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Photographer Spotlight: Amanda Montgomery

All the feels. That’s what we experienced when looking through Grand Rapids, Michigan-based photographer Amanda Montgomery’s images. Joy, tenderness, playfulness, passion… all these and more shine through in Amanda’s work, thanks to her ability to connect with people and her keen artistic eye. As the owner of Arrae Photography, Amanda’s gift of “Celebrating big feelings in tiny moments” has earned her a Couples’ Choice Award on WeddingWire.com, features on Brides.com and The Knot, and a long list of elated clients.

Amanda was kind enough to chat with us this month and share her insights and tips on setting pricing, making Google love your site, must-have gear for traveling photographers, and more. Read on for Amanda’s thoughts!

Please tell us a little about yourself. How did you become interested in photography, and how did you get started in the professional photography world?

I’ve wanted to be a photographer my whole life. I honestly don’t remember where it began, but after revisiting Beetlejuice recently, it may have had something to do with Winona Ryder’s character and her love of photography. I was pretty obsessed with that movie as a kid. (PSA: That is NOT a kid-friendly movie–thanks for letting me watch it, Mom!) I saved up my babysitting money and bought my first SLR at 12 years old. It was a Minolta 3xi from Best Buy. From there I just saved and traded up the gear as I learned. I’m now a Canon girl. Practicing on my friends and being known as the photographer in the group led to requests for photographing weddings. As much as that terrified me and as certain as I was that shooting weddings wasn’t what I’d want to do with my photography career, I fell in love with it instantly.

What types of services do you offer?

I shoot primarily weddings and portraits but have recently expanded my business to commercial and food photography.  

Do you have a guiding philosophy as a photographer? Or maybe just for life in general? 🙂

That’s a loaded one. My photography has always been my outlet to create and connect with others. The psychology of love and relationships fascinates me, and getting to know my couples and how they fit together is one of my favorite parts of this career. This is a big part of who I am. I’m curious, I love love, and have all the feelings. Trying to always see the moments with my heart and capture the feelings of them is a big driving force.

You’re based in Grand Rapids, Michigan (a hop, skip, and jump from ProPhoto’s office in Holland!) but you also travel anywhere in the world for photo shoots. What are some of the challenges and benefits that come with doing that? Any advice for other photographers who are thinking of offering this service?

Traveling for sure takes a lot more time and planning for shooting, but it is a great way to explore the world and expand your creativity. New places always have so many new shooting options and they inspire me to see the good old places I like to shoot back home in a new way! If you’re traveling via plane, make sure you always carry on as much of your gear as possible. Think Tank’s Airport Security bag is a wonderful bag to bring plenty of gear with you when traveling.

When you were just getting started as a photographer, was there anything that you had trouble finding good information about or wished that you knew more about?

Off camera flash! It took me way too many years of telling myself I didn’t need off camera flash to create my images before I bothered to really start working on those skills. It’s been a great tool in the belt when needing to create an interesting image in a less-than-interesting location.  

How has ProPhoto helped with your business?

I’ve been with ProPhoto since 2009 and one of the first things I fell in love with is the ease of creating a custom site without needing to learn how to code. As a more right-brained human, computer coding isn’t a language that comes easy for me. ProPhoto 7’s latest features have made it easier than ever to make changes on the fly when I want to update or tweak a page. I get lots of traffic from Google, so ProPhoto’s SEO friendliness has been a  huge benefit to me and my business.

What’s something that has helped you market your business online?

Update your site and create new content consistently. Doesn’t have to be blog posts, but it does need to be words, because Google loves words. Google just wants to find the right site for the person searching, so be the right site by creating consistently excellent content.

Lots of newer photographers struggle with deciding on how to set their pricing. Would you be willing to share a little about your experience with deciding on that, and advice for others who are trying to make those decisions?

Researching the pricing in your area is a good place to start. If you are just starting out and need to build your portfolio and gain experience, consider reaching out to another more seasoned photographer to mentor under, and maybe even second-shoot some weddings or events. When setting your pricing, make sure you are not undervaluing your work or the market, but you also can’t just run out the gate at current market prices without the skill and experience to warrant those prices. Like all the hard and rewarding things in life, it’s a balance and you’ll know when it’s not working one way or another and you’ll adjust.

What is one of the most memorable sessions you’ve gotten to shoot?

