As Emma Bauso tells it, she stumbled into photography accidentally. She'd taught herself graphic design and was doing invitations and stationary, mostly for people she knew. When she'd design Save the Date cards for couples getting married, they often needed a photo to include, and Emma offered to snap a few with her camera.
"Next thing I knew people wanted to actually hire me for photography," she says. Her first paid photo shoot was in 2015, her first wedding in 2017, and now freelance photography is her full-time focus.
We've been captivated by Emma's work ever since we came across it on Pexels. Her photos have a warm, natural quality that balances thoughtful edits with unposed compositions. We called Emma up at home in New York State to chat about her photography journey from weddings to birth photography and beyond, and how she sees photography as a tool for support and connection with other people.
Emma: Yeah, it’s so funny because the most popular photo I think of mine is one of my family. My sister took it for us — we needed a Christmas card photo. It was raining and freezing that day, and I’m like, “Alright kids, let’s just get this done,” and she just happened to snap that one and it was one of our favorites.
It's used a lot for articles about biracial families, child psychology websites. It was on a billboard locally once! I get so many messages all the time from people that are like, “Oh my god, I’m taking this course and your family was in this slideshow!"
It’s definitely been really cool to see — especially that photo since it is my family. Also just on Instagram having my business page tagged so much with all the photos that I’ve shared, seeing a lot of businesses that seem like they’re starting up that just don’t have imagery of their own. Especially in the wedding industry, they want real images and not just your typical sort of stock photo images, so I’m happy to help out with that.
Obviously this year with weddings was just so different, with the pandemic. It definitely gave me some time to reevaluate what I want to be doing. I’m booking for 2022 right now, and so I really have to plan my life out for the next two years. So I started really thinking about what I want to be doing: Do I really want to be focusing on weddings?
I think in 2022 I’m going to be doing probably one or two weddings a month. I really want to focus on shifting my business into something that can be empowering for women and moms.
In the winter I do a lot of boudoir photography and I want to shift a little more towards that. I’ve also done birth photography in the past and I sort of want to get back to that now that my kids are getting older and I can leave at 2 AM to be at somebody’s birth. We’ll see how that happens.
This year has helped me reevaluate my priorities in so many ways. Normally in the summers I’m shooting at least one wedding every weekend. With kids, you know, that’s the time that they’re home. Especially here, when we only have a couple months out of the year to really be outside and be active until it gets cold again.
And also just having more availability in my schedule to just think, oh, I feel inspired today, but I don’t have anything scheduled! And posting on Instagram: does anybody want to shoot tonight? Just a quick thing, thirty minutes. Just having the mental capacity to do things like that. Having the freedom to just play around and go sort of where I feel called to go to. I want to build more of that intentional space into my life so that I can just do what I want to do more, basically.
I’m not somebody who likes to be busy all the time. That crazy wedding schedule just weighs on me. By October and November I’m a totally different person than I want to be. So just trying to find more balance in my life and figure out how I can be more proactive to take care of my mental health, how I can be more proactively prioritizing my family. And also being better for the clients that I do take on. Because if I’m burnt out, by the time I get to those last couple of weddings, I know that I’m not my best.
Yeah, it really is. I’ve sort of come away from it just because you’re on call just the same way the doctor or the midwife would be. It was definitely really stressful. But just so rewarding to be there for people during the most important day of their life. Obviously the moment that your baby is born is just... There’s so much emotion there, and it just fills my heart. That’s so corny! But it’s so true.
There’s no better feeling than leaving after they’re all settled in, Baby’s good, Mom’s good, and I know that I’m all set to go. I get in the car and sometimes I just cry because it’s so much. And you just have to be there like a fly on the wall, observing, so you’re not able to really express much when you’re in there. But yeah, it is really intense and being on call is really hard.
So we’ll see how that works out. But I’m excited to go back into that. I think I’ve shot maybe five births, a couple were home births and a couple were in a hospital, and they were just a really great experience.
I’ve always said that I’m not married to the idea of doing this forever. I think that I can see myself sort of shifting now, going more towards other aspects of photography. I think that I will always do some kind of creative work; I love design, I still do a little bit of it for people that I know personally, and I do love photography in a lot of ways.
But I’m very open to just seeing where my general passion for being there for people on some of their best days takes me. I have a guiding principle of just wanting to be there for people and help them through what can be really difficult, crazy, high-pressure days. I think because that’s in the end what fulfills me: knowing at the end of the day that I helped make it better for them. I can really do so much with that; I’m open to wherever that takes me.
I want to be thinking of how I can make more passive income with the talents that I already have, and I think that stock photos can be a really good way for me to spend less time away from my family and more time making money and gaining recognition.
I’ve always struggled with being somebody who doesn't have a big huge vision for what the next five years is going to be like. Sometimes I felt self-conscious about that because I really only have seen what’s right in front of me. But I think it helps keep me more agile, because I’m not attached to some big, grand idea. I’m really just going wherever my heart takes me, I guess. I’m open to the possibilities.