Always in search of the best photographers who will give our readers top-shelf advice, I stumbled upon one such photographer… I am ecstatic to have had the opportunity to chat with Kate sZatmari, acclaimed beauty and portrait photographer. She openly shares with us her journey to success and unfailingly applies her life’s mantra ‘Survival of the fittest’ to every aspect of her life; and it’s evident in the success she’s achieved.

Kate’s day off

Being a very busy photographer, she naturally doesn’t have a lot of time to herself. She describes her perfect day off work in following scenarios:

1) Pulling down the blinds, sitting on the couch catching up on my favourite TV shows. She calls it her “I need to shut my brain off completely” mode.

2) Grabbing a Starbucks coffee, going to the bookstore and reading beauty and fashion magazines for 3 hours straight.

3) Hanging out with friends, cooking, going to the gym or hopping in the car and heading to the beach.

But continues to say it all depends on what projects she finished and how tired she is.

On the move

Though a Hungarian native, she was born in Romania and lived there till her family moved to Hungary when she was eight. From there they moved to Canada where she lived for 17 years before moving to Los Angeles. One of her fondest childhood memories was getting her first camera, a Nikon FE10 SLR. “I remember my mother putting in a lot of overtime at work, she sacrificed on my behalf and at the same time, encouraged and showed support for talent that no one was even certain would translate into a career.”

Photography is in my blood

“I always feel corny saying that ‘Photography is in my blood’ but, so be it!” From what she’s heard, her grandfather used to take photographs but she can’t remember much about his work. She started showing interest in photography around the age of 12, taking the family camera to take close-up photos of flowers which so happens always came out blurry. Then, one day, she asked her mother to buy her a book on ‘How to See Creatively’ and everything just took off from there.

From flowers to fashion to faces

Her life really took a 360º turn from being the little girl photographing in the garden to the renowned beauty and celebrity photographer she is today. At first, she wanted to be a fashion photographer but didn’t have full comprehension of what exactly that meant. Moving to LA and learning what the city is all about she quickly came to terms that she wasn’t a fashion photographer. “You have to live and breathe fashion and that has never, and still isn’t, me.” She later realized that she really loved faces and got really inspired by someone’s beauty, character and the sheer art of make-up and hair.

Just keep going

After actually giving up beauty photography because it was so challenging and frustrating, the day arrived where it all just clicked. She slowly began to learn the difference between ‘commercial’ and ‘editorial’ beauty, started building a basic portfolio and reaching out to clients she knew she wanted to work with. Kate describes a beauty photograph as one that not only captivates the viewer but also potentially inspires them, all the while selling the product well.

Commercial, Editorial and Portrait – Whats the difference?

Commercial beauty shot

A commercial beauty shot is a standard beauty image that is photographed in a more simplistic manner.  It is meant to sell a product by a specific brand to the general public.  The image is more direct and usually has less artistic expression.  If the public cannot connect with the photograph, they won’t buy the product.

Editorial beauty shot

An editorial beauty image is shot with a theme that is carried through more than 4 pages.  The idea could be based on makeup, hair, nails, skincare or even accessories.  It’s not so much about selling a product, but using current trends to illustrate a story.  These images do not always require a specific style of photography and lighting, but rather allow the photographer a lot more artistic freedom.

Portrait shot

A portrait is about capturing an organic moment in time.  It’s about capturing your talents character and personality in a single photograph.  These images should somehow feel personal, like you’ve caught a private glimpse of someone’s essence.

Differences regarding retouching

I was curious to know what the difference in post-processing different style of photos, which she explains really thoroughly.

Beauty retouching

Is all about creating a highly polished final photograph. It’s about perfecting skin tone, texture and make-up.

Portrait retouching

Is less about perfection. It is about someone’s beauty. A portrait is just as much about your subjects’ character; it has to be realistic and true to the person you photograph. If you remove too many lines, you may have changed the entire feel of the overall photo and it’s no longer relatable.

Creating beautiful light

Going through Kate sZatmari’s website you’ll see that her lighting technique is flawless! When I asked her to elaborate a bit more on the subject she said that she just loves simplicity, therefore her lighting setups are simplistic. “Clean, beautiful lighting is what I aim for when shooting beauty.” Her setups vary from a single key light with a seven foot umbrella and a reflector to something more complex like a key light, multiple V-flats for fill, hair light above the subject and one or two lights on the backdrop. It all depends on the type of lighting effect I want to create.

3 Tips for creating the best beauty shot

“Beauty is one of the hardest sections of the industry. It requires perfection, as every detail is magnified and cannot be cheated.” She shares with us 3 tips, which I think priceless!

  1. Make sure you know your lighting and what’s appropriate for the mood you’d like to achieve. If in doubt, use clean lighting; you can never go wrong with it because it’s very forgiving.
  2. Have a wonderful team of artists you work with who are incredible at what they do. “I surround myself with very talented make-up and hair stylists who not only understand makeup as a product AND the application techniques but ALSO have a full comprehension of what the final image will look like. They can see my vision.” She goes on to say that there’s nothing worse than having someone on your team who does not know what they’re doing. That’s a recipe for disaster.
  3. Always pay close attention to detail. If something needs to be fixed, makeup or hair-wise, do so on the spot – not in Photoshop! Why waste hours in post when it could take one minute on set? Also keep in mind, clients may not have the budget to fix a lot of blunders that could have easily been avoided, and that’s time and money out of your pocket.

Keep your subject at ease

Whether you are photographing a celebrity, client or a friend it is of the utmost importance that your subject feels comfortable! “They should forget what they’re doing in the moment and forget that there’s a lens pointed in their face – which can be quite intimidating.” She goes on to say that you have to know how to bring out an emotion or expression while at the same time keeping them at ease.

When great moments are captured

Kate has her list of celeb’s she’s worked with like Simon Helberg (Howard from The Big Bang Theory), Lindsay Sterling (Violinist) and Lil Wayne (Rapper). She says that her absolute favourite part about working with such talented people is their openness to creativity. She always appreciates when someone trusts her vision and is willing to explore with her. “That’s usually when the great moments are captured.”

Okay, let’s talk gear!

Currently, her kit consists of the following;

Crazy dreams and future plans

When asked if she had any seemingly crazy dreams for the future she said she dreams of being a triple threat; actress, dancer and singer! On a more realistic note, she would love to write a treatment and then a script that can translate easily to the silver screen. “I already have an idea for a blockbuster, so stay tuned!”

Kate sZatmari is a delightfully spirited woman whose work reflects her beautiful nature. She just radiates positivity and freely shares her abundant knowledge about her field of work. I hope that all of the budding photographers out there will go and study her work and remember her invaluable tips for getting that stellar beauty shot.

Keep track of Kate’s latest work by following her on: