Emma Case is a UK-based alternative wedding photographer. Together with her husband Pete Smyth, she runs a successful business taking beautiful pictures of couples on one of the most important days of their lives! We gave Emma a Petzval Lens for her to test and the results are stunning. Say hello to Emma Case!
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into photography?
My name is Emma Case, I’m 33 and my husband Pete and I run Emma Case Photography together. We shoot weddings and we also run our own workshops called ‘Welcome Home’ for both photographers and creatives. I came to photography quite late, although I did have Polaroid cameras in the past but it was only when Pete bought me my first DSLR for Christmas about 7 years ago that I started to really become interested in photography. After about a year a friend asked us to shoot their wedding and it ended up being featured on the wedding blog Rock ‘n Roll Bride. From there couples began to get in touch and we had to make a decision to start a business. We’ve now been shooting weddings for just over five years and have had the most incredible roller coaster ride along the way We have the most wonderful couples that trust us implicitly, we get to hang out and work together every day and we get to give people the most precious memories of the best day of their life.
How was it shooting with the New Petzval Lens?
We’re pretty basic when it comes to our digital equipment at weddings. We both shoot with prime lenses and we usually do more of the fun stuff with our Holga, Diana and Polaroid. So when we had the chance to play with the New Petzval Lens it was a nice change to be able to use it with our digital cameras.
First impression was great. The lens felt sturdy as I was expecting something a lot lighter and for it to feel less expensive.. but it’s a decent weight and matches the weight of the camera. First thing that I noticed was that the lens is fully manual. Second thing is that I am pretty rubbish at manually focusing. I normally like to shoot wide open and with the Petzval lens, shooting wide means the effect of the bokeh behind and your subject popping is wonderful.. but it means nailing that focus.. Which for me is super tricky. I got better the more I used it but I felt I needed a little bit of time which means that at a wedding, when we are often tight for time.. I would possibly end up leaving it in the bag.
The lens is an 85mm lens which is known for being a beautiful portrait lens and we have our own Canon 85mm lenses but we mainly use them for candids and I tend to like being closer to my subject when shooting portraits so I would have preferred maybe a 50mm rather than an 85mm. Also the aperture is set by inserting small aperture plates directly in to the top of the lens. This was a bit of a novelty at first but at weddings we literally do not stop and our equipment tends to get thrown around a fair bit so I have a feeling I would lose a few of the aperture plates pretty quickly! Having said that I can imagine it being a lens that you only bring out for 5 minutes near the end of the portrait session just to get that one shot that gives them something a bit different.
The other thing to mention is the bling factor. Walking through the reception at the wedding I felt a bit like Jay-Z. Everyone commented on it and were pretty fascinated by it. This isn’t a huge thing obviously but at weddings this is nice as it gives us a perfect opportunity to get to know guests which always helps when you then have to stalk them and take their photo. Overall I really enjoyed using the Petzval lens and I think that photographers interested in any kind of tilt shift or free lensing may like to have it in their camera bag.
What do you love about film photography?I love old photographs and have always been drawn to the imperfections of a photograph rather than how to make them perfect. Film has soul, it has a personality and character and flaws and surprises, it just has its own life which we can’t always control. Now that everything is so instant and the world is so obsessed with perfection it’s actually really nice to have to be patient and to be at the mercy of the possible ‘happy accident’.
In your opinion, what makes the perfect portrait?
Giving your subject the space to tell their story. That doesn’t have to be vocally, It can simply be about making them feel comfortable enough in front of your camera for them to be completely themselves.
Have you had any difficult or challenging situations throughout your photography career?
The most challenging part of being a photographer is definitely running your own business. It brings with it a workload that you never would have thought and you have to wear every hat, accountant, receptionist, marketing manager, social media officer, the actual shooting is a pretty small part of the job.
In terms of shooting and the more creative side I think the most challenging can be making sure that you are true to yourself and that you sing from your own song sheet. There is so much good stuff out there in terms of wedding photography and so many amazing photographers that it’s easy to get sucked in and to think you have to be like that person, or shoot in that style.. or you have to have xx amount of bookings or so many likes on Facebook to be successful. But for us, success is more about knowing who you are as an artist, having the best relationship with your couples and making sure that you have a healthy work/life balance..
What are your most memorable career highlights?
It’s gone so quickly that sometimes we don’t get the time to take it all in but we’ve been extremely fortunate with the business, and our couples and the wedding community as a whole have been so incredibly supportive. We’ve had many highlights from sweaty dancing with our Bride and Grooms at the end of the night to visiting our couples a year or two later and getting to photograph their new little family. In terms of shoots, one of my ultimate highlights was being able to travel to Africa with the charity Soundseekers and document the work they are doing over there for both Deaf and Hard of hearing adults and children. It’s something that is so close to my heart as I am fluent in Sign language so to be able to support the charity and to be able to tell their story with my camera was the most incredible experience.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a professional wedding photographer?
Find your style
Second shoot as much as possible
Don’t ‘network’.. Just go out and make friends
Make sure you know your costs because then you will know how much you have to charge to cover them
Invest in your couples
Thank you so much for the interview, Emma. We love your photos!