Emma Godfrey

My creative process | Commissioned vs Personal Photography


When you are a professional ‘creative’ it can be hard sometimes to keep your work fresh and full of energy. After almost seven years in business as a professional wedding and portrait photographer in Switzerland I decided to reinvigorate my creativity by enrolling on an open university course. I chose a BA in Photography from the Open College of the Arts, part of the University of the Creative Arts in the UK. I don’t need anyone to tell me what an aperture is or how to take a photograph, but I did need some feedback on my ideas and some academic art to fuel my creative energy.

I have always split my work into client-based and personal but starting the course I have realised that the two are inextricably linked. Exploring why I take photographs and how I picture people in my images helps me see my wedding and family photography in a new light. This in turn helps me to bring my best creativity to my clients and give them the best photos I can.

What I Want for my Client’s Photos

I have always wanted unique images for my clients that are creative but where the process is natural and relaxed for them and their family. I don’t want to subject tired mums to complicated poses when all they want to do is get the photos taken and go back to looking after their little ones. The same goes on a wedding day. I love to get a few minutes alone with the newly married couple, but I don’t want to drag you away from your guests. So I have to think quickly and on my feet, making the most of the situation in front of me and getting the job done in a way that is fun, chilled out and efficient.

How My Personal Work Helps My Clients

My personal work allows me to take a bit more time, to think, experiment and reshoot. I can look at different types of light and work out the best way to photograph in the middle of a sunny day. I can reflect on moving subjects – the cats are always good guinea pigs for this – and hone my skills of capturing the movement. With less pressure and the opportunity to reshoot I can experiment with things I would never try out first on a client shoot. This gives me more tools in my bag and allows me to see beyond the obvious image.

I can also play with my post-shoot processing. All my images go through post-processing to make sure that they are the best they can be. I can try out new styles of colours and contrast and play with retouching techniques in Photoshop. As well as allowing me to make changes to images when asked, it also keeps me up to date with what I can do with the RAW data which in turn helps me when I’m taking the images.

From the photo book 'Mountain' exploring the fragmented nature of perception and memory.

From the photo book ‘Mountain’ exploring the fragmented nature of perception and memory.


From the photo book 'Mountain' exploring the fragmented nature of perception and memory.

From the photo book ‘Mountain’ exploring the fragmented nature of perception and memory.

What I Want From My Personal Work

One of the main reasons for starting a BA rather than any other Photography course was to get me thinking. I wanted to learn more about the theory behind photography because I had taught myself the technical. I’ve been reading around the subject for years and am so happy that the technology and flexibility in education have finally caught up with my passion. As well as assignments the course challenges me intellectually to ask questions about my work.

Currently I’m working on projects that look at how we look at and photograph the world. It’s especially fun to work with landscapes to balance out the portraits of my commissioned work. Two of the images from my last piece, a photo book called ‘Mountain’ are shown here. This is the Dents du Midi which I see out of my window every day. I call the book a meditation on the mountain and it explores our relationship with nature. It is about memory and imagination. If you would like to see more, check out my fine art site.

What I Am Working On At The Moment

Our recent trip to Koh Chang allowed me to learn underwater photography and so my next project is based around the ocean. I am a great lover of nature and have been fascinated with the underwater world ever since I learnt to dive about eight years ago. The project is still in its experimentation stage but it follows on from ‘Mountain’ by looking at fragments. I like to inspire my viewers to imagine beyond the photograph so there is a lot about myth and things we can’t quite understand. I’m also looking at the Japanese wabi-sabi ideas of imperfection and impermanence. Follow my progress on my personal Instagram if I’ve captured your imagination.

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