Monday, I had the most fun experience in a long while. A photo shoot. At home instead of in a studio. In fact, I did more wardrobe changes than a diva at a concert, because we had to have the right ‘look’. And I loved the process!

The last batch of professional shots I had taken were five years ago, and I never really liked that they were so starkly lit and the poses so predictable. They were inexpensive and suited a purpose for a while but I wanted something different to use on social media sites and for book covers.

Kathryn Hollinrake is a professional photographer. I don’t mean someone with an expensive camera and a bunch of long lenses strewn about, either. This amazing woman is the real deal. The tag line on her website is “making people and things look pretty since 1994”.

I first met Kathryn at a downtown book singing for a man who was once a major guru in the business world. We got to talking and I liked her right away.

This amazing woman is the real deal. I visited her web sites and was captured by her blog – MakeMePretty, where she chronicles different photo shoots and shows what works and what doesn’t. The tag line on her website is “making people and things look pretty since 1994′. And she does.

I was impressed from the start. Not only did she drive to Booneyville from downtown in the first heavy snowfall of the winter, she brought her studio with her. Kathryn arrived on time with half a dozen large black Pelican cases, huge tripods stashed in what looked like body bags, light stands, light meters, battery packs, reflectors, extension cords, – all of the tools of her trade neatly packed and portable.

We began at 10:30 with a walkabout. I showed her two locations I thought might work for me as a writer – lots of books in the background, writing paraphernalia, etc. I proudly showed off the outfits I’d selected. Pastel shirts, white shirts. I could tell she wasn’t sold.

So the next thing we did was a walk through of my closet. She picked out several items that were darker than I expected would work. Not somber, but carrying a lot of what she described as ‘gravitas’ for a book cover. The jacket I’m wearing has words printed on the fabric in a warm copper, which exactly suits what I work with – language. In my head shot, I’m wearing a scarf Hub gave me when we first met. It was that attention to detail and what I as a client wanted, that made the shoot special.

Kathryn was open to my suggestions. I wanted to try a sparkly blue jacket I liked, but the results were awful. Yellow shirt, pink shirt – nope. Long sleeve white shirt or sleeveless? Well, I may not have Michelle Obama arms but mine aren’t bad, so we went with sleeveless. Do I wear my glasses or not? She asked, ‘who are you?” and I decided that since I’ve worn specs since I was 14, they are part of how I see myself. The dark frames I like were too dull, so we went with the red ones. I had no idea there was so much detail involved, but Kathryn pays attention to every little thing.


She decided to do the shoot in our family room. Better light control and more interesting backgrounds that wouldn’t distract from the subject matter – me.

We stripped the paintings from the walls and removed all of the doodads and Christmas decorations. We found the perfect chair for me to sit in for the formal shot. Then came the hard part – adjusting the lighting. Of all the days in the last few weeks, today the sun decided to shine halfway through the setup. Open the drapes, close the drapes. Dozens of practice shots – smile too wide/too thin, frowning lines, eyes squinched closed, head tilted too far to the right, etc. She saw things I didn’t catch.


For the second pose, I was tucked in front of the musical instrument with my head turned slightly to the window. Of course, there were reflections on my glasses. Kathryn took the time to get things exactly right. Then Hub gave his opinion and she made more adjustments.

The strangest thing for me wasn’t changing outfits and selecting scarves and smiling without frowning or not showing too many teeth, but staring at the computer screen examining every shot she took and deciding whether it was ‘me’ enough or if I liked the pose and the message it conveyed.

We wrapped up just after 2:30. Kathryn packed up her equipment and we had lunch and chatted for a few hours. Yes, hours. She is not just incredibly knowledgeable, she’s also easy to talk to and so personable.

The old adage is proved true once more – you get what you pay for. I enjoyed working with her and would do it again.

What a difference from my previous experience, which was more like a drive-through than a photography session. Her meticulous attention to detail meant that I ended up with two very different photos that I really like. And, they can be used for a multitude of purposes.

I can’t wait to use my new photos.