Interview with Award-Winning Photographer Emma Finch
Emma Finch is an award-winning photographer, based in Manchester, UK.
As well as running Emma Finch Photography, she also runs Belle Privé Photography (specialising in female portraiture, boudoir, vintage and fashion) and Session Days (organising photography events and training).
I spoke with Emma to find out more about her fascinating (and busy!) career.
How did you get into photography and what made you decide to become a photographer?
I always felt like a creative person but I can’t draw or paint so I was very happy when I found photography! I started off doing travel photography as a hobby but quickly progressed to children when I had my two girls (as every mother does). I was a bilingual accountant at the time but the corporate world was killing me. I did a BTEC and achieved a double distinction, which encouraged me. I set up a website really to showcase some work but somehow a client found me, booked me and it’s been completely word of mouth since then. I absolutely love my job, the variety and the flexibility I have around my family.
I started Emma Finch Photography in 2013 and then in 2016 I launched Belle Privé Photography which is more studio based and concentrated on Commercial Lingerie and Boudoir. I opened my studio in 2017 and also partnered up with Graham Currey to run Photography Session Days – we organise photographic events and training.
I know I’m very lucky to have a job that I am so passionate about which still allows me to pretty much be a full time mother too.
What kit do you shoot with and what would you say are your essentials to have on a shoot?
Both lenses and the 50mm f/1.4 are always with me. In the studio, I use Pixapro Pika 200 lights, which I thoroughly recommend to all my attendees on my portrait classes. They are so easy, so portable and so reliable. My go to modifier in the studio is the 47” Octobox – I do a lot of female portraiture and it gives a lovely soft light.
You have lots of strings to your bow in your photography business – do you find it a challenge balancing it all?
My life is one huge juggling act but I kind of like it like that (most of the time!). I juggle the 3 businesses around my family, which means I never switch off and have completely lost the ability to relax, but that’s the trade off for running your own business. Fortunately I’m incredibly organised so that helps and I try not to schedule work in the school holidays.
Do you think your photography has a certain style and look, or do you enjoy experimenting with different techniques and styles?
I think my work does have a certain look and style – that said I’m always looking to experiment and learn new skills. As creatives we should always be looking to improve.
My studio work as Belle Privé Photography focuses on female portraiture, boudoir, commercial lingerie and vintage. Although the images can be sexy, they are never salacious and I aim for every client and model to look strong in the images. I would describe my work as feminine and elegant with a vintage edge.
My location work as Emma Finch Photography is usually family based. Where possible I will shoot f/2.8 to get lovely bokeh behind. I want children to look as natural as possible so I want all smiles to be genuine – no ‘cheeeese’ smiles here! I’m pretty good at predicting what children will do, which helps.
How do you get the inspiration for your photography?
I find inspiration everywhere- from other photographers to art galleries to films. I use Pinterest way too much and have mood boards galore for shoots I would like to do when I find time! For Belle Privé, I am very much influenced by and drawn to the Golden Age of Hollywood – the glamour, the elegance, the style.
As a female photographer, do you feel that you face any particular challenges? Do you feel that the industry is favourable towards women, or would you like to see any particular changes?
No one could dispute that it’s very much a male dominated industry. That said, I feel that because of the genres that I primarily shoot (children and boudoir) that I am very much at an advantage being a woman. I’m also happy to report that 50% of my workshop attendees are women too. I think women shoot in a slightly different way to men – quite often men are more interested in the technical side whereas many women prefer the creativity.
I was on the committee for a local camera club for many years and that was also very much male dominated. Often male judges could be quite sexist which really doesn’t help to encourage women in the industry. I’m very pleased that SheClicks is becoming a force to be reckoned with, along with the Photography Show making a much greater effort. I think things are changing in the industry for the better…
What are you working on at the moment and do you have any particular plans for the future?
I’ve just returned from the Conference of Corsetry and so I have 15 shoots to edit from the corset designers who flew in from all over the world. It was held at Jesus College in Oxford so the backdrops were stunning.
My autumn looks very busy and as well as my paid work and workshops, I’m going to be experimenting with light and shadow more. For two reasons; I’ve been asked to shoot a magazine cover in the Old Hollywood style and also we will be launching a Creative Portraiture class too this year so will need a strong portfolio of work as examples.
Are there any tips that you’d like to give to aspiring photographers?
My advice would be to shoot, shoot, shoot! Get experience in every genre as it really helps you to understand every aspect of your camera. Really know your camera and how to shoot in manual. Then specialise – for the first few years, I shot almost exclusively under 5s! Word of mouth within your chosen field will get you by. Don’t expect to get paid straight away – build your experience and create a strong portfolio and network! Often in this game, it’s who you know.
It’s a fantastically varied, rewarding and fun career but competition is very tough – professionals are competing with hobbyists for the same work, plus as phone camera technology improves there will be less need for professional photographers. Get as much feedback as possible – from Facebook groups or camera clubs or professional associations such as The Guild of Photographers. Find your style and get known for it.