Student Hot Seat: Amy Henderson
It's time to bring Amy up here. Putting her on the hot seat. Hello sweet Amy, how are you?
She's like (gasps) I'm good. I know it's hard. You're doing awesome.
You're doing great in your work. And Amy's actually been, which class were you in last time? You were in Boot camp weren't you?
Studio systems, yeah.
Studio systems boot camp ten months ago. So, I've known Amy for a little bit now. And her work has grown ten fold in that time period. It's been cool to see.
I think actually my curation of the work, because I haven't been shooting much until just recently.
But I've gone back through and said I'm not going to show any more families. I'm not going to show any more seniors. I'm gonna laser focus and get my ideal client, who's not in either of those categories.
What do you want to shoot? Where does your heart lie?
And the sessions that a bride would be looking for. So wedding, engagement, bridal, boudoir.
kay, that makes sense. And do you, how do you feel about your style right now?
I feel like I'm playing it safe.
And I feel like I'm inspired by things that I have, I do not know how to get there. And I don't even know that I would be able to sell that work, but it makes my heart sing when I see it, and I think like, oh man, someday I'll be able to be in that moment when the sun goes down perfect, and then I'll have that romantic couple right there, and it will be setup so perfect, and then it will be candid, and then I'll get the shot, and go home and just go ah, I did it. (laughing) And then I go to a wedding day, ten hours on my feet, and then we have that two minute window of that sun.
Nirvana does not have them.
It might, but it's like I've been shooting all day long and I got two minutes to play here. So, it's kind of, yeah, I feel like I get rushed and I play it safe, and I'm more concerned about what the client wants. Because they've expressed their vision to me. And so I would say I'm kind of confused because they come to me and say oh, I love your style, this is what we want. And I'm like, what is it that you, what did you see? Tell me my style. Why?
Do you have a vision for each session stylistically when you go into it? And do you practice that vision?
Well you know, this here is a good example of my vision is to take care of her, and she told me, I asked her, because there's so much scenery around. I asked her before the ceremony started, what's your priority for what you want to see in your album? Do you want the greenery this direction, or the water this direction? And she said I want it all water. And I okay, great, so I choose my angle based on her priority, and then like the light happened.
Can I ask you why you asked her that?
Because she and her family and 150 of her closest friends traveled from all over Canada to my destination town, and they chose that specific resort for a specific reason, something about it they loved, and I had to ask her what is it that you're sentimental to here, and it's the lake, it's not the mountain.
Okay, okay. I was asking you, I think you guys all knew where I was going with that. I was asking her because I was, and I don't think you did do this, so that's why I was asking. I was afraid you were letting the client dictate your style. So that's, and I think, especially when you said I'd play it safe, and I let the client tell me what they want, and I went okay. How far are you taking that? Is it like you said, where it's just making sure we get the sentimentality of the location, that kind of thing, or is it because your confidence is not there, and you want her to dictate it, so you know what I'm saying? So you don't have to put your authentic self out there I guess is what I'm saying.
Well I want my, I want to please. I want to ultimately please, and I want her to look at every single picture, and have that wow, and then as she spends time looking at it, dive into it and like, I love that she got this and that, and it's all in one picture. The scene, the light, the emotion. So when I was choosing my images, I was having a hard time separating my emotional connection to their stories to find my visual style.
Interesting, okay. But is there anything wrong with taking their stories and connecting them to your visual style?
As a style, like this is what I'm saying.
It's an adrenaline rush, because it's a fly by the seat of my pants. I've got one minute to make this happen, and I'm going to turn you this direction because I need the light to work with what I want to do here.
Mm-hm. When you say playing it safe, what do you mean by that? I play it safe.
Okay. When I did my mood board, I'm very drawn to dark. Dark and moody, and oranges and blues. Yup. (laughter) Yup, so the one on the bottom corner.
That's the only image that I would say has that feeling. Dark, moody and blues and oranges.
Okay, I did that Saturday night, and that's my assistant and her husband, and that was my attempt to see if I could actually get the sun to do what I want, where I said we're going to hike to a location where I think the sun is going to give me what I want to give me orange and blue.
So I'm trying. Like I see a lot of green and yellow. And of course mountains and lakes. So we have mountains and lakes.
And you're from here right? Where are you from again?
Sandpoint, Idaho. So you're northwest. So you deal with what the rest of us deals with. A lot of evergreen trees.
Yeah, but I feel like my heart resonates more towards rocky mountain and Alberta, if that makes any sense.
Totally makes sense.
I'm really concerned that you're not doing work that you really want to do.
