Featured Photog: Amanda McGhee

Amanda McGhee

Kimberlin Gray Photography

Site : Facebook

What a pleasure it is to introduce you all to Amanda, a sweet photographer I met through my prop store!  We both share great taste in props and just hit it off.  I’ve adored her props and her work for some time and I think you all are going to love her too!


Q. Tell us a little about yourself in just two sentences and include a picture of yourself.

I am a hard working, sleep-deprived mom of two who is a *bit* addicted to chocolate, Coca-Cola and Facebook (as well as photography, of course!).  I married the only boy I have ever loved (a short 11 years ago) and am truly living my dream life!

Q. What do you shoot with and what is your favorite lens and why?

I currently shoot with a Canon 5D Markii and my favorite lens is the 50mm 1.4.  However, I am ‘testing’ the Nikon D700 and really like the focusing system.  I love trying out new things, so who knows where I’ll end up!

Q. When did you start shooting for fun and then move to shooting professionally?

I started shooting for fun after my daughter was born in 2006.  One of my husband’s co-workers was just starting her photography business and offered to use our daughter as practice.  We got some beautiful photos of her and she totally inspired me to learn more about photography.  I must admit that I asked her the dreaded-by-professionals, “What camera do you use?” question!  I was just so eager to learn how she produced such amazing images!  I bought the book, Understanding Exposure and with some help from two wonderful photographer friends (thanks Anna & Anna!) and a whole lot of constructive criticism later, I felt comfortable charging for my work.  I opened my portfolio building stage of business in the fall of 2009 and it’s been off to the races ever since!

Q.  Are you formally taught or self taught?

I have no formal photography education, although I do have a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and was a teacher for nearly 10 years.  I am convinced that my understanding of child development and teaching experience is a big part of my success with clients and their children.  Also, my husband has an MBA which has helped tremendously with the business aspect of this career!

Q. What is your specialty and how did you decide to specialize in that area of photography?

My specialties are maternity, birth, and newborn photography.  I would love to focus on birth photography, but here on the East Coast it has not gained in popularity quite as quickly as some other areas of the country.  I’m working to change the perception that birth photography is somehow ‘yucky’ and show how absolutely beautiful images can be that capture the strength of a woman in labor and the raw emotion of mothers and fathers meeting their child for the first time!  I ran across Lyndsay Stratdner’s Birth Experience website a few years ago and knew instantly that I wanted to be a birth photographer.  But the maternity and newborn sessions feed my creativity in a different way (not to mention feeding my prop addiction!).

Q. How many sessions are you shooting a month?

I schedule about 15 sessions per month – depends on the due dates of the babies. Somehow, no matter how I try to spread them out, they all seem to be born the same week!! {Not that I’m complaining – it’s how I get my newborn baby fix!}

Q.  On average how long to do you spend editing each session and do you listen to music while editing or just enjoy the quiet?

I rarely sit down, uninterrupted, and edit a session – so it’s hard to say exactly.  I’m typically editing from 9pm-1am (when my kids are asleep and the house is quiet) and I often catch up on my favorite TV shows while working.  Birth sessions take quite some time to edit – culling through the hundreds of images, converting each to black and white and cropping for the best angle and composition.  Newborn and Maternity sessions don’t take quite as much time.  When I used to do a lot of family sessions, the head-swapping took FOREVER.  I’m a pro at head-swapping, but never enjoyed it!

Q. What is the best marketing tool that works for you or was a total waste of time?  Do you advertise in print?  Do you offer referral bonuses?  If yes, please share a little.

The best marketing tool for me has been Facebook and simple word-of-mouth referrals.  I have not spent a dollar in advertising (other than buying business cards and flyers for specific events in my community).  I have been so fortunate to have clients who love my work and pass my name on to their friends and co-workers!  I believe strongly that developing relationships with my clients has been essential to my success.  I love each and every one of ‘my’ babies and treat my clients as friends from the moment we meet!

Q. What do you do to “stand out” from surrounding photographers that you’re competing with?

I could, obviously, answer with one word:  Props. :)  But, I think a big part of standing out from the crowd is providing an exceptional product with outstanding customer service.  I am always professional, but I strive to be as friendly, helpful, and accommodating as possible.  I treat people as I would want to be treated.  I have young children myself, so I empathize with their situations (the sleepless nights, the busy schedules, the overwhelming feeling of becoming a parent, etc.) and we often talk about parenting in the midst of our sessions.  I have become friends with many of my clients and I enjoy keeping up with their babies whether or not I photograph them in the future.  I am especially bonded to those who choose me to capture their belly, birth, newborn, and baby’s first year milestones. It is so fun to watch them grow and capture them at all the different stages!

