Be Inspired | Meet the Filmmaker - Amber Walder Photography & Films
Tell us a bit about yourself…
Hi, I'm Amber! I live in eastern South Dakota with my husband and four crazy kiddos - 3 boys and a little girl. Life is constant chaos, but I wouldn't have it any other way!
I originally went to college for nursing, graduated with my BSN in 2007 and was a Labor & Delivery nurse for over 10 years! But about a year ago I left all that to put all my time and energy into my growing photography business! It's been amazing, fulfilling and exhausting all at the same time, hah! The work from home life is no joke - the constant work/life/mom/wife balance is a never ending struggle, but one I'm continually striving to improve.
Hmm... what else?
I love summertime and everything that comes with it - evenings on the front porch, bare feet, bike riding, lake time & staying up way too late.
I love red wine, binging on a new Netflix show, and this stupid game on my iPhone called Toy Blast. Seriously, don't try it!
I have a major (repeat, majorrrr) sweet tooth! I mean, no discipline when it comes to cake, cookies and ice cream
I've very type A, and a perfectionist to a fault. I'm a lover and a fixer and a people pleaser. I'm also a constant worrier... even things like writing this 'About Me' give me anxiety!
Lastly, I'm an autism mama to the most beautiful 8-year-old boy. I say that because he's truly shaped my life and has a big part in who I am today. We knew our lives were forever changed when he was only four months old - it took another 14 months of advocating for him to get a referral for an evaluation. We have spent everyday since learning from him - compassion - understanding - love - acceptance - hard work - non-judgement... all that stuff that truly matters.
Tell us about the kind of photography & films you create…
I am a lifestyle and portrait photographer, specializing in newborns, families & motherhood sessions. I strive for relaxed, authentic and emotive sessions. I love beautiful moments, rich color and golden light! As far as filmmaking, I don't have a specific genre. The concept of family films, or filmmaking in general is still quite new in my area, so I've dabbled in a bit of everything. I create a mix of personal films, business/corporate films, family films, fresh 48 films, and more recently wedding films! I did a wedding film last December and absolutely loved it, so I have a few more coming up this fall/winter that I am very excited about
How did you first get started in photography?
My interest in photography started WAY before I ever knew I was interested in photography... as child I was the girl with 1,000 photos of friends and family covering two full walls of her bedroom (hung up quite professionally by blue sticky tack). Although they were snapshots (mostly from disposable cameras) - they were beautiful memories, that looking back I can see I already understood the importance of.
Years later I found a renewed passion in photography in high school after I took two elective photography courses, learning how to shoot and develop film. I even got a brand new (film) camera as a graduation gift from my parents! But unfortunately that's about where it ended, for awhile anyway. I knew I had a love for photography, but I wasn't sure what to do with it quite yet. I headed off to college to become a nurse and life went on... It wasn't until my second son was born eight years later that I felt a true desire to really learn how to use my camera (at that time a Canon Rebel DSLR). I wanted to take more than just snapshots! So when a friend asked me if I wanted to take an 'Intro to Digital Photography' class through the local Park and Rec, I was in! And that's all it took to become officially obsessed. That was back in 2012... I switched my camera to Manual mode and never looked back. I was obsessed - with learning, practicing, growing, and learning more. With each click I felt more and more control, and my visions were becoming reality. Childhood is so fleeting, and I wanted to capture all the bits and pieces and details as beautifully as I could.
At the time, I had no desire to start a business - I was forever going to be a happy hobbiest! My children were my true inspiration and capturing their childhood was my passion. It wasn't until a year or so down the road when we moved from Seattle back to South Dakota that I started entertaining the idea of starting a business - and honestly, only because more and more people were asking for photos and I wanted to make sure I was legal. I didn't plan on making anything big of it.
Now, six years later I have resigned from my nursing career and business could not be better!
What made you decide to learn video? What was your motivation?
Oh my goodness, my kids!!! We had just had our fourth (and last!) baby - a little girl. And knowing how bittersweet all of those "last firsts" are... the last first smile, the last first food, the last first steps... I knew wanted to capture all of that in an even more authentic way! Photos are amazing in every way, but there is definitely a different feel one gets from video... something that I can't truly describe in words.
