Saginaw, Michigan, U.S.
Canon 5D Mark III.
Sorry, such a long list: Jerry Ghionis, Nick Ghionis, Annie Leibovitz, Ryan Schembri, Rocco Ancora, Sue Bryce, Roberto Valenzuela.
Sushi, Chinese, Italian – love it all.
My Own Bed.
How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie.
Amber Henry is a self-taught, published and award-winning photographer, specialising in weddings and portraiture. Amber has been featured in Professional Photography Magazine, as well as instructing for PPA. Having three sons at home, Amber is good at multi-tasking and taking care of other people’s needs.
Starting her career in one of the smallest towns in Michigan, while herself dependent on welfare, she learned quickly how to take beautiful images under very unappealing circumstances. Studying lighting and posing through online courses, reading and reaching out to industry leaders, helped her create images of her clients that made them look and feel like magazine-worthy models, and her reputation quickly grew as “The” wedding photographer to get.
Photography was the key to Amber taking her family out of poverty and into a wonderfully happy and fulfilling life. Amber is a fighter, someone who can find the best in any situation. She always goes above and beyond for every client, never settling or depending on the minimum. She imagines herself as the client, and tries to photograph them in a way that she would a person whom she loves; bringing out the very best and helping them to shine.
Amber believes that no matter what your circumstances or background, reaching the place you dream of is absolutely possible – with tears, determination, a lot of late nights and the right amount of guts, sweat and passion.
-How did you first become interested in photography?
Photography has always been inside of me. As a teen, I would sneak my friends into fitting rooms and take pictures of them in Prom dresses we could never afford with my little point and shoot film camera. I loved seeing my everyday buddies looking like models and princesses. It gave us a break from a very humdrum life. Photography was the ultimate escape.
-Did you always want to be a professional photographer?
I was always an artist but didn’t think I could ever make it as a photographer because the equipment and training seemed so far out of reach. When I was 22, a chain portrait studio hired me and I knew right away it was the start of something big!
-What words best describe your style of photography?
-What is your business model like?
I specialise in a one-on-one plan, I want to know my clients before I photograph them, I want them to have a personal connection to me and to my brand. I offer longer photography sessions, high-end products, and in-person sales that help my brand stand out from other local studios. When you invest your time with a client, they should feel it is something special, because your time is valuable.
-How do you attract new clients and how do you gain their trust?
I am blessed to have earned a good following in my state, and many of my clients are brought in from past clients. Most new clients have seen my work online or through friends, and have spent many hours going through my portfolio before they come in for a consult.
My images are very consistent and I think that builds confidence that I can create the same look for them that they fell in love with. I also stress that all of my images are shot on location, the day of the wedding. There are almost no stylised shoots, so they can trust I work well on my feet in varying circumstances.
-What is your post-production workflow like?
I cull in Photo-mechanic (usually on Sunday night sitting on the couch with my boyfriend watching one of our favourite shows), and during the week I run basic editing in Lightroom. I create slideshows for each client through Animoto using Triple Scoop Music and then have them scheduled for an in-person viewing/ordering session in my studio.
After they decide what to purchase, I use Photoshop for skin retouching and more hands-on editing. I do not fully edit images that are not purchased and this has saved me a huge amount of workflow time! Learning to slow down and get things right in camera (posing/lighting/emotion) has saved me countless hours behind the computer screen in post.
-What is your dream project?
I would love to collaborate with one of my favourite photographers on a project. I believe I will always be a teacher, a professional, as well as a student. I am addicted to educating myself. (Annie Leibovitz, can you hear me?).
-What is your creative process like? What are you start, middle and end points?
As I shoot mainly weddings, I have to think fast, but still create beautiful images. For every situation, I am in I decide on the light first. Lighting is always the most important element, whether I have to use what’s available or create my own, it is always number one. Next, I get my exposure, pose and composition correct.
The last thing is bringing out the expression, and that is vital to creating the story. Without expression, a portrait is lost. As soon as the couple or my subject has the expression I desire, I can take the image and then move on to the next.
-How do you approach posing or directing your subject?
I like to guide or direct my clients in almost every scene, and I tend to over-explain what I’m doing and why. A woman who is told, “I’m tilting your head up to the light so that your cheekbones and jawline looks sculpted and fantastic!” is much more likely to desire to cooperate and learn to pose herself, then if she’s just told to, “Look that way.”
Rarely do I get clients who know how to move and pose in front of a camera, and why would they? They are everyday people, not models. My goal is to help them look and feel like models, and they appreciate being guided in what they need to do. It builds their confidence in their images and in me as the professional.
-What is your top technical tip?
Once you know your gear comfortably, your camera settings and how to get the correct lighting and exposure, stop and learn about people. Don’t let the tech become more important than the subject. Remember that the camera is a tool, but your subject is a unique soul.
-What was the best career advice you were ever given?
You can’t pour from an empty cup. It is ok to charge money for your craft so that you can invest in yourself and your business. It’s ok to take time away from your paid clients to be creative just for yourself. It’s ok to take time away from everyone just to rejuvenate yourself so that when you come back replenished, you can give back with a full heart and spirit.
Nick Ghionis questioned me once when I was doubting myself and my work, and he asked me, “Well, at what point will you think you have become ‘successful’? Your business is good, your children adore you, you are making your way. I’d say that is success.”