The Photography Lounge

Emily Teague - Fashion, Editorial and Commercial Photographer

January 18, 2021 SmugMug + Flickr Season 1 Episode 9
Emily Teague - Fashion, Editorial and Commercial Photographer
The Photography Lounge
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The Photography Lounge
Emily Teague - Fashion, Editorial and Commercial Photographer
Jan 18, 2021 Season 1 Episode 9
SmugMug + Flickr

On this episode of The Photography Lounge, your host Alastair Jolly has a conversation with SmugMug Ambassador, Emily Teague.

Emily is a fashion editorial & commercial photographer working primarily out of Brooklyn, New York. Her style of photography is greatly influenced by her photojournalism, travels, color, and love for creating visual narratives.

She balances her passion for creating stories in fashion with telling the stories of others through her work with non-profits and NGOs. Her work has taken her to 30 countries throughout North America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and West Africa.

Learn more about Emily:

Find out all about the features SmugMug & Flickr have to offer at:

Follow SmugMug:

Follow Flickr:

Show Notes Transcript

On this episode of The Photography Lounge, your host Alastair Jolly has a conversation with SmugMug Ambassador, Emily Teague.

Emily is a fashion editorial & commercial photographer working primarily out of Brooklyn, New York. Her style of photography is greatly influenced by her photojournalism, travels, color, and love for creating visual narratives.

She balances her passion for creating stories in fashion with telling the stories of others through her work with non-profits and NGOs. Her work has taken her to 30 countries throughout North America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and West Africa.

Learn more about Emily:

Find out all about the features SmugMug & Flickr have to offer at:

Follow SmugMug:

Follow Flickr:

Alastair Jolly: On this episode of The Photography Lounge, I'm joined by an editorial commercial photographer working primarily out of Brooklyn, New York. Her style of photography is greatly influenced by her photojournalism, her travels, color, and love of creating visual narratives. She balances her passion for creating stories and fashion with telling the stories of others through her work with nonprofits and NGOs.

Her work has taken her to 30 countries throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East and far beyond. I am delighted to be joined by my dear, dear friend, Emily Teague. 

Hi Emily. How are you?

Emily Teague: HI Alastair. What a lovely intro. Thank you.

Alastair Jolly: You are more than welcome. I felt a lot of pressure and tradition you because I love everything you do so much.

I wanted to make sure I got it all just perfect for you. 

Emily Teague: Fortunately, with your voice and your accent, like anything that you say sounds lovely. So that combined with what you're saying, it sounds great. 

Alastair Jolly: Let's not talk about the accent anymore.

That's my one big selling point Scottish accent. So is that a good description of who Emily Teague is? 

Emily Teague: That was great. Definitely a mix of like fashion work, photojournalism that. That is what makes me me.

Alastair Jolly:  That is what makes you, you and you're currently in Brooklyn, New York. 

Emily Teague: Yeah. I've been here for a year and a half now, which is the longest I've stayed anywhere other than my hometown.

Alastair Jolly: Well, it's 2020. It's the longest. Most of us have stayed anywhere for 

Emily Teague: that's a good point

Alastair Jolly: No choice. We have to stay wherever we were, but it's such a shame. You and I had really hoped to do this podcast face-to-face that was always the plan we were supposed to meet up in March earlier this year. And podcasts were always much nicer when you're face to face, but unfortunately, we are 3000 miles apart, but technology is wonderful and we can still do this.

And I'm delighted that we're finally getting around into doing this, even if 

Emily Teague: yeah. I feel so honored to be on here. When you first talked to me about it, I think back in February, I was like, yes, absolutely. And then I think we were only a couple of weeks away from doing it before, maybe even a week away.

We had to cancel. 

Alastair Jolly: Yeah, because the last time we were together was in Vegas, at the WPPI trade show back in February, and we were supposed to see each other in England at the photography show a few months, a few weeks later. And then like everybody, all our plans got dramatically changed, but I'm glad to see that you're safe.

Emily Teague: I'm doing good. Yeah. And very, very happy to finally be doing that.

Alastair Jolly:  Although you're in New York, in Brooklyn. You are not a native to New York.

Emily Teague: No, I can't pass for that. 

Alastair Jolly: How did you find yourself being based in New York? 

Emily Teague: Well, I'm from California, originally, actually from a pretty small town in Northern California. And since I was 18, 19, I've just traveled as much as possible. The longest I'd stayed in one place is about. Three to six months, right?

Six months been a long time for me. And so, this is actually my second time in New York. The first time that I was here, I was 20 years old. And at the time I thought, okay, I'm going to move to New York, be a photographer. It's all great. I had saved that money and it just didn't go as planned. So, it was six months that I was here.

And I remember I got an internship that paid like $9 an hour. My rent was outrageous, and I didn't have any community at the time. This was before I had met a lot of my photography friends, and now I have a really solid community, but when you don't, it can be a little lonely, especially in such a massive city.

So, after six months, I left continued traveling for a couple of. I guess for a few years after that did a bunch of different adventures. And then the plan was, and I guess the start of 2019 to move to Los Angeles and continue doing fashion work down there and I was saving money. Everything was great. And then I got an opportunity to sub lease an apartment from Felix Kunze. Who's also a really talented photographer. He was going to Cape town for two months and he's like, yeah, you should definitely sublease my, my room. Like this is going to be great. And I was really hesitant about it, but I thought, okay, I'll be in New York for two months.

I can do a lot of networking. I can build my portfolio there with New York agencies and models and all of that. And after two months I will go back to saving money. And then soon after moved to LA and instead I totally fell in love with New York. I made some incredible friends here that are now my closest friends.

Now I'm stuck here. So, it's funny how it works out. It wasn't planned, but it's happiest. I've ever been 

Alastair Jolly: Fantastic. Isn't it funny how you can move from a small town in Northern California to one of the biggest cities in the world, but feel lonely? 

Emily Teague: I mean, it's, there are 8 million people in New York and everyone is hustling so much just to survive because of course rent is outrageous.

Right. And so, yeah. So, there's not a lot of time to really slow down and meet people unless you're really trying to do that. It can be hard, but I think once you do find your people. You really hold on to them dearly. 

