We gave the Kitchen Sink workshop Alumni the chance to ask Amanda anything that they wanted… I am looking forward to Amanda’s answers to some really “make you think” questions (and some not serious questions).
Photo by Susie Moore Photography
Q: Amanda, you are an inspiration to others. What is the best advice you would give someone who is launching a new photography business.
A: My first and very most important piece is to not only protect yourself legally, but financially as well. Explore your options as a business entity (Sole Proprietor, LLC, INC, S Corp) and learn all you can about taxes, insurance, contracts, releases, etc. Sit down and talk to an attorney, CPA, and insurance broker and learn about what you can do to keep yourself from going under. The second you get yourself protected, you can move onto other aspects of your business.
Q: I think we’re all always looking for new locations. How do you “scout” new places? What are you looking for specifically when you are searching for new places to shoot? How do you go about making contact with the owner if it’s private property?
A: First and foremost, LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT! If you can find light that wraps itself around your subject and makes them look like they are glowing, you’ve found a wonderful location. Second, I try to find “maxed out locations” which means that you could go about a 100 yards either way, and you could pull a ton of different looks from that space. I’m a “subject heavy shooter” so location doesn’t matter too much to me, but light is the number one priority for me.
For private property, I call the owner (usually there is a number in a window/or store owner / etc) or go up to the building and simply knock on the door. Of course, I’m always nervous when I do this – which is ridiculous because the worst that could happen is the owner say “No.” If they have any questions or doubts, I have a form that they can sign (as well as myself) that will waive their legal responsibility and transfer it to me should anything happen. That usually puts them at ease and allows them to feel more comfortable giving me permission to shoot on their property.
Q: If you had to give up your camera for a month, what would you do to continue learning/practicing your photography skills?
A: Oooooooooooooh! That’s a hard one! I would read a TON of books about photography philosophy and probably plan a bunch of conceptual shoots.
Q: How do you suggest finding you market and getting the seniors? For those of us starting out we want to find the right clients and not have to do the senior rep thing as those usually don’t pan out.
A: You need to analyze your dream market. Where do they live? What do they drive? What kind of jobs do they have? What kind of clothes do they wear? You then need to analyze how THOSE companies market to your dream market. Does your dream client drive a Lexus and wear Armani? Then you really need to check out Lexus’ & Armani’s marketing campaigns. What colors are they using? What does their photography say to their clients? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel… but I caution you to make it YOUR OWN. When you allow yourself the freedom to apply your own style to your marketing, you become a brand name yourself. Some of the seniors at my high schools have turned me into a verb. For example, if they take a picture at a party that they really love, they’ll say, “OMG… you soooooo Amanda Holloway’d that one!” I about passed out when one of my senior clients told me that! I have no doubt that this happened because I created my branding and marketing campaigns with my dream client in mind.
Q: What is your biggest, most expensive photography mistake?
A: Oh, wow. Financially or emotionally? Financially, I would say purchasing lenses before I ever rented them. I’ve probably bought 3 different lenses that I just wasn’t ready for at that specific moment in my photography journey. I sent them all back and now have rented and later bought two of them, now that I’m in the place to do so. I got started on my 50mm 1.4G and still use that lens occasionally to this day. I thought I needed better equipment to be a better photographer, but in reality, I needed to be a better photographer to benefit from better equipment.
Emotionally, I would say the time that I have spent building my brand and company (I’ve always said I’ve never wanted just a company, but an empire) has taken time that I can’t get back from my family. I’m learning the hard way and learning from my mistakes every day and the most important part resulting in all of it is to listen to my gut. Turn off the computer at a certain time every day and shut down that part of my mind.
Q: How many HS Senior clients do you take on during a typical year? And how many guys do you typically shoot?
A: Hmmmm…. for 2012, I have shot around 35 seniors (most within the last 5 months due to senior season). I’d like to take on an average of 3-5 senior per month. I’d definitely be happy with that. I don’t want to be a volume photographer. I’ve found that when I overbook myself, I can’t be as creative and I get stuck in a rut. When there’s a good distance for refreshing ideas between seniors, I can be a lot more creative for shoots.
I have just recently decided that I will be specializing in female seniors only. I just don’t have that much fun with guys.
