The Amberlight Collective bio picture
  • Hi, I'm Danette. My life is all about photographing weddings & engagement pictures for awesome people. I live in Las Vegas, NV. I specialize in wedding, engagement, and family portraits not only in Las Vegas, but also in the Santa Fe & Albuquerque areas of New Mexico, and southern California. Here are a few things you should know about me, besides the fact that I love taking pictures: I'm a big nerd. I'm obsessed with England, and I love my car. I've perpetually been reading the Harry Potter series every single day since 2003. I have a fear of public restrooms. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the greatest movie ever made. I have a tattoo on my camera trigger finger that says, "say cheese.". I love Jesus. I've played guitar for 16 years. I love ray-ban wayfarers, burt's bees, anything made by apple, and mandolin music. Lets chat.

    My greatest desire in photography is to create portraits that are not only beautiful, but that evoke the emotion that you were feeling when I took the picture. I fully believe in investing in memories, because those we love are precious and we all deserve a beautiful reminder.

    Andrea + Joseph

    Any time I can travel home, I’m happy about it.  But when I get to travel to my home state to photograph a wedding, I’m always super psyched.  Growing up in New Mexico, I took for granted the culture, history, and beautiful architecture.  One of the good things about moving to Las Vegas to become a Wedding Photographer, is that being away has made me realize all of the cool things New Mexico has to offer.

    When Andrea contacted me about photographing her wedding, I was of course, so excited to have the chance.  She’d chosen Bishop’s Lodge, which is one of a series of lovely Santa Fe Wedding Venues (for either ceremony or reception, or both!), and I’d never had the chance to photograph their before.

    To top it off, on their wedding day, the weather was extremely bipolar – in a good way!  It gave us sun, then clouds, then snow…..then snow with sun shining through!  It was AMAZING.

    We had so much fun, traveling around downtown Santa Fe, getting to know each other….and I had the best time watching Joseph and Andrea interact with each other.  Joseph didn’t think he’d be into the photos, but I have to say, that guy is a natural GQ model.  And Andrea, I didn’t have to give her ANY direction, she was just perfect with every pose!!  So, this couple was a photographer’s dream.  ;)

    They got married across the street from Santa Fe’s famous Rose Garden, at Santa Fe Church of Christ.  After the ceremony, Andrea had picked a few locations for photos, the Rose Park, Bishop’s Lodge, and in between a snowy trip to the Santa Fe Courthouse.  The courthouse is unlike any building in Santa Fe, and I was so happy to hear that it was where Andrea wanted to take photos!

    Enjoy reliving their day!

    As always, be sure to check back here on the blog for my latest weddings and events, and other happenings, or visit my website to find out more about my company, The Amberlight Collective a Las Vegas Wedding Photography company!

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    • Ruben Vasquez - March 18, 2014 - 4:51 pm

      I love all the images and photographs you have taken. Amazing work. Thanks for sharing. ReplyCancel

    Stephanie + Mark

    Its truly been an interesting week!  But I’m back at the blogging, and I can’t wait to share this wedding with you all!

    I LOVE unique weddings.  After being a wedding photographer in Las Vegas for a little while, you start to become accustomed to knowing, generally, what the officiant will say, what the vows will say, etc.  After awhile you can even identify the trend in wedding music, and what will become the next…..wedding song.  (Train, Bruno Mars, Twilight soundtrack ring a bell photogs?)

    So when I get the opportunity to do something fun and different, or to witness something special and unique I get SO excited!  The ladies at Scheme Events, who are fabulous wedding planners based in Las Vegas helped to put together such a lovely ceremony, with so much character and ambiance.  Using a mixture of vintage furniture and floral displays, they made The Historic Fifth Street School (which is a FABULOUS wedding venue in Las Vegas) come to life in the evening light.  The ceremony was lit only by bistro lights strung above our heads, through tree branches, and it made for the perfect setting for this unique wedding.

