Mentor Me – My little journey with Kate Hopewell-Smith


As Winnie the Pooh said “a grand adventure is about to begin” and this is exactly how I felt at the beginning of this year. Writing this feels a little strange as usually I always write about other people but I wanted to share a little about me, to show thanks to someone special!

“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught is captured forever... It remembers little things long after you have forgotten everything” – Aaron Siskind

Last November I decided to go on a Lighting – Winter Weddings course, which was run by Kate from Kate Hopewell-Smith Photography, an area I was always felt I could know more – and with shooting weddings in the UK and the unpredictable weather we have in the summer (never mind the winter) I went along to learn, to make sure I was using my kit properly and how better to use the light! It was a great course and the start of something exciting!

In March this year I went to see one of the wedding venues that I was shooting at this summer, a lady showed me around, a lady that has known me growing up and knew my family. Knowing my dad was a photographer, she quietly said to me “he would be so proud”. She asked did I think I would be doing photography if he was here with us today, and funnily enough I have thought this many times and replied, ‘honestly I bet I wouldn’t be, we would drive each other potty!’. I was his little girl and he always knew best! During my upbringing I learnt so much from him, particularly his strong work ethic.  As much as I say we'd drive each other potty, It’s ironic as I long for his advice and for him to be here to help with issues or to just ask silly little things – reassurance I guess, whether it be a technical issue or advice on running a business!  It was this day I knew I needed something to help me believe, help me know that I am making a career for my family and that for every hour I am away from my gorgeous boys that it is worth it.

I came home that day and I emailed Kate, I asked if she had any availability on her mentoring programme – I wanted a little guidance, I wanted to know that I was going in the right direction and to be excited about the future.

My idea of having a mentor was to have someone overlook how I work, give feedback, constructively explain how I can improve and inspire me to deliver the best in me; from the very first moment I met Kate – her knowledge and personality inspired me.

Firstly we went through all my business aims, my finances, my goals and my style – I must admit that I jokingly said it was a little like a counselling session and when I returned home I was buzzing. I remember not being able to talk about it for a few days as my head was about to burst – I had so many notes and amazing ideas that I wanted to take it all in and not just blab it all out and bore my nearest and dearest. There was my light bulb moment and I was motivated to start.

I gave myself tasks to work towards and discussed several aspects of photography, my strengths and weaknesses and learnt from literally just talking through a few methods and every time we had a conversation I learnt that little bit more, most of the time it was like the penny had dropped.

Sometimes being self-employed seems lonely and you’re not sure if what you’re doing is right, I didn’t want someone to hold my hand as such, I just needed a little direction and a shoulder to lean on and my inspiring wonderful mentor sure was that.

I’m so glad I listened to the little voice in my head and decided to act on it that day back in March, I indeed went on an adventure – even though there have been ups and downs, like anything in life when you reflect, but it has given me strength and motivation, and I have received direction and support.

I am lucky every day in my career; I meet so many wonderful people along the way, all of whom are very special, my bride and grooms, all the beautiful babies and you fab new mummy and daddies. I get to watch your little ones grow, capturing precious moments to remember forever, and this is what I love, this is why I want to be a photographer, and more so to continuously learn.

During my last trip down to Steeple Claydon, I had mentioned to Kate that I have never had my photo taken on my own – I mean like a proper portrait photo session.... yes like many of you I would say I don’t like to have my photo taken, I always say to people I prefer to be behind the camera, anyway a little twist of the arm and we did that session. I must admit I did feel awkward, I giggled like a little girl, I didn’t know how to smile and where to look but I actually had fun, and I now know exactly how you all feel, however, I think I’ll stick to being the loony toon behind the camera trying to get you smiling though. Sometimes it’s good to get out of your comfort zone, for me to show clients who I am, who is Leri Lane. Well here I am..... still a little cringy looking at these but they are fab images by Kate. And I'm super chuffed I have my very own Kate Hopewell-Smith photos!!!

Kate has taught me so much, personally and about running a business, I’ll now always be obsessed with light and love capturing emotion even more. Emotion really is the heart of a photo for me. I have a new friend, and inspiration for life, as I’ll always admire this lady and her work ethic.

Thank you Kate for being you and inspiring and motivating me.

If you have a passion for photography and would like to learn or make your own dream into a career, you should check out Kate’s new venture; Training By Lumiere – a fabulous team and I for one would recommend them.