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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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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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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

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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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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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Life List: Do Something I Love for a Living – Check!

When I was in high school, my dad once said to me, “You won’t need much by way of college, really. You’ll just get married.”

Right? That statement still runs through my brain sometimes and blows my mind.

Believe it or not, though, I lived with some watered-down, only slightly-more-liberated version of this vision of my life until a couple of years ago. I pursued things, but it was always until my “real life” of baby-having and mothering started. It’s been on my Life List for years, though, so in the back of my mind somewhere, I must have always known there was more in the cards for me.

Today, the “aw shucks” quiver has left my voice when I tell people “I’m a photographer”, but I still lay awake some nights staring into the darkness, wondering how life is supposed to go now that, for the first time, I’m totally independent of anyone else to support me.

What if I fuck up?

Yesterday I met a new client who lives in the neighborhood and needs help on a cool project. We met in my studio and talked for a while, but didn’t take any shots so I refused to let her pay me.

“I’ll buy you a drink then!” she said, so we went around the corner to talk some more, which turned into two drinks, girl talk, and a new neighborhood friend.

Two drinks at 3 pm left me a bit tipsy, and when I got home, I started fussing about my life to Gavin via IM, trying to figure out when I’ve “made it” and could cross this off my Life List. This is what he said to me, and (when I sobered up and read it again) I felt so at ease with where I am right now:

You can cross it off right now
Because you ARE doing something you love for a living
If you always chase some phantom idea of “better”, you’ll never be present and happy
You have a lot to be present and happy about.
You live in one of the greatest cities in the world and you are surrounded by cool people who inspire you and you get to do something awesome for a living, and you get better at it every single day.
You’ve already made it, Amber. Enjoy where it takes you, don’t obsess over where that “where” is.

Gavin, you’re the best, and I owe you a huge hug. (When I asked if I could quote him, he said yes, as long as I made him sound “wise and shit”.)

There are pockets of “But wait! I want to do this, this and THIS with my career, too!” in my life, but I suspect that they’re always going to be there in some form to keep me motivated (Related: will someone PLEASE elope to Paris and have me photograph it?!).

A look back to where I started shows I’ve come pretty far, though. People trust me. They trust me with their sweetest memories, they write me checks before seeing my final product, and they count on me to not make them feel foolish in front of the camera. It’s extraordinary and humbling, scary and wonderful… and it’s paying my rent.

I’m doing something I love for a living! Kermit Arm Flail!

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