    Instead of having a traditional ceremony, where an officiant leads and oversees everything, Stephanie and Mark chose instead to have friends and family get up and share a bit about them as a couple, or tell touching, memorable, or funny stories from the past.  It made everything so personal!  I think it was perfect for them!

    Their wedding favors were definitely Vegas themed, a deck of playing cards, personalized of course.  Not to mention the VIP backstage pass-like souvenirs for all of the guests who attended.

    Enjoy the photos!

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    8 Ways To Write A Better Blog For Photographers

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    In my last post “How I Booked 30 Weddings In My First Year (Back) In Business”, I mentioned some of my 2014 goals.  One of those goals is to blog way more.

    For any photographer that doesn’t think having a blog is a big deal, and that blogging doesn’t really matter….we should definitely sit down, and I’ll help you overcome this hideous lie that you’re telling yourself.

    Blogging is HUGE!  Its a way to help clients connect with you.  And as I’ve said before, connecting is key.  When people inquire with you and consider booking, they want to know who they’re investing in.  They’re considering giving you, a stranger, a LOT of money, so to help them build that trust in you, blogging is a great tool.

    Its also a great way to stay relevant and deliver great content on a regular basis.  When Google and other search engines see that you’re churning out great content that people like, and read, and come back to read, and link to, that tells search engines that your site has something to offer.  This is one of the ways earch engines choose to sort and rank websites;  through the value websites offer to the world.

    Lastly, blogging allows you to easily fit in keywords and phrases that help people find you with search engines.  Since I’m one of many Las Vegas wedding photographers, I might try finding ways to fit terms like, “Weddings in Las Vegas” or “Nevada Wedding Photographers” in my posts.  (See what I did there?;))

    So lets talk about how to optimize a great blog post so that it is engaging, and will help you get seen on the internets.

     

    8 Ways To Optimize A Blog Post For Photographers

    Content is King.

    You’ve heard it before, and now I’m just going to drill it home.  Content will always rule.  People will only read what they find interesting and relevant to them.  Search engines will only rank websites with great content highly.  So if you want to be seen, focus on your content.  For photographers this would include great posts about recent photo sessions, industry related posts (like this one), etc.

    In order to create a great content post about a recent photo session, your planning should start even before you photograph your session.  If you’re photographing people, you should learn all about them, their story.  Focus on the little moments that happened as you were shooting with them in between photos.  This can all be turned into compelling content later.

     

    Include Vendor Names & Links

    If you were photographing and event that had other wedding professionals involved (like a wedding), be sure to include the vendor names and links.  Not only will this show other wedding professionals that you’re willing to show them some love and network with them, it creates relevant outbound links from your site which can reflect well on you with search engines.  An added bonus would be, say, if someone ended up searching for a venue name that you happened to link to in a past blog post, they may end up stumbling upon your website, and if they’re looking to book another wedding pro in your industry they may also be looking to book someone in your specific area of expertise.

     

    Include At Least 7 Keywords in Context

    Speaking of search engines, you should really be giving search engines hints as to how you’d like to be found.  As a wedding photographer, I certainly wouldn’t want to come up in Google’s search results for, “Cute puppies dressed as Harry Potter characters”, although now that I think of it, I’d really like to see one.  Instead I want to rank for relevant terms.  How do I do that?  By including them in the text of my blog posts.

    When you write your blog post, pay careful attention to opportunities to fit in the terms you’d like people to find you when they’re using search engines.

     

    Use Headers

    Using headers in your blog posts is also a great SEO practice.  Headers should also feature relevant terms like what you do, where you live, or anything you’d want search engines to notice.

     

    Link to Relevant Content Both Within Your Own Site, and to External Sites

    Linking is the backbone to good search engine optimization.  Try to include 5-7 links per blog post, both to relevant past content you’ve posted, and any external content that may be relevant.  Sites like Google take notice, and your linking will continue to help you build your web presence.

