Talking to Brand Photographer Emma Bunn

Jun 1, 2024 | Photographer Guest

“Show Notes”

Emma runs Natural Aspect. She creates images for her clients so they can market
their brand with ease and confidence. And Sam said that is reflected in her social
media where she is promoting herself with confidence. The name of the business
has changed many times over the years. During her last rebrand she was in the
mountains in Wales. She as looking for a name that reflected her style, capturing
the natural look and the logo reflected the mountains.

Sam asked about TikTok and Emma said she was dragged onto it by a marketing
coach. Emma says her ideal clients re not really there, but their kids might be. So
TikTok is not a strong focus, but something she uses. Linkedin is her main social
media. Emma has been a photographer for seventeen or eighteen years. She has
changed the focus of her business many times during this period. This is partly
because she is a military family so has to move around a lot. Currently Emma
works with businesses as this works with her and her family life.

‘Sam and Emma discussed the point that moving a photography business is hard.
For Emma she was in Lincolnshire before the pandemic and is back now, so that

has helped. Emma says niching has really worked for her and helped her with her
marketing and messaging. She doesn’t work with any particular businesses.
Marcus asks what differentiates a brand photographer from any other sort of,
photographer. Emma says branding photography brings together skills from a
wide range of photography genres. She spends a lot of time researching her
clients, getting to know them. This way by the time it gets to the day of the shoot
it’s all carefully planned. The customer knows what they need to do on the day, as
does Emma. Emma really enjoys this side of her business. For example she worked
with an accountant taking pictures of them tap dancing, which was their hobby.
Emma also does charity work with Remember My baby. They offer free
remembrance photography for families that have had a loss before, during or after
birth, It’s a tough subject and one that not many people talk about. She currently
supports Lincolnshire hospitals with that. She goes into hospitals and take
pictures of families. Every shoot is different, the mood, how much they want to
talk, what they want and more.

‘Marcus asks about other charities and Emma in that case worked with families
with children with life limiting conditions. That the Butterfly Wishes Network.
‘Again Emma gave her time freely here and found the work very rewarding.
‘Marcus like to play devils advocate and asks what Emma thinks about working for
charities for free. Emma says if she was going to provide marketing material for a
charity she would charge. She sees that as different from being part of a charity
which you are helping and feel emotionally attached to. This becomes a wider

discussion between Sam and Marcus about getting paid for charity work.

‘Sam asks Emma what she would say to explain the cost of services. She said this,
could include added value to the package, it’s about promoting yourself and so
having the reputation. It’s about being able to listen and also having the right kit
for the job.

The discussion went onto the area of balancing listening and directing on a shoot.
There is a podcast about listening, that is relevant here. Having a level of
confidence is important here, to be able to do the direction well.

Emma has just returned from a family trip to China where her brother and family
live. She had an amazing trip and recommends visiting.

“Show Transcription”

Sam: Hello and welcome to Shoot to the Top. Hi Marcus, how are you doing?

Marcus: I’m very well Sam, yeah I’m good. How are you?

Sam:  I’m getting used to the world being slightly topsy-turvy. I’m getting to that age and these are my first very focal. I’m a bit up, down and trying to work out which way is up but I can see the world much more clearly which is nice.

Marcus: Okay, well you can’t be, what’s the saying? You can’t be, you know, if you want to be optimistic don’t get a misty optic. No, that’s not right. Something like that.

Sam: Anyway, on the show today we are joined by photographer Emma Bunn. Hi Emma.

Emma:  Hello guys.

Sam: And as usual we will let Emma introduce herself because she’s much more of an expert in herself than we are. So Emma, would you like to introduce yourself?

Emma: Absolutely. So yes, so my name is Emma and I run my business Natural Aspect. So I specialise in creating imagery for my clients and business owners across Lincolnshire and the UK so they can easily market themselves and their brand. I genuinely, I love nothing more than seeing my clients out there showcasing their products and services effectively, consistently but most importantly with confidence.

Sam: Amazing, cool. And then which makes me think of you on social because I’ve just been like scrolling through Instagram and that’s kind of what you’re exactly, you’re showing just that with your own business, sort of modelling it for the clients, aren’t you?

Emma:  Well yeah, I do sometimes say the comment, I do as I say and not as I do but I do like to be out there doing what I should be and marketing myself as well. Case in point, I’ve got my own brand shoot coming up next week. So yes, I do like to show the way.

