This weeks photographer interview is with newborn, child and family photographer Amy Lee Photo! Make sure you have joined the newsletter so you don’t miss out on more photographer interviews to come! Let’s take a peak into the life of photographer Amy…
Where do you live? Kansas City, MO
Tell us a bit about how you began your journey into photography. How long have you had your photography business?
Well my journey started out as a graphic designer actually. I always loved taking photographs and took photography courses in college (with film…), but never really saw photography to be an actual career path. It wasn’t until getting burnt out in the actual graphic design world that I quit my job and had some time to really think about what I wanted to do for myself. I needed a job I enjoyed – no… loved. I slowly started to do portrait sessions on the side of getting a new job to get me by. I tried my best to connect with other photographers to just even do grunt work to be around the studio atmosphere. Asking for SOMEONE out there to give me a chance to prove myself, help them with my background knowledge, yet learn from them at the same time. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much luck. I kept trucking along for myself, and as I built up some clientele and started to get steady weeknight and weekend bookings, I decided I needed to just jump in and go for it on my own. It wasn’t until I had my first kiddo in January of 2011 that I quit my full time job the day I went into labor and became a stay-at-home-momma and “full-time” (as full time as one can be on top of being a mommy!) photographer. So the lines blur with how long I’ve had my photography business, but I got serious about it in 2011 I would say!
Describe your photography style. What invaluable lessons have you learned thathelped you develop your distinct style?
I think I’m ever changing in my style. I know it’s probably not the appropriate thing to say… I always hear, stay true to “your style” and that’s what people will hire you for. However, as I learn and evolve with shooting, learning new shooting styles, editing and post processing styles, I like to try and incorporate small tidbits into my “style”. Make new things work for me. I think it’s healthy not to stick to one particular thing. If you look at my original style of portraiture when I first started out, you probably wouldn’t have even guessed it was from me – nor would I ever shoot or edit like that again! Haha! Overall, I like color and try to keep things simple. I’m not one to do overly elaborate set ups.
Are you formally taught or self taught? What has been the best form of education you have taken (workshop, mentor, online classes etc) if any?
I am mostly self taught. It wasn’t until I started doing more newborns that I realized that’s what I enjoyed doing the most. I got to where I could start being picky and quit doing weddings and events to focus more on newborn and children. Of course I will still do family shots within those, but I don’t typically do large families anymore either. When I started getting more and more newborns and learning on my own, I felt it was time to mentor with someone. I did a 1:1 Mentorship with Keri Meyers in her Seattle studio. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made! Though I had already become comfortable with handling newborns and some posing, she really confirmed that was the direction I wanted to take my business along with learning the small technical things I couldn’t have done on my own. It was nice to see from someone else’s perspective how to run a session and come home with new things to help my sessions go more smoothly. I also purchased the online videos of Kelly Brown through Creative Live. I can’t tell anyone how valuable it is to learn from others and continue learning procedures and safety to continue growing!
What is your favourite photography genre to photograph (newborn, maternity, family, weddings etc)? Why?
Newborns. Hands down. I actually never would have thought that would be what I enjoy most. Back in my adolescent years… I wasn’t that into babies and kids. I mean I knew I wanted to HAVE kids myself some day and always wanted to be a stay at home mom, but maybe being young and immature, I’d rather watch kids at a distance a bit. Even before I had my own kids and starting into photography though, I just felt more drawn to doing newborns. I think I like the challenge of every one of them being different. I like the simplicity of the images created, yet can still a bit of an anal perfectionist bringing out my graphic designer roots, to get them posed just how I want them.
If you photograph newborns what is your favourite technique to get them to settle and sleep?
Full belly, heater, and white noise. I also make sure to send the parents a guide on how to best prepare for their newborn session. Having everyone on the same page of things in advance also helps to have a happy and sleepy baby.
Natural available light or studio lighting? Studio or on location sessions?
Newborns I shoot in studio with studio lighting. Depending on the season I will do kids indoors or outdoors. I have a smaller studio to where I can do simple family shots within newborn and children sessions, but I won’t hold a full family session indoors. I like the variety available outdoors and feels it helps relax families a bit too.
Nikon or Canon, other? Favorite lens?
Nikon. I just always shot with Nikon back in college and loved the quality of the camera build itself and have always stuck to it. For now I shoot on a crop sensor, so my go to lens for just about every session at some point is my 35mm. (Especially my newborn sessions).
How do you find the balance between work and your personal life?
Wow. This is always a hard one to figure out. I actually just came back from maternity leave of my second kiddo this March and was struggling how to best balance myself. My family comes first. I want to be fair to my family, yet fair to my clients too. I love what I do so much, but if I feel inadequate in either aspect of my life I know I won’t enjoy what I do either. I don’t want to be one of those photographers who outsources editing or takes months to get images back to a client. For now, I’ve learned to say no. Hardest thing to do. EVER. I’m currently scheduling out my current clients even to the end of this calendar year and then opening up my calendar to new clients only 3-4 months in advance if I have room. I have made the hard decision to try my best to only take on as many sessions a month as there are weeks in that month. (TRYING is the key word there!) It isn’t without the amazing help of family, especially my mom who lives nearby, to help babysit when needed during the weekday shoots, or my amazing husband, who pretty much plans on holding down the fort almost every Saturday for some sort of shoot scheduled! I couldn’t do what I do without either one of them.
If you had one piece of advice to give on how to co-ordinate and choose your props for a session, what would it be?
I always ask the mom’s if there are nursery colors they have planned, or themes they have decided upon. I also ask what colors they like or even hate so I know what to definitely stay away from. I try to stick to 2-3 main colors so that my images across the board will coordinate with each other when hung up in a home.
What is your favourite Baby Joy Studios Product? Why?
Gosh. I love the simplistic headbands. I am not a huge fan of ginormous headbands that overpower a baby’s face. I try to enhance the photo, not dominate it. Babies are small and they’re my main subject. I don’t want to cover up their adorable sweet faces!
What is your favourite photo you have taken and why?
That’s a hard one too. Probably my favorite at the moment is a friend’s baby. He was a toughy. He didn’t like the simple poses, but did GREAT with the harder ones. I really wanted this shot as his grandma made the little basketball set for him too. I think it’s my favorite because I know how hard we worked with him and I couldn’t have been more pleased in the end and actually created some of my favorite images from just his session alone. (No worries, dad is holding onto him AT ALL times. It is a composite — safety first! 😉 )
What photographers do you admire and inspire you?
I always seem to find someone new that I never knew existed. But for now, in no particular order: Keri Meyers, Jaiden Photography, Rachel Vanoven Photography just to name a few.
When you are not working, how do you love to spend your days? Hobbies, family, travel etc?
Not working! HA! (Reminds self about work/life balance again…) Being a mom to a toddler and now an almost 6 month old doesn’t leave too much time to myself at the moment. But I love being outdoors. I love water even though living in the midwest only allows for drives to a lake. I am competitive in nature and would love a good game of volleyball or softball although I’m not sure my body right now could handle the stamina of either one of those activities! I love reading with my kids on a normal day, going to the zoo or the park with friends as well.
Thank you so much Amy for sharing with us! Keep on eye on your inbox for another interview coming in next weeks newsletter! Submit your interview application here. Shop newborn and baby photography props in the shop.