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career life list

5 Goals For the Coming Year

At Camp Mighty every year we talk about our upcoming 5 things that we are going to accomplish in the coming year. This year I’ve departed from my Life List a little and picked five goals that I need to accomplish to feel like I’m progressing as a person. I am totally allowed to do this. Here they are.

1. My big one: Learn “grownup business stuff”. Super boring, but I started my business sort of by stumbling into it, and then never really learned how to do it properly except here and there. There are SEO techniques I’m not using to promote myself, “quarterly taxes” are something I’ve only heard about, and there are all sorts of things I should be doing that I’m not. I want to run an actual real grown up business, and also learn more about equipment and very advanced photography editing techniques, workflow, and running an operation that is tight as a drum. This is hard for me to admit, actually, that I don’t do this right now. 2013 is the first year I’m filing taxes as a single person, and I am L-O-S-T. The kicker is that I’m pretty successful and good at producing quality work, I’m just disorganized behind the scenes.

2. Live in a rockin’ batchelorette pad. Straight from my Life List and scrawled on there at a moment when my entire life was all down around my ears. It’s halfway there at this point, and I cannot wait to show you the photos when I’m done.

3. Expand the boudoir aspect of my photography business. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time, and I have some exciting ideas, but growing my business seems daunting without wrapping my hands around goal number one first. So that’s a secondary goal. I want to work with couples to make sexy, non-sketchy photos, and also women, and men, and people who are gender queer. Human sexuality is so interesting to me, and I want to explore it in a fun, artistic way. If you can help me with this or have ideas, please reach out via email.

4. Write more fun editorial content on my blog. This is lowest on the totem pole, but right now daydreaming about a blog overhaul is keeping me happy. I want to write about fun stuff like books, and cocktails, wine, makeup, and interesting things to do in New York. I have friends doing amazing things and want to introduce readers to them.

5. Get really fit. Self-explanatory. There’s a goal on my Life List that says “be a person that exercises regularly”, something that would have been unthinkable two years ago, and now I think it’s actually starting to happen. I work out at LEAST once a week, if not more, and I see that increasing in the future, because it feels so amazing. I never thought I’d say that, but here I am.

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Published! “Baby Sign Language” by Sarah Christensen Fu

baby sign language

A while ago I was hired to photograph a baby sign language booklet/flash card set. I met Sarah in our neighborhood to discuss the project, and we got on like gang busters. There were a few snags in the road and we both learned a lot, but we did it, and last week the publisher sent me an advance copy. I think it looks great! Check out my name right there in print.

sarah christensen fu

baby sign language

My buddy Miles!

sarah christensen fu

My favorite part of the finished project (aside from making an awesome friend) was that while we were “on set” photographing one of Sarah’s young sons doing some signs, Matty wandered into the room and onto the set. Matty really loves little kids, I suspect because they’re usually sticky with something delicious and full of snacks, and kids, even babies, seem to universally respond warmly to him, probably because his face is so friendly and his stumpy basset hound legs make him low to the ground. He’s right on eye level. My little subject was having a snack and was cheerfully flinging crackers towards a grateful dog. Amused, I snapped a photo of the two of them and accidentally uploaded it with all of the other files to the publisher. And they used it! My dog is famous.

If you ever need anyone to hang a blue background up in five minutes flat, call Sarah and me – we are your gals. You can pre-order the book here.

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blah blah blah career

To Read: 35 Questions that Will Change Your Life by Jason Nazar

In the past few days, this article from Forbes has been bookmarked on my iPhone, and whenever I’ve had a minute free, I’ve popped it open and looked it over. The article is called “35 Questions That Will Change Your Life”, and it’s powerful, gut-churning stuff. Jason Nazar, the author starts, with a doozy:

“What are you pretending you don’t know?”

Holy cow. He started with my biggest struggle. It turns out that ignoring problems doesn’t make them go away, but through the years I’ve certainly tried to shove major issues under the rug instead of dealing with them head-on. It’s been my MO both personally and professionally way too often, and it always ends up biting me in the face eventually.

