Christchurch photographer Katherine Williams has been named 2016 Photographer of the Year at New Zealand's top professional photography awards, the Iris Awards.

She also won the Wedding Classic and Wedding Creative categories at the ceremony last week.

Her love of photography was sparked at the age of 15, when she built a pinhole camera out of cardboard to take photographs of her friends with, she said.

Katherine Williams with her IRIS Ward. Photo / Supplied
Katherine Williams with her IRIS Ward. Photo / Supplied

"It was back in the day of the darkroom, and I loved the absolute magic of creating something with light and watching it develop before your eyes into a photograph that captured that moment in time."

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Although the equipment and techniques she used had changed many times over the years, she said capturing that fleeting moment was still something she loved, and what drew her into wedding photography.

She started her business, Tandem Photography, about 11 years ago with her husband and fellow photographer Neil Williams.

She had spent about a decade working overseas, much of it spent on cruise ships, but said she wanted to move home to Christchurch to put down roots.

In spite of winning several awards, she said it was still difficult to make a living as a professional photographer.

Winning the top Iris award blew her away and was a "totally overwhelming feeling", she said.