Alastair Jolly: If you find great people in New York, it is by far the best city in the world. I love, I have such a strong group of friends, even outwith the photography industry in New York and a lot of great times spent in New York in a lot of wonderful memories and dear dear friends. You're one of them now, which is awesome. Another reason to come to New York, 

Emily Teague: I fall in love with the city more every day 

Alastair Jolly: Hopefully we get back there soon to spend some time with you in New York. You spent for the team with you in New York, what was that last October in 2019?

That was fun. Good times. So, let's talk about your work a little bit.  So, you're in New York now, where are you photographing? When you're in New York? 

Emily Teague: I live in an apartment that one of the reasons that my roommate and I moved in here, Brandi Nicole, she's also a photographer is because it has really tall ceilings.

It has a wide-open space. So, we have converted it also into our studio. So, if I am shooting studio work, I'm shooting right here, which is really nice because the commute from my bedroom is very short. And it's, it's a lovely apartment. So, I feel totally fine inviting clients over here or inviting models over here.

I think it's. It's really comfortable, but also there's so many great locations outside to shoot. So, it just depends. Of course, in pandemic times I'm not able to shoot as much, unfortunately, but hopefully in the near future I'll have access to both. Yeah. 

Alastair Jolly: One of the great benefits of New York apartments are those huge ceilings and space that you can create a home office.

So, home studio as well. So that's awesome. 

Emily Teague: It's pretty incredible. And coming from that small town in Northern California, Chico, I had tried converting my living room to a studio there. And it just really did not work one because it looked like a proper living room. And I was shooting like in this small little corner, trying not to upset my two roommates who of course were not photographers.

And you know, it just, it was such a different setup. I think I have a few photos that I'm like, oh wow, I've come a long ways. 

Alastair Jolly: You wouldn't want to invite clients back to the Chico studio then. 

Emily Teague: Absolutely not. You know? And it was like, I lived with two boys, like, Hmm, no. So as far as cleanliness.

But it's just incredible that like, I can easily tell a client like, great, we'll meet at my, at my studio, or if I'm doing self-portraits, it's like, great. I'm just going to go out to the living room and get set up. Having everything right here is so incredibly convenient. It's really a dream. 

Alastair Jolly: You have showcased some of the, what you've done to the apartment there.

And you've, you kind of curated everything that you have in the apartment to make it very easy to turn from a living space to studio space yeah? 

I mean, it's only, it's a 900 square foot apartment, which I know for some New Yorkers is, is big. But for first studio space, it's not, it's not huge. Right? So, we have one large room where we have our kitchen, our studio, we have our two bedrooms.

Kind of it just so we do want it to look really nice and like a living space, but then also easily convert it. So, there's a lot of little nooks and crannies that we hide stuff like even our couch, if you open it up, we actually have a ton of gear hiding inside of it. So, we really try to utilize every space that we can and it's true.

Yeah. So, we have if you open up the top, there's like a little storage unit inside of it. It's really great for hiding modifiers or lights, all the, all the stuff. 

Not that kind of gear moving on quickly. So, you talked about and anybody who follows you and knows your work and has seen your, your online work that you share.

You're very familiar with, with you and your roommate. Brandi producing the self-portrait stuff, the non-client stuff. So, they've seen a lot of that, but what is the. What is the client base for, for Emily? You mentioned inviting clients or models over to the studio, who are those clients that you're working with now?

Emily Teague: You know, I'm focusing on boutiques jewelry companies and then wanting to expand more into like, Sunglasses accessories, shoes, anything like that. And I haven't reached that audience yet. Again, mostly it's just focused on boutiques, which is what I was doing in California too. So, I know more how to reach out to that kind of audience.

And of course, my work reflects that more. I don't have a ton of like shoes, sunglasses. I I've done two sunglasses campaigns before, but at some point, I would like to expand to that. So, when I was in Chico. It was a lot easier just because it's a town of like a hundred thousand people. And so, I was really relying on word of mouth, on social media just to get my name out there and I didn't have to do a ton of direct marketing.

So, I was a little bit lazy and it worked out for me at the time, but then moving to New York and really having a very small network out here. I. You don't get to be lazy. Unfortunately. So, my marketing has changed a ton. So now a lot of my time is spent creating pitches, finding brands that I want to work with.

Something that I do, that I would recommend for other people going into the fashion sphere is just going and looking up all these different kinds of brands. Like you can go and type in New York city fashion boutique, and it'll come up with like, here are 50 boutiques, right. And then go through all of those, find out which ones match your aesthetic.

Right. Speaking for myself. I don't, I I'm happy to shoot for anyone, but it's a lot more likely that someone who matches my aesthetic is going to want to hire me. Right. And so, I create a spreadsheet and I have all those brands written down the ones that do match my setup. And then I go by one by one, I have a template for a cold pitch, but then I always personalize it.

Which is super important because of course companies, brands. Anyone did so many cold emails and they, they can detect it very easily. Right. So, I'm talking about, I really love this last campaign you did, or I think X fits my aesthetic because we're both interested in this feminine, sophisticated style, you know?

So that's, that's kind of been where most of my time is going now, and it's been weird with the pandemic, but slowly, since September clients are starting to be like, okay, let's do it. So. That feels really hopeful because from February to September, there was really not a lot, 

Alastair Jolly: not a lot of work coming in, but a good team to, you know, reevaluate the pitches and the marketing that you were doing.

And I know you work very, very hard at that. And a lot of the role, unfortunately, when you have your own career is. Mostly marketing and mostly selling yourself and teh bit you enjoy it gets less and less as you have to. 

Emily Teague: It's so sad and I'm learning that more and more again, because before in Chico, I wasn't having to do that work at the end.

Right. It was just, it was so much easier. So now in the past year and a half, I'm like, Oh, okay. This is, this is reality. 

Alastair Jolly: Did you ever consider outsourcing that part of it? 

Emily Teague: I do quite a lot, actually more. And so, I've talked with a couple people, actually. You connected me with one of them. Our friend Adam, who works for SmugMug is an SEO genius, right?

So, he's one who I've talked to and he's given me some really great tips, but yeah, I think as I go on. I I'd like to outsource as much of that as possible. Like ultimately, I just want to focus on the photography as much as I can. And, and it's sad that so much of it is administrative work, marketing, all the stuff that isn't fun and creative, 

Alastair Jolly: I htink its the reality of any career, you know, you start off doing the bit that you enjoy the creative part that we all love.