Sam: Cool, that’s amazing. Sorry, go on Marcus.

Marcus:  And Emma, if I may ask, where do you get the name from, Natural Aspect?

Emma: My business and self-employed journey has had many names over the years. I found myself in Wales a few years ago, and when I decided to sort of rebrand and relaunch, I was always quite inspired. I always really liked the mountains, and I went on a search then for a name that sort of covered everything I love about photography, but also my style. It was all about creating those natural expressions and interactions, and the name was sort of born. I loved it. My other half wasn’t so keen, so it’s been a bit of a grower for him, but yeah, then the logo sort of took on that kind of mountain-esque look as well.

Sam: Yeah, now you explain it, the logo makes total sense. Cool. And then I wanted to just go back to the social thing because I noticed you’re also on TikTok now. It’s not something I’ve moved into at all, so I wasn’t even able to look. I would have to go and chat to my kids to get on there, but I know a lot of people in business are moving on to TikTok and using it. Are you able to share a little bit about TikTok with us? I don’t think anyone on the show’s talked to us about TikTok before.

Emma: Yeah, to be honest, I was kind of dragged kicking and screaming onto TikTok. I dug my heels in. I was working with someone on my marketing last year, and TikTok became a platform that we looked into. It is definitely a great platform to utilize; it very much depends on where your ideal clients are. I would say that I currently still dabble. My ideal clients are not necessarily on TikTok. However, as you mentioned, their kids might be, so it’s definitely good to have a presence across social media platforms. But I tend to focus on different ones where I know that my ideal clients will be, but I definitely have a presence on TikTok.

Sam: Yeah, that’s interesting. So it’s not your main one, but you feel it’s useful to keep it ticking over, just having a kind of presence on there even though your main clients aren’t? Is Instagram kind of your main one then, with other side ones?

Emma: I would say actually LinkedIn is my main one, and then Instagram and Facebook are sort of next, and then TikTok. I’m obviously integrated with other marketing pillars like my website and blogs and bits and pieces. But primarily, as I focus on working with businesses and business owners, LinkedIn is my top one.

Sam: Yeah, okay, that makes total sense. A guy I work with in marketing always likes to say, “Fish where the fish are,” which is his favorite phrase. You’re with businesses, so LinkedIn’s the place to go.

Marcus: So, presumably, Emma, what you’ve done over the years is narrow down your focus to more working with businesses. Am I correct in saying that?

Emma: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been a photographer for, gosh, about 16 or 17 years now, so I’ve worked in a lot of different genres across that time, whether it’s been portraiture, commercial, fashion, or product. When I decided to go out self-employed, I focused mainly on portraiture, families, and newborns because I was going through that stage myself, so it was easy marketing. When I decided to rebrand and relaunch, I hit a bit of a fork in the road about whether I would actually relaunch again because we’re a military family and move around a lot. This was the time where I thought either I’m all in, and I’ve got to get on with it, or I choose something different. I was inspired to recreate the business and the brand to make something that works for me. Working with businesses works for me, my family, and my work-life balance, and I get to pull on all my experience over the years. I’m currently working on some product imagery, I have a lifestyle shoot coming up this afternoon, and I have lots of different elements that I can pull on from the last 15 years and utilize them to create this brand business.

Sam: Amazing. We talked to a couple of photography businesses that move, because for a photography business, that’s quite hard, isn’t it? I mean, I can move around a bit and talk to people on Zoom and stuff, but for you, you’ve got to be there physically for photography. So your clients almost all have to be local, and moving a photography business is a big deal, isn’t it? It’s not a simple thing.

Emma: No, I was in Lincolnshire before for several years, and I probably just hit the point where I was reasonably established and then had to move. I spent three years away from Lincolnshire, and it was over the pandemic anyway, so I think a lot of people shut down. Timing-wise, it was okay moving back, and it made sense. For me, it made sense to specialize and niche down. Confused people don’t buy, so there are photographers out there saying, “I do weddings, I do this, I do that, I do product.” I think it’s important to be very clear with your messaging and clear on what you provide. But don’t get me wrong, I still get people who ask, “Oh, do you shoot weddings?” No, I do not photograph weddings, but they always like to ask just in case.

