We had the good fortune of connecting with Amy Van Vlear and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amy, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
The truth is that building your own business is risky, and sometimes I wish I could have a 9-5 for the stability it brings! “But Amy, why put yourself in risky situations? It just causes you anxiety” is what I ask myself all. the. time. but it turns out as an artist I actually NEED unpredictability and space for creative freedom to feel like I am thriving as a person. I remind myself that, while taking on projects where failure is an option can be dang scary, it is is also the single most important part of making something that is different. If I want to create something that’s interesting, that stands out and catches people’s eye in a sea of instagram photos, it’s a given that risk is involved. Positioning myself differently during a wedding ceremony to capture a unique angle, when I know I’ll miss that “safe shot.” Creating a concept for a styled shoot and convincing a ton of vendors to invest their resources when I’m unsure if the concept will be worthy of publishing, let alone even look cohesive (it was, and it did). Lately taking risks has started to become more of a thrilling aspect of my job that I look forward to. I quit my stable job in marketing to become a wedding photographer and have found out over the years that risk-taking alone doesn’t often yield lasting success- turns out you need a decent amount of grit too. If you have big dreams and goals for your career, ideas and projects along the way WILL fail and you need that persistence to overcome the discouragement and fear of future risk-taking. Besides, when the risk is higher the payoff can be greater even if it doesn’t pan out. You don’t learn as much from failures resulting from low-risk endeavors. Obviously overcoming fears and taking risks is easier said than done. Earlier in this year the ol’ pandemic gave me a bad habit of grasping too tightly onto what I had and being afraid to grow my business, because “changing my photographic style AND operating a small business in this current economic climate is double the risk, and that’s too much.” But I’ve since realized that creating something new and different might just be what people are needing these days, and I’m showing up for that.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Taking photographs for a living has been a wild ride that I wouldn’t trade for anything. My background is in drawing and graphic design, which has enabled me to bring a fine art perspective to my photography! My favorite images stop me in my tracks, that transport me to somewhere magical or make me see things differently or feel an emotional connection. Those are impacts I hope my images have on others as well. Creativity is essential to my business, so I try to integrate other forms of art-making into my life to fill up that creative well for photos. When photographing people (especially at weddings), I try to strike a balance between a photojournalistic approach of capturing everything as it happens naturally with an artistic eye, and knowing when to step in to direct and pose in order to create those beautiful portraits that could be found in a magazine. No matter what kind of photo I’m taking, I want to create trust with my couples to put them at ease in front of my lens because I know that is the key to capturing their personalities together and real emotions in the moment. It’s thrilling to meet new people all the time and see what makes their connection to each other special. Energetic & bright, sharp & edgy, calm & soft- I strive to bring out that individuality in each of my images. The most important thing to me as a photog is to document real stories as they unfold so that people have genuine and meaningful memories to look back upon, and glimpse who they were at that time in their life. Something that drives me crazayyy is seeing photographers turn peoples’ lives into a content photoshoot for their business, and watching couples subsequently check out mentally & emotionally. The integrity of real moments is super important to me, and it’s hard to express in writing what an honor it is to be invited into the most intimate and joyful experiences of peoples’ lives and entrusted with documenting them from my unique perspective. The decisions I make with composition, light, shadow, and color play an important part in painting the feeling and story, and my images inform how my couples actually look back on and remember the events of their wedding day! It sure hasn’t been easy arriving at the place I am now, no sir! I shot my first wedding 8 years ago for $100, bright-eyed and excited but also naive and unaware of all the hard work involved in growing a business from the ground up. As an artist all I really want to do is make pretty things for people and not worry about money or getting people through the door, but thanks to business books, photography resources, hard work, grit, & a sense of humor, I’ve been able to grow my dream into a reality (aka making pretty things for people and ALSO getting paid for it!) A lesson I’ve been learning in my career is that community is SO crucial in this industry. Meeting over boba tea or arranging a shoot with other creatives, going out of my way to do something kind for another vendor at a wedding, showing support on Instagram. These gestures go a long way to open doors for new opportunity and feel connected in an industry that can get lonely at times. I’m excited for all the photo opportunities I have coming up- every new shoot brings fresh perspectives and interesting people my way. If you are looking for a photographer for your wedding / proposal / engagement / adventure, I’m here for it- let’s have some fun & make rad art together!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If you’re hanging out with me you’re in for a chill time filled with beautiful sights and tasty food. We’d hit up Thai Garden for amazing curry or Baja Fish Tacos for the best tacos literally ever. Hiking is a definite yes around here, in Angeles National Forest, Chino Hills, or the local foothills. The beaches are insane- I’d recommend a swim at Shaw’s Cove in Laguna Beach or a walk around the trails in San Onofre. Orange County is also a perfect central point for day trips out to some of my favorite places like Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park, or Santa Barbara. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I definitely would not be the person or business owner I am without the support of my husband John. He’s the one that convinced me that I had what it took to be a wedding photographer, and his constant encouragement and feedback has helped me propel my business to what it is today.
Other: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Amy+Van+Vlear+Photographeremail@example.com,-118.1514185,8z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0xa9fc9cff98517e40?sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj15LCm4_7tAhWmHjQIHSKKDtoQ_BIwC3oECBYQBQ (my google business listing with reviews from past clients!)