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PPA Photographer Story: Into the Fire - PPA Today

PPA Photographer Story: Into the Fire


With the house ablaze, Katie Woodring rushed forward like she had so many times before. But not with a hose--with her camera.

She arrived on scene as the fire was still fully involved. The fire fighter before her sent a high arc of spray into the burning home. Just then one of the power lines to the house came unattached and swung into the line of the hose. Katie heard a huge POP and sparks flew. She pressed the shutter and prayed. 

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The image later caught the eyes of judges at her local photographic competition through Kentucky PPA and Photo Pro Network, earning her a merit. She shared her story through her Faces of PPA submission and caught our attention as a fine example of a PPA photographer stepping out of her comfort zone, embodying the instinctive drive to Be More to the fullest.

Katie's husband is one of the roughly 110 full-time firefighters in Covington, Kentucky, a small city just south of the Ohio River from Cincinnati. The brave men and women go on shifts for 24-hours at a time, leaving their family and friends to wonder and worry about what they do. Her husband would come home and tell her about a fire and she'd realize it was only a few streets away. She decided to use her talents behind the camera to give a behind-the-scenes perspective of what happens.

But when she first had the idea for her passion project, she was afraid to get started.

"I had the vision a couple years ago but I didn't have the guts to do it," she said. "It took me a while to approach the chief."

National Geographic photographer, Joe McNally's Faces of Ground Zero project with the FDNY inspired her to go ahead. 


"I thought my gosh, I could totally do this," she said. "Then it became I need to do this." 

Katie then approached the fire chief with her idea and was given the go-ahead. Whenever there's an incident, everyone in the department gets a text; Katie was added to the list. She has a radio which she keeps with her at all times. She has an official Civilian Representative credential and can cross police tape if she so chooses.

Katie's work with the department is completely volunteered. She started a Facebook page, Faces of the Covington, KY Fire Department, where she posts pictures within 24-hours. The men and women are often able to see the pictures while they're still on their shift. The images, she says, are turning the fire fighters into rock stars with their family and friends. 

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"It's not just them hanging out at the house, they do some extraordinary things," she said. "When you see coverage on the news or in the paper, the focus is on the fire. I show the people fighting it. It's very physical but also very mental. I thought if I could show the family members what they go through, maybe I could help them with any problems that may arise--it could give them a glimpse into their world. 

"You see things that go on with huge fire departments like New York, Boston, Chicago, but smaller towns see the same crazy things. This has helped show the community what these guys do for them."

Katie started her business, Katie Woodring Photography, in 2004. She currently focuses on family portraiture, but also shoots 20 weddings per year. Two years ago, she began the Faces of the Covington Fire Department project and although Katie's work for the department is volunteered, it's starting to blend into her paid work. 

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"People always ask if I'm getting paid for this and I'm not, but there are benefits to that," she said. "I have no agenda other than my own and can photograph what I want. Plus, there are 110 fire fighters, 110 families that I'm making connections with."

The connections have created paid opportunities for Katie. She's photographed weddings for fire fighters and done family portrait, engagement and newborn sessions in the fire house. She just produced a calendar for the department of fires through the year, complete with mustaches for Movember. But for Katie the value is in more than bringing in business.

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"I was a college athlete and I always wished I had a badass picture of myself playing soccer, but I don't," she said. "These guys now have keepsakes to show loved ones, use as bragging rights and take with them after retirement. It's very fulfilling for me to be the catalyst. I can capture these very dramatic images and boost morale in the fire house and bring wives and family members pride and comfort. It's a great feeling."

Katie has one more wedding to photograph to meet her 20 wedding quota. In the meantime she'll continue with family portrait sessions, her radio never far away. 

Katie Woodring Photography is based in Covington, Kentucky. Take a look at her work with the fire department on Facebook at Faces of the Covington, KY Fire Department.


John Owens is PPA's resident wordsmith. Know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words? That's where he comes in. The Connecticut transplant and (still) avid Hartford Whalers fan is an aspiring adventurist/novelist/racer on a lifelong quest to find the best trails, brews and burgers and wishes Taylor Swift would just stop.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on December 1, 2014 8:14 PM.

Pricing, Close Calls and Clients from Hell: Our Top 10 Favorite Blog Posts from 11/24-28 was the previous entry in this blog.

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