The 10,000 Club: Emma Case

Sometimes you’re not sure how things happen — at least that’s the way wedding photographer Emma Case sees it. In this monthly feature dedicated to mobile photography platforms we profile image producers with 10,000+ followers. We ask some of those questions which can’t be replied to with ‘likes’ or emoticons. We look at where they stand on mobile-based photography, what their ambitions are and if social mobile image-making is the future of photography.

Birmingham-based photographer Emma Case has procured a cosmic audience on Pinterest with over 450K followers. She’s not quite sure how it happened. But one thing is for sure, she isn’t fazed or inveigled to increase numbers or develop a ‘celebrity status’. Pinterest is an especially popular platform among brides-to-be, and wedding photographers often find work through social imaging and media platforms. So, why is Emma so reticent about treating Pinterest as an entrepreneurial venture?

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Emma says: “Through my personal blog, which I used to write on quite regularly, I started to get emails about working with certain companies and they would offer you something for free if you blogged about it. The same with Pinterest is starting to happen now. It just feels slightly uncomfortable for me.”

In our last 10,000 club we considered Pinterest to be the happiest social media platform. In this article we dig a little deeper to focus on the challenges that Pinterest and its users face, and why at the end of the day we shouldn’t forgo our creative impetus for the sake of maintaining follower upkeep.

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How did you get started on Pinterest?
I think it was just going around and a few people had gone on it, so I thought I would have a look. Actually, for weddings I thought it could be quite a good platform to put your own work on. I think it was just a case of Instagram started and everybody got on that, and then Pinterest started and everybody got on that too.

Are you primarily a wedding photographer?
Yes. My husband and I do it together. We’ve been doing it for seven or eight years now, and we shoot about 35-40 weddings a year. But, we’ve come right down now because we’ve had a little boy this year. We travel around the country shooting weddings. Now, quite a lot of couples are having babies so we do quite a lot of family photography now as well.

When did you make the transition to Pinterest?
It’s got to be a good couple of years now. To be honest, I’m not that active necessarily on it – it’s probably the one bit of social media that I don’t use that much compared to Instagram.

You’ve procured a massive following on Pinterest, how did that develop?
You start posting the things you like and you see a trend on your pins. Pinterest got in touch and shared one of my boards on their main page. Through that I acquired quite a few followers. It has just grown rapidly from there. Weirdly, I don’t use it as much as the other ones. I have started a bit more of my own work on there, but to be honest I probably could do with a Pinterest workshop, because I’m probably not using it to my full potential. I saw a statistic the other day that said 50% of brides will have a Pinterest board, and I think a few photographers now are finding they are getting referrals and enquiries through people finding their images on Pinterest. It’s something that’s definitely worth pursuing. I’m quite bad on social media in general! I just do what I like and don’t calculate too much about it. It feels a bit more natural.

Have there been any pioneering people on any social media who have influenced or directed you?
I suppose in terms of people who I look at and admire it’s actually people that don’t care – who maybe switch things up a bit, and post for themselves or in an honest way. To be honest it’s never to do with followers. If you look at Pinterest or Instagram the more consistent you are the more followers you seem to attract. That doesn’t really appeal to me that much. I like the freedom of being able to post whatever I want whenever I want. If it doesn’t fit the trend of my pins or posts I want to not care, but I think the more followers you end up getting the more you’re kind of tied into that. You end up being a slave to what you produced before. You’re never going to want to change or experiment, because you might lose followers.

Is that a flaw that exists on all social media?
Yes, definitely. I think as soon as you have an audience and as soon as people start following your work it’s really hard not to perform for the crowd in a way. If you’re getting certain attention from certain things you’re going to want to post more of that. I think it’s something that can really dilute your work and dilute your voice. Especially with Instagram and Pinterest I see it – you like something and you want to pin it and you have to ask, ‘is that consistent with what I’ve been pinning?’

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How are you combating following the trends?
I suppose I try not to look at a lot of the stuff. Or, if I do I follow a broad selection of people, artists and genres. Sometimes I actually prefer it when nobody like it, actually they’re usually the images I prefer more. You have to regulate yourself to make sure you are being honest.

You also have an Instagram account as well, how is Pinterest different to platforms like Instagram?
Pinterest is less interactive with your audience – you don’t get commenting so much. Again, it’s more aesthetic. It’s more inspirational as well, because you can pin anything – I have an album design cover folder, which you can’t really do on Instagram. I have two Instagram accounts – I have a personal one and a professional one, which only happened recently. Instagram is much more about you as a real person I suppose. Pinterest is more about what you’re aspiring to i.e. pictures of your house and what you would like it to look like. I feel like Pinterest is a bookmark of what you like.

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Do you think you’ve developed a celebrity status on Pinterest? Or does it even exist to the same extent as Instagram?
I don’t know if it does with somebody else on Pinterest. Even though I have a lot of followers on Pinterest it doesn’t really feel like a big deal – I kind of don’t know what to do with them. I don’t know how to use it well. I suppose if someone had quite a lot of followers on Instagram it feels like there’s more potential to use that for your business. On Pinterest I just follow people I know.

