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10 quick questions with Canon portrait photographer Kathryn Chapman

(Image credit: Kathryn Chapman)

Kathryn Chapman is fascinated by the therapeutic power of photography and how portraiture can improve the way we see ourselves. Through her Face to Face® and Freedom Shoot processes (devised from her journey with depression and anxiety), she connects with clients to produce soulful portraiture that challenges negative self-belief and offers a different perspective – one of self-compassion and acceptance. Last year she was chosen to be part of the 2020 Vision Project and was recently interviewed by Rankin.

Kathryn Chapman is speaking at The Photography Show, taking place next week from 18-21 September at The NEC in Birmingham, England. 


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(Image credit: Kathryn Chapman)

10 quick questions with Kathryn Chapman 

1. How did you start your photographic journey?

I’ve been photographing since I was eight, decided I wanted to be a photographer at 16, but didn’t realize my dream until 2004, when I was in my mid-30s. The day I began to call myself a photographer was one of the most joyful of my life. I was earning money doing the thing I loved most – photographing people, capturing beautiful memories and creating art.

2. What attracted you to specialize in portrait photography?

I love the challenge of portraiture and all that it entails. What I do now is a direct result of my own deep learning via a series of self-portrait shoots from 2018. I used photography to reflect back who I was and it transformed my mental health. I’m fascinated with self-image, and reflecting the human experience in the way I do is an incredible co-creating journey.

(Image credit: Kathryn Chapman)

3. What was your big break that took your photography and your career to the next level?

The biggest thing I did for my creativity was find my mentor – I’d been looking for one for years and found it in Clare Louise. She helped me deeply lean into creativity, intuition and my view of the world. She inspires and supports me, creating the most wonderful space to learn and grow in. I attended her Shooting with Soul workshop three years ago and my creative world changed forever.

4. What was your first camera? 

I can’t remember what make my first camera was, but it was one of those thin slidey-ones from the ‘70s. In my teens I got my first SLR, the Canon AE1 I think! I remember how much I loved playing with the shutter speed and learning from my dad about the meter needle and how to use all the buttons.

(Image credit: Kathryn Chapman)

5. What was your first Canon EOS DSLR?

My first EOS was the 400D and it has served both myself and my business very well for years as I upgraded my glass, before saving up for the full-frame Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

6. Why did you choose Canon?

My dad has Canon, bought me my first Canon and, seeing as he’s always right, it was only right to continue buying Canon… I don’t think I’ll ever use anything else, I love all my Canon gear.

7. Have you made or are you considering making the switch to the Canon EOS R mirrorless system and RF lenses?

I’ve not tried mirrorless yet – I don’t want to try what I can’t afford! It would be absolute agony if I tried a Canon EOS R mirrorless camera, liked it, and then couldn’t move on to that system immediately.

(Image credit: Kathryn Chapman)

8. Which Canon lenses do you use and why? Do you have a preference for zooms or primes, and any favorites?

I mostly use the Canon EF 100mm macro prime f/2.8L and get twitchy if I have to swap it due to space restrictions. Is that normal?! It’s perfect for everything I love to shoot – portraiture and macro. I was advised at the start of my career not to compromise on glass and always save for a few more months to get the best lens; so I’ve only ever bought Canon L-series lenses.

(Image credit: Kathryn Chapman)

9. Where, what, who are you excited to photograph next?

My next Freedom Shoot or Face to Face® client – holding these spaces for people is incredibly moving. Then reflecting back to them what I’ve seen in their galleries, and what they’ve allowed themselves to express, is amazing. Often clients’ images contain expressions of what society doesn’t allow them to show, or parts of themselves they’ve never seen before. They are extraordinarily beautiful processes.

10. Any advice for our readers who want to take better photos?

Stop shooting how or what you think you should – start shooting what you feel. Also, don’t let anyone put out your creative fire, it’s there for a reason. Finally, you can’t get your creativity wrong… 

Read more: 
The Photography Show 2021: Everything you need to know
Best Canon cameras
Best Canon lenses
Best Canon RF lenses


Peter Travers

The editor of PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine, Peter 14 years of experience as both a journalist and professional photographer. He is a hands-on photographer with a passion and expertise for sharing his practical shooting skills. Equally adept at turning his hand to portraits, landscape, sports and wildlife, he has a fantastic knowledge of camera technique and principles. As you'd expect of the editor of a Canon publication, Peter is a devout Canon user and can often be found reeling off shots with his EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR.