Friday, 19 June 2020

Caught in the Light of the Moment - An Interview with Emily Hamilton, Wedding Photographer and Volunteer.

I have had the pleasure of working with Emily Hamilton in her capacity as a volunteer within the hospital I work in for some time now.  She exhibits an intelligence, high levels of empathy and has a good sense of humour.  Now I have written her reference for her, she has kindly consented to allowing me to interview her.  Emily owns her own business, Emily Rose Photography and has been rightly flagged up as one of the best wedding photographers by Cosmopolitan magazine.  I have been particularly interested in learning about her creative endeavours and professional work, so without further delay... 

When did you become interested in photography?

I can’t remember exactly when it became an interest of mine. It’s always run in the family
- my Dad was never without his film camera when I was growing up, so I spent a lot of
time in front of a camera and we, as a result, now have albums full of our family
memories which has become incredibly special to me. I suppose this ties in with what I
love so much about what I do - capturing memories. I had little compact cameras from a
young age and then got my first DSLR camera when I was 16 and from that point, I was
completely hooked.

Who are your influences?

The first photographer that inspired me was Tim Walker - I created some quite ethereal
styled shoots when I was studying. Now, I find inspiration from photographers such as
Benjamin Wheeler, The Ferros, James Frost, Chris & Ruth and The Kitcheners.

When did you decide to start your own business, Emily Rose Photography and what
inspired you to become a wedding photographer?

I started my business in 2013, when I was 19 years old. It was a year after I finished
studying at college. I had a Photographer tutor there who was just incredible - he gave me
so much support and really believed in me pursuing photography as a career. When I left
college, I was accepted to study it at University, but at the last minute, I deferred my
place as a challenge. I wanted to give myself a year to see if I could get into the industry
without a degree. I completed some internships and did a few different projects. It was
that next summer that my tutor contacted me and told me he had a couple looking for a
student photographer to capture their wedding. I was extremely against it - at this point, I
was wanting to get into fashion photography and had never even been to a wedding. My
tutor pushed me to do it and I eventually agreed. Turns out I actually really enjoyed it and
managed to book more in!

Do you feel that in a photographic composition regardless of your original
intention, occasionally the physical space becomes the focal point? Are there any
buildings or places that you feel have had a ‘genius loci’ (a strong sense of
atmosphere rather than an occupying spiritual presence, although I guess that too
could apply)?

Absolutely - I really love some venues in particular that have so much character and just
on their own are beautiful to capture, but I always find it even more powerful when you
then add the couple in and play them together to create a certain atmosphere in the
photo. I also try to look for symmetry - I love big windows, pillars, clean open spaces,
quirky doors etc and placing the couple in the centre. There’s one venue: the Asylum
Chapel in Peckham and it’s got this eerie feel to it with its derelict, peeling walls, but it
can so easily become a cosy den when filled with candles and flowers.

What for you are the important characteristics of photos of a wedding day? Do you
find that couples prefer spontaneous shots or more structured shots? Do you spend
lots of time with the couples in order to identify and develop their photographic
needs? Personally, I prefer more spontaneous shots where the subject is not
always aware that they are being photographed.

I personally aim to mainly capture natural shots of the day as it unfolds and try to blend
into the background as much as I can. When you look at a photograph of people looking
straight at a camera, smiling against one of people looking at each other and laughing, you
will most likely feel so much more emotion from the second. I always do a mix of the more
‘posed’ shots of different family members together so that the couple have the two
different sides (especially as some guests personally do want those group photos to frame

Most of the couples that book me express how important it is for them to have natural
shots of the day and usually say that they feel awkward having their photo taken. I’ll
always try and figure out their ‘vibe’ and how they are together - if they’re quite silly, I’ll
aim to capture that side of them in their couple photos, sometimes they’re a bit more
serious and I can then get them being a bit more romantic and emotive.

During the current Coronavirus crisis, what have you been doing?

I have been volunteering in a hospital in London alongside you! I’ve been absolutely loving
working in the staff well being hubs and helping to put a smile on people’s faces. I’ve also
been focusing on a plan for next year and getting weddings booked in to look forward to.
I’ve managed to use some time to update my website and share my work from last year, as
well as other random jobs - I’ve been designing a marketing brochure for a local business
which has been good fun! I’ve also been focusing a lot on looking after myself.

When you are not working professionally, what do you like to photograph?

Landscapes - in particular mountains, forests and cities. I really love buildings, so tend to
wander through London streets and capture the town houses. I adore golden hour sunlight,
of course, and my favourite time of year to photograph is Autumn/Winter - a huge goal of
mine is to get to somewhere like Norway or Lapland and just spend a week taking photos
of snowy forests and the night sky.

Historically, photography is usually seen as the medium through which to capture
the moment. It is interesting to look at older images taken by family members on
film and how the film stock has degraded over time (faded colours and
pigmentation). What do you believe are the main differences between shooting on
film and using a digital camera? Do you feel that some experimentation or indeed,
the occasional ‘mistake’ that generates something unique and memorable could be
being ignored or deleted in favour of the perfect shot? Have we become more
utilitarian and less creative as a result of being able to take hundreds of shots using
our cameras rather than 24 shots on a manual camera using film stock?

I think using digital definitely forces us to have to be more creative, because you have to
almost make the more experimental shots happen, rather than it being a mistake as made
by film. I do love the less technically perfect shots - they usually do convey more emotion
and are unique. There are elements of film that I do feel is missing from digital, for
example light leaks and I love accidental double exposures - these are of course able to be
achieved in digital, but there’s something really special about them when they’re a pure
accident. Film also just has something magical about what it produces and I think it’s very
very hard to match that in digital.