Oh what a question! So many amazing people and beautiful moments I’ve gotten to be a part of. There are so many countless memories of tears, joy, laughter that I’ve been so honored to be a part of and document for families. I honestly can’t choose. The first moments with a newborn baby, a surprise proposal, an epic carriage ride around the city with the newlyweds. I’m so thankful to have been a part of all these beautiful moments.

What is inspiring your photography these days?

I can’t help but analyze the way light and movement is used in movies and well-made TV shows. The level of talent to be found there is incredible and an inspiration.

Do you have any new projects/ventures in the works that you’d like to tell us about?

I have been dabbling in food photography and LOVING it! I started a new site, created with ProPhoto of course, for the commercial side of my business. It’s in its infancy yet, but I’m excited to see it grow. You can find that journey at www.arraecreative.com.

Thanks so much for sharing your insight and advice, Amanda! We’re going to re-watch Beetlejuice now (after the kids go to bed). 😉  

We love learning from and being inspired by the creators, makers, and entrepreneurs who use and love ProPhoto for their websites. If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming Spotlight post, don’t be shy–send us a message or leave a comment below. We’d love to chat!

Photographer Spotlight: Richard Harris

Richard Harris’ photographs tell a story, and they invite the viewer to be a part of it–glimpsing tender moments between grandparents and grandchildren, clinking glasses with well-wishers, and experiencing the flood of emotions right along with the bride and groom. There’s nothing scripted, forced, or posed. Just real people, real moments, and real emotions, captured in an artful and timeless style.

This month, we talked to Richard Harris, the owner of UK-based Richard Harris Photography and a loyal ProPhoto user, about the importance of trusting your own photographic vision, tips for balancing life and business, and taking inspiration from past greats while being fully present in the moment. We think you’ll find his insights fascinating.

A self-portrait of Richard and Helena.

Please tell us a little about yourself. How did you become interested in photography, and how did you get started as a wedding/family photographer?

I think it was mostly my dad who started my interest in photography. He always had his Nikon F with him when my sister and I were growing up, so that planted the initial seed of interest. It probably wasn’t until my mid-late teens, when I had a growing interest in oil painting and art that I began to become more serious with photography. I’d had my first film SLR for a couple of years, and had been doing the whole B&W developing-printing adventure… it’s an easy wormhole to fall into!

Those early years made me rediscover my yearning to create. And photography felt (and still does) so infinite in how and what you can explore with it. You can really photograph anything in life and show others why you feel it’s significant and needs to be seen.

My first steps into photography were almost exclusively landscape photography. I didn’t have as much interest in photographing people at first, so it was a steep learning curve initially. I quickly learned the importance of setting expectations, having real, face-to-face conversations with clients, and making sure you’re on the same page. That’s just as important at your first wedding as it is at your 100th.

I’ve also started offering family photography to past clients in 2018. It’s something I really enjoy and is a natural evolution of my work.

What types of services do you offer?

I’m primarily a wedding photographer. I do offer family photography, but only to past clients.

My business has evolved over the years, but I generally shoot around 15-20 weddings a year now and no more. I love my work and I put a lot of myself into it – but I have learned to have a more balanced life than when I first started out.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I’m usually photographing weddings on Fridays and Saturdays. Sundays, I’m often utterly shattered and recovering from a long day of shooting and a late night the day before. Mondays and Tuesdays are when I tackle inquiries/planning/emails from the weekend and work on editing. Wednesdays I usually reserve for calls and meetings, and also try to get as much “life-related admin” done as possible. Fridays, I’m usually prepping my gear if I’ll be shooting on Saturday and/or having a final meeting, rehearsal, or traveling to the location.

I sometimes have a family session mid-week as well. It is just me in charge but I will never complain about that! I think you just need to keep on top of things and importantly, enjoy the work you do.

I also think it’s vital to make time for the people in your life as well. I like seeing friends and family and spending time with Helena (my girlfriend). We like to travel and explore new places, which is something that’s great about working for yourself – you can independently organise your life and have a lot more flexibility.

How did you discover ProPhoto, and how has it helped with your business?

I think I discovered ProPhoto through a forum in 2012? So it is a long time ago now. More than anything, ProPhoto has put me in control of articulating my work and brand through web design. My understanding of this has evolved massively in 7 years, but it’s so important. People will read your website if you write about what you believe in and they share the same beliefs, but if your site is poorly designed, has errors, or doesn’t deliver on content in the right way, you’re just going to lose out.

