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!

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