I’m also definitely guilty of being trigger happy with my camera - on a wedding day I’ll
take around 3-4,000 photos and I do wonder whether it would be beneficial for me to one
day spend some time going back to basics, using film and being more aware and thoughtful
in how I compose my images. One technique that’s become quite popular within wedding
photography is purposefully capturing slightly blurred images, particularly in black and
white. And something I especially love to do during the dancing part of the evening is to
‘drag the shutter’ where you end up with cool light trails from a slow shutter speed, but
the flash freezes the people in the photo so that they’re in focus and for me, it creates so
much more energy and almost makes you feel like you’re there in the party.
I’m definitely grateful for digital however - I love knowing that I am able to have the
confidence I’m going to be able to get those technically ‘perfect’ shots, but also be able
to experiment and get some unique ones also - I’m not sure I’d be able to comfortably
photograph a wedding solely on film and would probably spend the entire time living in
anxiety of how they’re going to come out!!

I really do not like having my photo taken unless I am ‘acting up for the camera’, I
trust the photographer wholeheartedly or my photo is taken surreptiously. Do you
like to be photographed? Why do you think that so many people are adverse to
their photographs being taken? Could it be partially due to self-esteem issues? I
know that some tribal groups feel that the act of photography takes away their
souls. Do you find that generally people are happier to have their photos taken in
a group situation rather than alone?

This is a really tough one that yes, probably does go quite deep. I personally am
completely mixed on the prospect of having my photo taken. If I am with other people, I
will happily have it taken and feel relaxed. If I’m on my own, I really do struggle. I feel
awkward and uncomfortable, unless as you say, it’s someone I know very well. For me, I
think it used to be a self esteem issue, which I have now more or less grown out of, but I
think the thoughts around having my photo taken are naturally still there. Maybe that can
be a new goal of mine!

But I think this is why I find my job so important - I know how horrible it can feel not
wanting to have your photo taken, so it’s why I try so hard to put my clients at ease and
show them my weird and silly side so that it doesn’t feel too serious or scary. People
always photograph beautifully when they’re showing natural emotions, so I’ll always try
and provoke some giggles with a ridiculous joke or story. A lot of people definitely prefer
to have their photo taken in a group, however there’s a large number who love acting up
for the camera, which I absolutely love!

Please can you share a selection of your favourite photographs with me and
talk a little bit about how and where you shot the photographs and what they mean
to you (on an emotional level etc)?

Bekki & Joe - I took this photograph the day that Lockdown was announced. This couple
were meant to get married the following weekend which of course was cancelled, so they
decided that day to go ahead with a ceremony with a handful of family with a live stream
set up so their guests could watch online. Joe’s Dad conducted the ceremony and during a
reading, Joe & Bekki were suddenly struck by this stream of light that isolated them both
from the rest of the room and it gave me shivers!

James & Ruth - this was my first wedding of 2020 and it was a venue I’ve adored for a long
time. I had been so excited to get to this day after a quiet winter off and it was a wedding
that will stick in my mind for years to come. James & Ruth were just the coolest, most
chilled couple that really made sure their day was all about what is most important to
them - their friends and family and all being together.

This was such an amazing day for me. Kew Gardens has always been a venue I’ve wanted
to photograph and last year I had the opportunity to work alongside a photographer that
I’ve admired for a long time and it truly was one of the most magical weddings I’ve had
the honour of being a part of. The team we worked with were incredible and every part of
the day wowed me - the couple had this gorgeous willow tree installation at the top of
their alter and light tunnels that housed their guests dining tables inside the Temperate

I spontaneously booked onto a workshop in the Canary Islands last year and spent a week with a bunch of other photographers on a tiny island. The trip didn’t start off so well - I nearly missed my flight because I left my laptop in security (not like me AT all!!) but I think I cried every single day while I was there because I was just so happy. I took this photo on our first day - we went out with a really talented photographer called James Frost and explored our surroundings during sunset and it was just magical and the first time a while where I truly felt proud of what I had produced photo-wise.

Emily & Andy - These are my pals! We went on a ski trip in France and being the biggest lover of snow and mountains, there was no way I was not getting some photo’s while we were there. So Emily & Andy stepped up and let me capture them messing around outside our chalet and when I look at them, it takes me back to one of the most fulfilling weeks of my life.

What are your future plans?

I want to continue with my career as a wedding photographer for as long as possible. I’ll be looking to incorporate video at some stage. I’m also planning to set up a co-working club for freelancers as working alone is the one part of my job I struggle with. I am now also looking into continuing with the hospital and keeping my involvement going for the foreseeable future if I can.

Many thanks for allowing me to interview you, Emily and good luck with your future endeavours!


Emily has a very well designed website where you can see further examples of her work and contact her:

The Cosmopolitan article by Abigail Malbon listing Emily as one of the fifteen best wedding photographers is below:

Many hospitals offer people the opportunity to do voluntary work for them.  This takes a variety of forms.  If you are interested, please see a selection of the below links or check out a hospital near you:

Emily has kindly allowed me to use her photographs and they are copyright to her.  If any of the subjects of her photos would like me to remove the photographs, please contact me.  I am using the images to illustrate Emily's work.  The images in the Additional Images section below are respectively copyright to Emily, me and to the photographer who took her portrait.

Additional Images.

Emily Hamilton

My portrait of Emily Hamilton.  Would you believe that Emily laughed at this perfect representation of her character?  Hours of revision and the finest work I have ever completed on cardboard.

One of Emily's finest creations, a happy bird heading off to a post Lockdown party.

This is not a flower, it is a fridge.  I think Emily agrees with me now.  This is Emily's drawing.  It's amazing how versatile she is with a blue pen and a head full of ideas.

                                                                         Barry Watt - 19th June 2020.

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