So right around the time my daughter was born I saw a post on Facebook from a friend that had just taken Courtney's Filming Life workshop. So I started following her work and decided I was going to enrol in the next run of the course. So I did! In the meantime while I was waiting to take the course I played around a little myself, and I made two of my very first videos. Even though they are absolutely awful technically, they can still bring me to tears. THAT's what I love about video.
What was your biggest challenge when you first started learning video and how did you overcome it?
Goodness... the biggest challenge I think, for me, was learning to let go of perfection. I am very "type-A", hah! I like things clean, and neat, and technically sound. And although I'd been a photographer for years, video was a whole new ball-game! It's like learning something brand new from scratch - it can be scary! I wanted to share, but knew it wasn't perfect. I wanted to learn faster, but knew I couldn't. I wanted to put in more time, but knew I didn't have it. I found I was not capturing moments or creating films, because I didn't feel like they'd be good enough, or interesting enough. I know - that sounds awful, right? I think I learned to overcome that when I realized, this is for me.. and my kids, and my family. Whatever imperfections I'm worried about will matter 0% in 20 years when we have these memories to look back on. But we won't have anything to look back on if I don't get over my fear of failure or imperfection. I have always loved the saying 'Aim for DONE, not Perfection'. We all have our own pace in this never-ending creative journey.
Did you find it a challenge to educate clients on the value of films, how were they first received by clients?
This is hard for me. I don't feel I can educate clients on the value of films. I think I have to show them. They have to see and feel the value in them for themselves... and by seeing more and more from other families, they may be able to envision it for their own family. But it's not something I feel I can just talk someone into. Nor do I really want to. It's a luxury, and everyone values luxuries differently. I want the families that truly value family films. I want it to be as meaningful to them as it is to me.
As far as how it's been received, I think films have been really well-received by my clients! The feedback has always been amazing. And the clients that have booked them are truly wonderful!! As far as continuing to book films - again, I think it goes back to those who truly value this. It is a luxury, and an investment. And over time as family films become more and more popular, it will be something more people can envision for their own families. At least I hope!
Tell us about your favourite film and why it's special to you
This is a film I did for my daughter Haddie when she turned three this Spring. The funny thing about this is, I didn't even want to share this film... I wanted to capture it because of all the reasons in question 4, but didn't want to share because of all the reasons in number 5... Crazy, right? It wasn't technically perfect, and honestly probably pretty boring to an outsider. But OH MY GOSH, who cares!? Again, we need to remind ourselves all the time why we do these things. Not every photo and every film is going to be a creative masterpiece. But that doesn't ever mean it shouldn't be created.
So regardless of all that, this is everything I wanted it to be - the sweet, adorable, sillyness of being three.. her voice, her gestures, her laughter.. all those things I wanted to bottle up forever... all those things that could never have been captured with photos alone. This will be something I will look at over and over for years to come, when I'm missing that sweet thee-year-old.
What is your best piece of advice for those just getting started with films?
Give it your all! Learn as much as you can. Don't hold back. Don't be afraid to fail. Don't be afraid to experiment. Let GO of perfection. And be true to yourself.
Tell us a bit about your Masterclass ‘Self-Portrait Filmmaking’ and what students can expect to learn
Guys! I am so excited for this Masterclass! This class is all about learning how to get in the frame (and film) YOURSELF! When I was brand new to filmmaking I captured a lot of footage of my children. But much like photography, I was always the one behind the camera. However, over time in my photography journey I learned a bit about self portraits so was able to jump in the frame once in awhile. But this seemed super daunting for video!
However... I was up for the challenge. So every once in awhile when I'd be filming, I'd attempt to get in a shot or two... then a couple more and a couple more. Over time (and a bit of frustration) I learned some tips and tricks that help make getting in the frame something attainable for every filmmaker. Not only will you learn tips for getting in the frame yourself, but also how create films that are still creative and visually engaging! I hope you will join me!