After graduation, Emily Berger aspired to work in fashion in one of the largest cities in the world. She moved to New York and spent the next five years fulfilling that dream. About a year ago, she had an epiphany that changed her career forever—and she couldn’t be happier.
“There I was working in the fashion industry, and I fully realized that A) I missed Detroit and was ready to come back and B) the fashion industry was not for me anymore,” Berger explained. “So I took a big chance and decided to make the switch to photographing full time and work for myself.
“A year into it, it seems to be working! I have to pinch myself pretty frequently when I get some of the emails for work that I do. It's an achievement that I'm proud of, but I worked my butt off preparing myself and giving my all to make sure my career succeeded. I’m constantly researching trends and other photographers, restaurants and scenes in other cities. Staying current and knowing what's happening in the world of photography outside of where I live is super important. I'm a magazine junkie, and I swear I refresh my favorite photographer's websites daily to see what they've been up to.”
Berger now works as a freelance photographer in Detroit. She is a contributor to The American Guide, Midwestival and Let's Travel Somewhere. In 2013, she was selected by Photoboite as one of 30 Women Photographers Under 30. Her extensive list of clients includes Kinfolk, T; NY Times Style Magazine, Hour Detroit, Architectural Digest, Frankie Magazine- Australia, Shinola, American Spoon, Gold Cash Gold, Central Kitchen + Bar, Pewabic Pottery and Slows Bar BQ among others. Her stock photos are represented at Aurora Photos and Off Set.
“My main source of work is photographing for clients in an editorial style, whether that's for an actual editorial in a magazine or for a more specific client such as Gold Cash Gold,” she said.
“I create a story within the photos I shoot. I approach all of my jobs with the same mentality: how can I create a complete story in a group of photos?”
What Berger enjoys most about her career as a freelance photographer is the freedom she has to manage her time and pursue projects she’s interested in.
“I worked full-time desk-type jobs for many years in production and in fashion, so I definitely have come to realize that I'm much happier working for myself as well as having some variety and freedom,” said Berger. “One week I might have several shoots on location, the next week I may have all editing and marketing to do at home. Just when you're getting worn out with shooting constantly there's a break and you get to work on your website or email potential new clients. I have never once felt bored since freelancing full-time.
“In fact, I just wrapped up one of my favorite shoots with American Spoon! It was a two-day shoot up in the Petoskey/Harbor Springs area in a variety of locations. I photographed the founder making jam, some interiors at their stores and cafe, visiting the local farmers that they source their produce from and roaming around downtown Harbor Springs finding lifestyle type shots. I basically photographed a bunch of things I love to shoot and got paid for it. It was a dream assignment!”
In addition to her shoot for American Spoon, Berger has been working on a few other major projects. She was working with Pewabic Pottery to capture shots of residential interiors that have used their design services for their homes and on images for their holiday gift catalog. She also will be shooting soon with Shinola covering both their watch and leather factories.
“Going through a challenging art school definitely prepared me to work really hard wherever I went, or at whatever I was doing,” said Berger. “I also think that the experience makes you see things differently—everything becomes art, everything can be affected by creativity. Visual aesthetic affects everything I do, and I definitely think that that's an effect of being surrounded by creativity for four years.
“While I was preparing to enter this new aspect of my career, I made a conscious decision to work hard at maintaining my drive to create art. And that is what makes it rewarding, when you know you've done it for the love of art.”