Professional photographer and Amherst native Beth Wallace considers the most memorable photography to be pictures of what is closest to the heart. Wallace is an on-location photographer, using natural light and the location choice of her clients to shoot terrific photo-shoots.
On October 14, 2012, I was able to interview Wallace to find out what it’s like to be a professional photographer in the small town of Amherst.
Do you have a studio?
"I don’t have a studio. I’m an on-location photographer, meaning I meet people at the park, their homes, etc. I like natural light the best, especially for family/child portraits."
Have you always been based in Amherst, Mass.?
"I haven’t! I just moved actually, so it’s been a little bit of an adjustment to re-build my clientele. Before we moved, I was also working as a hall director at the University of New Hampshire. I had the summers off and could work on the weekends, but now that photography is my full time job, I can focus on it much more (especially with marketing, publicity, etc)."
What is your favorite part about your job?
"My absolute favorite part is when I get THAT photo. It’s one that makes me run to show it to the parents, the bride and groom. Usually it’s an expression or a moment that made my heart skip a beat. Often it’s when I’m taking the photo, but sometimes it happens when I’m editing too."
When did you get started, and how?
"I got started while I was still working as a hall director. Not having living expenses (rent, etc), allowed me to be able to purchase my DSLR cameras. Having the summers off, I asked around to local wedding photographers if I could second shoot/apprentice with them. I met two who truly took me under their wing and let me work with them. It’s a hard balance to do. Some photographers I didn’t hear back from at all, and I understand that. You want to further your own business, but often we get started by apprenticing in this field. I highly recommend doing that as much as possible because it is very daunting to take on a wedding in general. The more practice you have, the better."
How do you decide what projects to pick up?
"I’m fairly open to what I do. I stick mainly with families, weddings, etc. I am always eager to try something new, such as photographing high school seniors. Someone contacted me the other day for a headshot for a graduate school publication, and I took that. If a potential client contacts me about a project that is not within my expertise, I refer them to someone else (if I can). For example, I was asked to photograph a gymnast with a strobe light. That wasn’t my type of work, so I referred her to a photographer who was more trained in that area of lighting."
How much work do you do in the average month?
"It honestly depends on the month. Summer is really busy. At one point, I had 3 weddings within one month, and that felt like a lot of work. An entire wedding from photographing the day, prepping pre-wedding, driving back and forth, editing the photos, corresponding with clients, doing the blog, doing the gallery, making the disc (and so forth) takes about 30 hours-give or take."
What advice do you have for today’s learning photographers? What about photojournalists?
"I respect and admire that work, but I haven’t done it in the literal sense (going out on jobs, photographing strangers, etc). For learning photographers, I’d say as I wrote above to apprentice as much as possible. Find your niche. Follow photographers’ work online that you like because it does help train your eye, and learn your equipment well."
For more information and to see some of Beth Wallace’s work, visit her website at http://www.bethwallacephotography.com/