Talking Shop with Anniversary Photographer Emily Kim

I feel like one of true, genuine blessings in life is getting to cross paths with, and learn from amazing people. My life has been filled with such serendipitous and rewarding interactions.

I knew Emily Kim for only a short time when we lived in Utah, but immediately I could feel of her kindness, and quickly witnessed her incredible talent. Not only is she a joy to be around, but her photography makes you feel that same joy. Warm, vibrant, and real — her photos capture magical moments in awe-inspiring beauty. Plus, she draws the best doodles and is the queen of Halloween costumes. For many reasons, I feel extremely grateful to know her.

As a fellow TSwift lover, I felt like the week of the Lover album release would be the perfect time to introduce you to Emily Kim, photographer extraordinaire. Everyone, meet Emily!

Tell us a little about you and your family.

For any personality test enthusiasts out there, the best way to sum up my relationship with my husband, Jason, is to tell you we have complete opposite Myers-Briggs types. Not a single letter overlaps! Last year one of my letters changed (gasp!) (from ISFP to INFP) and then he retook the test and found that one of his letters shifted as well – so we remain polar opposites even when we change. Perhaps the only thing we really see eye to eye on is that we both find our one-year-old Spencer hilarious and the best baby we’ve ever met.

How did your interest in photography start?

When I was twelve, my family got our first digital point and shoot camera. I was the one who figured out how to use it.

Tell us about how the Anniversary Photographer came about. What do you love about doing anniversary photos? 

Jason and I were married right around the same time I started my photography business. Being a newlywed myself, there was a certain excitement about shooting these weddings because I related so strongly with that season of life. Then, life chugged further along and I started looking back at our own wedding pictures with those old people type thoughts like, “SO young! We had NO idea what we were getting into! We’ve changed so much!” Marriage is so much more important and special than just that first day and I wanted to celebrate that in a similar way – dressing up and taking pictures with the person you love for your anniversary.

How do you approach a photography session? How do you get the feel you want? How do you help your subjects feel comfortable?

Portrait photography is 90% psychology. I came up with that statistic myself, but I swear it’s true. My philosophy is that if you have FUN while taking pictures, you are going to love those pictures so much more. When the situation calls for it, I make them dance. Dancing for a camera is so unnerving that you spend the whole rest of the shoot relaxed simply because there’s no more dancing.

Tell us about your vintage-inspired shoots.

I’ve begun a project where I do photoshoots inspired by stories in my own family history. So far I’ve done one depicting my maternal grandma in the 1960s and my paternal grandma in the 1950s. It’s so fun to create the style (thanks to much thrifting) especially when paired with a meaningful bit of my own history.

What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

There’s no one right way to do anything. It always depends. “What’s the best time to take pictures?” It depends! What type of light do YOU like shooting in? Does the location have lots of shade or are you shooting in the Sahara? Are you using off-camera lighting? What time does the sun set? Perhaps you’re in Alaska and the sun does not set at all! If I had believed there was one right way to be a photographer, I never developed my idea to focus on anniversary pictures.

What do you like to do when you’re not behind the camera?

Approximately one gazillion other creative projects. I make monthly coloring pages, I paint tiny little doodads and giant canvases, I thrift and alter anything that seems feasible to my skill level, and the baby’s nursery is still a decorative work in progress even though he’s been alive a year already.

How do you deal with difficult clients?

Sleepless nights, crying in the shower, you know. Hah! (But really… those happen) After a difficult client, I get better at trusting my gut and seeing the red flags coming. If I feel “off” about an inquiry now, I just turn it down.

Share the story behind one of your favorite photos.

From the past year or so, I have particularly loved this photo from the shoot about my maternal grandma because it comes across as so effortlessly calm and glamorous when the reality of the shoot was not so much. Just a day prior I had asked my sister, “Want to do a shoot where we dress you up as grandma?” and off we went and found the outfit, shoes, and vintage camera within a few hours. It was late March in New England – ugly, brown, and cold. It was only about 40F and she was freezing while I stayed in a large and hideous tattered brown sweatshirt. Those pink shells scattering the beach instead of sand? So pretty! NO. SO SHARP. But as this picture came up on my screen later that night back in the warmth of shelter, I gasped. You would never guess any of those things. It simply oozes warmth, glamour, and a sense of calm that certainly wasn’t there as my sister shivered “how much longer are we going to shoot?

What inspires you?

I’m inspired when I am outside in nature. If I’m cooped up too long, I just get less and less productive and less and less creative. Going on a hike always turns that around for me.

Describe a day in your life.

Oh dear, this is going to sound terribly unimpressive. It’s a lot of peeking my head around the computer screen while editing to see my baby eating crumbs under the kitchen table, scrolling through Instagram instead of switching laundry, a surge of productivity when he naps, and then later after he goes to bed there SHOULD be another surge of productivity, but more realistically, it’s a hot bath.

The Fun Qs:

How did your doodles get started? How do you come up with ideas?

The doodles “officially” started after months (years?) of friends looking at my doodles and saying “You should sell those!” or “Start an Etsy!” and me saying “No thanks”. I didn’t want to turn my fun little past time into a job. However, I really do enjoy sharing them and the idea of people using them for their own coloring sheets and learning enticed me! It is super low-key and just really a fun way to get my brain some exercise every month coming up with the ideas. A lot of ideas are inspired by history podcasts, random facts I come across, or just my mood!

If your life was a movie, who would play you? What would be the soundtrack?

At various times in life, I’ve been told I look a bit like Scarlett Johansson or Chloe Grace Moretz. So, if either of their careers take a nosedive and they’re in need of work, I suppose they may be interested in the role. The soundtrack would have to be Taylor Swift, deep tracks only.

What’s your favorite show to binge-watch?

30 Rock and Parks & Rec are always on rotation.

You always have the best Halloween costumes. Where do you get your inspiration? What has been your favorite costume?

It really comes down to an insatiable desire to have a costume that is 1) completely original and 2) very cute and 3) incorporates both my husband and I. If anyone on the internet has already done it, I don’t want to do it. It’s a mentality that is a blessing and a curse!!! My favorite has probably been our Costco sample lady and hotdog costume. That was our award winner.

What is your desert island meal?

Spaghetti with Ragu and, what my family calls, sprinkle cheese. I have no memory of ever getting tired of this meal.

What book do you always recommend to friends?

Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say this book changed my life. If you are an introvert, this book with comfort and empower you. If you are an extrovert, this book is an eye-opener into what is going on inside the head of your “quiet” friends/spouse/colleagues.

Favorite Taylor Swift song?

VERY DIFFICULT QUESTION. All the sad, angsty, break-up ones. “All Too Well” probably ranks my favorite on most days!

Visit Emily online or follow her on Insta @emilysusankim_photo.

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