question time...

I sometimes get people email me with questions about photography or the business and one day last week I wrote on my Facebook page that if anyone had any questions then pop them below and I'll do a little blog post.. thinking that nobody was gonna ask a question.. *cue tumble weed*

Well it seemed that you guys did have a few questions.. quite a few in fact.. (I'm always surprised as I actually thought I wouldn't get anything) so what was going to be one tiny blog post.. might just have to become a few.. :)

So I've chosen a few questions for this post and will be following it up in the next few weeks with some more... (oh yeah.. and sorry for rambling....)

What was the thing you found most difficult in your first year of business, and how did you overcome it?
My first year was a roller coaster.. one of those really scary ones that flip you upside down and then jerk you in a different direction when you least expect it.  We had booked 30 weddings in our first year and pretty much hit the ground running so I think our biggest challenge was keeping up and learning at the same time as doing.  With each wedding I was learning so much and then coming home and editing and again learning.. we then were having to set up and run a business so before we could do something (send paperwork for example) we had to create it.. before we could design an album we had to learn how to use the software.. find an album supplier etc etc.  There were a lot of very late nights and just an awful lot to digest.  Everything was new and I would say that that first 18 months was the most valuable as we learnt a lot on how not to do things.  That's the great thing.. you really learn from every decision you make (and every mistake you make) and actually I think we now have a much better business for it.

Best camera to use for a newbie starting out?
I expect there are quite a few cameras that are great for when you are just starting out but I started with a Nikon D40.. then moved up to a Nikon D90 which I used for my first 6 months of shooting weddings.  I then moved over to Canon (I was Second Shooting for a photographer who used Canon so could borrow lenses and he could teach me about the camera if I moved over) and started using a Canon 5D MKII.  In my first year to 18 months I'll be honest it was a struggle to build up the finances to buy equipment.. I had a couple of bodies and a few lenses but there was such a long list of things to buy.. and what to buy first?  A better camera body or a new lens? Which lens? How many memory cards do I need? I remember seeing a photo of a photographer's desk with a little pile of memory cards and thinking "Wow! They've got like 10 memory cards! That's a shit load of money right there!.. Will I ever get to that stage??"  But you get there.. don't get me wrong.. it's a slow process.. and we still (and always will have) things to buy on our list but you do it.  I think the biggest piece of advice I can give is however expensive.. definitely have back ups.  This is vital.  If your camera breaks or you drop it you need to have a back up with you that you are totally happy to shoot that wedding with.  Shit will happen and you have to be prepared.

What lenses do you generally use?
I'm a 35mm 1.4 and an 85mm 1.2 kinda girl..

When looking around at photographers for our wedding we noticed many photographers rip off others. Knowing you have been a victim of it in the past.. have you got any advice for those who get their creativity ripped off on the internet?
I think there's a difference between being inspired by people's work and then ripping them off.  I know that I definitely did not invent the cutting people's heads off.. I find myself naturally doing it when shooting but I know that other people did it before me.. BUT everything I do I will make it my own.  If, on the other hand someone was to create a website and it looked like a carbon copy of my website then that's different.  I think when it comes to photography, especially wedding photography.. things can quite easily look pretty similar as we're all constantly working with the same components.. but I think there's always room for making something your own.  I would say, it's it's blatantly obvious they have copied something then by all means, talk to them.. but also you must be doing something right if someone wants to copy you in the first place.. ;)

How do you manage your workload and what is your process from after you have backed up your images to delivery to the couple?
I'm constantly trying to streamline my workflow and over the past three years it has changed quite a bit.  I've had periods where it's been pretty overwhelming and in peak wedding season have been literally drowning.. these are the points where we've often had to do more work (by setting new things up) which help ease the workflow in the long run but at the time seem easier to not do and just struggle on.  But I'm telling you from experience.. JUST STOP AND DO IT.

So at the moment this is our workflow..
Shoot Wedding
Monday (if possible) I will cull the wedding.
Send to Fotofafa..

So.. Fotofafa.. if you haven't heard of them then you need to look them up.  I can hand on my heart tell you that they changed my world.  Fotofafa are a post-production company based in California and they gave me my life back. This is not me being over-dramatic either.  I send them my RAW files and they do my basic adjustments.. white balance, tweaks to exposure, colour etc.. I then get all my images back ready for me to add my own artistic edit.  The time it saves me is incredible and whilst the images are with Fotofafa I get to concentrate on other things, shoot more, do more personal work, workshops, even karaoke.. ;) 

For the first 2 years of the business I was constantly at my desk.. and shooting a wedding every week meant that to keep on top of things I was working constantly.. all day.. all night.. and it felt like it was becoming a chore.. I was dreading the start of a wedding edit as it seemed such a huge mountain to climb.. but now the weight is off my shoulders and the workload feels manageable.. it is also the BEST thing when the images come back and you get to watch the adjustments appear in LR.. it's actually like Christmas.. :)

