Street style photography tips from a Pro: Emily Malan
By Sarah Owen

Being a street style photographer ain’t easy, but it sure comes with a pack of interesting stories from the fashion industry.

Sep 11, 2016
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It’s that time of year again. The time when the fashion editors and bloggers alike sport some of the most snap-worthy outfits of the year. Yes, it’s New York Fashion Week. Sometimes the most interesting part of it all is documenting the people behind the scenes who get an intimate look at all the fashion-related happenings. We caught up with street style photographer, Emily Malan to hear a bit more about the day in the life of a professional snapper.

How did you get started in photography?

My mom creates fine art (sculpture, printmaking) and she was also a professional freelance graphic designer, so art was always at home when I was growing up. I picked up a camera when I was 12 but didn’t take it seriously until high school when applying to art schools. I used to tear out spreads in Vogue when I was a teenager, thinking how great it would be to be a photographer, but not realising how that process worked. Then I went to art school. I learned a lot of technical skills, the process of having your own business and what it takes to *be* a photographer and experimented with different genres of photography. I really enjoyed my time in a fashion photography class that I ended up taking it three times in a row. It just seemed like a natural progression, I never really questioned that I shouldn’t be doing this with my life.      

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Who are you shooting for this season?

I’m shooting for a few publications– W, Essence, Fashionista. I also am shooting some images for Barney’s and social media for a mall called South Coast Plaza (based in Orange County, California). 

Tell us some of your favourite models to shoot?

There’s so many models that it’s hard to keep track. I admittedly don’t really get caught up in knowing who’s who anymore. A lot of the times, I’m so unaware of who I’m shooting or even walking past me. I’m really just there to make fun and pretty pictures. As long as you look good I’ll shoot. I definitely have a soft spot for Lexi and Grace Hartzel because we’ve worked together in the past. I do love Lineisy a lot; I think she has a great look. Fernanda with her cotton candy pink hair! And of course Marjan, JiHye Park, Damaris.

What do you shoot with?

Canon 5D Mark 2 and 3. I like using a 50mm and a 24-70 when I shoot street style. The 50mm is usually my work horse for everything. 

What is the story behind your first camera?

My first camera was a point and shoot Ricoh that was my mom’s. I still have it and shoot with it often. The battery for it is so obscure that only B&H sells it. 

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What shows are the best to shoot outside of during NYFW?

I really love shooting outside of… Tommy Hilfiger, Phillip Lim, DVF, Tibi, DKNY and Public School! 

What stands out to you in terms of someone’s personal style?

I love how I can feel someone’s confidence when they walk past you. I like pops of colour and statement pieces. It’s funny, as much as I love colour and shooting it at fashion week, when it comes to my own personal style, I wear colour in only two seasons (spring and summer). Every other time I wear mostly black, white, gray and denim. 

Out of all the photos you take, how do you decide which ones to post on Instagram?

Most of my Instagram is about my traveling and my day to day. I sprinkle in a little bit of my work here and there. I noticed my followers don’t really care about the work I make, more about the lifestyle I lead. I travel a lot so I create hashtags for every city/country I’m in (#emilyonthewestcoast #emilyontheeastcoast, for example).  I think it’s nice to have some personality to your feed that isn’t just personal photos of you and your friends. When I want to put my work in there, I try to make sure it’s well composed with interesting looking people. Sometimes buzz-worthy people.

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What are your thoughts on social media in this digital age where anyone can be a photographer?

I don’t necessarily think social media is a bad thing, but it does make it way more competitive. I always thought of Instagram as this ladder, where you can put yourself out there. But now it’s become this glass ceiling.

‘The competition has grown larger and I’m now competing for jobs with people who have a larger Instagram following than me. It really should be about the work, less about the popularity.’

I think a lot of the work out on the Internet is mediocre, I think that’s because we are so ingrained with so much creative content every single day. I think we all have the potential to be better.

Tell us one funny story from a time shooting street style at NYFW?

Yeezy Szn 1: I slipped on a curb while walking/running. I skinned my knee. I yelled out “Lord!” after I fell. Two minutes later, I saw Lorde leave the venue and get into a car. There was another time in Paris after Sacai in September 2015 when Anna Dello Russo was dressed in her Sacai jacket dancing around in front of the Eiffel Tower singing “Work” by Rihanna. 

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Which other photographers inspire you?

I absolutely love Paul Jasmin, Bruce Weber. Alec Soth, Danny Lyon, Ryan McGinley, Stephen Shore. More contemporary photography– I’m inspired by Geordie Wood, Glen Luchford, John Francis Peters, Thomas Prior, my friends John Henry Baliton and Bon Duke. 

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Street style photography tips from a Pro: Emily Malan
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