We are so excited to welcome Emma Gray from Gray Star Photography as our newest guest editing instructor inside the Cozy Clicks Ultimate Pro Editing Membership! Emma’s magical images tell a story and so much of the magic in her pictures comes from her unbelievable editing techniques. And she’s sharing her knowledge with our members in this month’s tutorial! Become a member here and get to know more about Emma Gray!
How long have you been a photographer and what was the main reason you started?
I guess, all my life, I just didn’t know it! As a child I remember a camera always being around as my Dad was very into photography, we would constantly stop and photograph every hilltop, clifftop, and beautiful scenic view on any family holiday we went on. There was always a disposable camera for me to have a play with and so from a young age I just started photographing anything and everything I loved. Flowers, my toys, our family dog. It turned into a hobby that followed me all the way through school, college and university. I think the turning point into something more serious was after my children were born, friends and family always encouraged me, but it was when I found myself being asked to photograph their children and their friends’ children that I started to believe I should be doing something more with it, so I did!
What (who) are your favorite types of subjects to shoot and why?
Children, in particular age 2-14 year olds. I just love their innocence! They see the world as it is, they say it like it is, and they have this amazing ability to find the joy in something as simple as a cardboard box and celebrate it. Photographing children allows me to relive my own childhood, whilst exploring the parts of childhood I wanted, but never had. In my own free time I do still enjoy photographing flowers, and the tiny details around me, again something about their simplicity just makes it beautiful to me.
Canon vs. Nikon (or other) which one are you? Any specific reason why?
I shoot using Nikon, currently a D750. In all honesty I think the rebel in me just wanted to be different from my Dad! He was, and still is, a Canon user. I have to say, I was sensible though, and did spend a good deal of time researching brands and playing around with them, and in the end the Nikon felt better in my hands.
What is your go to lens?
The lens I use the most is my Nikon 70-200 2.8 as I love the subject isolation it provides, especially as I mainly shoot outdoors. It allows me to be an observer into the moment. If I happen to be indoors, the lack of space always has me reaching for my ‘Nifty Fifty’ (Nikon 50mm 1.8), it allows me to squeeze into any small corner, and delivers a lovely sharp image every time.
If you could only give 1 piece of advice to a new photographer out there, what would it be?
Firstly and maybe, most importantly, shoot what you love – that way it should never feel like a job. Find your niche, and stick to it. Don’t be afraid to refer clients to other photographers if they’re after something you don’t offer – they are never going to love your images if you don’t. Secondly, always put a little of yourself in every session. It could be the type of lighting you love, the locations you choose, the way you edit your images or something more physical like a prop that gives a little acknowledgment to your own story. You will notice that I nearly always add blue to my shadows when editing, as I love the deep dark rich feel it gives, and that bears will pop up from time to time in my images, especially when it’s a single subject, as a nod to my own childhood as an only child. I have very fond memories of playing for hours by myself with my teddies. People come to you for your images, so make sure they reflect you, and that you’re in there!
If I gave you $1000 right now (or maybe more) to spend on photography gear, what would you buy?
There will always be equipment I could upgrade, new props, or the desire to treat myself to a new lens to play with, but the truth is I don’t really know what I’d rush out and buy. I have always had the most fun and gained the most knowledge from working with what I already have. The first award I ever won was for an image of my daughter in an old vest, standing to the side of an open window (as I had no studio lighting), in our living room (as i’ve never had a studio), in front of my old white double bed sheet (as I didn’t own any fancy backdrops)! I was using a crop sensor camera and editing on a really old, slow, windows PC, using a free trial of photoshop! I guess what I’m trying to say is, especially if you are just starting out on your photography journey, I would worry less about spending money on equipment, and more about investing in yourself and your knowledge of photography… the equipment and the business will follow.
Do you have any secret tips for getting people to loosen up/smile during a shoot?
I actually try to interact with my subjects as little as possible, especially the younger ones. My lens choice allows me to be at a distance from them, and so with any luck they forget I’m even there! Before getting into position I will perhaps give them a task (sit on the box, pick up the toy, twirl holding your skirt), which helps ground them to the spot id like them in, but also allows them to carry out the task in a way that is comfortable to them. Then I just have to adjust any tiny details, such as hidden hands, for example, and sit back and watch the moment unfold. Any smiles that happen are then authentic, any interaction is all genuine, and all body language is relaxed and comfortable.
Who is your inspiration?
I owe a lot of my inspiration to Walt Disney, a lovely mixture of truth and magic. Storylines I could relate to as a child, adventures I wish I could have experienced! Colorful characters, beautiful outfits and amazing settings. Christmas would be another, the magic of believing, the excitement, the lights and toys… everything is more exciting when you’re a child. It brings out that inquisitive nature, that innocence that I love to capture for the parents of my clients.
If you could photograph any person (dead or alive) who would that be?
I guess I would like to go back and photograph the childhoods of the authors who wrote some of my favourite children’s books, such as A.A. Milne, Beatrix Potter and E.B. White. I’d love to see what captured their imaginations and if what they experienced as children was what inspired them to go on and write such well loved stories.
Come join Emma this month and learn her editing secrets inside the Cozy Clicks Ultimate Pro Editing Membership!
See more of Emma’s work here!