What I love about my work as a portrait artist

I had an epiphany this morning and boy was it a doozie. For reference, I had a client once that insisted we jam through her photo shoot. She was a doctor and had a very busy schedule. Everything had to be movin, groovin, and out the door.

Looking back on it, from that point forward I began to assume that no one really wanted to be there. They wanted their portrait session with us to be over as quickly as possible. So I began to hustle, overlook important details and settings, hurrying through one of the most important aspects of my work…the transformation.

When it hit me this morning, it was like a truck. Crash! Bang! Boom! I immediately sat down to reflect on what it is that I do as a portrait artist and why I love my work. You see, it’s important to me that I love what I do and while my business is separate from me, I am part of my business so if there is a piston misfiring in the engine of Cat, the engine for the portrait business goes haywire! It was time to really appreciate my work and everything that goes into it and I thought I would share some of that with you today.

  • I love getting excited with the client prior to their portrait session
  • I love helping to educate the client during our consultation on our process, how to prepare, what to wear, etc.
  • I love sketching out the posing maps for each client session. It helps me to solidify where we will go during the session, what we are trying to capture and convey, and keeps me on task when I get excited during the shoot and forget things 😉
  • I love shooting on my hand-painted backdrops. I paint them myself, did you know that? I do have an Oliphant on my vision board but in the meantime, I have enough of an eye with a brush to create that lovely background you will see yourself on in our portraiture.
  • I love watching my clients enter our hair and makeup room. It is like a Hollywood moment here in our Asheville studio!
  • I love seeing my client’s transformation in hair and makeup and then seeing their faces experience it! What woman doesn’t want to feel like her most beautiful self?!
  • I love seeing the wardrobe selections that my clients bring for the sessions. Some really EPIC choices and style! I love it! (Gives me shopping ideas too)
  • I love shooting. I love creating. I love being excited about getting THE shot! I love laughing during our session together.
  • I love giving direction throughout the shoot. Most clients hate being in front of the camera because they don’t feel as they know how to pose, they feel awkward. I love fine tuning each of our movements so that each client looks their absolute best and it gives them reassurance of exactly that! Confidence comes in pretty quickly when you know your photographer is a master poser.
  • I love downloading everything into Lightroom for the first time. It’s like Christmas. Seeing it on the back of the camera is only the beginning and doesn’t even begin to do it justice.
  • I love retouching the imagery. Another transformation in and of itself and women from all walks of life are my models. It is so gratifying!
  • I love printing the images from our photo session together. There is nothing more lovely in my world that having physical prints of my artwork in my hands. There is nothing like it.
  • I love matting the portraits too. It is a zen process for me to put the finishing touches on your portraiture.
  • I love watching the client walk into the gallery and stand in awe at seeing themselves at their best.
  • I love watching them carefully analyze each and every one.
  • I love watching them trying to decide on which images they want to take home (it is a tough process, lemme tell ya!)
  • I love it when they cry or get excited, because they are so moved at seeing themselves because it means that I DID see them, that I reflected back to them the woman they only hope someone sees, someday. Many times, it is for the first time.
  • I love that I am a portrait artist.

For those of you looking for more than a turn and burn snap service, I am your photographer. I am here to give you the experience of your own, most beautiful self and reflect her back to you in portraiture you will cherish.


Being a Part of the Experience {Special Olympics Asheville}

portrait photography - asheville - cat ford-coates - wendy ballance - blush - 828blush

I was watching the news on a Sunday morning…oh wait, we’ll back up. Wendy and I had been talking about how we might go about giving back, and doing it in a way that makes a personal impact. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against donating to causes that I believe in. I love to peruse gofundme campaigns, and to participate in fundraising events. However, as much as I know those funds are contributing to the betterment of xyz, they feel a little on the side of indifference. Does that make sense?

We left our conversation to brainstorm on how we might contribute to an effort wherein we could be an integral part of the experience.

So, back to that Sunday morning. I was watching WLOS, our local ABC affiliate here in Asheville and there was a story on a kickball tournament for our local Special Olympics chapter and I spit out my coffee! Literally, down my shirt, onto the couch. My husband turned around and looked at me with the quizzical expression of “Dear lord, what now?” across his face.

I grabbed my cell phone and immediately texted Wendy “I HAVE IT! (insert fireworks and heart emoji here) Special Olympics! What weekends are you free in Jan/Feb?” She was in like Flynn! We mapped out an outline of the best way that we might organize such an event and stay in keeping with the theme of making a difference with the athletes. I didn’t want to turn and burn like you might a photography marathon, but I also wanted more than 2 or 3 people.

The heart of this business is to empower our clients in their own vitality. I can’t think of a better organization to partner with than Special Olympics to meet that purpose. Can you?