“What do you want your life to be in five years?”

I used to be the kind of person where life happened to me. A few years ago that changed; I grabbed the bull by the horns and said, “I am going to live the life that I want” which resulted in me dropping 45 pounds and running a successful business. Recently, though, I’ve been cruising along on kind of a plateau with a “I’ll just focus on today.” mentality, which works, but it’s easy to get stagnant. Now I have to start making some long-term goals, too. Scary! I am honestly tired thinking about it. In five years I’ll be 36. That doesn’t even seem like a real age I’d be allowed to be.

Go read the article, and then tell me what questions tapped you between the eyes. I’d love to hear!

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Cool Careers for Dummies

When I was 18, I bought a book called “Cool Careers for Dummies” and packed it along with my discman on a trip to Maine with Jen, her parents, and a few of our friends, including Micah who is now her husband of nine years, and the whole trip was kind of weird because Jen and Micah sort of liked each other but it was tense and awkward, but now it’s better because when I go, “you guys looooove each other!” they respond with grinning and making outs in their kitchen instead of looking down, shuffling their feet, and turning bright red.

We’ve come a long way. I am less of a punk now.

Anyway, one of the careers I earmarked was “Neon Sign Maker” because that seemed awesome, and as it turns out, Kelly Mark is an artist that makes them. It’s not too over-the-top to get one for my living room, is it?

When I was a young teenager I wanted to make things that were visually beautiful and meet a lot of people which is exactly what I do now, but I never knew what it would look like until a decade and a half later when it fell into place. I think it’s so cool that I’ve stayed true to who I was years ago!

What did you want to be when you grew up? Are there elements of what you dreamed of that are present in your job today?

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career photos

Headshots for Charity:Water

I am so excited: Camp Mighty is coming up this October. It will be my fourth year going to a Mighty Event in the fall (holy cow). As per tradition, attendees are to raise money for Charity:Water, an organization that helps get clean water to impoverished villages in need around the world.

To raise my portion of the funds this year I’m going to do what I do best: take photos of faces. My “20 minute, $150 photo session” got removed from my official list of business offerings last month, but it’s coming back just for now, and only for Charity:Water.

It works like this: you contribute at least $50* to the Camp Mighty 2013 Charity:Water donation page, meet me somewhere in New York City looking dapper, and we do a 20 minute photo shoot that is fun and makes you look fantastic. You come away with a good handful of photos at really great bargain for use on LinkedIn, social media, or online dating. You also get to do some good.

To book, go to the donation page, write “for Amber Marlow, team 5” in the comment section, and email me to set up a date and time: amber {at} amberMarlow {dot} com.

Thanks in advance for helping me make a difference, and please spread the word to your friends for me.

*If you don’t want a photo session but would still like to contribute, you may make a donation of any amount, putting “for Amber Marlow, team 5” in the comment section.

inexpensive headshots NYC

nyc linkedin headshots

headshots NYC

New York City LinkedIn Headshots

social media headshots nyc

nyc headshot photographer

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Jill Greenberg Makes Me Angry

Jill Greenberg is a photographer that did a project in which she handed a toddler a lollipop, took it away to make them cry, and then snapped a photo of the results. The photos are fantastic, but the concept struck me as so sinister and unkind that I immediately got a lump in my throat when I saw those tearful faces.

You’re supposed to be nice to little kids.

I’m not the most maternal person in the world, but I enjoy hanging out with kids, toddlers especially, who are people that are just realizing what it is to be human. Getting to hang out with them and seeing what they find fascinating is refreshing, and when my photo shoot involves a little one, I know it’s going to be a challenging, good time.

When I pick up my camera and aim it at someone so young that they are just starting to explore the world around them, I feel humbled. It’s an honor to be trusted to capture memories of these people and their parents, and I take it very seriously. I respect their nearly non-existent attention spans, penchants for “wiggling”, and always try to keep them happy and having fun when I’m around taking photos. I have sung songs, laughed at silly jokes, admired smelly pet rats politely, and once answered with a straight face, in front of a rather embarrassed young dad, that yes, I do, in fact, have a vagina because I am a girl.