The level of control with ProPhoto is outrageous, really. I’m particularly picky about how I want to articulate things these days and over the years, I have run into genuine problems – and they’ve ALWAYS been helpfully and promptly resolved by the support team. Overwhelmingly, they’re REAL people who take the time to understand and help you. It’s so simple, but how often do businesses really do this these days?

I think the knock-on effect of this is confidence. It fills you with the confidence of knowing you can reach and explore further without limits. If I have a new project in mind, new work to publish, or just revisions to make to my website, I’m able to brainstorm in my head what I can do, knowing there is almost nothing limiting me.

How do you balance working with clients/shooting photos with handling the practical aspects of running your own business? Do you have any tips/advice that have made things easier?

From day one, accounting software has been really helpful. I would call it an essential, personally. Keeping up-to-date, knowing where you are and what needs to be done, having that professional outlook really helps keep you on track.

Other than that, I think common sense (but often underestimated) ideas are good to follow. Answer emails promptly – but have actual working hours that you stick to. You need to set REAL boundaries in your life, otherwise you’ll be working 24/7. Set out-of-office replies on your email if you’re not going to be around for a week so people don’t think you’re ignoring them. Set yourself deadlines and have a strategy for working through them, but be realistic. At the beginning, I used to set ridiculously short deadlines that were impossible to meet without working late into the night, and that’s just not sustainable.

I think eating well can’t be underestimated – it’ll fill your body with sustained energy and make you feel good for the whole day, rather than short bursts of madness.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you were just starting out as a professional photographer?

That it’s not only okay but GOOD to follow your own heart, vision, and beliefs. In the first year or two of my business, I floated around a little, thinking I had to live up to some idea of “professional quality photos” (or something naff like that). I think it held me back and slowed me down because I was putting some of my attention on things that today just aren’t part of my business at all.

However, that is part of the learning experience. I think it’s important to take something and grow from these experiences, to understand more about yourself and your business.

What is one of the most memorable weddings/family sessions you’ve gotten to shoot?

It’s a bit of a sad one in some ways. In August 2014, I was photographing a wedding where the bride was terminally ill. They were really, really lovely people. In many ways it was just a normal wedding day, everything went pretty smoothly, and we all had a great time. But there was an obvious awareness from everyone that it was a bittersweet celebration.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Creatively, I have had a long and deep love affair (it’s a one way situation) with many of the great “street” and “documentary” photographers of the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s (although many of them would reject those labels). Artists such as Dorothy Bohm, Diane Arbus, and Robert Doisneau.

People are sometimes perplexed when they find out I don’t religiously follow “wedding trends” or the fashionable photographers of the moment… but it just seems obvious to me to look to the past greats, what they accomplished, what they were striving for, and to understand their body of work, their hopes and dreams. You can learn so much from someone who has had a successful (and genre-defining) 30+ year career.

I think the “golden oldies” inform and inspire some of what I do, but when it comes to actual shooting, I get a lot of inspiration from my clients themselves and their situation. I would never try to replicate an old photo I liked; that would go against everything I stand for. In some ways, it comes down to the method of shooting. I always ask clients questions to understand what is important to them, but I’m also listening on the day of the shoot and understanding how events are unfolding in front of me. I’m very much “in the moment” a lot of the time, so the literal thing that is happening in front of me has to be a big inspiration.

Do you have any new projects/ventures in the works that you’d like to tell us about?

I am terrible for constantly taking on new projects! Last year was quite a significant year for me, as it was the first year I let my family sessions out into the world, and had to learn to balance them alongside my wedding photography. This year I’m going to be working at improving that balance.

I’ve always been interested in metal and woodworking (mostly as a hobby) but I’m pondering the idea of combining this interest with what I deliver to my clients, by offering custom framing. It’s quite far down my list of priorities at this time of year, but I hope to explore the possibility this year, if I can find the time.

Thanks so much for sharing this glimpse into your art and business, Richard!

We’ll have more interviews with photographers, designers, and other small business owners who use ProPhoto in the coming weeks, so check back soon for more! And we want to cover the topics that matter to you, so leave a comment and let us know what you’d like to learn more about.