When I met with Carla and her team, they were so gracious for the opportunity. One of the things they had mentioned was that so many businesses feel that the only way they CAN contribute to Special Olympics is monetarily, which of course going into the new year is no easy feat for most businesses in Asheville. The real meat of it is they are open to events like this one, wherein all parties not only gain exposure, but help to educate the general public and bring awareness about special needs to the community.

I am thrilled to be making a difference here in Asheville. Not only will we be able to make new friends and create some beautiful portraiture, but French Broad Imaging has agreed to contribute the printing for the athletes (they will each receive a matted print from their session with us), Wendy of Blush Asheville (pictured left) is contributing her artistic services so that every athlete looks their absolute BEST for their portrait and I am chomping at the bit for January 23rd to be NOW! We are going to have so much fun!

I’ll be sure to share all of the funness from our portrait party on the 23rd. Follow our Facebook and Instagram (@catfordcoates) for behind the scenes from 10:00-3:00 on January 23rd!

When asked “Why” our sponsors had this to say:

  • “Those with learning disabilities are so often overlooked as people with thoughts, feelings, and ideas of their own. My job, my purpose, is to not only acknowledge but, to empower them in their own self. It isn’t just about being pretty. It’s about knowing your own grace and owning it.” – Cat Ford-Coates, Studio 828 Photography
  • “I see the beauty within from every girl. If I can make one more smile with a touch of lip gloss and a little blush, then it is one more day I can be blessed by the best job ever.” – Wendy Ballance, Blush Asheville
  • “We are part of this community. We want to help the people in our community, and especially those with special needs. Thank you for the opportunity!” – Tony Hood, French Broad Imaging

Are you interested in sponsoring this event? Reach out below. We’d love to talk!


Before and After Transformation

The before and after transformations are such a hot topic. Many clients choose not to have their “before” image shown, which is fine. However I want to talk about WHY they are so important in my marketing efforts.

The purpose of my photography is not to make you look like a different person. It isn’t to “shop” everything away. The purpose of my photography is to create beautiful imagery of you and showcase you at your absolute best. Plain and simple.

Of course, many photographers say that.

My intention with before and afters is to show you that each of these portraits are of everyday women; just like you, and just like me. In fact, I even WANT you to smile in your before shot. It isn’t to make you look “bad”, your before shot is to simply show your face exactly as it is in all it’s plain glory. That’s mine, below.

before and after - beauty - asheville - photography - portrait
My very own before and after transformation

So, before you “decide” that all the women on my site are models, let me tell you that all but one of them are everyday clients. (The one “model” that is showcased on my site is in my fine art gallery. I am branching into some conceptual photography and thought it best to utilize a professional for that piece.)

Everyone else is a beautiful, captivating, and wonderful woman just like you. She trusted me to create beautiful portraits of her the same way that I hope you will, too.

Are you considering a beautiful portrait session of our very own? I would love to photograph you. Reach out today for your personal consultation to design the photo shoot of your dreams!

Fall Family Portraits in Asheville

One of the things I pride myself on is how we don’t just shoot and run for our family portraiture. Yes, I am well aware of how much kids and dad just LOVE to be in front of the camera for hours at a time (Yes, that is sarcasm there, haha). We have designed our portrait sessions a little differently than most.

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Family Portrait Sessions everyone can be excited about

Mom, you are single-handedly saving the world, 7 tasks at a time. We see it. You are the last on your very own list for care and we know how much you’ve been wanting portraits made of your beautiful family. We have designed a portrait session like no other. Instead of just meeting you out somewhere, running a brush through your hair quickly, and hoping that your kids thought to brush their teeth we put a little thought into designing a photo shoot that is more than that. So much more than that.

We bring Mom into the studio for our full service hair and makeup styling and photograph her in up to 4 different outfits. Mom you are also welcome to bring your daughter in for this experience as well. We can schedule you both together. Then, following your in-studio photo shoot we will meet up with any children and Dad out at your favorite location for a 30-45 photo session with everyone for just long enough to keep their attention, and not so long everyone hates the world. 🙂

Would you like a family portrait session that everyone will be proud of? I would love to photograph you.

Holiday Portrait Sessions

Oh the holidays!

Ladies, let me be clear. I’ve gotta put this out to you because every year I get dozens of calls in November from wonderful women that want to book their photography session to have in hand by the holidays (and I always feel like a jerk when I don’t have availability) Our cutoff for photo shoots to have your artwork in hand by the holidays is December 5th. We are booking November and December dates now.

Don’t be sad, reach out as soon as possible to secure your date.

  • Boudoir
  • Glamour
  • Portrait
  • Branding
  • Family
  • Generations
  • Sisters
  • Best Friends
  • 50 and Fabulous


  • Personal consultation to discuss our service and process and how you envision being photographed
  • Professional hair and makeup styling
  • Photo Shoot
  • Premier in-person reveal and ordering session to review 25 fully edited images from your session
  • Hugs

I would love to photograph you.