AN ARCHIVE OF love stories

Being invited into the the lives of extraordinary people is an incredible privilege. The stories I adorn through my imagery capture the true essence of the human spirit and the art of being in love.

Is what you’re seeing real?

With all the travel lately, I have had some time to truly think, as well as “listen” to my heart.  It’s a welcome opportunity to be free from all the visual influences in my daily routine.  You know…Instagram, Pinterest, Wedding Blogs, Facebook..emails..and on and on and on.   Those who are fortunate to call WEDDINGS their full time job know exactly what I am talking about.  It’s that necessary evil.

I don’t know about you, but I literally have to blast the music in the car to drown out my own madness sometimes.  There have been many strange looks from other drivers on the highway as I am belting out the lyrics of One Republic, Michael Jackson, (Hey…don’t judge), and Mumford.  It’s my therapy.

As I was alone with my thoughts, I came to the realization that I haven’t been “owning my story” lately, and I have been floundering a bit.  It’s also been an eye opener as I have been mentoring some incredibly gifted and wonderful women in photography this past year.  I always start our time with sharing “my story”, and how I started in this business.  I have always been very cautious of who I share my story with to avoid being judged or pitied, or heaven forbid..DISLIKED.  I think we all guard certain parts of our life and are only showing our “5 Star” moments to the world.  Isn’t that how social media is supposed to work??   We only show (or portray) our BEST and hopefully someone with LIKE it.

It’s so easy to enter into the comparison game as photographers and to allow social media to dictate our self worth. It can become the driving force in our work…for fear of becoming irrelevant.  Can I get an amen?

For me personally, I have always felt that I was off the grid in every area of my life, and never really had anyone I could “compare” stories with…I never really “fit in”.   I married my high school sweetheart at 19, had my son at 20, my daughters at 22 and 25…and became a widow at 28.   That’s a lifetime of experiences in 9 short years.  At that point in my life, my entire identity was completely lost.  I was no longer “Daniels” wife, but Amanda..the widow..and Mom to three little one’s.   Walking in that valley, I held on to my faith tighter than I ever had…and I felt the presence of God in my life like never before. I am not religious, but I am a believer and am very spiritual.  It’s a huge part of who I am.

I was a very insecure and shy girl growing up.  Becoming a mother is what gave my life purpose and it made me feel needed and important.   I was NEVER labeled as artistic or gifted in any way.  Yes, I had some natural ability with putting an outfit together, or decorating a room, but nothing extraordinary.  So, when my life turned upside down, I discovered the true gift and beauty of the photograph.  See, I took a zillion photo’s of my children with their Daddy, (before cell phone’s), and when it came time to prepare for the memorial service, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the boxes and boxes filled to the brim of snapshots.  This was sort of my “aha” moment you could say.  From that point on, the camera became like oxygen to me in time of turmoil and great sadness.  I found joy in photographing my children, and we would always feel happy together doing it.

Whenever we go through loss, (and we ALL do), we tend to grab on tight to those parts of our life that give us purpose and hope.  I decided to learn everything I could about it.  I read every book I could get my hands on, attended classes on-line through the Academy of Art University, and just submerged myself into the world of photography.  NEVER in a million years did I have a dream or even a hope that I would do this professionally…and especially not weddings.  I wanted to become a master at this craft…and I knew I would have to learn the old fashioned way..hands on.

Fast forward 15 years.  Here I am, photographing couples in love and it has taken me all over the world.  It still boggles my mind how my life has evolved into this place.  It’s such a beautiful gift to be invited into these couples lives.  My perspective is unique when I photograph a couple, as I am oh so familiar with that cliche´ term of “life is fleeting”.  I truly embrace the joy of marriage and union, and I know it’s good for my soul to be surrounded by it.  I don’t have a business degree, or a degree in photography, or art…but I am a Mom of three adult children, now wife to Lee, and a photographer of love.

Now, circling back to the beginning of this (VERY) long post, I have to be honest and say that I have been feeling a bit deflated lately.  As I have been reflecting back on the past few years, I am seeing a pattern in myself of trying to fit into this “Fine Art” wedding mold that so many photographers are trying to squeeze into.  I started losing my self confidence and ultimately feeling very drained and exhausted trying to keep up with the industry.  I was starting to lose my vision and my voice in this sea of sameness.

Why am I sharing all of this? That’s a good question.  I am at this pivotal point in my life and business where I have decided to have the courage to be vulnerable (Thank you Brené of DARING GREATLY“).  I want to own my story…to go back to why I started doing this in the first place.  I want my clients, (couples and photographers), to know more about me and what fuels me as an artist and wedding photographer.  I don’t want to be defined or labeled as a FILM or DIGITAL photographer.

When I share my work with the world, I want my viewers to be confident that the images convey REAL LIFE…and honest moments.  I want the viewer to FEEL something…not just oooh’s and ahhh’s over something pretty.  I want my work to reflect not only the essence of the couple, but me.. through their stories.   I want the photographers I mentor to get a dose of realness and honesty from me and my experiences from the past 10 years. I want to help photographers own their stories and find their voice, and to realize we ALL struggle with self doubt.

