Daniel White: Hey Amanda! thank you so much for doing this interview with us. You have had a major influence on me as a photographer for a long time and I am very excited to put your story out into the world. Tell us a little about yourself?
Amanda Sutton: I was born and raised in the town of Lenoir, NC. It was a short drive to the mountains which is one of the things I miss the most about living there (other than my family). I studied Information Technology at Lenoir Rhyne University where I graduated in 2008.
Daniel White: When did your interest in photography begin? When did you take it seriously as a career?
Amanda Sutton: I’ve loved art since I was a little kid. I used to love drawing and painting. Art class was always my favorite in elementary/middle school. In high school my focus shifted to sports, AP classes and preparing for college. Art wasn’t on my radar at all during that time and it wasn’t until after I graduated college that I became interested in learning photography. I took a Photography 101 class at the local community college every Saturday for a semester and absolutely fell in love with it. Professor David Hessell – such an awesome guy. That class totally changed my life simply by reminding me how much I loved creating. Fast forward about a year…an old friend randomly asked me if I would be interested in photographing her wedding and I said yes. I had no idea what I was doing but I went for it and shot my first wedding in May 2011.
Photo by Amanda Sutton
Daniel White: That's amazing! What were some of the first projects you worked on that you can remember?
Amanda Sutton: One of the first photography projects I worked on was called Project 365. It was a personal project where I took at least one photo every day for an entire year. It forced me to pick up my camera every day, even when I felt too busy or discouraged with my work. I took a LOT of photos of my dog, friends, family…pretty much anyone who would let me practice on them!
Daniel White: I know you worked at a bank for a long time before you transitioned into doing photography full time, can you tell us some of the biggest obstacles you faced when doing that? What are some of the advantages?
Amanda Sutton: I’m sure any entrepreneur or creative person can relate when I say it’s hard to focus in a 9-5 job you don’t love when you have a million creative ideas running through your head all day that you’d much rather be working on. I think that was the biggest struggle for me. I had a great job, but I wasn’t passionate about it. And at the end of the day, there wasn’t much time left for me to work on what I loved. Unfortunately, I let that get the best of me and suffered some serious burnout until I finally quit. I definitely didn’t feel “ready” to take on photography full time. But to be honest, if I had waited until I felt ready, I’d probably still be working there. On the bright side, having a background in IT and customer service has been helpful in running my own business. I code and manage my website on my own (it’s not perfect but it gets the job done) and it taught me the importance of building lasting client relationships.
Daniel White: That's great! I know that taking a chance on yourself can seem extremely risky but it seems like you made the perfect choice following your heart. I know that you mostly do weddings and I know they are some of the hardest events to capture, what keeps you motivated to shoot them?
Amanda Sutton: I love all the feelings and emotions that happen on a wedding day…excitement, nervousness, laughter, tears, happiness. Every wedding day is different, so it always keeps me on my toes. But most importantly, I think it’s crazy cool to witness two people, who were once complete strangers, being joined together by God forever and ever…AND getting to document it and preserve those moments for them. It really is an honor to be a part of that. I like to imagine the bride and groom, forty or fifty years later, looking back at their wedding photos…showing their grandchildren and reliving those memories over again. I know that sounds cheesy but for me, that’s what matters. Creating something that, when times get tough, might help them remember the joy they felt in those moments. Providing them with their story in tangible form, so that they can pass it down and share it with their families for years to come.
Photo by Amanda Sutton
Daniel White: Your journey so far has been filled with a ton of travel. Can you tell us about some of your favorite places you’ve been asked to shoot?
Amanda Sutton: Yes! God has blessed me with some really cool opportunities to work in some gorgeous places. My favorite has been New Zealand. I can’t even put into words how beautiful it is. If you ever get the opportunity to go, PLEASE DO IT! You won’t regret it! I also fell in love with Nicaragua when I visited earlier this year. I especially loved the city of Leon – so much culture and history. Visiting anywhere on the US West coast is always a dream. And this Summer I’ll be traveling to India for the first time to photograph a wedding. I’m super excited about that!
Daniel White: How are you marketing/branding yourself? What tools have been the most beneficial to your career?
Amanda Sutton: Other than word-of-mouth referrals, social media is my biggest marketing tool. Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are all awesome platforms that I’m very thankful for. I also think it’s beneficial and important to share your work with the vendor teams you work with at events. They’ll be excited to have photos of their work and you’ll get referrals from it when they share your photos! I’m currently working on implementing email marketing for 2018 so hopefully that will strengthen my marketing outside of social media!
Daniel White: What does taking photos do for you?
Amanda Sutton:For me, photography is a way of serving others and that alone brings me so much joy. I believe it’s what God has called me to do and I want to use the gifts He has given me to give love to people
Photo by Amanda Sutton
Daniel White: What have been some of your greatest accomplishments of your career so far?
Amanda Sutton:I’m not a fan of awards and competition. Overcoming comparison has my biggest accomplishment by far. It’s something I think a lot of artists struggle with and it’s so easy to do in the age of social media. I used to get so distracted by the work everyone else was doing that I would easily lose sight of why I was creating in the first place. We can make ourselves miserable by constantly comparing ourselves to everyone else. We’re all at different places in our careers and creative journeys…someone will always be further behind you and further ahead of you. But we’re all just trying to create something meaningful and I think that puts us on the same team.
Daniel White: Who are some of your biggest inspirations in the industry?
Esther Havens – She’s a humanitarian photographer who has worked for some amazing organizations like World Vision, Food for the Hungry, TOMS and more. The way she compassionately sees people and somehow translates that through her photography is incredibly moving.
Jenna Kutcher – A fellow wedding photographer, #bossbabe and promoter of self-love. I’ve taken several of her online classes and am so thankful for her willingness to teach and share her success with others.
Rosie Hardy – Her work speaks for itself. She was one of the first photographers I discovered back in the days of flcikr! I never get tired of seeing her photos. Also, #hairgoals.
Daniel White: Are you satisfied with the work you’ve done so far?
Amanda Sutton: Totally. It’s fun to look back on old work and see how much things have changed. I’ll never be ashamed or embarrassed of anything I’ve created because it’s all part what made me who I am now and where I’ll be in the future.
Daniel White: What is an end goal for your career in the creative industry?
Amanda Sutton: I love love love wedding photography, but I would also really love to work for a non-profit organization as a humanitarian photographer. And I have a tiny dream of opening a wedding venue, so I guess we’ll see what happens!
Photos by Amanda Sutton
Daniel White: Can you give some advice to individuals that are interested in wedding photography and the up and comings in the industry?
Amanda Sutton: Yes! Forget about what everyone else is doing and create things that make you happy. Ask yourself if you’d still create it if you were the only person who would ever see it. If the answer is yes, you’re doing it for the right reasons. And chances are, if you love it and are passionate about it, the right clients will fall in love with it, too. If you struggle with comparison like I did, do yourself a favor and get the heck off social media. Unfollow accounts that are causing you to compare and feel crummy about yourself. Take breaks from social media entirely if you need to. And make some friends who aren’t in the same industry. It’s good to have people in your life who can listen and relate. But having friends outside of your industry can be really refreshing when you’re feeling burned out. Don’t give up and just have fun!
Daniel White: Thank you for doing this! I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us. Can you tell us where we can find you on the internet?