And then ultimately you have to start making money, making it really work. And the more successful, the busier you get, ultimately the less you do that real creative part is what makes you love it so much. But if you can get the balance, right, or if you can find a way to outsource those bits that you don't enjoy and stick to just the, the creative side, then it, you know, that's the best and you are, Oh my gosh, you're super creative because when you're not photographing for your clients, you know, you're forever I want to say playing, experimenting. 

Emily Teague: No playing is totally.

Yeah. I think for so long, I I've been shooting for going on nine years now, which doesn't feel real. Like that's, it's been quite a few years. And in some ways, I feel like I'm still just starting out in other ways. I feel like I've been doing this my entire life. It's, you know, it's a mix, but I do a lot of self-portraits now which Brandi, my roommate has inspired, and it's been a really fun time to do that and just get as creative as possible.

Right. Because there's no expectations because it's only me. Right. Which is great. You know, if I'm doing a test shoot, I will definitely play around, but I know that I have to deliver images because that's the deal, right. It has to be beneficial for me, but it has to be beneficial for my model, for my makeup artist, for everyone on my team too.

And so, when I'm doing self-portraits, that's when I really get experimental with my lighting with different concepts with color, with retouching, it's been a really interesting educational process that I've only been doing for about a year and a half since I first got to New York. 

Alastair Jolly: Yeah, it's interesting.

It comes up again and again, here on the podcast and a lot of times with, our dear friends like Bella and Pratik and others about just how important self-projects are personal projects are, you know, the work that you do on yourself portraits and just, you know, experimenting and just how important they are for the whole creative process, the creative mindset to keep us all productive and in the zone.

Emily Teague: Definitely. And also, to always be growing too. Right. I think it's easy to. Fall into this idea of like, okay, well I know I can do this really well. So, I'm just going to continue doing this one thing that I'm good at something that I'm always pushing myself for, especially in those self-portraits, when it is like a free space to just learn is to just try new things and experiment.

And sometimes those new things really don't work out, you know, I’ve tried lighting setups I'm like, this is going to be brilliant. And I'm like, Oh, or not, you know, but that's, that's how you learn. 

Alastair Jolly: You mentioned there about, you know, trying to move into different client bases, but maybe not having the imagery for those clients yet, or the best way to get that imagery is to do self-projects, your personal projects and portraits and, and build up that portfolio with, you know, the, the skills you have in the community you have.

And then once you start showcase network, then.

Emily Teague: Right. I think that's another piece of advice is for photographers wanting to shoot X, right. Or whatever it is. Like you need to have the work to be able to show that you can having good work is not enough, right? 

Alastair Jolly: Yeah. You've got to be able to show it and show that you have the ability to be creative and change and create stuff that's in a remit or a brief, but also have fun.

I think having fun is really important. You've told me a little bit about some of the things you do to keep yourself inspired and motivated and moving forward. And you mentioned that you and Brandi have a couple of things that you do each week to inspire each other.

Emily Teague:  Yeah. We've only recently started doing agendas, both on Mondays and Fridays.

We've been doing this for a few weeks now. It's already really incredible the changes that are coming from it. So, on Mondays, our agenda is all about accountability, about. What clients are coming in, who we need to respond to what retouching work we need to do all this stuff where it's like, okay, let's get down to business.

And then our Friday agendas are much more manifesting goal setting and dreaming. So this is okay. What clients do I want to shoot with? Who are? Who are the models I want to work with? Who are the agencies I want to work with, what personal projects and just, you know, all those things? This is where I want my life to be.

So we talk about goals for one year, from five years, 10 years. I think it's really important to put those dreams down and saying them out loud, not just to yourself, but to another person I think really holds you accountable. 

Alastair Jolly: Is it a fixed team each day? That the Friday and Monday. 

Emily Teague: We try to aim for 7:00 PM. And of course, like we're flexible with that, but it's just really nice to have a set time and be like, okay, I need to do this by 7:00 PM. Right. Even if it changes a little bit, and I think I am such a procrastinator, unfortunately, but it's really helpful to be like, okay, my meeting is at 7:00 PM. So, I am going to start hustling at 4:00 PM and start doing everything that I said I was going to do for the week.

And even if it's just three hours of like really hard productive work, doing those things that I wanted to do, I still feel good about it at the end of the day. 

Alastair Jolly: So, do you think 10 years ago, the Emily who's living in Chico, California would have imagined herself being in New York with a fashion client base.

Emily Teague: Oh, there's no way. I mean, so 10 years ago, that was the year before I started photography. I was 15 years old. And I really did not have a lot of direction. I had no idea what I wanted to do at the time. I thought I would be an English teacher just because I enjoyed poetry and writing. But it wasn't something I was passionate about.

And it's funny now because unfortunately I was like, the idea of having to write an essay or something like that. I'm just like, no, so it's a good thing. I didn't become an English teacher, but yeah, there's, there's no way that I would have believed any of this could ever be a reality. The reality that I'm living is so much greater than what my dreams would have been 10 years ago.

Alastair Jolly: Way to make us all feel really old by saying ten years ago you were 15!!!

Oh man. It just felt sold very quickly and in Chico. So, what, you know, what, where are the dreams in Chico beyond like an English teacher or what other options were there? 

Emily Teague: I mean, there wasn't a time. So unfortunately, when I was 15, like I was also just in a really dark Headspace. 15 especially was a really tough year.

My, my father died and then three months later my brother died, and it was just, you know, very, very dark. And so, I think for me, all I could focus on was feeling that depression feeling so isolated and just like stuck in my own world. So, it's funny now because I I've traveled to 30 countries around the world and traveling is a huge part of, of what I love that I wouldn't leave even considered it at the time.

You know, there was no interest in that. And I, I think there just wasn't interest in a lot, other than day by day by day. And I mean, it sounds so silly, but finding photography is what changed that for me when I was 16, I picked up my first camera through a workshop that my uncle had gifted me. It was like a three-day workshop at the fashion Institute of technology here in New York.

Which is funny that I started in New York with photography and, and here I am. But that first day I was like, oh my God, this is it. Like, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Yeah, it was well, maybe by the end of the day, I think at first there was a lot of intimidation. I'm a super visual person, so trying to understand the settings, my shutter speed, my aperture, my ISO and also having an intimidation by numbers.

You know, it was just like, Ooh, like, am I even capable of this? And at the end of the day, when I saw the images that I was taking, which. You know, we're good, not great, but they were good. It was like, wow, this is incredible. Like, I had always wanted to be an artist as a kid. And unfortunately like my ability to draw or paint or be crafty is just pretty poor.

