The Amber Show

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blah blah blah career

Flailing Upwards, Part… I Have Stoped Counting

“I have never had it easy,” I said to my therapist, who I’ll call Joan. “I try to remember that not everyone was meant to, but I’m having a hard time not getting hung up on who I could be if only…”

If only I were born into a supportive family (and preferably wealthy and generous.) If only I looked more “black” so that my identity didn’t feel constantly suspended on a the edge. If only I had fought against the overwhelming tide of non-support, and gotten myself properly educated anyway.

My friend Emily and I started our friendship twenty years ago, and I was the one doling out sage sixteen year old advice, but now we are older and she’s a licensed therapist, so the tides have turned a bit. A few months ago, she absolutely destroyed me by saying, “But if all those things were true – wealthy family, etc. – you would not be here.”

And I’m actually glad I’m here. Most days. Usually, I wish I were there. But, as Joan says, “I promise you’re still young, and there’s a lot of time to get there.”

The problem is that it feels like everyone else has gotten there much younger. There, of course, being the dream career I want. My career is good. Great. I’m proud. But I wish it were more… robust. The clients I have I completely adore, but I’m not getting as many of them as I’d like. So it’s like, half of my wildest dreams.

That’s good, right?

I became owner of this online publication. It happened almost by accident; I started working with them just over a year ago, and two of the founders stepped away to pursue other things, leaving me and one one last founder to it. I love it, and dream of it being a force for good in a wedding industry that says the only beautiful bride is one that is thin, and straight, and white.

It’s a little overwhelming learning the ropes. To this end, I’ve changed things in my own business so that it can run more efficiently, by turning to software that will help me manage contracts and invoices instead of doing everything by hand.

The work is almost breathless, but for the first time every, I feel privileged.

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career Uncategorized

Drinks With Amber

Over a year ago, I went to a local networking event and met another photographer, Alexis, and we formed a low-key drinks-and-snacks meet up for wedding professionals. She eventually told me her life was full and the time commitment too much for her, but gave me the thumbs up to continue it on my own.

I recently branded it #DrinksWithAmber

Does this make me an asshole? I did it while asking myself this, but then thought of all of the mediocre white guys who do more with less success than I’ve achieved, and did it anyway.


Seth Godin wrote about the Dip, a place in business where you’re leveling up and then acceleration slows you down temporarily. Pair that with a constant shifting market, the fact that I want to switch to service a more luxurious client even though, when left in my natural state, I barely remember to brush my hair, and an ever-more crowded industry, and popping my head up to rise above is increasingly difficult.

#DrinksWithAmber might be a tiny part of that, but oh man does it feel strange to promote myself this hard. I also recently spoke at a conference, and was so nervous I forgot to stand up, but my feedback was okay – at least what people said to my face.

I’m supposed to be relaxing next week on vacation, and I promise there are some fun fiction books downloaded on my Kindle, but I’m bringing along my copy of the Dip to study again, too.

I’m working hard, and, to be honest, greif has fueled me and I’m managing that balance as consciously as I can. I’m fueled, too, but the constant desire to rise above my blue-collar roots. I knew it would be tricky, but not this much.

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Summer Slump

I have to admit something: I’m feeling a little stuck. It’s wedding season… for everyone else, it seems. I am not nearly as busy now as I was last year. Reports are coming in from all over, too: everyone “in the middle” is feeling the pinch of weddings not booked.

There’s a bell curve in the wedding industry. There are low budget people and large budget people in almost equal (smaller) numbers, but most couples – and most wedding vendors – are right in the middle. There are a LOT of really amazing couples and weddings, and a LOT of really talented vendors in the middle, too. Still, talking to almost anyone who has been in business for a while will reveal that staying “in the middle” will result in burnout after a few years, and I’m watching it happen as my peers round the curve then stall out. The push to high end clients is tricky and takes a lot of work.

I’m trying to do the work, of course. My photography is stuff I’m really proud of, but I don’t have a lot of variety in my portfolio. I do the same handful of things very well. I am trying to fill in the gaps while learning new skills that will help push me over the edge. I really want to be able to take care of my family on my own with wedding photography as my full time job. But right now, I feel like I’m in a bit of a slump.

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I have a subscription to Vogue.

My entire closet of everyday clothing is worth about $100 max (what up, sweatpants!), my best shoes are sneakers, and I’ve been carrying the same purse for about four years, every single day. I really wanted to be, but I am not A Fashion Girl (it turns out I am, however, an Expensive Skin Care girl, because I just discovered Tata Harper and holy cow does my complexion look amazing.)

It’s the Vogue photography that’s inspiring. It basically functions as a crystal ball for wedding photography in the next two or three years, so if there’s a trend that speaks to me, I can jump on it and ride that wave all the way to the beach. I figured this out a year ago, looking at an old Vogue from 2008. A model was on a balcony holding a gigantic balloon, and I thought, “Huh? That’s a bit basic for Vogue.” Then I saw the year, and it clicked. Vogue published this photo, and then I saw a bunch of engagement photos with gigantic balloons, until it because a tiny bit of a cliche (and don’t get me wrong: I still love the gigantic balloon thing, but it’s been done.)