Q.What was your biggest mistake and how did you fix it?

My biggest mistake came only 3 months into my business.  I did not have a good system of backing up my files yet (even though I’d heard others talk about it!) and when my hard drive crashed, I lost a lot of photos.  The ones that hurt the most were my personal pictures – the birth of my son and his first six months were all gone.  I shed many, many tears over those lost photos.   But even worse, the professional in me was mortified and devastated to learn that I had lost an entire maternity session…and the woman had already delivered her baby.  There are no ‘Do-Overs’ of that moment.  I refunded her session fee, of course, and told her that I would give her the photos free of charge if the experts could recover them, but sadly they never did.  I learned a HARD lesson that it is not if your hard drive will fail, it is when your hard drive will fail.  If you are a professional and you are taking money from clients, you should have two backups.  One physically in your home (CD/DVD’s, External Harddrives, etc.) and one online. I use backblaze.com now. It’s only $5 per month, unlimited storage and great peace of mind!  That will never happen to me again if I can help it!

Q. Please share your favorite image and tell us what makes this your favorite?

Just one favorite?  That’s impossible!  My favorite photo is always from the session I’m currently working on.  When I look back, I always think, “Oh, I loved that one, too!” but I always fall in love with what I’ve just done.  So, two days ago, I had a newborn session and we went out to the beach and captured this little slice of heaven.  *sigh*

Q. Can you show us your shooting space?  If you are shooting inside can you show a simple pull back shot or lots of images if you have a large studio.  If you shoot on location please share an image of you favorite location.

I hold all my newborn sessions in the sunporch attached to my home.  There are 10 windows, so it allows for an awesome amount of natural light – actually, too much light at certain times of the day!!  I have my newborn hats, headbands, and small props stored here in the little bins on the shelving unit, but my baskets and larger props are stored in my garage.  It’s not pretty, but it’s functional!!

Q. Is there anything you would like to promote?  Maybe a mentoring you offer or any side projects.

I actually have two things to promote.  First, I am completely honored to have been asked to be a small part of the very first Workshop at Sea for photographers.  In September 2012, I will be presenting a few workshops and a seminar aboard a Mediterrenean cruise put together by Orchestrated:  Stylized Shoots.  Traveling to Greece has been on my ‘bucket list’ for a while now, and this is the absolute perfect opportunity – go on a cruise vacation with my husband, get to photograph some of the most beautiful places on earth AND learn more about photography from others in the industry?  WIN>WIN!!! You can see all the details (and sign up to join me!) at http://orchestrated.bitofivoryphotography.com/#/grandtour/

Next, I am a participating photographer for Operation: Love ReUnited, which gives free sessions to deployed servicemembers.  My favorite part of being an OpLove photog is when I get to capture the actual reunions and some of my favorite photos EVER are from homecomings!  No matter where you live, you can participate, too!  Go to http://oplove.org/ to sign up and give back to our military families!

Q. Lastly, every photographer has a specialty or a technique that they are really good at.  Would you share a little tip for everyone that has to do with your specialty?

I think the best tip I have for newborn photographers is to be patient with the babies and vigilant with their safety during a session.  Treat them like they are your own baby – not a prop or an inconvenience.  If you want to be a successful newborn photographer, you have to love babies!  The best advice I got when just starting out was to take control during a newborn session and show the parents that you are capable and comfortable with their baby.  I am the one soothing baby during our session – not mom or dad.  I love rocking and shushing newborn babies and they sometimes settle better for me than their parents!  That doesn’t mean that the parents aren’t nearby or helping if I need them to be sure that a prop shot is safe, but the majority of the shushing to sleep is done by me.  When a baby stirs or seems to be waking up, I rock, jiggle, and shush them for a few seconds to see if they will settle into a pose before giving up.  Sometimes it takes a few minutes and some slight adjustments in positioning to get a baby into the right pose.  If the baby seems uncomfortable or looks unsettled, I move on to a different pose.  Never risk a baby’s comfort or safety for a pose – no matter how great it might be!  But patience is the key to a successful newborn session!

More of Amanda’s Beautiful Work:


Thank You Amanda for sharing you work with us!

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Brittney Brooks - August 16, 2011 - 12:04 am

I love to read these ;) Is she (are you) strictly a natural light photog?

Heather - August 16, 2011 - 1:13 am

great stuff Amanda! Thank you for sharing!

Mama Mimi - August 16, 2011 - 10:42 pm

Beautiful pictures…I feel so inspired! Even though I don’t have a newborn…nor would I EVER be able to create something like that! =)

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