We are excited to turn our attention behind the camera and connect with Amanda Nolan Booker, a photographer and prop stylist based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her photography celebrates the simple, yet spellbinding beauty of a single moment, whichever form it may take. We love her use of natural light and her ability to create nostalgic, serene settings. If only we could live in one of her photos! Thank you Amanda for sharing your words and photos with us.
Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance photographer and stylist.
It all happened completely by chance, as these things tend to do. In 2010, I opened an Etsy shop to sell the vintage clothing and bric-a-brac I had a tendency for hoarding. I joined Instagram to promote my shop and I soon realized I enjoyed the process of styling and photographing the inventory and sharing images with others more than owning the shop. When I was chosen as one of Instagram’s ‘Suggested Users' and began to garner thousands of new followers, I made the decision that I would direct that attention towards my styling and photography work, and closed up shop. I threw all of my energy into creating a portfolio after that.
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
Many of my first clients found my work through Instagram. I used the time I would later dedicate to commissioned work to create a pretty large body of personal work which I used to fill my Instagram feed and fill a portfolio.
What advice would you give to somebody starting out in photography/styling?
Just go for it! Work as often as you are able. I know it can be difficult to find the time when you are first starting out, but it is important that you do. No one will hire you without having seen examples of your work. Get in touch with other creatives in your area and set up test shoots; they are the best way to build a portfolio (and relationships!) when you are just starting out.
"Work as often as you are able. I know it can be difficult to find the time when you are first starting out, but it is important that you do. No one will hire you without having seen examples of your work. Get in touch with other creatives in your area and set up test shoots; they are the best way to build a portfolio (and relationships!) when you are just starting out."
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
I must admit that I am absolute garbage at sticking to a precise schedule, but what has helped me remain productive are to-do lists. And lots of them. Every time I am able to check something off my list I am eager to move on to the next item.
Can you tell us about your prop styling process?
It’s really just organized chaos- there is always a great mess involved when I style a scene. I’m always a bit nervous when someone sees me work for the first time, because they will invariably witness a deranged person move props around on a surface, talk/yell at inanimate objects, and fall off chairs.
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?
My greatest struggle with freelance work so far has been to preserve a positive attitude when there are no new clients coming in. I try to schedule test shoots during these dry spells and keep myself busy with maintaining my online presence.
What is your favorite thing about freelance?
There are many things to love about freelance work, but I have to say that working from home is at the top of my list. I experience severe anxiety on a daily basis, so it is such a relief to be able to work from a familiar, safe place.
How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?
By creating the work I want to be hired to create. I have been approached by clients mainly because they saw my work through Instagram and wanted to work with me based on my aesthetic.
Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
I am notoriously bad at bookkeeping, so I feel like any of my advice would only do harm. Haha. I’ll tell you what I’ve been told by friends and colleagues: stay organized. That I can handle.
Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
Oddly enough my husband maintains my work-life balance for me. Haha. He always tells me when I’ve worked enough for the day, when I need to take a break. Without him I fear I would run coffee through a IV into my blood stream and work straight through life. Obviously I don't recommend this. Take a break often, folks.
Take a break often, folks.
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:
bravery, patience, self-discipline