No, I'm paying the bills, like Lindsay said. Like I would love for everything to go my way every time, but I want to pay the bills, and-
What's stopping you from every session, exploring this concept of dark, moody, orange and blue? It was blue right?
And is it maybe confidence in technical ability? Or just like not knowing. Because I remember you said earlier in the conversation you said I have a vision but I don't know how to get there.
I have vision. I do not love camera, or where I want it to be candid. So I feel like I'm setting up so many things in a shot, the scene, the pose, the helping them relax, and then guiding them into something that looks candid, and a lot of those are candid, but then it's a matter of like the technical. I experiment with something every time. So when I look at that, I am ...
Is that Amy?
It is you?
And I could tell you a story behind every single image and start crying right here and now.
Okay. But I guess what I'm asking is, yes, the heart and soul you put into these images for this couple is you. But if you looked at this, if you didn't know these people. You don't know these people.
Is this visually what's in your heart?
Can I, yeah.
Yeah. I mean-
Okay. I had, do you guys feel my fear? Do you feel my fear, what's going on in my head right now? I'm afraid this isn't her at all.
That it's commissioned you mean?
That she's playing it safe and doing what the client wants her to do, not what she wants in her heart. Because she told me right in the beginning that you want moody, dark, you love orange and blue. Was that what she said?
And I went ... Wait a minute, that's not what I saw in your work. So I guess that's why I'm questioning. And I could be totally wrong. I'm willing to be like okay, I'm wrong here and that's why I'm asking these questions. Is this truly Amy's heart, and how you want to express your soul to the world?
You know what, I think that's why I'm so thankful that you're sitting with me.
Like I looked at my mood board, and it's like, is it really the orange and blue? Because kitchen is orange and my countertops are blue. Like you know? I'm going to paint my kitchen gray, because I think that would suit my need for like, I actually want to celebrate the light coming in through the windows and my plants, you know like. I'm done with a certain ... Maybe I'm done with orange blue. Like help me, I'm confused obviously.
You may be in a transition. And that's perfectly okay. And sometimes transitions hit us real strong, like knock you over on the face and go, you know what? I am not orange and blue anymore. I am neutral and gray, and soft and light. Because your work has high contrast, but I still look at it as light and airy. Do you guys feel that? There's a softness component to it, yet I also see some sexy images coming in here with the boudoir thing going on. But the dark car gives me that sense of contrast. Now one thing that I was concerned about when I put her board together is, most of these images are from the same wedding or from the same session. Like there's only three or four sessions in here. And a mood board should be images from different sessions. Every single image should be a different image from a different session or a different concept is what I'm saying. And like yesterday we were talking about you could do same subject, but I want you to shoot them in different ways. Does that make sense? So that was one of my concerns. So I don't even feel like I have a full breadth of what her work is, because this is just a few weddings and sessions rather than 20 individual ones. But I still got the feeling that her work was light, effervescent. In some ways, like this image of the bride and her bride's maids is very effervescent and light, but then we bring in the clothing an the rock, and we get this higher contrast and richer look. But when you said to me that this one you did last Saturday and it was orange and blue and kind of more what you want, I'm like okay, do we need to figure out our direction here?
I think that part of my issue is skill set. That I want to be able to, I want you to tell me, not necessarily you, but some of those are using off camera flash, and I want it to not look that way.
So I wanted to properly light, but I want it to appear that they're being lit by a chandelier.
Because I can't tell by looking at it that I used extra lighting, but I absolutely did because technically I wanted it that way.
Okay. What I really recommend for you is going back to that discovery phase and finding the three artists, and picking one image from their work, and you're going to do this multiple times. So, and I'm okay if you have to pick more than three artists. You know, just pick a different artist and look at one image of their work and ask yourself what is it about the components of their work that you love, and then technically what are the features of those images that mean something to you, and then start playing around with those features and improving your technical skill and mastering that, because I think that's truly what's going to start helping you define, because once you can get technically down what you want to happen here, you know, chandelier image, you're going to start feeling like your style is coming out of you more and more and more.
How do you want your work to feel to the world? What feelings do you want people to say about what you do?
Romantic for one. I enjoy when I can laugh. Like if they're having fun I feel it. Basically, I want to believe it. I want to look at an image and whatever's going on, I want to believe that it was real. So if I, I don't think any of those are photoshopped. I'm afraid to touch something to make it look not real because they all to me say like I was there, but it really happened.
Like I'm kind of in an intimate space. But, do you know what I'm saying?
I think so. You want like a journalistic take a moment rather than make a moment, even though you may have made it.
Yeah, I would love to have more time to make it, but I want it to look like it's real.