Sam: But there’s two sides to that as well, because we talked quite a bit about niching on the show. Although you say no to weddings, some photographers can take up those opportunities. As a photographer, you’re promoting yourself as a brand photographer, but you can do other things when they ask. You’re probably not shouting about it on Instagram and TikTok, but for some people, they can say, “Yeah, whatever,” while others stick to their niche.

Emma: Exactly. I definitely market myself as branding, commercial, and business-based. But if I get a request from a client who’d like to have a family portrait, or if I photographed one of my client’s daughter’s proms last year, I’ll do that. But as you said, I’m not out there actively seeking that work at the moment because it takes me away during the weekends and evenings, and that’s my family time.

Sam: Yeah, so you’ve definitely designed the business around the time you want to work. Sorry, Marcus.

Marcus: That’s okay. I was just going to ask, Emma, what kind of businesses do you work with? Do you have a specialization within the sector?

Emma: I don’t. It’s very much down to the business owner and creating that relationship. The way that I market myself and the networking that I do, I get to meet a wide range of businesses. It can be anything from fashion to products, fitness coaching, anyone who needs imagery to elevate their marketing and business. Maybe they want to do a bit of a refresh and be seen as the expert in their field and the professional.

Marcus: Excellent, gotcha. Within that, let’s say you’re going to be working in a branding shoot for a company. How do you switch your mind to that mode? What differentiates your photography to say, “Yes, I’m a branding photographer?”

Emma: That’s a good question. I really like that one. I think branding incorporates so many different elements these days because there are businesses of every size. So you’ve got your personal element where you’re working with single self-employed individuals or slightly bigger businesses who might be looking to grow and market themselves a bit more effectively. I like to get to know my clients and their business; it’s a really integral part of creating that relationship. I spend a lot of time researching them in a nice way, seeing what they’re doing right, seeing what they might be doing wrong, and where improvements could be made. There are workbooks and research that we work on together as well. When we come to actually do a brand shoot, there’s a detailed plan in place. I know what I’m doing, and they know what they’re doing. The main reason for that is because, when the day comes, I want them to have fun and enjoy it, and for it to run smoothly. The planning and research for me, when you’re dealing with and working alongside businesses, is really important because everybody’s very different. They’re doing their business and brand for different reasons, and it’s really important to find out about that. To be honest, I’m genuinely interested. I love that side of my business; it’s really fun, and you get lots of inspiration from it. I had a client who was an accountant but potentially shifting into coaching. When I got chatting about her extracurricular activities, I could have jumped with excitement. She’s like, “I do running, and I do tap dancing,” and I was like, “Oh my god, are we going to be doing some of this?” By the end, I spent such a long time with her during the shoot because we just kept coming up with more ideas. It was so exciting that I was buzzing. I would never have gotten there if I had just thought, “Yeah, she’s an accountant, she wants XYZ.” I never make assumptions, and I never make a plan until I’ve really gotten to know that person or that business.

Sam: Cool, and you do charity work as well, which is kind of linked to the photography too, isn’t it? Emma, we were chatting about this a little while ago.

Emma: I do, yes. I’ve been working with a charity based in the UK, and I’ve been with them for five years now. We offer, as a charity, free remembrance photography for families who have suffered a loss before, during, or after birth. It’s a charity that I’d been aware of for quite a long time before I actually joined, and it just happened that I was in the right place and the right mindset to be able to join. It can be quite a taboo subject; it can be quite a tough subject for people to talk about, and it’s only when you start talking about it that you realize just how many people have been touched in some way by loss, whether early on in pregnancy or late in pregnancy. It’s a charity that I’m really passionate about helping. I have a skill set, and I think if I can use it to help somebody, then I should be out there doing it. I currently support the hospitals in Lincolnshire, and previously, when I was in South Wales, I worked with the hospitals there as well.

Sam: Amazing. So you’re actually kind of going into the hospitals and meeting people and doing photographs with those that want them, is that right?

Emma: Yeah, the charity has a free phone number that the hospitals or relatives can contact, and then these calls are filtered through to the volunteer photographers via the regional coordinators and the free phone number. We get a message to see if we’re able to attend the hospital. The majority of calls are for hospitals. I myself haven’t been in a funeral home or to someone’s home, but they can also come from that as well. We tend to go in and meet the families at probably the worst moment you can imagine. It can be highly charged and very emotive, or it can be slightly more relaxed. Sometimes parents and family members will chat with you about everything and anything; other times, they don’t want to talk at all. I go in and capture a range of photographs for them, whether they want to be involved or not, and we provide them in black and white on a USB stick to the family about four to six weeks afterward.