Designer Spotlight: Ariel Garcia

One of our favorite parts of being a small business is getting to know the people who use our product and hearing how ProPhoto has helped them grow their own businesses. Over the years, we’ve had the pleasure of working with many ProPhoto users and designers one-on-one and you’ve become our friends and partners. You’re a smart, savvy, and crazy creative bunch–we’ve learned so much from you!

That’s why we’re creating a space to spotlight some of our users–a place where we can learn from and inspire each other and share insider knowledge, trends, tips… maybe even a few laughs. 🙂

For our first “Spotlight” interview, we chatted with Ariel Garcia, owner of The Blog Stop and a longtime ProPhoto designer. We’re big fans of Ariel’s fresh, unique, and modern aesthetic and ability to help others tell their brand story. Read on for her insight on why branding should be a top priority for every small business, where she gets her inspiration, and more!

In a sentence or two, how would you describe the services that The Blog Stop provides?

The Blog Stop is a one-stop design shop for all things blog design and branding. Our services range from custom blog design to blog template restyles to DIY blogging templates.

How did you get your start in web design?

I was tired of my 9-5 desk job and knew I wanted to spend my days working on something more creative. I had never done any kind of graphic or website design before, but I landed an assistant job at a boutique branding and web design company in Los Angeles. During the first year, I taught myself how to use Photoshop and Illustrator to design and build websites. Over the years, I took on more design responsibility and eventually moved into the role of Head Designer. After feeling like I’d learned all I could in that position, I ventured out on my own and started The Blog Stop.

You’re big on branding. What does branding mean to you, and why is it important for small businesses?

Good branding is what I live for! It encompasses everything you want to communicate about your business without saying a word. Without branding, your business has no personality. Your branding will be what connects with your ideal customer and helps you build an audience that will follow you anywhere! It will help you stand out in a sea of online businesses and look like an expert in your field.

What are some common mistakes you see people making when it comes to branding and web design?

I think one of the biggest mistakes I see people making when it comes to branding and web design is writing off its importance. So many businesses throw up an ugly, informational landing page without thinking about the user experience. In today’s world, we use the internet for everything. And as soon as I land on a website that’s unengaging and hard to navigate, I’m out. Spend time and effort designing your website and creating a platform that’s branded, creatively informative, and easy for someone who’s never heard of you to use and understand.

How did you learn about ProPhoto?

The first web design company I worked for used ProPhoto. I’ve since worked with many other website design platforms but ProPhoto remains my favorite!

What is one piece of advice you would give someone who’s just starting out and trying to establish their web presence?

Research! Take a look at what is out there. Discover what you like and what kind of website draws you in. Identify why you’re drawn to these websites and how you can incorporate similar qualities into your own. And if you have a budget, I’d highly recommend hiring a designer to (at the very least) design your logo. Good branding is the first step to building an online presence that attracts your dream audience.

What’s a project you’ve worked on recently that you’ve especially enjoyed?

I just started working with Leah Ashley from Living With Leah on a website refresh. Her website is a few years old and I’m really excited to design something new and fresh for her vibrant brand!

Where do you get your inspiration?

All over! I spend a lot of time browsing through Instagram and Pinterest. Both platforms are filled with so many talented and inspiring artists! I also love traveling and find so much inspiration in design trends around the world. Scandinavia and Japan have some of my favorite design aesthetics.

What are some trends you’re excited about in web design?

I love the increased used of video and user interaction! I get really excited anytime I can find a way to give the user a web experience they’ve never had when landing on a homepage.

Thanks so much for your insights, Ariel!

Check back in the coming weeks for more spotlight interviews with other professionals who use and love ProPhoto for their businesses! Is there a topic you’d like us to cover in these interviews? Let us know in the comments. And if you’d like to be featured, don’t be shy–drop us a line! 🙂

Happy Holidays from the ProPhoto Team!

We hope your holidays are full of peace, love, and joy!

The ProPhoto team and their spouses celebrating another fantastic year.

It’s been a whirlwind year for us! We started off 2018 by hopping “across the pond” for the Societies of Wedding & Portrait Photographers Photo Convention in London. Support guys Benjamin Tennant and Steve Post got to meet Melissa Love from The Design Space Co. and Vaughn Liley from Uniregistry, which has grown into our exciting new partnership with HostPapa. It was also wonderful to connect with some of our UK users in person and enjoy a pint in a traditional British pub!

