Interview with Emma K.Sato – The Winner of CPC Portrait Awards, August 2018

12 mins read

Q: First of all, we want to congratulate you on winning our Monthly Contest CPC Portrait Awards! How does it feel to be a winner?

A: Just Surreal, I’m very proud of the winning photograph but I never have thought I can compete with all these super talented photographers. I always thought they have this magic mojo that I haven’t discovered yet 🙂 Feeling so grateful.

Interview with Emma Sato

Q: Can you introduce us to Emma?  What is your background? Where do you live? How old are you? Do you do photography as a full-time job?

A: I’m originally from South Korea but have spent all my adulthood in foreign countries. Now I’m a long-term resident in Japan. I live in a suburb of Yokohama which is just an hour away from Tokyo. I’m close to all the bustles of the city but if I drive south just 30 minutes on the highway we have all the secluded nature and beaches. I absolutely love living in Japan. It’s such a beautiful country, not only popular places but even just unnamed roads, it’s just so clean and beautiful. I’m 36 years old now and yes photography is a full-time job but I’m lucky to be able to stay with my 2 kids when I’m not outside shooting. I do lots of work from home on my computer at night and it’s such a blessing that I can be a full-time mom and also run my own business. It’s definitely not easy but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Interview with Emma Sato

Q: Can you tell us more about your winning photograph, please? Who is the subject and what’s the story behind this photograph?

A: It was my first time meeting and photographing Adelaide but she’s been modeling for many big brands and campaigns. I was so nervous and excited before meeting her because I have seen her photographs and she has this strong force and I was afraid of not being able to capture it. But she was the sweetest kid and in front of the camera, she was so confident and fierce but very delicate at the same time. I wanted to capture that delicate and innocent side of her. The shoot almost didn’t happen because we just had a typhoon the day before and the wind was still crazy in the morning. But her mom was the coolest person texting me saying ‘wind doesn’t bother me, let’s meet!’ I feel so lucky to meet these amazingly kind people through my work who go extra miles. We shot at this old warehouse building which is now used as a mall. We shot at terrace but they have this big window which brings the softest natural light in. Even when I photograph posed shots, I don’t pose them directly like moving their head with my hands, I simply tell them how I want their posture to be and where to look and see how they interpret it. It’s really interesting how every child interprets in a different way and bring a different mood to it. sometimes I’m thinking like don’t follow my direction, because I love unexpected. Like how a bit of her hair is wrapped in her fingers, which was unplanned detail.


Interview with Emma Sato
Winning Photograph at CPC Portrait Awards, August 2018


Q: Do you have an official education in photography?

A: Official, no. I’m a drop out of major in English Literature 🙂

 Interview with Emma Sato

Q: Where and how do you learn photography?

A:  Everywhere! I am always learning. I read photography books, magazines, interviews with these amazing photographers, even camera manual can be quite entertaining! I’m in many photography groups online, where we share our works, online workshops – I love seeing the different approach of other photographers. There are so many resources you can learn. But  I think once I learn the basics of photography, the biggest learning comes from my own experiences through trials and errors. I like playing things around in Photoshop, I learn a lot from this too.

Interview with Emma Sato

Q: How did you get your start in photography? What were some of the most important things you found along the way in relation to the development of your photography?

A: I have started photography right after I quit my corporate job 9 years ago. Me and my husband had a wedding and honeymoon in the Maldives and my husband bought a new DSLR for me which was my first DSLR. I had no idea how to use it, what the ISO is, what Aperture means, anything. But we still managed to get some nice shots (at my standard at that time who didn’t know anything about photography) and I was hooked since then. I have been self-taught and soon I realized I loved taking portraits. The most important thing I found in relations to the development of my photography would be understanding lights and shadows. Working with natural light I used to afraid to use shadows and always try to lit my subject evenly. But recently I started to understand how to work with shadows and how it can really bring out the mood.

Interview with Emma Sato

Q: How would you define your photography in a few words?

A: Moody, romantic, sometimes fairy

Interview with Emma Sato

Q: Who are your favorite photographers?

A: Mariola Glajcar, her photographs take me to a different time, different places. I love how she doesn’t over process her photographs and it’s just simply so beautiful. Paulina Duczman, I always loved the movie scene where they found an old classic photograph of a young girl in an attic and says that it’s your grandma to a young girl 🙂 I love classic timeless photographs. Lola Melanie, although she is not a child photographer, I love her simplicity.

Interview with Emma Sato

Q: What inspires you?

A: Nature. I feel like I haven’t seen this my whole life before starting photography. I grew up in a very competitive environment and didn’t have much chance to run and play in nature when I was young. And then after I moved to Japan I worked in Tokyo until late evening commuting 3 hours every day. I always joke hey I haven’t seen the sunset for more than 20 years! And after I quit I start to see all these beautiful nature surrounding me. I felt like I have been sleeping and suddenly opened my eyes. And photography definitely changed the way I see everything.

Interview with Emma Sato

Q: What is in your camera bag? What camera body and lenses do you use?

A: Nikon D750, I’m a big fan of Sigma lenses with its’ sharpness and clarity. I mainly use 70-200mm f/2.8 and 50mm f/1.4 Art.


Q: What about lightning?

A: I’m a 100% natural light addict! I want to explore studio light in a few years but I’m having so much fun with the natural light right now. It never ceases to amaze me. How it can bring a different mood and how the lighting changes every second. I’m in love with natural light.

 Interview with Emma Sato

Q: Your editing style is very recognizable as well. Do you edit photographs in Lightroom or Photoshop? Do you have some favorite actions/presets that you are using for edits?

A: I hand edit every photograph. I feel every photograph needs different attention. I use both Lightroom and Photoshop. Probably 30% in Lightroom for basic settings and just to get the mood of the image and 70% in Photoshop for details and more color adjustment. I made my own presets in Lightroom just to see which color scheme would suit better and actions for sharpening in Photoshop to facilitate my editing process.

 Interview with Emma Sato

Q: What is your proudest moment as a photographer/artist?

A: NOW! Winning this award definitely gives some confidence in my work that I was lacked. I have lots of self-doubts! I have been quite struggling over the years between finding and pursuing my own style and pleasing other people. I know I never can choose one since I’m also running a business, but I feel like I’m finding my voice more each year.

 Interview with Emma Sato

Q: Do you have any advice to offer us fellow photographers and artists about photography?

A: Be True to yourself and keep inspired. Shoot what you want, shoot what makes your heart sing. Don’t try to copy others because it will never work. See things in your way and create in your way.


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Q: Can you share some of your favorite photographs from August’s Monthly Photo Contest at CPC Portrait Awards?

A: Gosh, can I say all of them? They are just amazing. If I have to choose I have to say, Magdalena Sienicka’s work. I have been following her and she has such a clear vision and execute them so beautifully.


Thank you!


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