Photographs represent a frozen moment in time that is laced with memories of the people, places, and events that shape our lives. The Amber Studio captures the beauty of relationships and the magic that ignites when two people celebrate their love through marriage. The vibrant hues of a bouquet, intricate details of a wedding ring, and the subtle gaze of a person in love is photographed by the owner and lead photographer, Amber Knowles.
The rich photography has been published in national magazine blogs like Essence, Ebony, and The New York Times, in addition to coveted bridal publications like The Knot. Bluehost sat down with Amber to discuss her road to becoming an entrepreneur, what inspires her to create, and why she is passionate about telling the story of African Americans through her photography.
Unearthing Her Dream
Amber is a proud L.A. native who learned the skills and business of photography during her time in New York before planting her roots in the bustling city of Dallas, Texas. Photography has always been apart of Amber’s career as she has held various positions from working as an admin for photo agencies to assisting photographers at shoots. “In NYC, photography was definitely a side hustle. I kept circling the idea that I should just start my own photography business which was about 8 years ago. When I moved to Dallas it was time to kick it into high drive…I quit my full-time job 2 years ago when I realized that I was essentially working multiple full-time jobs. I had a full roster of clients that I was working with during the evenings and weekends, ever since then I have been able to make it work.”
As Amber continued to build her business, she identified that the market for photography in Dallas was different than the climate in New York and had to cultivate a path that was going to set her company up for success. When her business began to take shape, she knew she wanted her pictures to tell a story that blended the diversity, culture, and love of each couple she interacted with. Her passion for storytelling became deeply personal when she recognized that within her own family there was a gap created by the lack of photographic history that is accompanied by the African American experience.
“As far as my family is concerned we don’t have a lot of photographic history that tells the story of where we’ve been or where we came from. That was erased and our heritage isn’t documented.” As a self-proclaimed historian, Amber has made it her mission to be the author of historic moments in the lives of her clients. “It’s really just a matter of telling our stories. Stories that extend beyond word of mouth, who we are, who our people are, and where our people come from.” Her innate ability to combine these stories with a captivating picture remains at the center of every session she has whether it’s an engagement or a wedding.
We Are a Family
Amber’s connection to her clients remains a pivotal aspect of how she orchestrates their photographs. “I love working with African American families and clients because they feel like they are my own family. The client experience is something I’ve been working on. For me, a lot of clients find me because they are looking to support an African American business. They Google “African American” or “Black photographer” and that’s a big aspect of how I got started.” Marketing her business as one that commemorated the African American experience propelled her to find other Black-owned businesses she could partner with to continue supporting her community.
“I was empowered to be more intentional in my marketing after I watched Maggie Anderson’s Ted Talk on spending within the Black community. She gave an insightful breakdown of how quickly the Black dollar leaves the community versus other cultures. For me to have support from my community has been impactful and I try to give that back. For example, gifts that I give my clients are from small, Black-owned businesses.”
The deep connections and roots that thread community, business, and culture are integral to fulfilling the artistic vision Amber has for The Amber Studio. Clients go through a three-step process from consultation, planning the vision for their wedding photos, and then book a date for their session. As The Amber Studio continues to grow their client list, clients also have the option to work with Amber or Jay Jackson who is the other lead photographer at the studio.
“Jay and I have been in a creative partnership for about a year. Our styles are very different, he has a creative style with portraits that evokes an artwork aesthetic you want to hang on your wall, we love to blend our styles together so if a couple wants to book us both, they have that option as well.” Developing an understanding of who a couple is and orchestrating their unique journey into their photographs remains at the heart of the business.
The Bold and The Beautiful
The photographic style of The Amber Studio not only celebrates the love of diverse couples but provides clients with a picture that captures their true essence void of filters and unrealistic editing. “My personality is very traditional…I want my images to be relevant and tell a meaningful story 10 or 20 years down the road. I don’t want them to look trendy. I don’t want them to look like they have an Instagram filter on them. Instagram probably won’t be around then. I want the image to stand the test of time.” The stunning vibrancy in color and contrast that Amber uses to portray her clients is filled with warmth and saturation that highlights the beauty of diverse tones and textures.
Amber cites that a large aspect of traditional photography doesn’t always capture the depth and beauty of various skin complexions. As an African American photographer, it was important to her to capture images that showed a contrast of colors and true skin tones. “Not everyone can capture skin tones that is an accurate reflection of people with melanin, especially if the couple is interracial. I think it’s important for couples of different skin tones to have a true and accurate depiction of their story.”
Portraying the real moments is a direct reflection of the interactions Amber has in her day to day life and remains the inspiration for why she loves being a photographer. “I love being able to capture people as they are. It’s all about capturing the subject as is and not manipulating anything. With weddings and people in general, people kind of get awkward. What makes me super happy is being able to loosen them up and getting them to act naturally in front of the camera.” These human touches can be seen in the various photographs on The Amber Studio website that shows the wide smile of a bridesmaid, the light grip of a hand around the stem of a wine glass, and the single tear of a bride gazing at her partner.
When you visit The Amber Studio website, you are introduced to an array of pivotal wedding moments that reflect the beauty and cultural identity of the business. Visitors can step into the intimacy of a wedding with scrolling images highlighting the big day or get up close and personal with a series of engagement photos. The Amber Studio captures love with realism and vulnerability that comes with the nuances of human touch and laughter. “When I work with couples I want the images to reflect how they actually interact with each other. The way they love each other is different. Being the historian I am, I want their photos to be reflective of them.”