And so here it was like, oh my gosh, not only am I good at this? But now I'm an artist. And I think two days into that workshop, it was a three-day workshop. I was like, okay, I'm a photographer now. And it was just like this title that I had taken on. And again, it sounds silly, but like all of a sudden it was like, okay, Here's my purpose in life.

And I just poured every part of myself into it. And I think truly that's what helped get over depression to see that, okay, I should be setting goals. There's this whole world out there and all these opportunities and cool people to meet and life just got better. 

Alastair Jolly: You know, having, having lost a parent even younger than you did I know who it can change your life, does change your life overnight. And you know, you can go in a few different directions and when you find an outlet that can help you come out of that, especially creative one. It's incredible how often a creative outlet is the solution to a lot of people's darkest hours that it's, you know, huge kudos to your uncle for giving you that little gift that changed your entire life.

Emily Teague: I'm thanking him for the rest of my life. I mean, he's someone that I admire so much already, but constantly I'm like, do you understand how grateful I am? You know, it was the best gift I've ever received. 

Alastair Jolly: That's pretty special and then that inspired you to travel at that point? Is that when the travel came because you then thought, well, I could go take photographs while I'm traveling or did it, was it just a, like a change in mindset and a bit of confidence that made you travel?

Emily Teague: So it actually goes back to my uncle again, truly like one of the most he's so great. Yeah. And definitely like a father figure to me too. I just admire him so much. It was my senior year of high school and I had no, idea what to do. So the change was okay now I have photography. I'm motivated. I started doing better in school.

Like I really, the difference between like before 15 to after 16, it was like night and day. I was a different person. And so, I was motivated. I was doing good in school, but I still had no idea what I wanted to do after I graduated. And I was getting really different opinions. There was a lot of pressure in my family.

Like, okay, you have to go to college. For me I was like, what am I going to do there? Like, am I going to go to college for photography? Is that the right path? What am I going to major in? I just really didn't have a lot of direction there. And then my mom was super helpful and was like, just do whatever you want to do if you don't want to go to college don't and if you do do, and I was like, Oh, I don't know what to do.

You know, it was just like a lot of stress put on a 17-year-old. And so, my uncle came back to me and I think saw that I was so lost and not knowing what to do and tried to point me in the right direction. And so, his suggestion was a program in Ecuador where you work full-time for a nonprofit. And it, I think it was like for six months to a year.

And so that was the first time that I ever considered traveling. And I was like, wow, that sounds incredible. And I got really excited about it. And then I looked into the program and I think it costs like $28,000. Which is insane, you know? And one of the reasons why I was also skeptical about college of course, is because of the cost.

I didn't know how on earth I was going to afford it. Because in the US it's very expensive, unfortunately, to go to, to college. There was that idea of like, okay, now I know I want to travel. I think going to Ecuador would be really cool, but do I want to pay $28,000 to work full time? Like it, it just didn't make any sense.

And I knew that that wasn't a possibility, but with the idea of like, okay, I want to travel, what do I want to do while I'm traveling? It's like, of course I want to take photos. Like actually what I want to do is I want to travel and just do photo shoots everywhere I go. And so that kind of led to okay.

Where in the world do I want to go? And I somehow chose Barcelona, Spain, I think off a few recommendations. And just like, it was the first place where I'm like, yeah, that sounds great. And so, I went there and I started this three month journey by myself, just setting up photo shoots in every city that I went to.

I think I probably went to six cities around Europe. That first time the bug was just set off, you know, it's like, okay, now I'm a traveler. You know, also with photography, just very instant, like this is what I want to do now. I love it. And it also gave me purpose. And so once I got back to Chico from that three month trip, it was like, where am I going next?

Like the whole world just became this accessible playground, which I hadn't seen before. And so I started working multiple jobs. I worked as a retoucher. I worked as a cashier at a co-op. I worked of course, as a photographer, just like taking on any work I could and saving up all my money. And then I would go travel for a couple months at a time.

Spend all my money be broke when I got home. And then start the process over again. For years.

Alastair Jolly: It's funny when, when most of us are teenagers and thinking of traveling for the first time, Ecuador's not normally the first place we think of.

Here in Scotland. You know, let's go explore Europe by a rail is typically the kind of rite of passage. And so, it's interesting that you ended up in Europe as well, especially places like Barcelona. 

Ecuador it's not normally on that list. Have you ever made it to Ecuador? 

Emily Teague: I haven't yet, but it's on my list for sure. It's pretty high up there.

I feel like it's almost like a rite of passage that I need to complete this trip there.

Alastair Jolly: What's your uncle's first name?

Emily Teague: Peter 

Alastair Jolly: Shout out to uncle Peter. You have become an incredible photographer. So, thanks uncle Pete. We appreciate it. You've. You've done some traveling. You're still in Chico at that point and you're starting to get clients locally, but are those clients really just funding the opportunity to travel? 

Emily Teague: Totally. I mean, I had no concept of saving money. I did have a concept of investing money back into photography. So, it was a mix of saving travel, but then also saving up for lenses which were very important. And, you know, fortunately I did that.

I'm very grateful now that I still have those lenses and use them constantly. But yeah, it was just for years getting rid of all my money, either on lenses or travel. And it wasn't until probably New York that I was like, okay, this is home. Now it's time to actually start saving money. And, and of course travel is still so important.

And I, if I could, I'd be gone every single month. Right. But rent in New York is very different than rent in Chico, you know, I was paying like $300 in Chico. That is not my rent now. So, it's, it's different. And also, with the pandemic, of course, I haven't been able to travel from that, but once things do go back to normal, of course, there's so many places in the world I want to go. 

Alastair Jolly: And you now you don’t just travel for pleasure. You, you travel with a focus to do humanitarian work, which I'm so in awe of. And I've said this publicly before the humanitarian you work, that you do is phenomenal. The fact that you've been doing it for so long, it's such a young age. It's just so commendable and. You know, as a teenager or a young 20 or something now would never have crossed my mind to go do some of the things you've done.

So, it really is such an inspiration and leaves us in awe. Tell us who you started to get into this humanitarian side of the photography that you do. 

Emily Teague: Sure I was 18 when the story starts. I was 18 and I, there was, there was a program at my high school where you could pay $35. And for $35, you could take two classes at our local university, which was.

