My journey to becoming a brand photographer was definitely not a straight path. But, I learned such valuable lessons along the way that I wouldn’t change a thing. Here’s a little bit of my story.
I have been an entrepreneur for well over a decade now. I have always been passionate about cooking. My friends and family constantly told me to open a restaurant, and this was the dream for many years! At 33 I was diagnosed with Celiac disease, which would ultimately change my entire world.
Knowing I wanted to build something, and food seemingly the natural path for me, I set out on a mission. Before gluten-free products were on every shelf in the grocery store, I took my passion for cooking and combined it with my new-found lifestyle, opening one of the first allergy-friendly catering and retail businesses.
At the time, I was a single mom with three children and the hours were painstakingly long. After six years of investing my blood, sweat, and tears (and yes there were many tears) into this business I came to a crossroad. I was offered the opportunity to sell a portion of it and close up shop. After many sleepless nights, I decided this was the best option for me and my family.
Closing this business was like dealing with a death, to be honest. I had invested so much of not only my time, money, and energy, but a large part of my kid’s childhoods as well. It felt very defeating for a long time.
During this transition time, however, I met my husband Craig. We knew each other for a while before we started dating then six months after our first date we were married. Craig is the most supportive husband you will ever come across. He is always interested in my work and picked up on how passionate I was about running my business from the first day we met.
This led him to encourage me to take some time off and write a cookbook. We did a full photoshoot and it’s almost complete. But to this day it resides in my computer. I feel like it is something I will pull out of the archives one day and just pull the trigger on, but until then it sits.
Here is the thing, had I not done all of that, I would not have been inspired and pushed to do what I was always afraid to say I loved. The expectation always seemed to be that I should just automatically want to put my head down and constantly be in the kitchen. The fact of the matter is all those hours I spent creating recipes and standing over a hot stove killed the pure joy I once found in cooking.
It makes me sad because I truly avoid it now. I won’t say I hate it, because when I am inside it and actually doing something magical, I do find that spark again, but it takes a lot for me to build up to wanting to do it now.
I started feeling this way, long before I would admit to anyone including myself! This resulted in a second detour…
Next, I ‘say’ I accidentally created another business. To a point this is true, but if I face up to it, I created it to pull myself away from the cookbook. Not long after I began writing the book, I got pretty antsy and was still connected with former catering clients. A couple of them asked me if I was still interested in working with them and I declined. However, a lightbulb went off after those calls and I suddenly decided I would open an Event Planning Firm.
It seemed as though I blinked and I had a staff of six sitting in my dining room, weddings coming out of my ears plus corporate and charity events calling to book a year in advance. I mean I was doing something right, but I also did a lot wrong! Starting with hiring. Boy did I learn a lot from building that business. I could have done half as much with half the people and pocketed twice as much revenue. But live and learn!
The events business put me in front of a wide range of creative entrepreneurs, unique businesses, and people who provide boutique services. While I still had no idea I wanted to be a ‘brand’ photographer, this transition was what started to spark an interest in niche branding. I was seeing and appreciating the value of quality branding from small business owners who my clients and I hired.
This business would still be around today if it weren’t for two factors. First, I found out pretty quickly I did not enjoy weddings. At least not the ones I was doing at that time, they were draining me more than I realized. Second, in January of 2018 I was diagnosed with Uterine cancer. The same week of my diagnosis my husband was also given the greenlight to go overseas. So a month after my surgery and a week before he was leaving, we went to the beach and talked long and hard about what we wanted for the future.
We were face to face with learning how short life can be. He told me how unhappy I seemed with weddings and encouraged me again to get back to cooking. It was then I realized I needed to start acknowledging my dream had changed.
So where does brand photography come into all this? Well, I am not a girl who will tell you I grew up with a camera in my hand. But I had this secret dream of calling myself a photographer that no one knew about, not even Craig. I shot a lot of (horrible) pictures of my food when I had my catering business and then found serious interest in it when I worked with my photographer on the cookbook. So I built up the courage to tell my husband I wanted a “real” camera for my birthday.
When I got it, technically, I had no clue what I was doing. But it didn’t take long to find a million lessons on YouTube. The first thing I did before I learned anything else was how to shoot in manual mode and what all the settings meant.
From there, things took off because understanding the foundational stuff came very naturally to me. I did actually take a photography class years ago, so some of it was still in there I think 😉
And back around to food I came! There were only so many times I could drag my 18-year-old son outside to take pictures, so I had to get more creative with my subjects for practice. It didn’t take long to find my Zen place, with my camera and, in the beginning, whatever subject happened to be in front of it. I am a little pickier now of course, but there is something about the beauty and artistry of composing a photo that I can’t explain loving so much.
So I learned to shoot and edit food, because that was what I had the most access to. Then, I had to go back and learn to shoot and edit people. Two totally different things!
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all the twists and turns in my life. Understanding Event Professionals as a whole is a gift to me. I am able to relate to my clients on a level that many photographers can’t. Everyone needs a niche. My history not only makes me uniquely qualified as a Brand Photographer, but also an exclusive resource for creatives in the event industry.
There will be no other business for me, Amanda Richardson Boutique Photography is already growing. We are building in a way that soon my husband will come home from overseas and join the team! Because of the covid crisis we are actually expanding and opening the business up to some new adventures I never even dreamed of!
I am so thrilled to be expanding this business. I am now a brand photographer serving creative entrepreneurs and small businesses throughout North Carolina and the entire East Coast. The culinary profession gave me my start and will always have a piece of my heart. But, I am energized and thrilled to also have the opportunity to build the brands of florists, venues, planners, artists, musicians, coaches, and other talented leaders in their fields, including other photographers! 2021 brings an opportunity to flex my creative muscle. I can’t wait to bring to life the visual brand of all kinds of new clients!