At 25, North County photographer in high demand for Millennial weddings

At 25, Emma Hopp is at an age where many of her peers are getting married. But instead of donning a bridesmaid's dress or sitting in the pews, she's usually behind the camera, working as one of Southern California's most in-demand young wedding photographers. Since January, Hopp has shot 35 weddings from San Diego to Sonoma and from Las Vegas to Mexico. At a minimum $4,500 apiece, the young entrepreneur is well on her way to a $200,000 year. She's now booking shoots into 2019. Most of Hopp's clients are Millennials like herself who appreciate the value of good photos to document their lives. And almost all of her referrals come from  her Instagram page, which has more than 20,000 followers. Hopp said her age is an asset because she can easily relate to her young clients' lives and interests. But she's successful thanks to her photos: fluid, unposed, romantic shots, often drenched in a warm, golden glow. "What I liked about her work was that she's really cool and she has this dreamy, moody style," said Paula Bashirian, 27, who hired Hopp to shoot her wedding last March in Los Angeles. Hopp said clients usually choose her for the candid, spontaneous approach she takes with wedding photography. "I like to catch those moments in-between poses, the ones that are almost too personal," she said. "Someone will be bawling and I'll be right there shooting because I know they're going to want that shot later." Bashirian described Hopp as a "ninja" who worked and shot so quickly and invisibly at the wedding that she was surprised by much Hopp had shot when the images came back. "She blends in to the point that you don't even know she's capturing all these small, little sentimental moments," Bashirian said. Raised in San Jose, Hopp discovered her love for photography in grade school. Using a cheap point-and-shoot camera, she'd go through 20 rolls of film at a time doing fashion shoots with her dolls. Her mom, a painter and commercial artist who designed the original Chuck E. Cheese mouse character, spent a small fortune developing the images because she saw some raw talent. "She'd always say, 'maybe this will all lead to something someday,' " Hopp said. "What I liked about her work was that she's really cool and she has this dreamy, moody style," said Paula Bashirian, 27, who hired Hopp to shoot her wedding last March in Los Angeles. Hopp said clients usually choose her for the candid, spontaneous approach she takes with wedding photography.   "I like to catch those moments in-between poses, the ones that are almost too personal," she said. "Someone will be bawling and I'll be right there shooting because I know they're going to want that shot later." Bashirian described Hopp as a "ninja" who worked and shot so quickly and invisibly at the wedding that she was surprised by much Hopp had shot when the images came back. "She blends in to the point that you don't even know she's capturing all these small, little sentimental moments," Bashirian said. Raised in San Jose, Hopp discovered her love for photography in grade school. Using a cheap point-and-shoot camera, she'd go through 20 rolls of film at a time doing fashion shoots with her dolls. Her mom, a painter and commercial artist who designed the original Chuck E. Cheese mouse character, spent a small fortune developing the images because she saw some raw talent. "She'd always say, 'maybe this will all lead to something someday,' " Hopp said. In college, Hopp had experimented with fashion and portrait photography but ultimately she fell in love with shooting weddings, which now make up the bulk of her business. The rest is engagement and lifestyle shoots. "I like that it's real people on the best day of their life," she said of wedding photography. "They'll always remember it and I'll remember how I was able to contribute to their memories. The day is all about love." https://www.instagram.com/p/BaULbephqsZ/?taken-by=emmahopp A typical wedding shoot takes eight to 10 hours on location. She and a backup photographer (usually Leal) arrive two hours early to shoot the bride getting dressed with hair and makeup and keeps shooting all the way through the reception. A few of her signature shots are close-ups of people laughing and crying, stolen kisses, private interactions, last-minute preparations and personal mementos like the bride's bedazzled shoes or the groom's belt and wristwatch. Bashirian said she liked how Hopp was open to "in the moment" ideas, like some unplanned shots of the bride and groom walking through the downtown L.A. streets and shooting on the rooftop of the wedding chapel. On her website,  emmahopp.photography, Hopp describes herself as a photographer who captures "real, unfiltered love" and often cries along with the families at the weddings. Many of her past clients have become close friends, including Bashirian. "Before that, I didn't really know her that well, but now we actually hang out," Bashirian said of Hopp. "It's like I got a new friend. She's so easy to get along with." For now, Hopp is focused on building her business. She's building her Instagram following and has an idea to branch out by selling wedding photography accessories online. Shooting a fast-paced, all-day wedding event is grueling work. Hopp said she doesn't know if she'll have the energy to keep it up in 10 to 15 years. But for now, she doesn't want to hand over the photographer's job to an employee because she enjoys the experience so much. The only time she will put down her camera is for her own wedding, a topic clients quiz her about every day. She's not engaged yet, but she does have some photographers in mind for her nuptials. She also has some advice for brides, based on her experiences behind the lens over the years. "The best weddings are those when the brides just let the stress go," she said. "When the day arrives, they'll have so much more fun if they just say to themselves, 'we've done all we can, trust the professionals and have a great day.' It's...
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