Even with additional lighting, I don't want it to look like there's additional lighting.
So you want a documentary feel, even if it wasn't document-araly created? Yeah? And what about that, what does that make you feel in an image? When you see an image that has a journalistic quality to it, like a moment was taken and you happen to be a fly on the wall observer, how does that make Amy Henderson feel when she sees an image that's just, (gasp) captured like that, like a moment?
I'm curious. I mean like I want to know, what is it about them? I want to know those stories. I want to tell those stories, but like you know ...
I'm seeing a theme here.
What's that? That I'm very emotionally attached to-
Your people? That's good.
That makes you a wonderful person. And a wonderful business woman. You want to be connected to your clients, of course you do. But I'm feeling a theme of journalism, story telling. I'm seeing a theme of connectiveness, clearly, because she wants to be connected to her clients. What Brian Calloway said earlier today, that whole feeling of because putting yourself in your client's shoes, and having that empathy, and shooting from the heart, but in more of a documentary style, which I see you trying to do here, but it's not quite happening yet. It's like you're, you're rushed. At least that's what I'm hearing you say, that in a wedding you feel under the gun, under the wire, you want to make the client happy, and so yeah, you are playing it safe and not going for those documentary moments because you need to get the safe shot first.
Well here's, okay, here's where I had a really hard time with this assignment. Like I love the curation of the entire wedding day. My style, I feel it emotionally is easy to describe. Visually though, I'm not in control of the wedding day. There's so many things as the day changes, you know, like inside to outside to dance party. And like, I feel like I'm doing well in each of those things, but when I lay it out, I feel like I have to tell the entire story so that it flows real nice, like the day actually did, because it was a wonderful day, but to pick my favorite images, I was like, I'm all over the board man, because we got different weddings going on, we got, like, I just ...
Different weddings going on, what do you mean?
Well like when I put my website together, it's like this image is great, but it sticks out like a sore thumb because that wedding was so different from the other summer weddings. Like my favorite weddings are outdoor, they're environmental.
I truly think, and correct me if I'm wrong, and I'm totally willing to be wrong, so you guys bite me in the butt if I'm wrong. My feeling is that if you focus on mastering skill sets where you know you're weak, you're going to see your style come to fruition a lot faster. (audience crosstalk) I feel like if you, okay good, I'm not totally off mark. I hesitate in saying this because sometimes I'm not sure. I'm like okay, but do you know what technical skills you know you need to master? Do you have things where you're like, I know I'm weak there, I need to work on that?
Okay. I want you to take those, and write them down, and give yourself a plan for focusing on one at a time. So for example, I'm just going to pull one out of a hat, I'm not going to look at your work, because I don't even wanna like, go to the whole critique part of it. But say for example, okay, off camera flash, we did talk about that, it's an image. So, you're saying okay, I can't get off camera flash to look like it was the chandelier lighting. How do I do that? That is a technical weakness that you know you need to master, okay? It's a tiny thing in the scheme of everything. And in the scheme of things it's a minor skill compared to just commanding posing and lighting and all that, but I just wanted to focus on one little thing. So if you take that skill and you say okay, I'm gonna make a list and go, this is the one I'm going to work on at this wedding today or for next week's wedding, and I'm going to master it before I go into the wedding so that when I go into the wedding, I'm not chicken, which I get chicken all the time. I play it safe all the time. I hate weddings. Bless you all people who shoot weddings because, there's no way I could do it under that kind of pressure. I had enough this morning shooting here with a controlled situation that I have complete control over, let alone a wedding to me is just incredibly intimidating. But if you play with it in your own environment, in your own constrained parameters with kids or people you know, and you say okay, I'm going to master how to make a chandelier, look like, a couple look like they're lit by a chandelier with using off camera flash, hone that skill for a couple weeks, and then the next wedding you go into, look for the chandelier.
Look for an image with that chandelier and go okay, I'm going to get this right this time, and you will see a style come forth because you got the technical aspects of that particular thing right at that time.
And then you're not controlled by technical.
Do you know what I'm saying?
Because sometimes people play it safe because they're controlled by their technical ability, which pretty much all of us are. I can't do things that I want to do because I need to learn something on how to do it, and I think all of us are like that, aren't we? There's things out there that we don't know how to do, yet we have a vision in our mind, we know we need to learn a particular skill in order to do that, and so I think for you, you have these beautiful style visions in your head that you can't get to because you don't quite know the skill that needs to do that. Do you know what I'm saying? Like I would love to be able to layer composites like Richard Stervant. I mean he can shadow and shade things like nobody's business, and in order for me to create an image I have in my head of postpartum depression, I need to learn that skill, because I can see the layering in my head. And I know, I don't even, you're braver than I am. I'm way too chicken to even try to create the image, because I'm like I got to learn that skill first before I can go there. And you may be in that situation with a few things. And I bet you any money, that if you focused on a few, like two or three of those technical skills that you know you lack, that'll start getting you that confidence, and then in the next couple weddings, you'll be like oh yeah, I juts nailed that. Oh, I've got that, I've just nailed that, and slowly your style is going to start coming through because you're mastering these little things that are hindering you from finding your style.