     

    Link Using Relevant Terms, Not Terms Like “Click Here”

    Speaking of linking, make sure you link relevant terms instead of using call-to-action terms like “Click here!” or “Find Out How!”.

    For example, if I were linking to past content of my own I wouldn’t say, “CLICK HERE for more info on how to book a wedding”.  However, I might make a link this way, “Check out “How to book a wedding photographer” for more information.”

     

    Include Detail Shots

    Lastly, if you’re showcasing photo sessions, which you should be if you’re not, make sure to include lots of detail shots.  People come to blogs for IDEAS.  Sure, your beautiful posing or landscapes and compositions will give them great ideas, but details will win them over.  If you have enough detail photos, people will come back time and time again for more inspiration.

     

    I don’t want to delve too far into SEO with blog posts yet, but I did want to give a good outline of best practices for creating an engaging blog post.

    Do you have other best practices that you follow every time you blog?  Leave them in the comments below!

     

     

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    How I Booked 30 Weddings in my First Year (Back) in Business

     

    2013. It’s hard for me to even recall the beginning of the year because its gone by so quickly.  What I can remember clearly, though, is how uncertain the future felt.  How uncertain I felt about my photography and my business.  I’d just walked away from a job that was, how can I say this tastefully, a very financially secure photography job but also one that was the epitome of how to degrade employee morale.  I’d walked away fully intending to start my photography business, but with only puzzle pieces scattered throughout my brain to show me how to do it.

    First Wedding of 2013.

    First Wedding of 2013.

    Things Weren’t Really Working

    Let me back up a bit to give you some history.  I guess it would be unfair to definitively say that 2013 was the first year I attempted to open a business.  My adventure really started back in 2008.  At that time I was so unsure of where my life was going.  I hadn’t finished my bachelors degree, so I knew I had no future with it.  I was a musician, but come on, how realistic was the prospect of me breaking out of obscurity to become the next Avril Lavigne?  Bleak.  I had three hobbies I was really passionate about.  Playing guitar, taking pictures, and reading books.  After learning about it from a friend, I decided to pursue an internship with a well-known photographer who was based in Chicago at the time because I felt like of the few gifts I had to offer to the world, photography was the most plausible to accomplish sufficiently to turn it from a hobby into a career.

    The internship was extremely fruitful.  I walked away inspired, with improved technical skills, one wedding under my belt as a secondary photographer, a crash course on profit and loss, tax info, great constructive criticism from a photographer I admired, and an understanding that I needed a brand that would work for me.  But what I was missing was the understanding that (and bare with me, if there’s one thing I want you to take away from this article, its this):  In order to have a successful photography business, you need to be as good at, and have as good of an understanding of business, as you do of photography.  And for years, I tried with meager results to run a photography business.

    Lies.

    Ok so here is what I thought were the right ingredients for owning and running a successful photography business (and what didn’t work….like….at all.):

    My photography should freaking rock.

    Ok people, this should be obvious right?  As long as my photography is better than the next guy’s, it should be a no brainer.  People will flock to me practically throwing their money at me because SURELY they’ll see the value in the QUALITY of my work, over the other guy’s.  Nope.

    I need a website so people can find me.

    Once I get my website up and running, as long as it’s clean and informative and displays my work beautifully, people will book me.  They will find me, and they will book me.  (I suppose at this point I was thinking that I too, like Harry Potter, was magical and people would be able to magically find my website out of the trillion on the internet – like, “Accio website!” – Thats a Harry Potter reference for all you like-minded nerds)

    As long as I just calculate my expenses and multiply them by 3, I will make a profit.

    This is just plain dumb on my part.  Forgive me.

    Pricing myself lower than my competition will cause me to get more work.

    I thought that by pricing myself lower than anyone else, it would look like a bargain to my clients causing me to get more work.  This was kind of accurate, but the clientele it caused me to get was not the ideal audience I wanted, nor were they booking me for the right reasons.

