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Sony’s Young Photographers Winner

Northeastern junior Emily Tebbetts got the opportunity of a lifetime after winning a Sony contest to become singer Taylor Swift’s personal photographer for the day.
Photo courtesy of Sony.

Emily Teb­betts saw singer/​songwriter Taylor Swift per­form at a free show in a West Vir­ginia park in the summer of 2007, shortly before the starlet gained inter­na­tional fame. Five years later, Teb­betts met Swift in person, when she won the Sony “Up Close” con­test and became her per­sonal pho­tog­ra­pher for the day.Teb­betts, a fourth-​​year com­mu­ni­ca­tion studies major at North­eastern, edged out 2,700 pho­tog­ra­phers in the con­test, which ran in Sep­tember and lasted only 80 hours. Pho­tog­ra­phers sub­mitted their port­fo­lios on Face­book, and Internet voting deter­mined the top 100 can­di­dates. Sony’s internal judging panel, including Sony pho­tog­ra­phers Nigel Barker, Matthew Jordan Smith and Brian Smith, nar­rowed down the field, and Teb­betts ulti­mately inter­viewed in Nashville, Tenn., as one of two finalists.

Teb­betts pho­tographed Swift as the singer filmed a com­mer­cial for Sony’s new NEX-​​5R camera.

“It felt like I was dreaming the whole time,” said Teb­betts, who described Swift as funny, down to earth and appre­cia­tive of her fans. “It was so exciting. I couldn’t believe I got this amazing opportunity.”

Teb­betts got a first­hand look at how a com­mer­cial is pro­duced and gained valu­able expe­ri­ence behind the lens. For starters, she worked with a lighter, more com­pact camera than usual. (“My neck didn’t hurt by the end of the day,” she joked). Swift’s com­fort in front of the lens, more­over, made it easy for Teb­betts to take a series of posed and action shots doc­u­menting the singer’s day.

In addi­tion, Teb­betts received on-​​the-​​set pointers from Barker, who sug­gested the most inter­esting angles and lighting sce­narios to best cap­ture the star.

Teb­betts has had a pas­sion for pho­tog­raphy for many years, but her love for the art form blos­somed during her senior year of high school. Her port­folio now includes a range of work, com­prising photos of models, musi­cians, brides and fashionistas.

Since the com­mer­cial aired, Teb­betts has received an influx of job offers. Sony also invited her to be a camera assis­tant for the “Hit Record” Tour in November, a gig that took her to Philadel­phia, Cor­nell Uni­ver­sity and the Uni­ver­sity of Rhode Island, and fea­tured actor Joseph Gordon Levitt, the founder of the online col­lab­o­ra­tive pro­duc­tion company.

Jason Cromer, senior man­ager for Brand Expe­ri­ence at Sony Elec­tronics, called Teb­betts a great fit for both assign­ments and noted that the Sony team was impressed with her deter­mi­na­tion and work ethic.

“Emily is a great pho­tog­ra­pher who does amazing work,” he said. “It’s been a really great part­ner­ship with her.”

The life-​​changing expe­ri­ence also gave Teb­betts a chance to think about her poten­tial career path. Noting her strong interest in working at a non­profit and con­tin­uing to amass an impres­sive pho­tog­raphy port­folio, she said, “Wher­ever life wants to take me, and wher­ever I’m going in that moment, I think I’ll end up in a good place as long as I’m enjoying what I’m doing.”

“That’s the beauty of North­eastern,” she added. “You get to try every­thing out and see what works for you, get real-​​world expe­ri­ence and figure out what you want to do.”

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