Once the images are back I then spend a day artistically editing the images.. converting any to black and white that I want, dodging and burning etc.  The following day is then spent creating a slideshow, uploading their client gallery and creating their package ready to send.. :)

Obviously sometimes weddings don't get culled on the Monday straight after the wedding and sometimes they come back from Fotofafa and I might have shoots or a weddings so again they might have to wait a few days but I give my couples a timescale of 4 weeks (5 in peak season) so I give myself a decent amount of time to do the job and to enjoy it too... :)

Along the way I've definitely learnt that one of the most important things for our business is to make sure our workflow works.. and is as efficient as it could be.  As it's improved the business and our work/life balance has improved.. and for me that is vital for us to be able to look after ourselves and our couples better..

I also have to mention how great Fotofafa's customer service is.. they have always been ridiculously helpful and have really become another member of our business.. there is always the time difference that you have to take in to account (them being in America).. but they have answered all my questions (however stupid) and are always on the other end of an email.. I'm totally smitten.

I've added some examples below of my original RAW image next to the (basic) adjusted image that I get back from Fotofafa.. good hey?!? :)

What techniques do you use to get clients to laugh and relax during your shoots?
I want them to be comfortable first and foremost.. and most, if not all my couples are not comfortable having their photo taken (I don't really know many people that are).. so for me.. my job is to make them feel safe and to know what to expect as most of their nerves are to do with not knowing what is expected of them.  You need to lead it.. if you are confident then they will have confidence in you, they will trust you and then they will relax.  I've found knowing comfortable and easy ways for couples to get close helps.. (as in comfortable ways to hold each other) and then giving them little exercises or chatting about how they met etc can all help for them to forget about the camera.  I would definitely recommend having a few different poses/exercises/games/conversations ready but at the same time relax and let go yourself.. the more you worry, the more stiff you'll be and they will feel that tension which will then make them more tense.. I want to not be worrying about what settings or what the hell am I going do to next etc and just be able to enjoy getting to know them and giving them the space to have a bit of fun together..

What would you say to other photographers who are just starting out who are searching for their own voice - and feel bombarded by all the visual imagery there is out there online?
I always get very passionate about this question.  I think it's very easy to sit for hours looking at other photographer's work and then try and emulate it yourself.. because you like what you see them doing.. they're successful etc.. but they are not you.  Every one of us is an individual.. we all like different things and are drawn to different things and when it comes to art I actually think you have your own natural style buried in there somewhere just waiting to be let out.  Yes, you can *learn* to shoot a certain way but is it you?  For me.. I always think a good starting place is to look backwards.. what has made you who you are.. photography is such a personal thing that all your experiences, all your traits, your family, your relationships, your personal style, your likes.. everything is knitted together to form your voice.. so I would probably say.. instead of looking at those blogs and constantly looking outwards.. maybe start looking inwards.. go out and shoot... shoot for yourself.. and rediscover who you are first..

There are quite a few more questions that I'll answer in a future post.. but for now.. I hope these are helpful!

We also have a few spaces left for our Birmingham and Dublin Welcome home Workshops in March.. so if you have got lots of questions and want to know more then I really encourage you to come along.. it's such a good day and I promise you'll get super shit loads out of it.. :)


  1. I love this post, Emma. You are an inspiration to many of us xxx

  2. Constantly inspiring and full of support!

  3. Love this, thank you so much for sharing your ideas and answers. The fotofafa is amazing. I'd love to come to one of your workshops, that is number one on my wishlist once I get a job!
    This is the year I've decided to go for it, to start taking photos and finally admitting how much I love photography. Love, love, LOVE it!

    Thank you again and your photos are beautiful.

  4. Great blog Emma! You have the hardest job. Huge pressure. I can just about take a 'snap' of the flowers. Seriously basic knowledge of an SLR. Are you planning any workshops in Manchester?

  5. Emma, brilliant post as always. Juggling everything now the little one is here is hard. My working time doesn't sometimes start until 9pm. Streamlining is the way forward x

  6. This is such an inspiring post! :)

  7. Thank you Emma. This is wonderful.

  8. Such a fantastic & very honest post. You are a true inspiration Miss Case-Smyth-Amazeballs!! We salute you! ;-)

  9. Love this post, super shit-loads, thanks Emma!

  10. Some really helpful workflow ideas & encouraging advice Emma! Thank you

  11. Hi Emma - I am highly considering outsourcing my basic edits. Do you find that you're doing double the work when they do the basic edits and you go back and tweak or apply a preset over them?