We had the good fortune of connecting with Amy Gray and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amy, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I started doing photography professionally in 2009, and I had already been running Sitterwise (sitterwise.com), my mother-in-law’s hotel babysitting agency, which I took over in 2005 so that I could stay home with my children. I knew the benefits of working from home, and I loved entrepreneurship and the concept of working harder and smarter for a better result for my family. I loved the “sowing and reaping” and the independence that came from running my own company. The prospect of starting a photography business that was built on something I really loved—creativity, art, preserving important family memories—was very exciting to me. I also enjoyed having the freedom to take risks and try different strategies on a whim. That has always been fun for me, and when you run your own business, you don’t have to explain your successes or failures (which may or may not include some degree of investment) to anyone but yourself (and maybe your husband).
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
One of the most important things I’ve learned as a photographer is that the art part of the job is sometimes less romantic than one might think! I feel like I am a pretty balanced left-brain vs. right-brain person, and when I have a “happy accident” and find something that makes a nice artistic composition, I make it part of my system. Making a beautiful portrait once is great, but in order to have consistent good results, you have to learn hundreds of techniques that will answer to any combination of factors. The beach is FULL of wildcards! You never know what tide, wind, heat, cloud-cover combination you’re going to end up with, and on top of those factors, throw in the client variables—rambunctious toddlers, unenthusiastic husbands, moody teens—the list goes on, and we moms have to stick together! I have learned to think on my feet and to tackle the adventure of every session with enthusiasm. I don’t always get it right, but doing my best with every situation is my goal, and I try to give myself grace, too. Another thing I’ve learned is the importance of having professional processes for client interaction. It has taken years of trial and error, and I am continually tweaking my systems for responding to inquiries, following up, helping clients prepare for their sessions, learning names, beginning and ending sessions, editing, presenting galleries, and assisting with ordering. Even in marketing, consistency and dependability are key, like being intentional with social media and blogging.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love Coronado! I think rollerblading or biking along the bayside is a good activity year-round, and a photoshoot at the Del is memorable and fun, too! Our family loves Miguel’s for the white sauce and the atmosphere. We also enjoy the Little Italy Farmer’s Market.
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 could never have had a successful photography business without my sister Melanie Monroe of Melanie Monroe Photography. Along with sharing an amazing mom and dad, we also share talents and interests in the same areas, and this became very apparent in about 2009, when we were both fascinated by photography and ended up taking an adult school course together. We loved it, and we practiced on our kids and shared what we were learning online. Eventually, as we posted our photos on social media and our friends became interested in our photographic journey, we started doing sessions, and together we photographed our first wedding. Since then, we have teamed up on lots of weddings and extended family sessions and ruined many family conversations for everyone else by talking about aperture and shutter speed, ISO, and which new lens we should buy next. We’ve also photographed our kids’ school for seven or eight years running. Melanie is always able to get a genuine smile, and she is super-artistic and an incredible photographer. If I had every photographer in San Diego to choose from, I would pick her every time.
Yelp: Amy Gray Photography