An amazing deal. And so even though I ended up not going to college, I still feel like I got a bit of that college experience through my junior and senior year. So, I'm taking a total of eight classes which was great, you know, just to get a little bit of that experience. And one of the classes that I took was working for our university's newspaper, the Orion.

I worked as a photojournalist for them. And so, it was incredible to get all these different assignments going around, either shooting editorials or shooting sports. Stuff that I would never consider before just trying a bunch of different stuff. And one of the series that we had done was on homelessness.

And so, I went throughout Chico and I interviewed tons and tons of people. And also, you know, at the end of the interview, it would ask if I could take their photo. And some people would say yes, and some people would say no, but it was a really life-changing experience. Just hearing from, I think before, as a teenager, there's like, at least for me, there's almost like an aversion to homelessness, like, okay, yes that's something that's all over town kind of putting on your blinders. Right. And sitting down and talking with people. I mean, it sounds so silly now, but it's like this realization of like, Oh my gosh, like you're, you're a person. Right. And you have had this entire life of X amount of years and you've had all these experiences and of course you deserve the same respect and rights that any other person deserves.

And so, I got really passionate about trying to look at issues, I guess, looking at issues that I was passionate about. And so, I wrote down all of those issues. And I thought, okay, I I'm passionate about trying to stand up for women's rights or children's rights to end trafficking looking at child marriage, just like writing down everything I possibly could.

Right. And from there I thought, okay, I have this long list. Why don't I circle the ones that I'm really interested in? I think I got down to four from that. I forget exactly how I stumbled upon this, but I was like, okay, let's do research on all four of these subjects. And through that, I learned about trafficking that's happening in the Ivory Coast and Ghana for major companies like Hershey's, Mars, Nestle, like chocolate companies and them using like child labor, which, which is just horrible at it it's been going on for years. And these companies keep responding and saying like, okay, we know this is wrong in 2008, we're going to stop this. And then 2008 passes and they're like, okay, we've met 2014 and then 2016. So, it's just, it's been pushed on. So many years, and I was shocked, and I had no idea about this.

And I was like, wow, this is what I want to focus on. How do I get involved in this? And so after I had chosen that issue, I started looking up non-profits it focused on that. And I found one called Free the Slaves they're based out of DC, but they have offices all throughout the world. And I was like, okay, I want to pitch these guys and say, Hey, I want and work for you.

Like, how do I do this? You know? And by that point I had a bit of a photojournalism portfolio, just working through the Orion and then doing some traveling. It was quite a while before I did reach out to them. I think I was 19 at the time. And by this point I had gone to Israel. I had gone to Palestine, to Vietnam and had some, some good street photography work that I could kind of show them and be like, this is what I'm capable of doing drafted up a letter, a pitch letter with a lot of different photographer friends of mine looked over and gave me advice on. And finally, when I did reach out, they're like, Hey, we, we love your work. We would love to work with you. However, we aren't focusing on, on this topic right now. We're not focusing on the industry, but what we are focusing on is child trafficking and fishing villages in Northern Ghana, which is, you know, unfortunately very common.

And they're like, do you have any interest in that? And like my god of course. And so I, I just kind of dove into learning everything I possibly could about human trafficking and it was such a rabbit hole, like, and also really eye opening, because so much of this, I didn't know about before, you know, I had heard stories, but I didn't, I didn't know numbers.

I didn't know how common this is that it happens everywhere in the world. You know, there's, there's not one country that trafficking does not happen in. And so I went on that first trip, I think when I was. 20. 20 or 21. It was incredible. And it just kind of got me really hooked on this idea. Like, this is what is important.

This is what I want to work on. And of course, I love fashion work and I love editorial work and I will never stop doing those, but this is, this is so much more important, right. And this is something that actually gives back and so that was kind of the start. And from there, I started reaching out to more nonprofits, funny enough to bring SmugMug into this.

A couple years ago, you and I had a meeting in New York at PPE. And when I say meeting, there was two friends hanging out and I told you that my next project was going to India to focus on sex trafficking. And that I was looking at different NGO's currently to work with. And I just told you all about it at the end of the meeting you were like, how can SmugMug help?

And I was like, Oh my God, really? And it was, it was such a gift that SmugMug wanted to be involved and sponsored this trip to India, to focus on sex trafficking, which I think, you know, not, not to say too many great things about SmugMug, but it's really incredible and brave for a company to get involved with that.

You know, I think for a lot of companies, that's something that they're like, wow, we know this is important, but like, we don't want to touch that that's too serious. Right. So, I'm very, very grateful for that. And so, yeah, in 2018 end of 2019 18, beginning of 2019. I went to, I think, five cities throughout India, working with various nonprofits, focusing on sex trafficking, work, doing interviews taking photos, which was a different challenge than Ghana based on India's laws, which, you know, you can't document photos of children and show their faces of sex trafficking victims, which is a great law. You know, I totally understand that, but for this, this portrait series, it, it brought up new challenges. And so I had to be a little crafty with how to make these really powerful portraits that would make people interested and engaged and want to get involved or donate money to these organizations, but also protect the identities of these people that I was interviewing.

Alastair Jolly: Yeah, it was an incredible photo essay that you produced after that trip and powerful. And the fact that you even had to deal with the fact that you couldn't show the feces that you were photographing and just made it even more powerful, the way that you got very creative and capturing the story of these children/adults  as some of them are now, but it just, it was a no brainer for us to get involved. It's the kind of stuff that I wish we could be involved in more often, but when we were talking and you would explain and the work that you were going to do, I just couldn't believe how passionate you were about to how genuinely you wanted to be involved with it, the opportunity there to support you it was a very, very simple decision to make and I'm so glad that it worked out and fact we were actually hoping to do another one. 

Emily Teague: It was supposed to happen back in the springtime. Yeah. So, the next project, again, there was really grateful that you guys were willing to sponsor was working with Free the Slaves in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Focusing on labor trafficking this time and everything was good to go. And, and then the pandemic hit. So, I'm still so hopeful that that project can work out and very curious and when it will, but yeah, I'm just really grateful to be able to do work. That is so incredibly important. I want to dive more into as well.