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blah blah blah career NaBloPoMo

My Human Lightstand

My friend Laura laughs every time I complain about wanting my photography to be more “crispity”.

“What does that even mean?” she asks.

I was finally able to put into words that I want to make those sharp, crisp editorial-looking portraits that you see in Vanity Fair for my clients, but I want to do it while still maintaining an organic sense of place and posing that is why a lot of people hire me in the first place. This is where I am creatively, and it is so exciting to be “somewhere creatively” (I am so cool!) but also kind of frustrating because I’m not “there” yet.

I do know, though, that it has a lot to do with proper lighting, and I’m trying to make it work with what I have before I move on to the more expensive stuff. This morning “what I had” was Marley, who I asked to stand off to the side and hold an off camera flash, like a human light stand. I’d never done this before, and it’s not totally perfect, but it’s a really solid good start (my clients this morning met on the subway, and they wanted to take their engagement photos underground, which would normally strike fear into the heart of a photographer, but I was super excited.)

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blah blah blah career NaBloPoMo

Looking Back at My Goals for 2015

In January, I picked three big goals for year and wrote them on the back of my paper calendar.

1. Get at least two blog features

2. Sell wedding albums.

3. Book ten big weddings.

I managed to get two blog features, both in Simply Elope. You can see my feature on Colm and Marie who eloped to Central Park and read my five best eloping to New York City tips here, which got shared on Facebook 45 times. Not too shabby.

There were a LOT of albums sold. Because I can over-analyze anything to death, I realized pretty quickly that if I spent too much time researching every single option and every single album company available to wedding photographers I would get overwhelmed and stuck, so I just jumped into the album game for the first time this year and opted to figure everything out as it went along. It’s been messy and hectic, but at this point most of my elopement clients and virtually all of my big wedding clients are adding albums to their wedding packages. This makes me happy; it’s more money in my pocket, and it’s so fun to get them back from the printer and ship them off.

Maybe it’s just me, but often when I start “selling” there’s the “does this make me a slimeball?” question feeling, but in the case of upselling my clients on albums, I genuinely, sincerely believe that everyone should have one, so I’m able to sell them easily.  It feels only amazing and good to look a client in the eye and say, “This is a good price on a great product that I believe you should have. Your grandchildren will thank you. In fact, look how much I love my own grandma’s wedding album.”

Yes to wedding albums.

And finally, I booked eleven big wedding this year so NAILED IT. My goal for 2016 is fifteen, which feels impossible, but which my entire life’s experience tells me is not. I have two officially on the books right now, so thirteen more to go. Tell your friends.


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blah blah blah career fun

Summer 2014 Resolutions: A Summary

Summer’s over; let’s take a look at my resolutions and see how I did.

1. Get a driver’s license. Uh, nope.

2. Unstick from my business slump. YES! Business is doing really well, and I’m proud. I launched headshots as a side business so it didn’t detract from my main goal of being a wedding photographer, and I’m super happy with the website:

3. Take the dogs swimming. Did it! Here, Leeloo is submerging herself, head and all. HEAVEN FORBID I get water on her nose during a bath, though.

4. Friendship bracelet party: check! It was a tiny turnout, but we had a lot of fun.

5. Go to the beach: yup. We went once to the beach in Sandy Hook, NY, which you get to by way of a ferry out of Manhattan. It was fun, and I’ll go again in a larger group next summer now that I know the ropes of getting there.

6. Stay put: almost! We slipped up to Rochester for a few days to see my friend Carissa and her boyfriend. It was an hour flight, and we were there for three nights. It was perfect.

7. Berry picking: yes! Delicious.

My fall resolutions have but one thing on them: have a bonfire. Who all is in for more s’mores?

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Come On Over, Valerie

This week, Valerie has been staying with us. She’s pretty great; this is what it looks like when she smiles.

She has got to be one of the coolest people I know; she didn’t have a passport until age 25, and then decided to be a world traveler. Now she’s got almost 30 countries under her belt. My couch is her last stop in the US before she’s off to Machu Picchu.

I laid low this week. I’m not going quite as far as Val, but I’m gone all weekend photographing weddings in New England. I basically stayed within a few blocks of my apartment, got out of pajamas only when strictly necessary, and recovered from my root canal treatments… and I launched a company, like, no big deal.

Someone posted about this fantastic Washington DC company on my Facebook page, and I thought, “Brilliant. Exactly what I’ve wanted to do for ages.”

I immediately began planning to do something similar, and it spun off quickly into a wedding collective of vendors who can serve eloping couples. I’m excited to see what becomes of it, and will share the website soon. In the meantime, if you’d like to be a part of it, send me an email to amber at ambermarlow dot com.

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