    I don’t need any type of marketing or advertising.  Word of mouth will get me everything I need!!!  Yippie!

    Once I booked those bargain-hunting clients, I was certain that they would spread the word like wildfire about my awesome and affordable services and in turn get me TONS OF WORK!

     

    A Turning Point.

    Mayday.  Mayday.  Defcon 4.  None of this worked.  At all.  By 2010, I’d relocated to a different city, in a different state, with no client base (surprise!), and was too scared to try to continue pursuing a photography business.  I opted instead to work for someone else’s business taking photographs and it was a bad deal.  I was working to fulfill someone else’s dream and not my own.  After two and a half years of this, I’d finally had enough.  But I was still uncertain of how to run a successful business.  However, what I did know was that what I had been doing, didn’t work, and wasn’t working.

    I’d attended WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International) the year previously in Las Vegas, and had attended classes that were primarily focused on photo and lighting technique.  I saw all the business oriented classes, and skipped them.  Booooooring.

    I started to wonder, as my desire to restart my business grew and as the fear of embarking on another failing business venture loomed, could it be that the thing I’m missing, the thing that would show me how to put all these photography business puzzle pieces in my head together would be…..gasp…..learning how to run a photography business?  Like, the actual BUSINESS part?!

    I started a new adventure.  Learning business.  Not necessarily because I felt I had a passion for business, I definitely still only had a passion for photography, but because I thought it would help further my passion for photography.  A funny thing happened, as I started to learn and grow in my knowledge of the business world, my desire to learn more about it grew.  Then, my passion for photography and my new-found passion for business became one in the same.  I loved business because I loved photography, and I continue to love photography as I learn more about business.

    The first place I started was at WPPI again the next year.  But instead of attending all of the technique classes, I attended as many business classes as I could.  Hearing how other photographers started their businesses not only validated my own fears but began to show me a bigger picture for all of my puzzle pieces to fit into.

    After WPPI I started buying a ton of business oriented books.  Books like “The E Myth Revisited” by Michael E. Gerber (suggested by the fabulous Tamera Lackey), and SEO Made Simple by Michael Fleischner.  I started learning the different aspects of business like how to become properly licensed, insured, and how to properly pay my taxes.  I learned how to successfully market, how to turn clients into actual ambassadors to tell people about my photography, and what SEO was.  I started getting on google on a daily basis to learn more ideas, and discover more business resources.

     

    10 Things I did to book 30 Weddings My First Year In Business

    Here are a few things I’ve learned this year that directly contributed to landing 30 weddings in my first year back in the game:

     

    I Legitimized myself.

    I went through great lengths to learn how to properly legitimize my business.  From getting an LLC, and all the other required licensing, to purchasing Liability and Business Insurance, having an iron-clad contract drawn up to protect both myself and my client, and registering myself for state and federal taxation.  Clients are more inclined to book a legitimate business that have a level of trust attached to them.

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    A strong contract is so important for the protection of both you and your client.

     I Found, and Addressed Specific Needs in my Area.

    I can’t really call it a niche, but since I’m a Wedding Photographer in Las Vegas I offer both the traditional all day wedding packages that you’d expect people who are local to your area to book, but because so many people travel from out of town to Vegas for their wedding, I also offer Mini Wedding Sessions.  Its a way for me to capitalize on the specific needs in my market, and to offer a product that I know people in my area need.

    In between photos during a Mini Wedding Session for a couple Eloping to the Vegas Strip.

    In between photos during a Mini Wedding Session for a couple Eloping to the Vegas Strip.

    Pricing Matters.

    It’s not just about throwing up a number that sounds good to you, and that you think is sufficient for what your services and products are worth.  There are psychological cues and implications that cause people to make financial decisions.  Learning these tips and tricks for pricing have helped me secure business at the actual prices I want to be charging, and not the low-ball prices I think I have to charge to get work.  Check out Tofurious’ “Creative Pricing & Packaging For Photographers”.

