Romance Redefined: Kate McCarthy Photography

Sarah Symonds

Hold up Manchester brides and grooms-to-be! If you’re still looking for the picture perfect photographer for your big day then you might be interested in our introduction to today’s featured UNVEILED Network Member, Kate McCarthy…

Kate McCarthy Photography has let us have a little behind the lens peek at the goings on of her Manchester-based photography business today and we’re loving her insider tips. We’ve covered her background and how she serendipitously went from Vermont to Florence, to Hamburg and then finally the UK, picking up a camera and the required skills along the way. She’s made the most of the opportunities offered to her and carved herself a career that she loves, and we are all about that ethos!

Today Kate’s talking us through her business, her style and skillset, her packages and what she really thinks about a pre-wedding shoot, plus we’ve got her priceless top tips and pitfalls to watch out for. Over to you, Kate!

Hi Kate!

Hi, I’m Kate from Kate McCarthy Photography and I’m American (from teeny tiny Vermont in New England) but based in Manchester.

Where did your passion for photography come from – and how did it turn into a career?

I come from a quite creative family – my mom and aunt are painters, my sister is a writer and my mom’s best childhood friend was a photographer – so making art has always been an encouraged outlet. During uni (I have a theatre degree!) I spent a semester in Florence studying visual art and was introduced to film photography, so I learned to process film in a darkroom.

Upon graduating, I moved to Hamburg, Germany, where I picked up a 35 year old Minolta at a flea market for ten euros and basically never put it down again. Weddings came later. In 2009 I shot my first one for a friend of a friend, despite never having done one before. I think I was a bit overconfident to be honest (and VERY naive to what was involved) but after that, I was hooked. I ended up shooting weddings part-time, learning as I went, around my admin day job but when my daughter was born in 2015, I took the plunge and went full time.

As I grew more comfortable, more couples trusted me and I learned on the job but it wasn’t until I won a six month mentorship with the amazing Jonny Draper in 2016 that things really took off. Jonny took my own creative eye and abilities and refined them but also pulled back the curtain on the business aspect of wedding photography, something I knew nothing about. I owe so much of my success to JD and his wife Emma – their support really gave me the boost to take off!

What do you love about capturing a couple’s big day?

I love everything about the wedding day to be honest but in terms of my role, I love catching what they’ll miss – telling the story of their wedding day and all of the moments that make it. I think a wedding goes so fast on the day so it’s up to me to be everywhere and not miss anything! Whilst reportage is probably 85% of what I shoot, I also have the best time shooting the portraits and finding creative framing and setups that really capture who the couple are as individuals and together. I’m such a romantic and find it is so important to give the couple space and time to have those quiet, intimate moments. Nothing should be rushed!

How would you describe your style of photography?

Recently I feel I’ve really refined the answer to this question; my work is authentic, honest, a little whimsical and romantic.

What’s your approach like on the wedding day?

I’d love to say that I’m fully hands-off and just in the background but that’s just not the case! I like to be a photographer first but also an objective support and friend to my couples. I’m on their side and will always have their backs. I’m an extra set of hands, I’m an excuse to escape the chaos, I can be coordinator in a DIY venue and a close confidante when it all feels a bit overwhelming. I want you to trust me with your memories, to allow me to subjectively tell your love story because I’m on your side and my duty of care is to YOU.

How do you build relationships with your couples?

Included in all full day packages is a pre-wedding shoot. This is complementary to the service because I see it as an incredibly valuable tool that allows us to get to know each other and for me to gauge your unique chemistry in front of a camera. Most couples aren’t naturally comfortable in front of the camera so it’s up to me to put in the work and get to know you but also to stay totally open about who I am in turn. Mutual trust and understanding is key to great photos!

What sets you apart from other photographers?

I think my service is so individualized and personal. I genuinely fall a bit in love with all of my couples!

Do you have a favourite part of the day to capture?

Portrait sessions on the day are kept short so that once all of the more formal elements of the day are finished (ceremony, family photos, speeches, the meal etc) we sneak out and I find that’s where the magic happens. The light has softened, you’ve had a drink (or several!), perhaps you’ve changed or altered your outfits, everything is so much more relaxed and you get to take a minute to just BREATHE and be in each other’s presence. It’s always so surprising to me how little alone time a couple gets on their wedding day so if I can facilitate a few of these quieter, more intimate moments, the photos are so much more special. The connection is palpable and is a bit of a reset for the evening festivities!

Where does your work take you?

Primarily throughout the North West of the UK but, as my family is all in New England in the States, I try to arrange a wedding or two when I go back. Recently I’ve also begun taking on more destination weddings throughout Europe including The Amalfi Coast, Majorca and France.

What would be your top three tips for couples searching for a wedding photographer?

  1. SCOUR Instagram and learn what style you gravitate to. Terminology helps! Fine art, creative, reportage etc. Do your research!
  2. Understand that you get what you pay for – photographers are on the top end in terms of initial outlay but it’s so important because usually the photographs are all that remain of your wedding when the day itself is over. We are priced according to our experience, training, professional equipment and level of service – and most undercharge!
  3. Book Zoom/FaceTime calls with potential photographers to choose someone who has the skills and experience but also that you connect with on a personal level. You spend so much time with your photographer on the day that it’s so important that you get on well!

And the absolute no-nos?

  1. Please don’t book someone and then ask them to change their editing or working methods. Book someone based on loving their full package!
  2. Understand the realities (and sometimes limitations) of your wedding photos in terms of time of day/year, venue and available light and weather. For example, it’s unreasonable to expect bright airy photos of your December wedding with a 4pm start. Photographers are AWESOME at rising to the creative challenge so trust us!
  3. Don’t stress the small stuff. Focus on having an amazing day safe in the knowledge that a team of professionals have your back and will do an amazing job.

What options do you offer when couples are booking you?

I keep it very simple, offering either a full (prep til party) or half day (ceremony til speeches) coverage. I also have a 2 hour, ‘teeny-tiny’ micro wedding package that has been super popular recently, for obvious reasons.

Included with all full day bookings is a pre-wedding shoot. I find that pre-wedding shoots are SO helpful in that they break the ice a bit ahead of the big day. We can get to know each other a bit and I can get a sense of your comfort in front of the camera. Plus you get bonus pics!

It’s been a wild year but I’m so excited to get back to work safely ASAP! I’m a totally open book so please feel free to give me a shout if you’d like to chat more!

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