Photographer Spotlight : Emily Followill
Tell me about you!
I was born and raised in Atlanta, and ever since I can recall, I had an interest in cameras and photography. As a Girl Scout Brownie, we earned a photography badge and created a pinhole camera out of an oatmeal container which we used on the playground at Piedmont Park! I wish I still had those photos we developed in the bathroom which is still there! I continued to develop my interest throughout my adolescence where I was always excited to tinker with my mom’s camera and received my own SLR in high school. I took a photography class and joined the yearbook staff and was always walking around with my camera in hand. Some things never change. I went to The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee for my undergraduate degree in Fine Art and Art History, and then came back to Atlanta to attend the Southeastern Center for the Arts (now the Creative Circus) and received a professional photography degree.
While I was in photography school, I worked part time for Alan McGee’s business, Photo, Lights and Cameras. It was a rental house in the basement of Showcase Camera. This was an amazing opportunity because I was able to really get to know all types of equipment, cameras, lighting, etc. and meet a lot of photographers who came in to rent equipment. I also worked part time for an interior designer and her mother who is an antique dealer. This job exposed me to ADAC and the world of interior design while also photographing antique furniture for them.
After that, I assisted in several different places and with a wide variety of photographers which was invaluable. I began my professional photography career shooting weddings and portraits on the weekends and assisting during the week. I landed a full-time job at GA Communications– which is now Pure Red Studios – working as a Digital Studio Photographer and eventually a Studio Manager. I got to know Dave Gallagher when he was our representative for the Leaf Digital backs that we used on our Hasselblad cameras. I feel so fortunate to have had the early opportunity to learn and use digital photography and understand the requirements for print. It was so expensive back then and very few private photographers had it or could afford it.
My biggest supporters have been my family through and through. My parents encouraged me and gave me the opportunities to follow my passion. My husband has been by my side through it all and has truly been a partner in my business and in life – celebrating 25 years of marriage in May and 30 years together in July. There’s no way I could do what I do without his love and support! We are also fortunate to have two fabulous children who have been through this journey with us, and it’s a joy to see their interests and the paths they are taking in their lives.
How did you discover your love for photography?
When I was in high school, I started taking black and white photography classes and absolutely loved it! Spending Sunday afternoons driving around in my VW Jetta and taking pictures was a true highlight, and then getting in the dark room on Monday to process it was so exciting. I entered and won a few contests including the Piedmont Arts Festival and was awarded a partial scholarship to The Pratt Institute in New York. However, I decided to hold on art school and focus on a broader liberal arts education as a foundation and then follow up with art school.
Who are some of your favorite photographers (past or present)?
This is a little expected, but Ansel Adams is still one of my favorites because we studied his zone system when processing and printing with my professor, Pradip Malde at Sewanee. It’s something I still use today, although I’m quite thankful for high dynamic range in Capture One! Henri Cartier-Bresson is another favorite of mine for capturing the decisive moment. It amazes me what he was able to capture in a moment and in a few frames when we are so spoiled today by taking so many. I also admired David Schilling when I was in school because he was shooting for Veranda magazine, and that was my goal! He encouraged me to go to photo school and come back to him when I learned how to load 4×5 lm holders…which I did! I interned with him while in school and am thankful for his encouragement. Today, I’m constantly watching everyone around me and trying to continue to learn and improve my techniques and my vision.
What originally drew you to architectural photography and keeps you shooting today?
My grandfather was a leading authority in the Southeast of American antique furniture, and I loved learning the history of pieces and appreciating the artisans who created them. He gave me his twin lens Rolleiflex which I used as my first medium format camera. Early on, I developed a love for residential architecture and all the fine interiors, furniture, and design that they held. I was fortunate to be able to turn an interest and love into a career with the help of so many who let me learn on their projects. It’s a joy to get to know the established designers, architects, and landscape architects, as well as the up and coming talents. Being able to capture their work and get it out to the world in magazines, books, advertisements, contests, and social media is what drives me to continue my passion of capturing the beauty of their designs.
Can you describe a photographically challenging situation that you were confronted with that you were able to resolve on the fly?
While every shoot is different and will present its own challenges, there are many shoots which come to mind that caused me to have to think outside of the box on how to properly capture an angle or the subject matter. It’s usually having to put the camera in a precarious position such as standing on a ladder on top of my car or hanging out over a balcony to capture the essence of the architecture or design. The weather is always a factor, but I can’t control that! It’s a matter of timing the shot list according to the weather.
You describe your photo career as starting out shooting in every genre. How has this initial diversity benefitted you today?
Having shot everything from babies and weddings to office supplies in studio, portraits, commercial architecture, and products for advertisements, I’ve had the opportunity to be exposed to all the necessary elements that make each one of those individually distinct. Understanding how different items and/or spaces will appear is critical to my current specialty of residential architecture and landscape architecture photography. Having been in a wide variety of photographic niches helps me understand proper placement, angle, and lighting to correctly capture the scene. Being open to many personalities of my clients and homeowners, being responsible for being in someone’s home, being aware of the time of day that things need to be shot and knowing the time that it will take to complete tasks on time is critical. All of my past shoots have enhanced my overall tool kit that I can call upon to see that the shot is captured correctly, on time, and sometimes with a moment’s notice of change.
What is your favorite underrated photographic tool? Why?
I can’t go to a shoot without my 5’ x 7’ collapsible background. It is black on one side and white on the other. We use it for everything from blocking light to creating clean reflections on kitchen appliances or works of art, televisions, mirrors, or window reflections that might get blown out from the angle that we’re shooting. We call it “the taco” because that’s one of the descriptions of how to fold it up!
If you were behind your camera and could choose anything you wanted to be in your viewfinder, where would you be and what would you be looking at?
While I love all the different types of settings that I shoot, I have to say that my favorite scene is in the early morning or late afternoon on a body of water or in a beautiful garden watching the beginning or the end of the day and seeing God’s creation.
Why did you select Capture Integration as your equipment partner?
As I said before, I’ve known Dave Gallagher since about 1995. When it came time for me to purchase my first digital back, I knew I could trust Dave and his team to give me what I needed and not more than was necessary to get the job done. Since then, they have been with me every step of the way and kindly encouraging me to the next step when they saw I needed it. Dave even “assisted” me on a shoot in his neighborhood to teach me how to use the “now mine” Phase One IQ3 on an XF body. Their customer service is unparalleled, and they are always there to answer a question, provide the perfect gear, and to get me out of a jam to get the job done. They do all they can to make me look as good as possible to my clients and to make my clients happy using the best products possible.