Our little team went through some big changes this year. Jared Henderson, who founded the company and created ProPhoto nearly 11 years ago, left to pursue some other passions that he felt called to. We celebrated Jared’s years of dedication and contributions to the company in May with a farewell dinner, toasts, a few tears, and a stack of gift certificates for our local farmers’ market–a fitting present for someone who understands the importance of quality “ingredients,” whether for making a recipe or software!

Dan Lam has taken over as owner and has been keeping the company on a steady course while encouraging team members to grow into their unique talents and gifts. We’ve also brought Lindsay Post on board to help with our blog and social media efforts (if the last name sounds familiar, that’s because she’s married to Steve!). We’re excited to connect more with our users through these channels.

On top of all this, we launched ProPhoto 7, our latest, greatest (yeah, we’re gonna say it 🙂 ) version yet. It was a huge team effort and a long time in the making, but we couldn’t be prouder of how it turned out. Hearing from customers who are loving its uber-user-friendly front-end editing and crazy flexible customization makes it all worth it. And our amazing designer network has been rolling out design after stunning design, in every style, from modern and minimal to classic and vintage.

To kick off the launch, we teamed with our friends Ceci LaBarge and Overneath Creative Collective for our first-ever promo video, which was a blast to shoot. (Who can complain when free cupcakes are involved, right?)

Looking forward to 2019, we’re jazzed about what’s in store for ProPhoto 7. Our developers are working hard to bring you even more cool and useful features, and we’ll keep rolling out updates throughout the year. We will soon be offering a ProPhoto-specific hosting plan with HostPapa (stay tuned for more on that in the coming weeks). And we’ll also be sharing more content on our blog and social media, which we hope you will find helpful and interesting.

We couldn’t do any of this without you, our amazing customers. So as we close out this year, we are grateful for each one of you and excited to build new and beautiful things together in 2019 and beyond.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and successful New Year!

WordPress 5.0 is Here and ProPhoto is Ready

It’s been a long time in the making, but WordPress 5.0 is here! There’s been a ton of buzz surrounding this update, and you probably have some questions, so let’s dive right in.

Will ProPhoto 7 work with WordPress 5.0?

Yes! Our development team has been hard at work to ensure that ProPhoto 7 is compatible with WordPress 5.0. With ProPhoto 7, your site will continue to function as it does now and you will be able to use the new Gutenberg Editor (more on that in a bit). However, you won’t be able to add ProPhoto galleries or grids into the new editor quite yet. But we will be updating ProPhoto 7 in the very near future (one to two weeks) to make that possible!

What if I use an older version of ProPhoto?

You’re covered. We’ve tested older versions of ProPhoto (including 4, 5, and 6), and sites created with them will still work with WordPress 5.0. You can use the new Gutenberg Editor with any of the older ProPhoto versions; however, you will need to use the WordPress Classic Editor plugin to add or edit any ProPhoto items that you insert into the content of posts and pages.

While older versions will work, now would be a great time to upgrade to ProPhoto 7. 🙂 ProPhoto 7 and WordPress 5.0 are built on the same technology so they work better together–both now and in the future, compared to older ProPhoto versions.

What’s new in WordPress 5.0?

The big change everyone’s talking about is the Gutenberg Editor, which will alter the way you edit pages in WordPress as well as how your plugins and themes interact with WordPress. In a nutshell, the Gutenberg Editor is a block-based editor that lets you build your site’s posts and pages using individual blocks for text, images, videos, buttons, widgets, and more. You’ll be able to drag and drop blocks to rearrange them and have more flexibility and control.

You’ll want to give yourself some time to adjust to this new interface, but don’t worry–if you’re not quite ready to make the switch, you can keep using the Classic Editor by installing the official Classic Editor plugin.

How will ProPhoto 7 integrate with the Gutenberg Editor?

We took the Gutenberg Editor for a test-drive with ProPhoto 7 and we think they complement each other quite nicely. Once we push our soon-to-be released update, you will be able to insert ProPhoto grids and galleries directly into the Gutenberg Editor screen, and you’ll likely have to create fewer page layouts in ProPhoto, since Gutenberg Editor’s blocks and other features let you build more robust pages right within WordPress. So instead of using ProPhoto 7 to create page layouts, you can focus on using it to customize and design the style of your site.

There’s plenty more to say about the updates coming to WordPress, but for now, know that ProPhoto is ready and we’ve got you covered through all the changes.

Get a $30 rebate when you choose our recommended host, Hostpapa