Alastair Jolly: Hopefully we get the opportunity to work together on that one. I know there was some issues early on about getting to Haiti as well, from a safety perspective. And then the pandemic put a stop to all of it anyway, but hopefully work together to support that trip in the near future, if we can. And you know, I'm just so grateful there's people like you that are willing to stand up and do this, tell these stories and capture them in such a beautiful but powerful way. And the photographs you've taken on your humanitarian work are absolutely incredible. And I hope everybody, after this, listening to this episode goes, has a look at that side of your portfolio. I guess two sides of a portfolio that you're very passionate about, but, you know, create a juxtaposition between fashion, editorial, and humanitarian work.

Emily Teague: Totally. And I think the way that I look at it is the fashion and editorial work is where I get to be creative. And that's, I mean, in a way selfish, like in the same way that all art can be selfish, right? Like it's incredibly important of course, but it's because artists have this need. To create that.

Right. And so, it's super fulfilling in that way, where I get to experiment with color and lighting and concepts, but then the humanitarian work, of course, like that is where my heart is. And that is what I know is important. I never want to stop doing either of them.

Alastair Jolly:  I guess, in a way it's great that you have the ability to satisfy both those needs that you have as a creative. There are many of us that the only way I could satisfy that need was to, to help fund and support the work that you did. And there's just so many things to talk about with Emily, been all over the world now. And I guess what you're going to do when you grow up.

Emily Teague: Yeah, I know. I keep wondering that too.

Alastair Jolly: Where do you think you will be in the next 10 years? 

Emily Teague: I, in five years, I know, know with, with quotation marks that I'll be in New York. That's the plan and 10 years, I imagine that I'll be in New York too. And I think the only other location that I might be would be Los Angeles, but currently I'm just so in love with it here.

And really, you know, it takes so long to, to build a reputation here, to build a client base here. And it's also LA and New York have different styles of fashion work too. And I think as far as. As the kind that I'm interested in, which feels a little more conceptual, a little more creative. That's definitely New York where LA is much more lifestyle, commercial, sunshine, girls on the beach, which is cool too.

But I, I liked the little bit of weird element that New York brings. So, I guess. Being here. I mean, there's dreams of, I would love to have a staff supporting me. So, having a retoucher that I work with for every shoot, having a studio manager, having someone who we were talking about outsourcing before, I guess in 10 years, I hope I've been able to outsource all this stuff I don't want it to do. 

Alastair Jolly: Would you like to have a large physical studio? 

Emily Teague: I would have absolutely love that. You know, I love shooting in my apartment now and for where I'm at in my life at 25 it's a dream it's so beyond anything I could ask for, but yeah, in 10 years, I hope I don't have to shoot out of my apartment anymore.

That would be a goal for sure.

Alastair Jolly:  I guess it's something else you can outsource. There are so many spaces available either as ready-made studios are just incredible places that you can turn into a studio very quickly. 

Emily Teague: Yeah. I would be hopeful that I could have a space dedicated to me. So even if I'm sharing it with other photographers, I know, like I belong here.

I have all my equipment here. I don't need to haul in all my lighting equipment every time I shoot. That'd be great. Yeah. 

Alastair Jolly: And you have a lot of lighting equipment. Because as well as being a brand ambassador for SmugMug, you're also a brand ambassador for Elinchrom. Right? 

Emily Teague: Two of my favorite companies sever.

Yeah. And so that happened also when I moved to New York, I became friends with the brand manager of Elinchrom US, which is Jeff Lazell, who is now one of my best friends. And he was looking at the work that I was doing. It was like, wow, let's work together. And I was like, really? For sure. It was really exciting.

So, I've been working with them for a year and a half now. And I'm just in love with the brand and everything they're doing and the direction they're going in. Yeah. I, I've got a lot of love for them. Not only that, but of course for their lighting. Right. 

Alastair Jolly: It's a big part. Well, it's a big part of your day to day is, you know, lighting almost, I would say almost every image you do you've lit in some way.


Emily Teague: Definitely. And it's funny because for the first maybe six or seven years of my photography career. I was very intimidated by studio lighting and I only shot natural and the idea of ever being comfortable shooting with studio would've been a dream. And so, I knew that that was an insecurity for me.

And because of that, I got so obsessed with, with mastering it which I you know, it's still a goal today, right. But fortunately, one of the goals that's been met is I do feel very comfortable with studio lighting and definitely prefer it. So even though whether I'm in studio or on location, I always love adding that bit of an artificial lighting.

I think it just. Yes, that's such a beautiful thing. 

Alastair Jolly: That's a journey we all go on as well. Most people go on as a photographer is, you know, being intimidated by flash on camera. So, I'm so I'm so intimidated I'm just going to use natural light. And then the next step is taking that light off of the camera, having an off-camera flash.

But then. Really stepping up into the type of work that you do with modifiers and multiple lighting sources. It's something that we all strive to, to master and probably will be a continued journey as we try to master all those tools. But you do some incredible lighting with. You know, some very simple setups and for some very complicated set ups that you have.

Emily Teague: I think one of the really fun things is there was so much intimidation. And now, even though I'm, I'm constantly learning, and it will always be learning. I see it much more as, as play, you know, because I, I think once you can start visualizing light and understanding the properties of it, it just becomes so much easier to not, to not be intimidated by it.

Right. So, if I'm trying a new lighting setup, I'm imagining. Everything in laser light lines, because light travels in straight lines. And so, I imagine light is going to travel until it hits something or it runs out. Right. So, if I'm doing something more complex than a one light setup where it's just one light fitting my model, I can think, okay, do I want this light to be soft?

Or do I want it to be more diffused? And that's when I can say, okay, I'm going to have my light hit this white V flat that white V side is going to reflect on time model, or it can get even, even more complex, right? Like it never stops. And it's just so fun to experiment and try different modifiers and see what kind of light that creates or what can I bounce this off of?

Do I want to feather it? It's just fun.

Alastair Jolly: So, do you have any advice for someone that's maybe starting on that journey of experimenting with flash, they maybe feel a little bit intimidated. What would be Emily's number one piece of advice for someone starting on the journey of artificial lighting? 

Emily Teague: Honestly, the number one thing I can say that I think is true for every photographer in that journey is you just need to practice and experiment and really analyze your images and say, do I like this lighting?

Yes or no. If I don't like it. What do I like? And then collect images from photographers where you're like, okay, this is beautiful light. And then either by yourself, or hopefully with the help of another photographer, say, this is the lighting that I like, how are they achieving this? Right. For me, I'm super drawn to really soft, dramatic lighting.

