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Conversations with Emeline Humphries

Today we’d like to introduce you to Emeline Humphries.

Hi Emeline, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Dad always took at least two family portraits every year. They didn’t even have to be professional or special, they just had to happen.

They were a natural part of growing up, and photography became a natural interest that waxed steadily over time. “I want to see more of YOU!” my mom would say when I would email pictures while on trips. Reluctantly, I started getting in front of the camera.

Before I realized (sometime in college?) that I’m actually pretty okay at photography, I became very much interested in self-portraits. It’s awkward asking people, often strangers, to take their pictures because you like their faces, so why not use yourself as a subject first? My mom was onto something. I knew I couldn’t get better without experience, and I was HUNGRY for the experience. Friends, tripods, or precariously-stacked books were behind my self-portraits.

There wasn’t always a reason behind the images I created. Maybe I just drove past a vacant lot I thought was pretty or I liked the look of a coin laundry. Even if I was just feeling extra cute that day, I snatched the moment and squeezed some images out of it. The ‘taking’ part is fun, but easily my favorite part happens in the post. Seeing something transform on my computer screen is the hit of dopamine I am HERE for.

Whether self-portraiture was my key to confidence or just a way to develop a better artistic perspective, it launched me into working with couples, families, and weddings.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It has been a grind, but a consistently upward-trending grind.

I’m lucky to have had extremely willing subjects who will follow every direction I give them. Even the silly ones. My clients are easy-going and good at communication, and they trust me. I don’t know exactly how I attracted them, but I love them.

It was hard to start charging a reasonable fee for photo sessions. It was hard wrecking my body during my wedding days and being slow to realize that I had to take care of myself if I wanted to keep going. It was hard feeling like I had good taste, but not actually being experienced enough to meet my expectations for myself.

Some things were miserably, heart-breakingly hard, but those things are greatly overshadowed by the quiet giddiness I feel now that I’ve found my stride.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I probably should have started with this, but I’m a graphic designer by day, so the photography realm is my other-other creative escape. And also where I get to spend time with people. Honestly, I don’t even know if I can hang out with friends and NOT photograph them.

Designer Aaron Draplin thinks creativity should permeate a creative person’s entire life, from the dumb personalized t-shirts for your office parties to your grandpa’s funeral service program. I find that endeavor both inspiring AND incredibly exhausting, and I hope I keep letting that idea inform the way I work.

I don’t know if this makes me unique, but I truly make an effort to envision and collaborate with my clients before we actually get together for pictures. I design the experience by taking a stab at creating artful images. And, hey, it usually works!

I’m proudly 95% word of mouth. 2021 was the year of 100 photo sessions, not counting the fun/unpaid/family sessions so I’m very gratefully not hurting for business in my small corner of this market. This has allowed me to post what I want and when I want on platforms like Instagram.

Hot take: trendy short-form videos (you know, the ones with the same repeated soundbites and trademarked music) used as promotional materials in my field are cringy and disposable, so if you don’t have to keep painstakingly making and posting them to stay afloat, then don’t. Please.

Do I think that what I do is incredibly unique and original? No. Are the images that I capture bold and colorful and deeply precious to those with whom I collaborate? Absolutely they are. My modest pool of endearing subjects isn’t perfect, and neither are my images. But I’m not interested in perfection, what I want is emotion.

So much emotion, that the pictures absolutely radiate it.

We’d love to hear what you think about risk-taking?
Being self-taught is a risk. It probably takes longer and you probably make dumber mistakes.

Investing in yourself is a risk. But I think you should buy that big camera. Ask that neighbor if they’ll do portraits with you. Charge the extra fee for a difficult session. Treat yourself to new headshots. You’re worth it, and if it’s rewarding enough to stave off the effects of burnout, seriously consider it.

Discomfort is a great teacher. I’m a yes-girl, and throughout my photo career, I’ve always said yes to photoshoots, even if I felt like I was taking a risk or going in blind. Products? Yes. Babies? Yes. Do I do those anymore? No. Sort of.

I still have a hard time saying no to anyone, but I know what I like and it comes in waves and changes over time. Right now is the family-pictures-as-art stage. Photographer Brooke Schultz doesn’t know it but she’s my mentor as I hide in the bushes.

TL/DR I’m a product of taking a whole host of micro-risks and gradually building a stronger and stronger repertoire of skills.

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