Business of Photography

Emma’s Journey

Hi my name is Emma and I accidentally became a professional photographer.

I have always loved photography. I got my first point and shoot camera when I went on school camp in about year 4 or 5. Not long after that my uncle gifted me my first SLR camera. I’m pretty sure it was older than I was and I had no idea what I was doing with it and I LOVED it. 25-ish years later, I still have that camera! It got me started.

I dabbled in photography during school and was terrible at it but loved it. Then, when my then fiancé, now husband and I went to Europe we borrowed another uncles very new, very expensive 1GB digital camera which took 3 ½ inch floppy discs. It makes me laugh thinking about it. We would ask people to take our photo in front of monuments and they would go to put their eye to the viewfinder and with the universal language of charade I would have to explain that there was no viewfinder and to use the screen. Recently when we were on holiday in the US I was taking a photo of my husband and kids and a kind passer by asked if I would like them to take the photo so I could be in it. They went to look at the screen on the back of the camera that I never have on and this time I had to explain that they needed to look through the view finder. We’ve come full circle! (it was a terrible photo by the way, they chopped all our heads off and quickly shoved it back at me an hurried away before I could look at it and see what they had done.)

Photography as a hobby fell off a little for a couple of years until my eldest daughter was born. A friend had a baby at about the same time and said that she paid $800 for a photography session. $800! That is SO expensive. No way was I paying $800 for a photographer. Talk about rip off. I could buy a camera for that! So that is what I did! Dick Smiths, $800 for a camera and two lenses. Perfect.

I soon learned that $800 isn’t just for the couple of hours it takes to actually take the photos. There is a whole lot of learning that goes on before a photographer starts charging, not to mention the money that goes into gear and insurances etc and of course the hours spent editing. In hindsight, $800 wasn’t actually a rip off!

So as my children grew so did my love for photography but I was still using kit lenses on an entry level camera in auto. After 7 years of love and a massive shutter count my 1000D died and I replaced it. I did a cheap course at the local family centre to learn how to get out of auto but still saw auto as the ‘safe’ option so my camera stayed in auto. Then I decided I NEEDED to upgrade to a full frame and with the NEED for full frame came the NEED for better lenses.

As my kit grew (like many photographers, I suffer from GAS – gear acquisition syndrome) I started to take more photos and share them a little on social media. About this time my aunty died and she dedicated much of her life to rehoming and rescuing stray cats. An acquaintance from a previous hobby happened to reach out at that time and ask me if I was interested in joining a voluntary group of photographers she was part of called Shutter Paws. This group of photographers take photos of rescue animals to try and help them get noticed to help them find their fur-ever home. I was worried that my photos wouldn’t be good enough but one of the admins put my mind at ease by saying ‘all we aim for is better than a carer can with a mobile phone of a black cat hiding under a bed’. Doing something like this seemed like a much nicer way to mark my aunty’s death and celebrate her life than by sending flowers so I was in.

Despite being assured that the bar was pretty low for my taking good enough photos to stay a member of Shutter Paws I still wanted to make sure I was doing the best I could do. I attended some in person workshops including a posing workshop hosted by Cyrus and Perth Learn Photography as well as joining some on-line learning courses and with education my photography skills grew.

I had always struggled with the creativity that was needed for photography. I could learn the exposure triangle and the technical aspects because that is logical and definite. Creativity though didn’t feel like it was concrete or something I could learn. What I found was that there are techniques that you can learn and how and when you choose to use those techniques is a form of creativity so actually it can be learned. Yay!

Finally, about a year after I had started in Shutter Paws I got a message from the volunteer who I had gone out for my first shoot with, Kelly, from 7 to 1 Photography. She had been asked to photograph the Perth Garden Festival and would I second shoot for her. My first instinct was to say no. I’m not good enough, I’m still learning, I have no idea how to shoot events, I was afraid I would stuff it up. For some reason I said yes! From there Kelly asked me to shoot a wedding with her and then a number of other events. All of a sudden I was doing more and more paid photography work.

The highlight was when Kelly asked me if I would like to photography Il Divo with her. It’s a long story but when my son was a baby he cried A LOT and the only thing that calmed him was Il Divo. I spent 18 months of my life listening to Il Divo. Still now, over a decade later, if I play Il Divo my son will come and sit next to me and put his head on my shoulder and just sit. So to be asked to photograph these men who had literally been with us through some of our darkest days was pretty amazing.

Amongst all the events I realised that I love photographing people. I love celebrating moments and having been a celebrant for 12 years I love weddings so now I photograph engagements, weddings, maternity, babies, and families (not necessarily in that order J) with my business Celebrating Life Photography.

When I spent that $800 14 years ago I never imagined I would be working as a photographer. When I started volunteering with Shutter Paws I did not think it would lead to where it has. When I said yes to ‘helping out’ at that Garden Festival I didn’t think I would end up being a professional photographer. But here I am with my own business Celebrating Life Photography and loving it.

I will say though, if I had paid that $800 14 years ago for the professional photoshoot I would have saved myself tens of thousands of dollars in lenses, cameras and accessories (unless you ask my husband in which case maybe a thousand darling, maximum. Definitely not more than that. We have a deal, if I die first he will ask a friend how much my photography gear is REALLY worth before selling it for what I told him I paid for it and if he dies first I’ll do the same for his Warhammer collection).