Right. But when I started out, I was using just a small little off-camera flash. That's very small. It has no modifier on it. And so that's a very hard lighting. Right. And so, I remember shooting with that flash and just seeing like how it looks so intense. And, and I didn't under, I didn't have the concept of how to create soft light at the time when I was a teenager.

And so, I just continued practicing or trying to use a gel where she can, as a teenager was a horrible mistake. Those images. I now hide you know, they're, they're fun to look at now. But really just practicing and always trying to get better and realizing that. Light if it's the same as the sun, right. I think that's a helpful way to look at it.

And again, the idea that light travels in straight lines, and really try to visualize that. I think so many photographers are of course, super visual people, right? Every time I do a set up, I'm still imagining that light traveling in straight lines until it's hitting something or it's bouncing off of something.

If it's a black V flat that black few flat is going to soak up that light. I think once you understand those, those few fundamentals, it becomes easier. 

Alastair Jolly: Emily's twenty tips for one tip. I appreciate it.

So, there was a lot in that one tip, thank you so much, really beneficial to someone. It, it's incredible what we're able to do now a days with lights and seeing you you've worked with them is, is quite incredible. So, you're an experiment play. See what you can do 

Emily Teague: That goes for every part of photography, right?

Whether it's. Starting out in photography, whether it's trying to put together teams for photography production, it's just practice, which I know for some people is not a very fun answer, but what is true, you know, I'm practicing and always just deciding what is it that I like or don't like, and if I don't like something, how do I reach the next point where I do like it. 

Alastair Jolly: Yeah. You mentioned there about collecting images, you're a big user. You create a little mood board, right? 

Emily Teague: Yeah. Mood boards are so important to me. And it's funny because when I first learned about Pinterest again, probably when I was a teenager, I'm like 19. Maybe that's a rough age, I guess, 18.

When I started using it around there, I thought that Pinterest was for like soccer moms. No offense to my soccer moms out there, but I, I just didn't understand the point of it. And then once I started looking on Pinterest more and slowly getting into it, it was like, oh my gosh, this is incredible. Like the amount of inspiration that's on there and creating a mood board is something so important, right? Because not only does it, it helps you understand your concept and what you're going for, but it's so important for your team as well. So, every mood board it's conveying to my model, Hey, this is the expression or the mood. I want you to portray. It's giving my makeup artist examples of what kind of makeup I'm looking for.

It's helping my stylists. It's just one of the most important things that I would recommend for photographers is creating really good mood boards. And I think that's another, again, going back to practice, unfortunately, it's another thing where when you start doing it, your image is probably aren't going to feel very cohesive, right?

Which it might help you understand what you're looking for. But if you're giving out a board that's not cohesive to your team, it's really not going to be helpful for them. And it makes them have to do a lot more guessing of what you're trying to accomplish over time looking for are my colors cohesive or my outfits cohesive.

So my stylist understands what she can pull all of that. It's just really important. Yeah. I can't recommend Pinterest enough. 

Alastair Jolly: There's some really good advice there. Maybe some other advice. How easy is it to pull together a team? You've mentioned team, a few times in this conversation. How easy is that as it's something that's simple or is that something you need to practice as well?

Emily Teague: It's definitely, it requires practice and it more than anything, it requires you having a good portfolio. So. Practice practice, practice. For me when I started, I was. 16 or 17. When I first was getting into setting up photo shoots. And of course, at first it was just me and a single model. But I already had this love and interest for dramatic fashion work.

Right. Even as a teenager, just starting out that really, it was something influential for me. And so, I was like, okay. I, I, how do I get to that? Right. And so, I was like, I'm going to need a makeup artist, which at the time was like, wow. If I had a makeup artist on the shoot, it would be so professional. It was just this really exciting thing.

And so, I fortunately, again, coming from a small town, I knew a couple different photographers who I could ask them for advice and be like, do you have any makeup artists would be willing to work together? The other thing that was really helpful for me for setting up teams was a site called model mayhem.

Which when I was a teenager was a very popular, and that was kind of like the go-to for, for finding anyone. Right. And I know it's like fallen out of grace since then. And I think the quality is, is a little bit different 10 years ago to now, but you can still use it, but that's not to say you shouldn't use it, especially if you're starting out, it's still such a valuable tool.

Going on there and finding models in your area, finding makeup artists in your area, you can even put out casting calls and say, Hey, this is the shoot. I'm doing it. I'm doing it's on this date. It's at this time, this is the mood board for it. And just seeing which creatives want to work with you. It was so incredibly helpful.

And from there I was doing that in Chico. Chico had a very small community. Right? So, there were only X amount of makeup artists, or X amount of models there. I don't think there were any stylists in Chico. And she goes, so for someone who wanted to do fashion work it was really hard, but my brother, my older brother had moved to Los Angeles at this point to pursue his Master's in Philosophy.

He's a smart one. And so, I would go down and visit him and stay with him. And now that I was in LA, it was like, oh my gosh, I have access to this entire world. Right. And so all of a sudden I started looking at how do I work with fashion designers or stylists, which at the time, I didn't even know the difference between a stylist and a designer.

I thought, okay, I know that fashion comes from both of them. So yeah. Work with either of them, you know. But the more you will work with, with valuable people, the easier it's going to become to get others drawn to you, right? Model mayhem is a great way. You can use social media and look on in different communities to find makeup artists or, or stylist or models.

I think once you have a portfolio that's strong enough, you can start reaching out to agencies. Something that I do for every shoot now is I reach out to modeling agencies in New York. And again, with anything it's practice, it's learning how to communicate with those agencies. It's starting out with a smaller boutique agency and then working your way up because.

Those larger agencies are going to want to see real models in your portfolio. Right? You can have great lighting. You can have beautiful photos, but if you don't have real models, that's going to be a turn off to them again, practice just because the more you do it, the more you get those valuable people, the more will come.

Alastair Jolly: And a lot of practicing, but when it all comes together, it's so much fun and it is like a lot of play time. Community also comes into you. So, you spoke there about, you know, finding that team, but just having that network and community in all aspects of your creative outlet is so, so important. It's something you and I work on very hard is our community.

We're so blessed to have such a strong and vibrant community around the photography industry that we're both involved in. And I know it's. So important to me. And I know for you, that's the same. 

