Belle Bébés asks… Emma Hillier

Whether you are a parent wanting beautiful pictures of your children, an amateur photographer looking to learn more about portrait photography or somebody who just likes to read an interesting interview accompanied by pretty pictures, these posts are for you…

The interview

Introduction:
Hi my name is Emma and I am a portrait, wedding and fine art photographer. I live with my boyfriend Dave in a little house opposite a cemetery!

Location:
Liverpool, UK

When and how did you fall in love with photography?
I’ve always been creative and as a little girl I would sit for hours drawing or playing on my Fashion Wheel! I started taking photographs of my Barbie dolls when I got my first camera which was a pink Le Clic! But it was during my Art A Level when I started using a camera creatively that I became addicted, I wasn’t that good at drawing anyway!

Have you had any formal training?
Yes, from school I did a BTEC in Photography and bought my first SLR for £150! I learned all about shutter speeds and f-stops and my passion just grew and grew! From there I went to Falmouth College of Art in Cornwall and gained a BA (Hons) in Photographic Communication. All my training was done on film (yes I am old!) which I think has shaped me into the photographer I am today.

How would you describe your photography style?
I find it really difficult to describe my own style so I asked the lovely people on my Facebook page what they thought and the words that came up most were, colourful, natural, relaxed, vibrant and fun! One lovey lady put it beautifully, “Classic elegance with a playful freshness” I like that! (Thanks Sarah!)

What inspires your work?
I’m inspired by lots of things:
Art – painters such as Georgia O’Keefe, Rene Magritte and Gustav Klimt. Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Surrealism.
Photographers – the greats such as Richard Avedon, Bill Brandt and Sally Mann.
Flickr – I am inspired daily by the talented photographers there, it’s a great place to share and learn and has definitely helped me improve my skills.
Most importantly is the desire to document life and create something beautiful. So, get out and have fun, meet people, study nature, travel the world, LIVE!!

When did you first start out in portraiture photography?
I got a job in a portrait studio straight after leaving Art College in 2000. From there I worked in a couple of different studios, specialising in children and family portraits before deciding in 2008 that it was time to go it alone! It took a while to build up a new portfolio of images, set up the website and make the decision to leave my job but in April 2011 that’s what I did, I became full time self employed!

Where in the UK are you based and how far would you travel for a shoot?
I’m based in Liverpool and travel around the North West for portrait sessions and weddings. I’m willing to travel anywhere though, a destination wedding would be great!

How many portrait sessions do you shoot per year?
I haven’t shot a great deal of portraits in my first year, probably only a couple per month as I’ve been concentrating more on weddings and have had quite a few commissions for my fine art work. I’m hoping to shoot more portraits in my second year though.

Could you please share some details of a shoot you particularly enjoyed capturing?
One session that I had last year was particularly enjoyable, partly because it was for a friend from Art College who I hadn’t seen for over ten years but also because her little girl just melted my heart! From the minute I walked into their home and she held my hand we were best friends! It makes my job so easy when that happens!

What would be your idea of a dream portraiture shoot?
I adore Annie Leibovitz so to do a big shoot on location with some movie stars, maybe Brad and Angelina, would be amazing!

What is your favourite age to photograph and why?
That’s a tough one as children are great fun at all ages! I think when babies are about 9 months old and are sitting up, smiling with a couple of teeth and they still have their chubby little arms and legs *sigh*. Toddlers are also great, if not a little bit more difficult, as their characters really start to shine through and they are so funny! Plus you get more of a workout running round after them!

What difficulties, if any, have you come across with portrait photography and how do you cope with them?
I’ve been photographing children for over ten years now so I’ve had a few difficult sessions!
I think being confident with children is very important and showing a genuine interest in them. Having the patience of a saint also helps! If a child is very shy or a little bit scared I have been known to put the camera away and just play with them, for an hour if needed! On very rare occasions you just know that a child is just not going to play along, if they’re grumpy, hungry and tired and getting worse by the minute you’re fighting a losing battle. I refuse to see a child in distress for the sake of a few photographs, just re-schedule it for another day.

What advice would you give to parents that want you to photograph their little ones?
Don’t tell them what to do during the shoot! Just let them be children, let them run around and have fun otherwise they will get bored very quickly! You don’t need to tell them to sit down and smile at the camera, I will gently guide them when I need to in order to get the shots I want. The worst thing I’ve seen is when parents get angry because the children aren’t doing what they’ve told them to do and they think I’m not getting the shots. Just chill out and enjoy it!

What camera(s) do you use for your portraiture work?
I use a Nikon D700 which I bought last year, sometimes I’ll use my D90 too.

And your favourite lenses?
My favourite lens lately has been the 35mm 1.8. I’m considering some new purchases soon though!

Do you use any lighting equipment?
I do when I need to. For children and families I like to work outdoors with natural light as you have more freedom. For weddings I will use off camera flash for more creative shots or if the light is incredibly low inside. Occasionally I work in a studio with flash equipment but not often.

What advice would you give to wannabe portrait photographers?
Learn the basics. Know how aperture, shutter speed and ISO work and the effects they have on an image. Study great photographers such as Richard Avedon and Sally Mann, look at how they used light and composition. Get it right in camera and do not rely on Photoshop to rescue an image. You can’t polish a turd!
Then, shoot, shoot, shoot and shoot some more!

What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?
You always feel proud when you show a client their images and they love them so much they cry! But on a personal level my proudest moment was seeing my work in print for the first time. It was in the British Journal of Photography and it was a double page spread of images I’d taken for a project on graffiti and signs in urban and rural landscapes.

Out of all the photographs you have ever taken (professionally or otherwise), which is your favourite and why?
I honestly cannot answer that! I am very critical of my work so never really satisfied and always looking at ways to improve. I like a lot of my images but I don’t have a favourite.
I guess the most important images are the ones I have of my family. Life goes by so quickly and it’s so important to me to capture as much as possible. Here’s a shot of my niece and nephew in a rare moment of peace! They grow so fast that capturing their childhood is so important, I’ll be even worse when I have my own children!

If you could capture anybody or anything on camera what would it be?
I would love to capture the Northern Lights, wow!!!

Just so we can find out a bit more about the person behind the lens, could you tell me 5 things you like that are completely unrelated to photography?

1 – Travel, I adore the Greek Islands.
2 – The beach, preferably a Greek one but any will do!
3 – Red wine and Mediterranean food.
4 – I couldn’t live without music, I like all sorts from Kings of Leon to classical.
5 – My bed, some of my best ideas have come to me as I’ve been nodding off!

And 5 things you dislike?
1 – Rude people. Saying please and thank-you really doesn’t take that much effort.
2 – Materialism, there are far more important things in this world than money.
3 – When people walk round the supermarket eating food they haven’t paid for it really gets on my nerves!
4 – Reality TV shows such as Made in Chelsea and Desperate Scousewives, they seem to be full of stupid, shallow, fame hungry idiots with no discernible talent.
5 – Coriander, yuk!!

What are your aspirations for the future, in photography or otherwise?
Just to be healthy and happy, to make a decent living doing what I love and to start a family.

 Heart Verity

Photographer Details:
Emma Hillier’s website
Emma Hillier’s facebook page
Contact Emma

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