Only six years ago, Emily Soto began photography as a hobby. Initially, she shot landscapes and portraits of her friends, some of whom were getting into modelling at the time. It wasn’t long, however, until she realized her true calling was in the fashion industry.
After doing a lot of commercial, lifestyle and celebrity work in California, Soto moved to New York to focus on fashion photography. She is now renowned for the soft, romantic aesthetic of her pictures.
In our latest cover story, FAJO caught up with Soto to talk about the evolution of her work.
JILL ADAMS: Can you describe the first photo series you captured?
EMILY SOTO: The first friend that I shot, and did more of a fashion [project] with, was Ashley in California. It was one of my first shoots, and the first time I had worked with lighting and a model, so it was very different than my style now. I was using a beauty dish, and had the model bring her own clothes, but it made me fall in love with the fashion side of photography.
I’ve noticed your work is very soft. Can you explain how your style has evolved this way?
My aesthetics are definitely more romantic, and I’m inspired by a lot of European photographers [and the textures and outdoor locations] of Paris. I like to shoot with film and Polaroid. And I like to have a Victorian feel in my photos.
When I started, it was always soft, but it’s changed a little bit since I’ve been to New York because I’ve shot more with film, and it’s given it a different twist. When I was in California, I would usually shoot outdoors with natural light and a more romantic feel, and now it’s a little more moody.
What led you to focus on fashion photography instead of other subjects?
I like the creativeness of it. I had done a couple of weddings before I started with fashion, and I just wasn’t as passionate about it. I really like fashion because I get to come up with concepts and work with models. Once I started shooting, I knew I wanted to figure out how to make it my full-time career.
Fashion photography is quite a competitive industry. What have you done to set your work apart?
I’ve really developed my style, so there is a common thread throughout my photos. I was on social media a lot, and people started seeing my work, which helped with exposure. Fashion TV also started to make some of my behind-the-scenes videos — I used to do lots of videos of my photo shoots — which helped me [as well].
I’ve read that you focus on capturing specific emotions. Can you tell me more about this?
I’m usually looking for a certain type of ‘softness’ from the model—I always want to have a romantic look and an innocence in their eyes. I spend a lot of time casting models.
[Emotion] sets the mood of the shoot and my photos, even if it’s just [having the model] look away or shut [his or her] eyes, or open them really wide.
I would love to hear more about your personal style. How do you dress when you’re working versus when you’re off duty?
Living in New York, I wear a lot of black. But I love shopping at Free People and the vintage stores as well. When I’m working, I mostly just wear black because it’s easy and it’s kind of the standard here. On the weekends, I like to wear more colour and dresses.
You also run photography workshops. How did you decide to add that aspect to your career?
In 2012, [a] company in Asia asked me to come out there and do a workshop, and I really enjoyed it. It was a good way to meet people and see different cultures, so that started it. And since then, it’s been a great way to travel as well.
Your husband is a photographer too. Is he ever involved with your work behind the scenes?
Yeah, he is actually the one who taught me photography. He has shot some weddings and did sports photography. Now, he works from home and is able to travel with me, and help with the workshops and other things. It’s a lot of team work, and it’s really fun.
What do you hope to cross off your fashion-photography bucket list?
I would love to shoot for more European clients and magazines like Vogue Italia. I really like Vera Wang bridal, and I like Dolce and Gabbana, and there are a lot of different brands that I would love to work with some day.
What upcoming projects can we expect from you?
I [recently] finished my first exhibition, and I’m planning a couple more in Paris and London. I also have a few different campaigns coming up this year. I [also recently] did a campaign for Boutique 1861 in Montréal. I used a new style with Polaroid, so I’m very excited about that shoot. And I have a couple of editorials coming out soon, too!