Does that make sense?
Yeah, I mean yes, it does.
I'm, I'm, I'm ...
Yeah, I'm just like, yeah.
You have a theme to your work. And when I say that there is a style there.
What do you mean?
What do I mean by that? I mean.
Where is that?
There's common threads. Well just like what we've been talking about. Do you guys see, let's talk about it. Again, the common threads. Where do we see the common threads in her work?
They're not camera aware for the most part.
Yeah, definitely not. I mean the groom image up top, the party's a little camera aware.
Traditional bride's maids, but everything else they're kind of in the moment, with each other or-
Journalistic storytelling. Yeah, I agree 100%. Anything else?
There's a lot of intimate embraces, and I do see you pulling out from people's personalities in like the boudoir shot, and like the kind of fun couple shot, there, the bride and groom in front of the lake and the bridal party one. The guys all together like, there's definitely some personality there, so you're definitely trying to tap into like the client's personality.
And I did just want to say that that last photo that you took, the dark one with the blue and orange, I think it's really beautiful, and I think you should trust your gut. Like you're questioning that, but that I think is the best photo there.
I would agree. Definitely. That's why I was asking so many questions at the beginning. I'm like, I was confused a little bit by what you were telling me. But the huge theme I see is connectedness and storytelling. You immediately said, and the very first thing, I am connected to these people and I love their stories. Remember when she said that at the very beginning? And she almost questioned it as something that was keeping her back from holder her style. But what if it is your style? What if the clients, cuz you are passionate about their story.
And I am so excited about you telling me how to brand that in a cohesive look on my website. (laughter) Curate me down to something that does not confuse people.
To me your website is way stronger than that body of work you just showed me.
I mean right away, your logo's beautiful. I mean it's very strong, very classic. It almost has an Asian feel to it with that Amy Henderson, but I know it's not, it's your letters, but I love that gold shimmer. It has that kind of medallion feel to it. Can we scroll down a little bit That image is a beautiful first image. Cool, modern effects on the site. That cool parallax effect is really cool. Beautiful fonts. I mean that, I think you're right on track girl. Storytelling. I mean the font right there is like a newspaper font. Like a journalistic documentary font that has that feeling of documentarian. Oh yeah. And the handwritten font I think adds to it I think.
So I had to mute all of those tiles to get those weddings to look right next to each other, because theme wise, their weddings individually are beautiful, but-
Let's scroll back up to that again. Let me, I don't necessarily think you had to do that. I mean I see why you did. Do you guys agree with me? Because they seem very cohesive style wise, don't they?
Well in full color they were a hot mess.
I think you're wrong. I mean I'd have to see them in full color.
Hot pink, hot pink, royal blue, royal blue, not my brand, but-
Oh you mean the flowers?
Yeah, the images I chose for the tiles, you know, like if I had did a blog conglomeration of all of my weddings combined would be like, there's just so much.
Well if that's the goal you were after to make it cohesive, you did a great job. I mean just that, doing that alone. I mean I think your website is more consistent. And it's interesting because you are in this style journey, yet you've managed to make your website very ingrained in a consistent look and a feel to the business, don't you think? I mean I think her website is doing a better job of showcasing your work than my silly little 20 image thing I threw up on the screen. Do you see what I'm saying? So you've managed to make work that you think is not cohesive, and put it in a very cohesive look on a website in a brand, don't you think? So you don't have to worry about your website at all.
I think for you, what you're having trouble with is letting it evolve, and having the patience to allow your style to come from you.
And personal work.
And doing personal work that means something to you, and taking the time out of your busy schedule to hone in on those technical skills, so that when you do get under the wire in a wedding, you're able to create that image that's in your head with the skills that you're learning along the way. Does that make sense?
So nobody wants to hear this, and I'm so sorry to tell you.
Sock it to me please.
Be patient. (audience laughter) I know.
Not what I wanted to hear.
I'm so sorry, I hate hearing that too, but let it come. And the way it will come is by taking these technical aspects that you want to master, being an absolute craftsman at them. Really honing those skills, and I promise you, let's deal, you call me, six months after you've done this, and we're going to have a conversation and look at your work. I bet you any money, you will tell my Julia, I went out, I did these skills, I improved what I'm doing, and my style came with me.
