Can you explain a little about what you’re currently up to and the steps you’re taking to start your career?
I am in the process of setting up and investing in my photography business – Emily Mae Photography. I specialise in Events, Portraiture and Dance photography and am currently based in Birmingham. I am also working part-time as a Marketing Assistant for a local Adult Education college.
Have you always been interested in photography?
For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with the camera’s ability to immediately capture a moment in a still image. For my 18th birthday, my parents bought me my first DSLR camera, the Nikon D5100, and I think that my interest in photography extended from that.
When did you first think of seriously becoming a photographer, making it not just a hobby but also a career?
In December 2014, a close family friend of mine got married in Central Park in New York. I attended the wedding with my family, and the bride and groom asked if I would mind bringing my camera along and taking some ‘candid’ photos of the day, in order to capture a different point of view to the official wedding photographer. Seeing how grateful the bride and groom were for the photos I had taken made me realise just how much I loved photography, and that if I worked hard, I could make a career out of it.
You’re very active on social media and frequently blog about your latest projects, how important is this to your business?
My social media accounts and website enable me to visually share my work with my followers and potential clients. It is therefore incredibly important for me to maintain a constant presence on these sites, in order to keep people engaged and interested in the work I am doing. Alongside this being beneficial in terms of my business, I personally take a lot of pride in my work and love being able to share it online with my family and friends!
Looking back, what steps did you take that led you to where you are today?
Thinking about how I got to the point I am at now, I would say it came in five key steps:
1. I learnt to believe in myself and believe in my ability.
2. I channeled that belief and ability into building up a small portfolio of work, which reflected my interests and showcased my skills.
3. I thought carefully about my target audience, and the area of photography I wanted to specialise in.
4. I made sure that I had the necessary equipment to become a professional photographer (with the help of a few Christmas and birthday presents, and a hell of a lot of saving!)
5. I ordered business cards, set up my social media accounts and my website and started to sell my business, and ultimately sell myself as a professional photographer.
How did your time at university help prepare you?
Whilst at university I studied for a degree in Fine Art, an experience that I consider to be invaluable in preparing me for setting up my own photography business. I naturally learnt many creative skills throughout my degree, however I would say that the most beneficial part of becoming an artist was learning how to sell myself as one. My ability to be independently proactive with my work, and to think positively but also critically stems from my time studying a Fine Art degree at Lancaster. Additionally, my university experience provided me with many contacts, and therefore many opportunities to photograph a variety of events such as summer balls, nightclubs, dance competitions and even a graduation event! I believe that these opportunities enabled me to quickly build a portfolio of work, and also helped me to narrow down the sort of photography work I prefer to take on.
What has been your greatest moment as a photographer?
This question is most definitely the hardest! It’s almost impossible to choose one moment when so much of what I do is incredibly rewarding. I wouldn’t say there has ever been one ‘greatest moment’, but every time I get positive feedback from a client, I get this feeling of immense pride and happiness, which undoubtedly makes it feel like the most rewarding job in the world. But if I had to pick one ‘greatest moment’ it would have been reading this comment…
“Emily is a very talented young lady that knows how to turn pictures into stories.”
What have you learned so far from your venture into starting your own business?
That it’s hard work! There is a lot more to running your own business than you might first think. Every day I face new challenges; keeping on top of my social media accounts, attracting new clients, managing my diary, sourcing materials, keeping a budget and many other never-ending tasks. And the biggest challenge I face everyday is keeping the business financially viable. However, I know this is going to sound cheesy, but all of the hard work is completely worth it. Every morning I wake up knowing that I am doing work that I enjoy. I look forward to the jobs that I take on, I enjoy them whilst I’m doing them, and I can’t wait to share the results with my clients. Running my own business is so incredibly gratifying, and allows me to feel like I am in control of where my career will go.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Living a lavish lifestyle in London, travelling the world photographing for wedding or fashion magazines, who doesn’t dream of working for Vogue?! But that really is in my wildest dreams! More realistically, I would love to still be running my photography business, most likely from London. And I would love to have a family by then, a family that I can take lots of wonderful photographs with, dedicate time to and truly appreciate. I’ve heard that’s the beauty of being your own boss!
If you could pass on one piece of advice to aspiring photographers, what would it be?
Take photographs of anything and everything around you; challenge yours (and other people’s) conceptions of the things that you photograph and always believe that you are the best at what you do.
Keep up to date with Emily’s projects on her Instagram @emily.mae.photography and have a look at her portfolio on her website.
Interview by Alexandria Dale.
If you're interested in running your own business or working in photography, then Emily Aston has some wonderful advice for you - read our interview with her below...
King Edwards VI Handsworth School
A-Levels: Textiles, Art, English Literature
Degree: Fine Arts
Owner of Emily Mae Photography
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