Sam: Amazing. Okay, we’ll put all the charity details on the website as well in case anybody wants to give or if it’s touched something with them and they want to get in touch in the show notes.

Marcus: Yeah, I mean, I think this opens up an interesting debate, Emma and Sam. Let me ask you, Emma, do you work for other charities?

Emma: I do volunteer with another charity.

Marcus: Or do you photograph?

Emma: Yes, I’ve worked with another charity called Butterfly Wishes Network. The majority of the work I did with them was in Wales. Again, we offered free services to photograph families whose child or children might be living with life-limiting conditions. It was an amazing charity. I haven’t done any work with them in Lincolnshire yet, just because if I’m not required, then I’m on the books but not necessarily contacted. The work I did with the families I met in Wales was incredible—just incredible families, incredible people, and the kids as well. Sometimes it might shake you a little bit, put things into perspective for you, but it’s so rewarding to meet these families and be able to do something they’re not even considering. They’re not considering having a photo shoot when they’re going through what they’re going through, so being able to offer that to them is really important, I think.

Sam: Yeah, sounds amazing.

Marcus: So, I mean, let’s get straight to the point. I’m going to come across here as being a right—no, I’m playing devil’s advocate, but should it be an expectation for charities to expect photographers to work for free or to shoot for free? I’ll keep saying “work,” but it’s not work you’re doing for free. What are your views on that?

Emma: Yes, that’s—yeah. Do you know what? I’ve literally just been reading a thread online about this.

Marcus: Yes, I read the same thread and saw your reply on it.

Emma: Oh, I think that’s—if it’s a charity that you’re passionate about, I think there’s a level of work where it’s—

Marcus: It’s a tricky one, isn’t it?

Sam: Obviously, these are charities that you’ve kind of worked with, that you understand and have empathy for. How would you treat it differently if a large charity came along and said, “We need these photos for a promotional campaign we’re doing”? What approach would you take then?

Emma: I think that’s the difference. You nailed it there. As you were talking, it’s the marketing element. The work that I’m doing, I’m not servicing the charity; I’m working with the families that have approached. When you’re providing marketing or promotional material for a charity, I do think that photographers should be paid. But again, it’s at your discretion to a certain level.

Marcus: It is at the discretion, Emma, but it does take our industry, as photographers, to expect people to do it for free. When I was lecturing, we used to have students do work experience and they couldn’t find anybody to work with. I’d just say, “Go and find somebody to work with; there’s a charity, you know, they’ll all be welcome.” I thought, “Okay, that’s the right thing to do.” Then I used to work for charities for free. “Oh, charity? Yeah, no problem. I’m not expected to get any money from this.” But then I started to realize, when I was there covering these events or whatever, everybody else was getting paid and I wasn’t. How does that work out? I think there needs to be more transparency. If they ask you to come and do a shoot and they’re getting paid to organize it, or other people are getting paid and you’re not, I think there are questions to be asked.

Emma: Definitely. I do think the events sector is one of those ones. I’ve known a few photographers in the events sector where they’re expected to come and work for free or on commission. It’s such a subject, isn’t it? Fees and what photographers charge. There’s always going to be somebody who’ll either do it for free or cheaper. It’s about why that person is employing me or taking me on to do that work and the value that they’re getting, as well as the quality of the imagery. It’s a very difficult one to manage. But I do agree, if other elements are being paid for—you’re not asking people to feed people for free, the venue is being paid—then all elements that go into creating that event should be compensated, including photography.

Sam: I think it’s something to think about. If you’re approached about something like that, maybe go away and think about it before you say yes or no, and kind of decide what your approach is going to be. Do you approach it as a commercial thing? Do you say, “Okay, it’s a charity, and I’ll give them a 10% discount,” or is it something really close to your heart that you really want to support? As a commercial photographer, you can’t just offer all charities free work because you’d not make any money. But equally, if there’s something where you’re right at that kind of coal face, helping people on an individual basis, that’s very different from doing a photo shoot for a big charity event. There’s such a wide range, and you’ve got to make up your own mind. But do it—I think be clear with it. Like Marcus says, don’t fall into accidentally doing it for free. Make a positive decision: Yes, I am, or No, I’m not.