Q: Describe your dream concept shoot.
A: My dream concept shoot would definitely be Marie Antoinette circa 2006 movie. The pastels and textures used in that movie made me drool… and I wasn’t even a photographer then! It has stuck in my mind ever since!
Q: What are some projects that you’d love to do, but currently don’t have the time, energy, or capacity?
A: I have A TON of projects on paper that are coming out soon. This summer I’m allowing myself to do a lot more behind the desk rather than in the field. I’ve always said I need about seven clones of me to finish what I want done! Hah!
Q: How much do you feel your online influence among the photography industry affects your “real life” portrait business. Do the two go hand in hand, or would your business be just as successful if you weren’t such a big name among other photographers?
A: I definitely think my business would be just as successful because other photographers aren’t telling my seniors about me… other seniors are. Sure, it’s good marketing to be seen as being followed and looked up to by your peers, but word of mouth among my clients is what sells my name the most.
Q: How did you gain the confidence to monetize your talent? i.e. workshops, digital products, etc.
A: In February of 2011, I had received about 15 requests from other photographers to put on a workshop. I decided to meet with four photographers and hold a small workshop in March of 2011. Even though the weekend went very well and the other photographers learned a lot, I decided I wasn’t ready to continue that part of my photography yet. So I waited another 6 months and during those 6 months is when I really evolved as a photographer. My style became more concrete and my business flourished in a way that left my head spinning. As all of that happened, the requests for workshops became such an issue that I decided to give it another go. Needless to say, it was the right time. I’ve always been a teacher at heart and teaching workshops is a HUGE love of mine.
Q: What do you fear most professionally?
A: Becoming complacent. I’ve seen it happen and I’ve seen photographers go under because of it. I want to always stay on the edge and learn the new trends in photography while grounding myself in classic foundations.
Q: Will you always shoot seniors or do you see your business moving towards more glamour / model / commercial shoots ?
A: I’ve dabbled with a few professional models and loved the experience! They are so aware of their bodies and their posing that I’m sure they could teach me plenty! I would love to do small projects every now and then, who knows, maybe evolve into fashion later, but right now, my heart is with my seniors. These girls need to see themselves behind my camera lens. They light up and are even in disbelief that they’re “that pretty.” It’s amazing to see a girl’s confidence kick in just after an hour of shooting.
Q: Will you continue to wear basketball shorts to shoot in?
A: Hahahaha! YES. I want to be super comfortable while shooting and able to be functional during a shoot. What’s super cute is that all my seniors LOVE that about me! They’ll comment about it and say, “I love that you’re so relaxed and comfy! It makes me relax and not feel so uptight!” I love that!
Q: What is your #1 pet peeve?
A: I can only drink milk from a glass. I can’t drink it from plastic or ceramic… must be glass.
For photography, it’s this awful trend to publicly berate other photographers for mistakes made or their wrong doings. It makes me sick when I see a wagon full of photographers (pun intended) bullying another photographer. I think what is going to happen is that a photographer is going to commit suicide due to the backlash of the photography community in order for people to see what their words are capable of. Words can stay in your head forever and they have the capability to eat you alive. I’m shocked at what some adults are capable of.
Q: What is the most unusual item you carry with you while shooting?
A: My tackle box full of fabulous accessories! Earrings, necklaces, rings, and bracelets! Woo!
Q: Isn’t it a fact that you love Justin Beiber?!
A: Hmmmmmm…. love’s a bit strong, but yes – he’s an amazing musician who has created a huge name for himself.
Q: what’s your favorite girls scout cookie? There have been wars over this question, choose your answer carefully
A: OMG! Thin mints FROM THE FREEZER. They have to be cold!
Q: Your photography is much more than just a portrait… you create art. What gets your creative juices flowing prior to your sessions? What inspires you the most?
A: Wow! Thank you so much! For me, my client inspires me. Their style, the way they move, and their personality is what speaks to me most. I’ve had so many mothers tell me that it’s like I knew my client way better than I could have for only hanging out for three hours. That’s because I don’t control the inspiration of the session, I let my client do that.
Thanks Amanda for sharing “you” with all of us so openly!! Be on the look out on The Kitchen Sink Workshop Facebook Page for a chance to ask Amanda your questions!!