Do you treat your Pinterest account as an enterprise?
No, not really. I’ve always had a bit of a weird uncomfortableness about this. Through my personal blog, which I used to write on quite regularly, I started to get emails about working with certain companies and they would offer you something for free if you blogged about it. The same with Pinterest is starting to happen now. It just feels slightly uncomfortable for me. I used to follow quite a few blogs for years, and then as soon as they started looking sponsored and promoting different products the content completely changed. It felt false. I’m just aware as soon as people start paying you or giving you free stuff you are going to have to post certain things. It takes away from the whole point of you doing it in the first place.

Does the quality of an image on Pinterest govern the number of followers you have? We found on Instagram it’s certainly not the case – you can have bad photographs and still have a massive following…
…In the groups that I follow or the people who I follow who are photographers and graphic designers and creatives, imagery is important and quality is important. The same with blogs really. I think blogs went down the same route – the imagery had to be of a high standard for you to be interested in it. Instagram is a whole different ball game, because some people post the most random and awful photos. It’s up to you whether you’re interested in that person or not.

What does somebody have to do to get hundreds of thousands of followers on Pinterest?
I don’t really like the idea of chasing them. Some people have tapped into a look or a trend or a topic, which has caught interest. Sometimes, like me on Pinterest, I think you just get lucky and the actual company picks it up and puts you on the front page for a bit. If you’re definitely trying to get something it sometimes doesn’t work out the way you want it. Sometimes if you’re just enjoying it then I think that can grow it more in an organic way.

How would you describe your own Pinterest and boards?
I would probably say it’s becoming a lot more simplistic – I think it’s mirroring my own life. What’s really interesting and what I really enjoy is looking back. My whole aesthetic as a person has evolved over the last couple of years. I was very cluttered before in my house and now I have taken it all away. I feel like my Pinterest has really mirrored that. I think it’s really good to have a Pinterest board, because it’s enjoyable to see how your head works and what you feel and to see the world in a mixture of images. Especially, as a photographer it’s putting all the pictures in your head in one place. It’s actually a really nice exercise to do – after I’ve been editing for six hours I just go on Pinterest for 15 minutes – it’s cathartic in a way.

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Should there be a shift in the way we’re looking at social imaging? 
Blogs seemed to have slowed down in terms of people commenting on each other’s blogs. I feel like the whole Snapchat Instant Stories is really shaping stuff up quite a bit, even though that’s not necessarily imagery – I do think it’s totally real life, unedited, and raw. We’re seeing people more behind-the-scenes more than we’ve ever seen. I think it’s shaping things up, and it probably will filter into imagery. Maybe, that’s a good thing because I think we’re all getting a little bit tired of the perfection. I think we’re heading in a really nice direction.

Content creation and content curation on Pinterest are very different, do you think content creators and photographers are given enough credit for their work?
This has been an issue from the beginning. Once an image is out there it gets picked up on Pinterest and runs away from you. To try to keep a credit on it can be really difficult. On Pinterest if I see something that I like i.e. a pair of trousers and you click on it to find out where they’re from, it’s usually such an old pin it goes nowhere. It’s not necessarily good for finding stuff now. It is purely inspiration, because half the time you’re never going to find those items.

Your website is incredible. Is your website and blog more important than Instagram and Pinterest?
Over the years there’s been a real shift. At the very beginning of our photography we didn’t even have a website, and I just had a blog. The blog was the most important thing and I blogged regularly, not because I wanted to keep the following, but it was something I was enjoying and it came from me rather than the audience. Then, I feel like I saturated myself a bit and just took a step back and didn’t blog. As I stopped blogging I kind of moved more towards Instagram and made a Facebook page for the business. Both those platforms are really good for quick, daily engagement. They don’t take too much brain power – it’s easy to post an image and a sentence. It gets quite a lot of engagement and people can comment really quickly. I use them the most.

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What are you ambitions with social imaging and photography in general?
I want my husband and I to continue shooting weddings as long as possible, just in terms of, I love to give our couples what we give. I love the idea that our work is going to last in their family for years. I take a lot of pride and importance in that side of things. I’d like to do a lot more social documentary. I’m working on a project currently – my Dad used to play for Liverpool Football Club. Usually any kind of project you do with the club is with the players, but I always thought the fans should be in the spotlight. We’ve started a project where we take photographs of Liverpool fans and do a mini interview with them. My aim is to get 100 by the end of next year.

And finally, is there anything you would like to add?
Now, with photography and social media in particular it’s such a fine line between enjoying it for what it is and using it in a healthy way. You really have to check with yourself what you can handle and what you can’t, and when it stops becoming enjoyable you need to make changes. It’s something you’re having to constantly work with, sometime even I have enough and have to come off it for a bit. At the same time, it’s given us so many amazing connections, and we’ve travelled the world. We’ve stayed with so many people we would never have stayed with without these platforms. It’s a blessing and a curse. I wouldn’t not do it.

Follow Emma on Pinterest and Instagram or visit her webiste here

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