    SEO is SO important!  

    SEO, or Search Engine Optimization is how Google and the other search engines categorize websites during searches.  Have you ever wondered how a certain website ranks as the number one search result when you search for something?  Its most likely because their website has been optimized for that search term.  Optimizing my website and all of my blog posts has significantly contributed to the number of photography inquiries that I’ve received from potential clients this year.

    Get people to link back to your website.

    Getting other websites to link back to your website not only makes you look more impressive, but more importantly, it can help to boost your search results in Google.  Sites like Two Bright Lights can have a big impact on a photographer’s rank and reputation.

    Customer Service Is Golden.

    We all know that getting word-of-mouth referrals is essential for the life of a photographer.  Two ways that I exceed my client’s expectations is by how quickly I respond to their emails, and how quick and sufficient my turn-around time for my products is.  If you set the proper expectations for your services, then exceed those expectations, you’ll turn a client into an ambassador every time.

    Connecting is key. 

    Nobody wants to give thousands of dollars to a shady business. I know I don’t. When I give that much money away I want to know exactly who I’m giving it to and what I’ll be getting. Make sure that the brand you build includes YOU.  Make sure your website includes ample info about you.  After all, the truth of the matter is that people aren’t just buying a product, they’re buying an experience with you.  You could give them the most incredible pictures ever known to mankind but if they had a crappy experience with you, guess what?  The only feelings their photos are going to muster up are how crappy/awkward/out-of-tune they felt while the pictures were being taken.  You want to make sure that your clients know WHO they’re buying, as well as WHAT they’re buying.  Making sure that you’re the right photographer for them, and that they’re the right clients for you is detrimental to a successful business.

    Networking, networking, networking!

    This is probably the most difficult puzzle piece in the equation for me.  I’m an introvert.  A super fun, loud talking introvert, but an introvert nonetheless.  The idea of going to a party full of strangers, putting myself out there, and requesting something from those strangers in return is TERRIFYING.  However, I received several inquiries from potential clients that were referrals from other wedding professionals.  People will refer you if you impress them or if they feel you’ll supplement the services they’re already offering a client. I’ve even gotten clients from other photographers who were unavailable for a wedding date.

    Become a Social Media Master.

    Having a good social media presence can not only bring in new clients, it can help to build trust with current clients. Properly staying active on social media can keep current clients in the loop and show prospective clients all that you’re currently up to. Having a social media presence also helps people feel connected to you as a person which is super important when it comes to people investing in your business. That brings me to my next point.

    Organization

    Finally, through trial, error and necessity, I found a way to organize all of my clients, their info, and their products in an efficient and dependable way.  Without organization, I think the whole business side of my company would completely fall to pieces.  It helps me to stay on top of my clients’ needs, making sure nothing, and no one falls between the cracks.  And the busier you get, the bigger the holes can become, which is why organization is key.

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    Conclusion.

    So what would I have done differently?  I could have definitely blogged more.  I could have networked more, sold more products, and focused on better marketing campaigns. So its areas like these, items I can add to a list, that make up my goals for 2014.

    I can’t say that this is a perfect road map for starting a successful photography business.  But these were a few key factors that have helped me along the way.  At the beginning of 2013 I’d set a goal of 10 weddings for myself.  It seemed like such an unattainable goal.  And I also can’t say that it was just luck or good circumstance that I tripled that goal.  I had to work hard and reach out to a client base that didn’t know I existed.

    Make yourself known, embrace the photographic community, network, learn, and never stop growing.

    I’m sure by the end of 2014 I’ll have an entire new list of what has helped me grow as a Professional Wedding Photographer.  Until then, I hope this list helps someone else along the way.

    Do you have something you’d like to add about starting your photography business?  I want to hear what worked (and maybe what didn’t work) for you, so leave me some comments!