It’s a lot of fun, but also something I take quite seriously. That someone would abuse their position as a photographer of a child to purposefully cause them to cry is bone chilling to me, and makes me angry.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh on Jill Greenberg?

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9 Years of Blogging

I’ve spent the whole of May falling on my face, professionally speaking.

A client didn’t like his head shots, which was discouraging because I felt they were among some of the best work I’d ever done. I ran late to an appointment, which is unlike me. My iPad didn’t connect to the internet when I was doing a demo for potential clients. Someone else wanted more photos than the ones I sent.

I wonder about the wisdom of sharing this here in a space visible to potential clients that might Google me extensively, but it’s true: I fall flat on my face sometimes, May was especially brutal for whatever reason, and I’ve spent all of this month feeling like I ought be Better and More.

Perhaps this confession is akin to shooting myself in the foot, but, as of today, I’ve been blabbing in this space for 9 years, and there’s already so much of me out there that I don’t see the sense in stopping now. You are here because I’ve been honest, and it’s been amazing and wonderful to write extensively about my life since I was 22, the good and the bad. I hate to try to imagine where I would be – the opportunities I wouldn’t have had, the friends I wouldn’t have hugged, the lives I wouldn’t have touched and been touched by – if I wasn’t compelled to open up WordPress and bleed all over the screen. So, unglamourous and straggly am I this “blogaversary”. May was a tough one, professionally speaking, and I’ve been discouraged. I think, though (or, at least, I hope) that June will be better.

To many more years of blogging and a kick-ass June. Cheers.


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career life list NYC with Amber

Life List: Row Boats in Central Park – Check!

First, fun news: I have an intern! She’s Alex, and has an enthusiasm for photography – and life in general – that rocks my world. I need to get a better photo of her face, but for now, enjoy her cool-girl photo stance and rockin’ blond hair patch.

On Friday, 3 May, I finally did what I’ve been hoping to do for about 18 months: I convinced an eloping couple that getting into the row boats of Central Park in their wedding clothes was an excellent idea. Since I had Alex to boss around help, she rowed, and I was able photograph them around the 22 acre pond from the stern of my very own row boat. Then I tried rowing, and she snapped some shots of me. It was so cool, like a scene out of Stuart Little.

Life list, go mighty

It’s a career highlight, a Life List item I got to check off, and I’m pretty sure that I won a bet with Katie Jane over who can get newlyweds in a row boat first.

If you do this, I recommend going on a week day and slathering on a good sunscreen.

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On Talking Your Boss Into a Raise When You are Self-Employed

Each week, my business account pays my personal account a salary for paying household bills and buying gin, shoes and cheese, which keeps me on a set budget since my actual weekly earnings can vary dramatically. For the past month or so I’ve waned a raise – cheese is expensive – but there’s a need to impress “my boss” with my time management skills first.

The tricky bit, of course, is I’m my boss, and performance reviews – conducted once weekly in the shower where I have time to think quietly – can lean either too stern or lenient. It’s challenging to find the honest answer to the question, “Are you working hard enough, and to the best of your ability?”

“Uh, maybe?” I answer myself.

“What about this week?” I say sternly, shampooing. “You weren’t very focused, now were you?”

“That shoot? I got it done… eventually.”

Eventually! What about all that in-chair twirling you did first?”

See, this week I had a particularly challenging shoot to edit. I wound up having to force myself to sit until it was done, but not without staring at the ceiling, the wall, unbending a paperclip, patting a dog, and spinning around in the desk chair a few times.

Does that mean I am to be proud for digging in and getting it done, or annoyed it took me so long? I think the former because, frankly, I’ve been working like this for 25 years, and probably won’t stop any time soon, but I can’t help but feel like I need to be more on the ball, too. GROWN UP FREELANCERS DON’T TWIRL!*

This was on my mind this week, and if you have any excellent small business books that address time management, especially in the face of challenging projects, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

*Memoir title. Nailed it.

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