Ultimately, I want to continue growing as an artist.  I am wholeheartedly in love with what I do, and I am truly grateful to be a visual storyteller.

To achieve these personal goals, I know I need to be more vulnerable.  I am challenging myself to share more of my experiences and struggles with the world…and if only one person reads this, that’s ok!  If I lose followers, that’s ok too!  I refuse to allow the response and reaction of others dictate my JOY.  I am ready to be free of my own unrealistic expectations.  I will continue to pour my heart and soul into my clients and my family…and I look forward to embracing this journey…for however long I am able to do it.


“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” – Anna Quindlen

Processed with VSCO with c6 preset

Above image by Honey Rose Glenn at our recent 1:1 time together.

  1. Hannah Elise says:

    Love this..thank you so much for sharing.
    You have such a beautiful + unique story..looking forward to hearing more.
    Your honesty + heart with this is a blessing..thanks for being vulnerable.

  2. Libby says:

    Wow. Thank you for your vulnerability. It is so important to remember why you started taking photographs in the first place. I needed to hear that today. Thank you, thank you, thank you x

  3. Lindsey gage says:

    Amanda, I have looked up to you for years. You have blazed your own trail, and I’m so glad to hear you’re reconnecting with your vulnerability! It’s also a relief to know you have those doubts, but work through them to produce images that beam with beauty and emotion. Thank you for opening up, you mentor people you don’t even realize! It’s a God given gift and I’m grateful for you!

    • amandak says:

      Thank you so much Lindsey for your kind comment and encouraging words. I am so blessed to know that you have been following my work for so long…such an honor! I appreciate your feedback more than you know. XO

  4. Caitlyn says:

    This is beautiful Amanda, and so are you. Love you!

  5. Jana Long says:

    Oh Amanda! This is why I love you and you are my FAVORITE photographer to follow. You are seriously my soul sister. I honestly feel like my story is so similar (minus becoming a widow-but being a single mom), and I have also felt the same way with my work. Specializing in seniors, I’ve seen my work morph into ‘what seniors should look like’ rather than following my heart and doing what I want. I’ve been slowly making my way back to my original vision which is conveying an emotion in my work. I’ve been frustrated this past year and something just clicked in me! I knew I was no longer photographing in my vision, but what others were doing, and it’s not me. I wish I could have hugged you last week! So I’m sending you a virtual hug my sweet friend! Thank you for always inspiring, keeping things real and just being a light in an industry that can be so difficult! Lol! Love you girl! ???

    • amandak says:

      Oh Jana…we are kindred spirits for sure. Thank YOU for always being SO encouraging and kind with your comments. I am so glad to hear that I might have inspired you in your work. You are incredibly talented and it’s VITAL that we stay true to ourselves, and our vision. I have no doubt that you are an incredible light and blessing to your clients…those high schoolers need our love and encouragement more than ever. Miss you…and I hope to see your beautiful face soon! XO

  6. Amanda,
    This means to world to hear you share. Thank you for opening up. I’ve been following you for a few years, and feel so much emotion through your imagery. Add with that now your story, and I feel like a 1000 miles away, I get you, and just connected with you and your work 100x more!
    It’s so inspiring, I too deal with the same struggles, and recently came across Brené Brown!
    Thank you again for sharing! <3 xo, Jennifer

    • amandak says:

      Jennifer!! It is so wonderful to hear from you! I am SO blessed by your generous words. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your feedback. This encourages me to to continue to be peel back those layers and share more about my triumphs and struggles. XO

  7. Lydia Burgess says:

    Amanda, I have always admired you and your strength! I think being vulnerable is the greatest kind of strength and I am glad to see you embrace that…as I am striving to do in my own life as well. You’re photography is truly beautiful, and I can always tell that’s it’s yours when scrolling through FB. 🙂 Love you Cous.

    • amandak says:

      Lydia! Oh you are SO SO sweet to write this! You are an amazing young woman, and you are all too familiar with what’s it’s like to walk through loss at a young age. I love you! Thank you for taking the time to respond to this…love and hugs. XO

  8. egle says:

    It is really very good post in a long time.Thank you for being honest and real.Something I needed to be reminded.
    You are not just so talented , but also a great person.
    Thanks 🙂

  9. Jill says:

    Dear Amanda,
    what an inspiring post (one of the rare ones that I read to the very last dot!) Thank you so much for sharing! You’ve been such an inspiration to me (even before I thought I could become a professional photographer myself). I’ve been admiring your work for so long.

    • amandak says:

      Hello Jill! I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to read this and to respond. It’s so encouraging to me to know that other photographers can relate to my struggles as well as be inspired by my work…such an honor! Thank you again! XO

  10. Kelly Bowie says:

    What a beautiful, vulnerable and honest telling. Thank you for opening up and sharing your story. It is so easy to see the image and be in awe of the talent but forget the journey. I look forward to seeing where the path you are traveling takes you.

  11. Alcina says:

    Amanda, this is a beautiful testimony. It is so moving to hear about your journey and perseverance through unimaginable hardships. Your passion for your work is very apparent, and you do a phenomenal job of capturing real, relatable moments and feelings. I feel honored to have had the chance to work with you. You’re the best! <3 Thank you for sharing !!

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