And just by being cognizant and having this at the forefront of your mind, you will get it faster. I promise you, as soon as she gets these technical things under her belt, it's gonna blossom. Because I see the beginnings of it here.
Yeah, keep scrolling.
Keep scrolling. Yeah, let's keep it scrolling really quick. We've got to wrap up here.
Just a second. Just down at the bottom.
Down at the bottom.
Keep going. There.
See? It's very cohesive down there. I think you might have analysis paralysis in a little bit of a way.
You think so?
Yeah, like you're so over analyzing what your style is, and not letting it come out of you. So if I were you, based on 20/20 hindsight and what I know now after being through your journey a couple of times, I would hone the technical components, and I hate to say it, be patient. Let it come to you, and at the same time, keep that find it formula in your head, find these artists, let them inspire you, try out different things and keep yourself cognizant in that discovery phase. You need to stay in discovery for a little bit longer. And let that, those technical skills grow, let that what inspires you grow. You already have a good indication with that storytelling, that documentary style, hone in on that. Dig deeper into that and see where that goes. And allow your technical skills to match you getting things in a documentary way.
Does that make sense?
And I think you will see huge changes in your work in a matter of weeks if you focus on it and have the determination to do it. You're a beautiful artist, and you have an incredible story. Your brand is freaking awesome.
And your work is beautiful and you're well on your way. I think you just need to like let it come.
Am I? I hate saying that, because I can't like give you step by step, this is what you do. And you know it's frustrating for me because that's what I want to give you, but at the same time, I know that just being patient and letting yourself grow as an artist is what might be the best thing for you at this period in time. Do you think I'm, what else can she do? I feel like I'm leaving her short.
Stop second guessing yourself.
Yeah, maybe. Stop second guessing.
Because she's got it going on. Yeah.
She's totally got it.
She said she's totally got it, stop second guessing yourself, she's totally got it is what she said. Yeah, could you get a microphone? (muffled) Thank you.
I would get your CPB, or get some sort of certification process going because just the amount of stuff that you, you're surprised with what you already know, but then it just makes you feel so much better like technically, and it sort of gives you that release from learning all the technicality and being able to be creative because you do have that solid technical background. Because for me, it was really difficult for me to sort of find my style before I nailed what I wanted technically because I'm a perfectionist and you seem like you are too.
There's always more.
Yo, it's the struggle is real.
The next level.
And we're all there. We all have that desire to go to the next level constantly. I mean that's what it means to be an artist is to never be satisfied. So, uh-oh, uh-oh, are we okay?
You've done it.
Don't hug me, I'm gonna cry.
Oh no, let's get a tissue, oh no. Are you okay?
I am super great.
I didn't hurt feelings, did I?
Okay, good. Sometimes I get scared. Like oh my God, I didn't mean to hurt you.
I would never have agreed to this if I didn't know you were going to kick my butt and I was gonna be asking for it.
Well I don't want to kick your butt, and you don't need your butt kicked.
But I asked you to.
You don't need your butt kicked. You're a beautiful person and I know there's this wonderful, beautiful artist in there. You're already producing work that is that. And I think you're over analyzing yourself a little bit, and second, you are, you're second guessing.
That's so weird to hear you say that though, because I am a pretty confident person.
You are. I do know you, you are a pretty confident person. That's why I'm seeing you question your style here, and I'm like, you're going in your direction. Just keep going that direction.
Who was it this morning, the artist that said, constantly being inspired by other things but the discipline to say, it's okay to be inspired by everybody or to like everything. Like I feel like I do like everything.
Uh-huh. But having ...
Maybe turning it off for a while?
Yeah, having the wherewithal to be able to say no, no, and to what truly isn't you. You're gonna, yeah. You're gonna be just fine, I have all the confidence in the world, and you have beautiful work, and you already do have a beautiful style with that documentary and story telling. I think why you're frustrated is because it's going the direction and it isn't immediately there.
And that's why you're frustrated because you don't, you want it there right away, and you're worried that you don't know how to get there.
When you are doing everything you need to be doing right now to get there. You don't need to be doing anything more. You're getting there already, it's coming. And it's just a matter of keeping, practicing, keeping, taking imagery from your heart, and yeah, weeding out that which, we need a tissue.
No, I'm alright. I was just like, hold on, bring it back, or I'm going to lose it.
Okay, we'll bring it back, we'll bring it back. Admiration. (applause) I am so fricking proud of you.
Now I'm going to cry.
Oh, it's alright to cry!