Emily Teague: It's everything. Yeah. I mean, for, for one, for the business side, but then also for the emotional side, you know, more than anything for the emotional side, I know that I can go to so many different cities in the world that I've never been to.

And I probably have some photographers there that know another photographer. And so I think in the photography world, we're really blessed that like, there is. This instant friendship based on photography. Right? And so there's so many people I have in my social media accounts, and maybe we have 15 mutual friends, but we don't know each other, but because we have all these mutual friends, we add each other and then we start following each other and maybe it'll be years before we meet.

Maybe we never meet, but it, it just. It really builds on top of each other. And then I think for conferences, that's a really magical time when you finally do get to meet so many of these people. And I know for us, that's been a huge part of building community is getting to see each other in person. 

Alastair Jolly: Yeah. A huge part of building our community, but a huge part of our friendship as well. And so many great friends around the world. Never used to be like. But it wasn't always like that in this industry. It wasn't always instant friendship, photography, and still is in many ways. It's a fairly insular industry. I mean, you know, it's something maybe, maybe, you know, on the fashion side of things, you're maybe involved with more collaboration with other members of the team, but a lot of photography is very insular and pretty siloed.

So, you know, having that ability to have these touch bases, you know, at conferences or events or, you know, online it's, it's so important. So helpful from, for people's mental States, especially this year of 2020 has been more important than ever for people's mental health to have that community around them, to support them.

And I feel very blessed every day to have such incredible friends like yourself and my community. 

Emily Teague: It's funny that we have a very international community that from all over the world, right. But in my own hometown, which is smaller, I think probably because of the size, there's so much competition between photographers there.

So just what you're talking about of like, it hasn't always been this way. You're right. And it's also in different communities still. Not that way. Right. I think we we've been so fortunate to really find our people. And then as more photographers come in that they kind of fit into that, like the personality of being kind of, of not putting competition first.

Like those are our people right. 

Alastair Jolly: I try to end these podcasts with a deep question. And I just wonder, what does Emily want to see in the future for the photo industry? You know, we, we love this industry so much. We have such a great community, but what are the changes we hope to see happening in the photo industry? 

Emily Teague: Yeah, I think one just for women. Right? So, you know, I know we've, we've come so far in 10 years, even in five years. But there's also so much that needs to change. And I think, especially looking at the commercial and fashion industry, the majority of photographers. That I find are men, which of course that needs to change. Right. And also, just the way that that women are treated on set.

I mean, in some of the bigger sets that I've been an assistant on, the way I've been treated is insane. And so disappointing. And I think depending on what side of the industry you're on, what kind of photographer you are, that's going to be a little bit different. I'm not a wedding photographer. So, I would imagine that maybe in weddings, That's not as much of an issue and you've shot weddings.

So, I'm curious from your perspective 

Alastair Jolly: My previous career before working at SmugMug was weddings. And, you know, I'm old enough that when I photograph weddings, it was almost entirely male dominant industry at that point, which seems so bizarre. When you think about it, you know, when you think about what's involved in a wedding, especially traditional wedding it's, you know, the lady's biggest day, it's all about the dress and the flowers and all the details and the shoes and the emotions. And when you think about it, you know, men are not the natural people you would go to, to be part of that process. But for some reason, photography was a male dominant industry. And, you know, fortunately for me, I love all that stuff. You know, I love when a client had a pair of Jimmy Choo's and some, you know, incredible jewelry or whatever, you know a romantic in that way. So, but I couldn't, I could never understand why it was such a male dominant industry and I'm delighted that it has changed so much.

Emily Teague: Definitely just hoping that that continues to change it. I know it will, right. We're going in the right direction, but there's still a lot of work that needs to be done. 

Alastair Jolly: It's still very early days. And you know, I hear a lot of people saying, Oh, it's so much different. It is so much different because it was so bad.

Yeah. It feels like it's changed a lot because it was so, you know, so bad, but we cannot be complacent. We have to continue to drive for, you know, inclusion and equality in all aspects of our creative fields and all industries. And yeah, no, it was not the team to feel like we have made change, you know, it's.

Just to start. I know you feel very passionately with that too. 

Emily Teague: Definitely. Getting, getting more diversity of every kind in there, you know, whether it is race, LGBT, whatever it is, you know, having more representation is so important. 

Alastair Jolly: Absolutely. You can't really expand on that statement anymore because it's just the reality of it is important and it's needed. And I know you and I work hard to try and make that happen with the community that we are involved in. You know, it's, it's moving in the direction that we wanted to go. So, thank you for those comments. I will let you get back to unpackage and all your wonderful cameras and lenses that have just arrived back from the service shop.

Emily Teague: It's been weird to be a photographer without any lenses or a camera. I keep wondering, like, if something really important happens that I want to go document, how do I do that? I guess I would have to steal my roommate's camera. 

Alastair Jolly: You've got a phone. I've always got a camera. It doesn't matter. As long as we have one.

Emily Teague: Especially for documentary work. That's a really good point. Pretty incredible. What we've been able to capture with phones, 

Alastair Jolly: Especially this year. I mean, I know in the Flickr side, we've just analyzed that we do a year in review of all the images uploaded to Flickr. And of course, by far Apple iPhones are the dominant camera of choice that know people are using and uploading those images and especially around protests and the Black Lives Matter movement and that fairly turbulent year we've had politically around the world. You know, the mobile device camera has become such a powerful, powerful tool now. And it's, it's incredible that we have them in our pockets constantly. And the best camera you have is the one you have with you. 

So, Emily, thank you so much for doing this really, really appreciate it.

Emily Teague: Alastair. Thank you. I feel, I feel very lucky to be on here and just to be so involved with SmugMug.

Alastair Jolly: Well, I think it is us that we are so honored to have you as a brand ambassador for SmugMug. It really is an honor from, from the moment we, we got connected and start to, you know, our conversations, it was just, just a joy to see, you know, the journeys you've been on, the stories you've captured, the stories you tell, but more importantly, and delighted to call you a friend.

So thank you so much for finding the thing to do this. Emily, stay safe. 

Thank you, everyone for listening and catch up soon.

Emily Teague: Goodbye

Thank you.

I am so sorry. I just, well, I, I realized that I needed to sign for my camera and every single lenses that I have because they went out for repair. 

Alastair Jolly: That's kind of important. I'm glad you answered the door and just let it be for all your camera gear.

We'll leave that in that's kind of important information. Like if someone comes delivering your camera, you let them.