     

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    • Magia Obrazu - January 8, 2014 - 7:42 am

      Great article! I agree with all that you mentioned :-) ReplyCancel

    • Redfield Media - January 8, 2014 - 9:40 am

      I was thinking of adding photography to my business this year. Thanks for the advice. Does starting as a second photographer work?ReplyCancel

    • Lawrence Chan - January 8, 2014 - 10:15 am

      So happy that your business is prospering! Cheers to a bright 2014! xoReplyCancel

    • Miranda - January 8, 2014 - 7:13 pm

      Fantastic Read! Thanks for sharing all of this is incredibly true and so wonderfully helpful information. Only thing I would add is to photograph what you love…this was a hard one for me when I first started…I would take pictures of anything people asking for…but now I know better. Sometimes hard to walk away from work…but in the long run its been such a huge blessing to me to be a bit more selective of what I choose to invest my time in. If I photograph what I love 1) my passion will stay fresh and 2) more people will know me for that one thing and ask me to do more of it :) ReplyCancel

    • Julian Jenkins - January 8, 2014 - 7:45 pm

      Im happy for you. Im glad “the job” didnt suck the love of photography away from you like it did to me. For about a year i didnt pick up a camera as i was disheartened after that job.ReplyCancel

    • Mishele Pou - January 8, 2014 - 8:52 pm

      wow today i am right where you were, I graduated photography and though all of the above I feel like I’m reading my thoughts and life right now :) thank you for sharing your advice as wedding photography is what I would like to branch out too professionally, however really need to start with my business building as I too feel uggg do i have to?, but you have encouraged me and now feel I really am going to enjoy it :) Thank you! . ReplyCancel

    • Elisabeth Dunn Calmes - January 9, 2014 - 1:14 am

      Thanks for sharing! Very inspirational.ReplyCancel

    • Eric Fuentes - January 9, 2014 - 1:48 am

      omg D….. you’re so inspiring to me!
      ReplyCancel

    • Farida Alvi - January 9, 2014 - 2:42 am

      Thank you, I needed this :) ReplyCancel

    • AMillerFoto {PHOTOGRAPHY} - January 9, 2014 - 4:46 am

      Knowing business is essential – This was a well written article… So, great to see reading pieces like this one! AMAZING!!!ReplyCancel

    • Feuza Tomaz - January 9, 2014 - 3:12 pm

      some good reminders for some one who is restarting her business in new locationReplyCancel

    • […] my last post “How I Booked 30 Weddings In My First Year (Back) In Business”, I mentioned some of my 2014 goals.  One of those goals is to blog way […]ReplyCancel

    • Mark Martin - January 9, 2014 - 11:59 pm

      That was a very useful blog thank you. I have been running my own photography business for the past 7 years and have made many mistakes along the way. Every mistake was a step in the right direction, if you learn from them. Thanks, really enjoyed this.ReplyCancel

    • Ovidiu - January 14, 2014 - 1:44 pm

      Just 2 words: Thank you!ReplyCancel

    Miriam + Thorsten

    Hello lovelies!

    I hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful December weather in Las Vegas! Wedding photography season is coming to a close, and the end of the wedding season ushers in my favorite weather and Christmas season!

    In September, I had the awesome pleasure of heading out with Miriam & Thorsten and their two closest friends who’d traveled all the way from Germany to have a very romantic Las Vegas wedding.  Their ceremony wasn’t held anywhere on the strip, or at any wedding chapel, but rather within the beautiful Calico Basin(Las Vegas Wedding Photography Location) with iconic Red Rock National Park as a backdrop.  It was stunning!  And the weather was my fav, of course, cloudy and gloomy which made for beautiful light.  The rain held off just long enough for us to complete the ceremony and our entire photo session.  It was just a lovely day.

    When looking for an amazing location off-strip, check out Red Rock Canyon or Calico Basin to do your wedding photography in Las Vegas.  Two great locations!

     

     

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