Marcus: Yeah, and come out of it with something for yourself, for your portfolio. If they give you the opportunity to direct the photo shoot and have your own ideas with no input from them, it’s like a TFP (Trade for Prints) type shoot. There’s definitely merit in that. I’ve noticed it happens with musicians when I do music—people ask for gigs for free. But I wonder if they asked a video company, would they expect them to do it for free?

Emma: There’s definitely a lot of interpretation with photographers and how much they charge and work for free. But, like I said, it’s a difficult issue in the industry. People who have been in the industry longer or are established, or who know their worth, sometimes need to step away and think, “Is it beneficial? Is it going to contribute to my portfolio?” I was approached to work for free recently and invited to do something else while I was there. I said it’s not in my interest to work for free and to just be solely stuck in the studio at that event. It is more beneficial for me to network the room for my business rather than work for six to eight hours or longer for free. It’s about nicely and politely bouncing that back to the person as well.

Marcus: Well, you know, it’s a debate, and it’s great that we have the opportunity here on a podcast like ours to discuss it. In the days before the internet, people didn’t have these debates so openly, so it’s good to talk about it.

Sam: You brought up a really interesting point about pricing. That’s an eternal question, especially for any small business photographer. How much do you charge and what’s your value? I think you’ve touched on an important aspect: there will always be somebody who will do it cheaper. I had someone tell me they were going to see if they could find a cheaper quote. My response was, “Yes, you’ll find one.” But then, it’s about explaining why they should choose me, isn’t it? You’ve got to reflect your value.

Marcus: It is, Sam, but it’s slightly different when it comes to the expectation of working for free because people assume, “Oh, you’re a photographer; therefore, you’ll do it for free because you’re a hobbyist.”

Sam: Yeah, but I think we’re moving the debate away from charity and onto pricing, Marcus. How would you respond if someone says they’ll get other prices, knowing they’ll always find someone cheaper? What ideas do you need to convey to show that you’re worth paying for?

Emma: I think it’s about that added value element. For example, experience and the quality of the equipment you’re using. I like to invest in the best quality kit because it makes a difference when shooting. Adding value to your packages, whether that’s additional imagery, social media guides, or other extras, is important. For me, it’s also about promoting myself, which I find difficult, and being personable. As a photographer, listening to what the client wants is crucial. You can’t just make assumptions; you need to balance listening with stepping in and taking control to deliver exactly what they want. That balance is really important in the initial consultation and client interaction.

Sam: That’s come up repeatedly on the show. The moment when the photographer arrives and has to balance being the director with listening to the client. For listeners, we have another episode with a professional listener who talks about coming in calm, listening, and then providing professional input. Getting that balance right is essential.

Emma: Definitely. Building a relationship with the client and having confidence as a photographer is important. Drawing on your experience with other clients helps. You need to communicate confidently and back up your decisions with valid reasons, whether it’s choosing a location or moving the client. Confidence is key.

Sam: Confidence is indeed a big thing. We’re nearing the end, and I thought I might mention that you just got back from China, Emma.

Emma: Yes, I just got back from China, which was an incredible experience. I hadn’t been out of the country for about 10 or 11 years.

Sam: So you picked somewhere minor for your first trip!

Emma: Well, yeah, go big or go home. I was visiting my brother and his family there, and it was an incredible experience. We did so many different things and visited so many places. I highly recommend visiting China if you can. We were in Shenzhen, which is an incredible city with beautiful surroundings. We climbed a mountain and stood on a massive platform, looking around at the vast landscape of mountains, feeling so insignificant. It was an incredible journey, and I’ll post some pictures at some point.

Sam: That was going to be my next question. Do you post personal pictures sometimes?

Emma: I do sometimes, but I’ve held back for now. I’ll put a few snippets out there. It’s nice to balance personal and professional posts, but no one wants their LinkedIn flooded with holiday pictures.

Sam: There’s a balance. Thank you so much, Emma. It’s been amazing speaking with you. You’ve shared a wealth of experience and knowledge, and we’ve had a really interesting chat about charities. Thank you for being on the show.

Emma: Thank you very much for having me.