love, love talking to you. It is so much fun. I know I could talk forever, forever, in a day.
Mica: We really could. We really could. Yeah. And, uh, so at some point in the future, you and I are gonna have to connect in real life so that we could, you know, talk for five years in a day.
Kathryn: You're gonna have to come to [00:58:00] Portugal and hang out. I just got some pigs.
Mica: Oh my gosh. I mean, my husband and I, we are planning a trip to Madrid again. We wanna go visit again.
Kathryn: Yeah. It's happening. It's not good. Yes, yes, I know.
Kathryn: This has been really fun. Thank you. And I'm happy to come back anytime.
Mica: Heck yes. This will definitely be a repeat. Definitely.
Mica: Was that a banging conversation or what? I hope you, my Savory Squad, enjoyed my chat with the talented Kathryn Barnard as much as I did. I had a banging good time with her. If y'all want to keep up with and support Kathryn and her fantastic photography. Make sure to follow her on Instagram at Kathryn Barnard Photo.
Mica: You can also check out her [00:59:00] impressive portfolio by visiting her website at www dot Kathryn Barnard photo.com. Don't miss out on her latest projects and stunning visual storytelling. Thank you once again for tuning in to the Savory Shot and a massive shoutout to y'all, my Savory Squad, for all your love and support. Remember to leave your voice messages and feedback on Pod in a box. You can find that link on my Instagram bio. Your thoughts and ideas truly help make this show the best it can be.
Mica: Until next time y'all.