Located in Calgary, Alberta CA

Name: Amanda Yskes

Representing: Hocus Focus Photography

# of Years Experience: 5

I find it an incredible honour that when friends and family members we've known for years and start families of their own join me in my studio and let me work some photographic magic on their brand new little ones. These two are twin sons to my husband's best man; we always joked that one of us would end up having twins!

Value yourself and your work. Put yourself first. If you are in good spirits, your business and work will thrive, and your clients will be happy.

Tell us about yourself. What do you love doing in your spare time? What inspired you to newborn photography and do you photograph other genre’s in your business?

Children are my inspiration. The innocence of a newborn to the mischievous glimmer in the eye of a toddler; to stifle their playfulness is to steal the soul from the portrait. When I’m not photographing little ones, I am a mom at home. Being a mom myself keeps me in check, like the efforts clients go through to get to a session, how much they want their children to ‘just cooperate for once’. I get it. I hear my clients and I strive to bring calmness and assuredness to each session. My children are young, and so are most of the children that come to me from client families. We are all in a similar walk of life; in fact, I find it more awkward to photograph a teenager than a toddler, at this point!

How would you describe your photography style? What inspires your work?

Light is light. I love dramatic shadows; I love simplicity. I love letting the light trickle over my subject and pool in different areas to bring about depth and drama whilst maintaining the beauty and fresh elegance to a newborn portrait.

Who has inspried you and how did you first come across their work?

I’ve collectively fallen in love with photographs like Erin Tole, Charlotte Gamache, Jennifer Guntzman, Annie Whitaker, Meghan MacDonald, Marsha Pizzaro, Hello Little (Erin & Theresa Rouse) and Brianna Payne; looking at the portfolios of these photographers I believe you can find a few things most in common: dramatic lighting, simplicity, and details.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone starting a newborn photography business?

Be easy on yourself. Start small and work your way up. There’s no sense in working yourself into a hole before you’ve even started the climb. Bit by bit; perseverance will get you there. Value yourself and your work. Put yourself first. If you are in good spirits, your business and work will thrive, and your clients will be happy.

What camera do you use? What are your favourite lenses and what’s typically in your camera bag?

I shoot with a Canon EOS R. I shot with a Canon 5d Mark iii for years and it served me well, but I appreciate the lightweight and updated features of the new mirrorless camera. My lens of choice in the studio is my 50mm 1.2, but I’m also quite fond of my 135mm F2 (for outdoors) and my Sigma 35mm 1.4

What is your favorite place to hold sessions and why?Where do you photograph most of your sessions? (in studio? on location?)

My studio is my most favourite place in the world. It’s me, my style, where I do what I love, and it’s home. What more can you ask for? (Okay… maybe some more space for more props??)

What (if any) photography training, mentoring or workshops have you taken?

I’ve taken several online courses for newborn posing; my skills developed very slowly as I gained confidence. I have never ever placed a baby in the path of danger; even in the midst of pressuring clients, I knew my limits and I knew what I was comfortable with. And even then, I waited. I finally attended a newborn posing workshop that helped me perfect those poses and am part of an ongoing group that continually adds content with new posing, better posing, and new/improved posing tools to increase the efficiency and safety of posing tiny newborn bodies.

Tell us about starting your business, and what played a key role in developing a profitable income.

When I first started I travelled to clients’ homes hauling massive rubbermaid bins of props and gear to photograph their newborns. When I started to outgrow that phase in my business (after about 2 exhausting years) I rented my first studio space. The overhead was extremely expensive and eye-opening. I realized that in order to afford something like this I would need to charge much more. But, in the midst of heavy business, I found myself overwhelmed. I ended up moving my whole family to a bigger house where I was able to have a studio in a bonus room, which is where we are today, and things have been getting better year by year. I’ve since switched from all-inclusive to in-person sales, where I have an ordering room and studio. Life isn’t as busy anymore; although I am low volume, I am able to equally balance family and photography life while still being paid for my time (more than I did before!) Of course, it doesn’t just happen. It’s a continual grooming of yourself and your brand, honing and fine-tuning your experiences for clients to provide a professional, experienced and knowledgeable experience that lets people know that 1) you know what you’re doing, 2) you’re going to do a great job for them, and 3) they’re going to be SO happy that they went with you!

Growing pains: tell us about some of your challenges you have faced in your business, and how you overcame them.

Switching from all-inclusive sales to in-person sales is perhaps the biggest leap of faith I ever did for my business; getting fair return for the time invested into your business is critical. Whilst many photographers compete and get confused with what to charge, charge what YOU believe is fair to YOU. What will make you shoot this session today? What will make it easier for you to deal with whatever that client (might) throw at you? What amount of effort are you putting into your business, and are you getting fair return for that. Not just in the shooting and editing, but the efforts you put into finding clients and managing everything in between (and taking time away from your own personal life).

You don’t have to do in-person sales to “charge your worth”. But I think that in order to run a profitable business it’s important to be able to look in the mirror and say, “You are worth this. Your time is worth this. Your work is worth this.” Then get up and go get’em, tiger (or tigress!)

What should clients expect when working with you?

I’m going to listen. Listen to you. I’ll talk a little bit, but I want to hear all about the types of photos you love, what kind of experience you want, how you envision your images in your home, and what I can do to make your experience flawless. I have developed a flow in all of my sessions to keep them moving, to keep them engaging, and to keep the genuine expressions going and have the nerves fade away within just a few minutes of starting. I’m going to show you images that you thought were near impossible to capture, unless by some miracle. I’m going to (quite possibly) make you cry tears of joy when you see the genuine beauty of your family, your baby, your children in your photographs. And you are going to be so excited to take your images home and hang them proudly on your walls and feel those feelings over and over again for years to come.

Another baby to a friend of mine; we graduated from the same high school years ago! When I graduated, I had full intentions on becoming a freelance graphic designer. But after working a few years in the field, I learned that it wasn't the graphic design part I loved - it was the photography! And having babies of my own sparked that beautiful inspiration to follow and pursue a career in newborn photography.

One of my favourite parts of every newborn session is posing mom with baby; it's also one of my greatest regrets in life: not getting portraits done with my babies while they were newborns. So while I feel a small twang of jealousy when I see images like these, I also feel that strong urge of importance on how precious and beautiful photography really is.

I love monochromatic sets that let the trails of light paint the details throughout an image. One of my favourite tools is light; there is so much you can do with it. It can effect the mood, the emotion, and even the appearance of your subject in a photograph. It's a beautiful, incredible paint brush.

Simplicity. I adore it. There's just something about a baby on a simple backdrop with no distractions. So few elements to an image and yet so full of tiny, beautiful, intricate details of little baby hairs, wrinkly fingers, and soft baby lips.

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