This month—the unofficial peak of wedding season—we’re profiling a diverse set of wedding photographers across the ONA community, starting with Kansas City-based Emma Johnson (@theboldamericana). Read her full Q&A and see selections from her portfolio below.
Emma carries the Clifton camera backpack.
Name: Emma Johnson
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
Go-to gear: Canon 1DX and Canon 35mm 1.4 LL.
ONA you use: The Clifton camera backpack. Literally my most prized possession.
Describe your aesthetic in five words or less: Genuine, in the moment, spontaneous, BOLD.
Biggest creative influence: My boyfriend Garrett critiques me and pushes me to try new things if I get to caught up in the same flow or color palette. I would say he has been the biggest influence in the direction of my work. He and Anni Graham have supported and pushed me into pursuing my dream of being an international wedding photographer.
What motivates you: My clients are my biggest motivation. I go into every shoot thinking, “This person wants me to document their love story… I want these to be perfect.” After a shoot when a client gives me an amazing review it just pushes me to do even better the next time so I can continue to get better and knock the socks off of every client I have.
Biggest challenge: The market can be over-saturated sometimes, so I find that getting my work to stick out amongst others can be a tad challenging and hard on my self-esteem. It’s a good challenge though because it pushes me to work harder and find new ways to photograph people.
Mistake you’ve learned from: Falling into trends and editing people to look like they have a terrible self tan. Trends come and go but your uniqueness will always blossom in the end.
One piece of advice that stuck with you: If you want to be a destination wedding photographer, then you need to travel, be broke, and never stop shooting.
Time of day are you most creative: All day long… except when I’m hungry… do not mess with me when I am hungry.
One thing most people wouldn’t expect about you? I am extremely extroverted, but find myself most nights eating wings on the couch while binge watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer alone.
Thing you can’t live without: Harrison Ford and chili-dipped mango slices.
One piece of work you are most proud of: I just recently was hired for a wedding in Ireland at a castle and the whole day I was pushing myself to find unique ways to document the day and feature the destination. Those pictures I took are some of my favorite photos ever.
Most recent “a-ha” moment: BATCH EDITING. Once I learned that concept my whole world changed.
Dream project: To shoot an Indian wedding… or really just any culturally-influenced wedding. I love learning about all the ways people celebrate love.
Goal for this year: To book 3/4 of my weddings for next year in different countries.
Cats or dogs: I literally can’t pass a dog without petting it.
Sweet or savory: This is tough… I love hot wings but I can throw down with some bread pudding…. I have to say both.
Childhood celebrity crush: Orlando Bloom as Legolas.
Favorite album: Right now its Khalid’s American Teen.
Most used phrase: Any phrase with the word “Dope” in it.
Favorite book: Harry Potter… I literally can consume that series for the rest of my existence.
Biggest fear: Not living up to my full potential as a human and as a creative.
Earliest memory: I remember being at Disneyland as a young kid and going to the Aladdin show where people played Aladdin and Jasmine and they told the story of Aladdin. They picked me to come up on stage and be Jafar and they gave me a paper mask to wear with Jafar’s face on it. Aladdin told the crowd that every time he said Jafar’s name while telling his story that the crowd was to to yell “BOOOOOO” … so I spend most of my day at Disneyland being traumatized by the crowd of people booing me during the Aladdin show…. I haven’t gone back to watch that play since, and I go to Disneyland about 6 times a year.
Hidden talent: Air hockey…. no one has ever beaten me.