The Instagram-er turned professional photographer: An inspiring interview with Emmanuel Cole


In the first of our series highlighting the best young talent that come through the lab doors at Metro, we talk to Emmanuel Cole.

He has successfully established a career in photography predominantly through the use of the Instagram app after purchasing his first Iphone back in 2012.  Attention was drawn to the Instagram team by his vast number of followers (currently standing at 92,500) who then chose him as a ‘Featured Photographer’, the rest as they say, is history and his clients now include Levi, Adidas, Land Rover and Protein amongst others


Have you always had an ambition to be a photographer? 

I haven't actually, I'm from a family where few people care about art and therefore I have no artistic background neither did I study photography. However shortly after I turned 20 (I’m now 24) I had quite an obsession with basketball and played at a semi-pro level. Due to an injury that put me out of the game for 5 months I lost all motivation for the sport and struggled to get back to my regular fitness level and spiraled into depression. My uncle bought me a camera around that time as a birthday present and that was the start of it all!


What subject/style is your biggest inspiration? 

I'd have to say the environment I've grown up in probably has had a huge influence on my photographic style so street photography, portraiture and urban landscape tend to be the styles I gravitate towards.


What camera do you use now? 

I’m currently using a Canon 6D which I've had for just over a year and I only use 1 lens which is the 24 mm 1.4. I love this setup with the 24 being a prime lens it forces me to think about where I’m positioned and allows me to be close to my subject which I find important when taking portraits  - it helps build that connection while shooting.


Even on your SLR do you shoot with Instagram in mind?  

I used to have Instagram in mind all the time when shooting with my SLR, however now I use other social media platforms to share my work such as Tumblr and Twitter which have forced me to think outside the square and I’m thankful for that.

Some people say true 'Instagram-ers' only shoot with their phone, do you believe that matters or not? 

I don't really know, however when I realised that photography was going to be a big part of my life and I had no confidence shooting with my SLR I decided to post my SLR images on Instagram to fast track my improvement with it and to receive feedback from my peers on how I could improve. I love that Instagram helped give me a platform to start up on however the debate between SLR and iPhone is not one I keep up with because I now enjoy shooting a lot more on my 6D and at the moment that’s what pays the bills! Also I would never have a relationship with you guys at Metro if it weren’t for my SLR work. 


What are you working on at the moment & any exhibition plans? 

I’m just working on commissioned projects at the moment however I’m always working on little personal projects. Next year I will be starting a portrait project based on a small section of East London where I grew up aiming to show a little perspective about life where I was raised.


Do you have any photography/career goals you'd like to achieve? 

When I started taking an interest in photography it quickly became apparent that I was entering a world where success and stability was not easy. I remember going to meet one particular photographer to seek advice and ask him if I could be his assistant (I was told this was what people did to start off with) after I left his studio I felt extremely down as he pretty much spent the whole time trying to tell me to focus on something else and that it was not really going to be possible to make it as a photographer. Even after that I was still thirsty and eager to make this photography thing happen. That was the moment I knew that this was for me and that I had to work harder than ever to get somewhere with this. That was like 3 years ago now. So that being said the main goal I have is to make the transition from Instagram-er to photographer. I've always found it difficult to call myself a photographer. It may sound cliché but having my own solo exhibition would be a dream come true.


You have a great number of fans and much interest in your work. Do you find Metro's selling prints online service has been beneficial and help get your work to these people?  

Metro has been nothing but a blessing for me, I remember early this year thinking about selling work but not being able to visualise that happening but things have progressed really fast for me this year. I only learnt how to use my SLR in manual mode around May this year and to think that I’ve now got images that I’m very happy with available for print is crazy. It’s just nice to know its all become something bigger than just a digital thing.


Who would you recommend we follow on Instagram? Your top 5?? 

1)    Trashhand: He's probably my biggest inspiration as his story is pretty amazing and he takes fantastic pictures

2)    Philstockbridge: Young talent and inspiring photographer from the USA

3)    Vincentchapters: My favourite London feed

4)    Novess: TALENT and he's only 15

5)    Potatounit: His feed is like eye candy 24/7


More information about Emmanuel and his work can be found on his Instagram, Tumblr and website where you can buy a selection of prints printed through Metroprint.


Find out how to sell your prints online with Metroprint.


Want to print your own Instagram shots cheaply and quickly with Metroprint? Check out our Instagram photo print service.