Emilie White is a talented wedding and portrait reportage photographer, currently based in London, although she works all over the world. She previously worked as an IP lawyer in Paris, Dublin and Muscat. We spoke to her about making the switch.
mtl: Hi Emilie, please can you tell us about your legal career.
Emilie: I studied law in Montpellier, France (where I’m from) and then trained at a film production company in Paris before moving to work for Hermes. I qualified as an in-house IP counsel but then moved to Ireland because of my husband’s work. While in Dublin I worked as an entertainment counsel on a maternity leave contract, which was very cool, and I also did six months in an IP firm before we moved to Oman.
In Muscat I worked for several years for SNR Denton as an IP/corporate counsel with a wide range of clients in areas such as telecommunications, government procurement, and franchising. I dealt with trademark and copyright issues as well as corporate work, including advising on setting up a business and trading in Oman and the Middle East. I enjoyed the job, particularly the IP side, as I could take the initiative on smaller pieces of work and was able to work above my qualification level.
mtl: How did the move to photography come about?
Emilie: After leaving Oman, we moved back to Montpellier while trying to relocate to the USA, but in the end decided to stay there as my husband was able to base his work from there. However I found it hard to get a legal job in that area of the south of France and decided to take some time off.
Photography had been at the back of my mind for a long time, so I looked into what I could do that related to people and portraiture, as that is the aspect that I enjoyed. I am self-taught through practice and research, though I have also done work-shops on studio lighting for example.
Initially I set up a website and blog to get my name out there, read about marketing and business strategies, read other photographers’ stories, and spent a considerable amount of time on the internet to get inspiration about what to do. I also contacted other photographers in the region to talk about their experience.
At first I wanted to do editorial work but it is very competitive and it would have taken a long time to be able to make a living from it, if ever. I then came across some very talented and inspiring wedding photographers in the USA and Australia who have a very modern editorial approach to their commissions. A wedding photographer in Montpellier with a photojournalistic and creative approach offered me the chance to come as a second photographer with her, which was great, and from there it was a case of booking weddings and portraits by myself. It was slow at first and I had to be upfront with clients about my lack of experience and just show them my portfolio of other work.
We now live in London and although I enjoyed IP work as it related to creative invention, I’m now in a position to continue solely with photography rather than going back to law. However I’m glad to have a legal background as I’ve found that law has given me lots of knowledge and confidence to help run the business and deal with clients.
mtl: What do you enjoy about your new career and what have the challenges been?
Emilie: I love the creativity and being out and about. I am not very good with words but I can capture things and tell stories with photos, which is why I like the photojournalistic approach – I document what I see. I also love being my own boss!
The most challenging aspect has been to gain confidence in myself and find how to put structure around what I wanted to do and how to determine my style without “copying” others. It took me about six months to work out what I wanted to offer and how to do it. It was hard to suddenly say “I’m a photographer” so I had to spend a lot of time practicing and improving my technique while getting on with commissions.
mtl: What services do you offer?
Emilie: I cover weddings and portraits for families, couples and friends and love fun, conceptual portraiture. I have a lifestyle approach and don’t set up photos, which means I document a real moment whether it be a walk in the park, cooking in your kitchen, or being on a swing in your garden and I find that this type of approach allows me to capture who you really are.
I also love having some fun by creating an original concept for your portraits and developing an original portrait idea by using a bit of photoshop magic to create a set of unique images that will truly stand out! I work anywhere in Europe and UK wedding commissions start at £1700 and portraits at £300 for a few hours including post-treatment and an online gallery.
mtl: Do you have any advice about changing career for our readers?
Emilie: Be sure that you want to do the thing that you are switching to. There is a big difference between thinking you might like to do something and actually doing it. Sometimes if you are passionate about something and have been thinking about that thing for a while then it is best to just try it!
The internet has been an amazing resource for me and I’ve made use of some excellent American blogs (e.g. www.creativelive.com), which generally offer free advice, as well as workshops about running a business and advice on technique (e.g. http://strobist.blogspot.co.uk/). Getting in touch with other photographers and creating a network of people with whom you can brainstorm and talk shop is also great and motivating. I’ve also found Flickr good for networking and stimulating the eye.
Finally, if you are engaged, then get a photographer you love and who you click with for your wedding!
mtl: Thanks Emilie and good luck with your business.
You can see Emlie’s website and more of her work here: www.emiliewhite.com
And here is her blog: http://blog.emiliewhite.com/
Law degree, Montpellier
IP, SNR Denton, Oman
Set up photography business