So you want to... be a photographer

Image: Emma Weiss

Image: Emma Weiss

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing photographer Emma Weiss. based in washington d.c. At just 20 years old, Emma is a full-time student who also runs a very successful photography business, specialising in engagement and wedding shoots. While the interview for my blog was way more informal, I felt there was too much 'good stuff' that came up in our chat not to share on here. so, if you're thinking about upping your Instagram skills or want to take your photography to the next level, check out what Emma has to say on training, gear and more.

Do you have to have formal training to have a photography business?
"No! I don’t have a photography degree. All I did was shoot everything. I just kept shooting, kept shooting, kept shooting. There are so many resources available on the internet. This is not to say that college is not a good thing; I’m very grateful for my degree. But I have friends who didn’t go or who did go but decided not to go back and they’re all doing incredibly well. I think this is very much a learn-as-you-go kind of business. There are so many people who are very willing to share their business and photography advice and you can find so much education online."

What are the three things you can’t do without to build a successful photography business?
"A camera, obviously. And a website! I went through a re-brand at the beginning of September and not having my website up was killing me, as I didn’t have anywhere for people to find me. If you have a website then you’re so much more established. I know some businesses don’t have a website and prefer to just have a Facebook page, but I just feel like you really should take the time to make a website and get your portfolio out there. Also, Instagram is great – it’s where I get most of my inquiries. I spend a lot of time on it but it’s so valuable and definitely paying off.

"Another thing I would advise is to find a networking group. I’ve found a lot of people through Instagram; talking to local and like-minded photographers and business-owners can be a great support. Entrepreneurship can be very lonely, and these groups can be so helpful. If you want to find a group in your area I would search for certain hashtags or tagged locations on Instagram. Facebook is really great for finding people who are doing similar things, and there are tons and tons of photography groups on there, including the Rising Tide Society – it’s for creative entrepreneurs and I highly recommend it. It’s an amazing community."

What’s the best way to make someone feel comfortable in front of the camera?
"Since I’m really, really uncomfortable, I’m definitely aware that other people are! I’ll usually start a shoot telling them they don’t need to look at the camera. I’ll keep up a constant stream of stupid jokes and comments. I’ll also give lots of positive feedback because, one: it’s true, and two: it’s good to boost their confidence and get rid of their nerves. I’ll tell a ton of self-deprecating jokes because if they’re not laughing at each other, they’ll be laughing at me."

Image: Emma Weiss

Image: Emma Weiss

Inspirational photographers?
"Definitely @bensasso: he’s just an incredible educator and his website has tons of resources. His girlfriend @katchsilva is also a photographer. She has a different style but the human connection in her photographs is just unreal. Also, Jessi McDonold of @wildjunephotography. She’s incredible and I don’t understand why she doesn’t have a bigger Instagram following because the artistry in her wedding and portrait work is just jaw-droppping. She does a lot with post-processing too as well as being creative with cropping, vignettes – she’s just so inspiring!"

What makes a good photographer; kit, talent or perseverance?
"It’s not the kit, so I would definitely say perseverance. I mean talent is definitely necessary, but just shooting a lot and not being afraid to keep shooting and to shoot through anything is the ideal way to develop your style and make you a good photographer."

Okay, so we don’t want to be a photographer, but we do want to improve our Instagram pix?
"Well I don’t use any lenses because some phone cameras are just so good! I love the app VSCO, but it’s about picking one preset to use, rather than trying loads. Consistency is key for Instagram. I’ll test what looks good next to a previous shot on Instagram. It’s also about getting a variety of work and personal stuff; showing your face is a good thing, it makes you more relatable."

If you just want to play…
"Just shoot! It doesn’t have to be every day. Just don’t be afraid to shoot. Know that your style will change; I cringe when I look back at shots of the first wedding I did!
Last summer I went through a really hard time creatively. I didn’t pick up the camera for two months. I don’t think it’s talked about enough but I think lots of us in creative fields go through it. I felt like I didn’t want to do photography anymore but I eventually picked up my camera again and got through it. It’s about accepting that you will have those times, but also knowing that things will work out. And even if they don’t; it’s okay. If I hadn’t picked up my camera again, I would still have been okay.

"I would also say, don’t be afraid to reach out to people! No matter how many times someone says ‘no’, keep putting yourself out there. Probably 75 percent of the work that I get now is because I reached out to someone."     

Check out more of Emma's amazing work at, or find her on Instagram @emmaweissphoto