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Meet Westchester Photographer: Amanda Sweikow

Today we’d like to introduce you to Amanda Sweikow.

Amanda, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
As long as I can remember I’ve loved taking pictures. In high school, I almost never left the house without a camera. Even though it was usually just a one time use disposable film camera, it was always important to me to capture the memories my friends and I were making. It was as if seeing the photos days or sometimes week after they were taken when the images were processed, finally made the events real. It was a way to solidify those times in our minds and a way to remember them and more importantly to remember us at those moments forever.

While I enjoyed taking photographs it wasn’t something I took too seriously or thought of as a career. Even though, I had always leaned towards visual expression and harbored a desire to create and tell stories, I had not yet to come to a complete understanding of the potential of the medium of photography, so I found myself leaning towards moving images to tell my stories and I decided to pursue a degree in cinema.

So, off I went to college and studied film at San Francisco State University, all the while continuing with my photography on the side as a hobby. After graduating I moved to Los Angeles where I began interning for a filmmaking collective called Filmmakers Alliance, where I quickly moved up to Vice President and eventually became Executive Director. During this time I wrote, produced, and directed a few of my own short films, as well as produced the films of others. After I left the collective I worked at various jobs in different aspects of the film industry, but soon all the long hours began to wear on me, and I found that I no longer had the time or the energy to work on projects of my own. My creativity was suffering and I didn’t have any time to spend on my photography hobby.

Then one day, I stumbled upon the photograph, “Henry Gray, rancher, Arizona, 1970” by William Albert Allard, it stopped me in my tracks. I literally could not take my eyes off of it. I sat and stared at it for hours. It was the first time a still image had that powerful of an effect on me. The complexity of emotion conveyed by not only the gestures and posturing of the man but also the framing and lighting made me realize the full potential and power of the still image. It made me realize that one image can say as much, if not more, than an entire film. The subjective nature and the space and time for contemplation that photography allows are factors that are rare or almost impossible to achieve in film. In seeing or more accurately feeling this image I understood that photography was the medium that I needed to create in.

So, I decided to leave the film business and focus on photography. To make a living, I took what I first fell in love with photography for, its ability to record and freeze important moments in time, and started my own photography business doing mostly family portraiture and event photography. By sharing in and capturing memories that will last a lifetime for other people and enabling them to tell their life stories, I finally felt like I was doing what I was meant to be doing. At the same time having my own business has given me a little more freedom to find ways to carve out time every week to work on my personal fine art projects, satisfying the creative needs of my storytelling side.

Has it been a smooth road?
Being an artist and making a living is always a bit of a struggle. I’ve been fortunate to have a good support network to help me out along the way. Besides trying to make ends meet financially, the biggest struggle comes from making sure that I find time to tell my stories and work on my personal art projects as well. It seems that there’s never enough time or money, but the rewards of capturing memories that people will cherish forever or of creating my own art is well worth any struggle that accompanies it.

What’s the hardest part of your job?
One of the hardest parts of running my own photography business would have to be the marketing side. There are so many wonderful photographers out there, especially in Los Angeles, so sometimes it can be really overwhelming trying to figure out how to get your name out there and stand out amongst so many talented peers.

I would also say that one of the hardest parts of my job is making sure I am getting compensated for my full worth. With cell phone cameras and all the creative filter apps out there, photography is everywhere these days and everyone is doing it. So, a lot of people seem to think that it shouldn’t cost much to hire a professional photographer. What people don’t realize is that there is much more to photography than just the hours spent shooting, we are charging also for the countless hours spent post processing to make sure all the images stand out and achieve their full potential, and also for all the maintenance of our equipment. What we professional photographers do is time-consuming and expensive and yet it seems we are often asked by our clients to give away a lot of our services for free, and when that happens it is always tempting to say “yes” because we love what we do. But, at the same time, we need to make a living, so I constantly have to remind myself that this is a business and these are the services I offer, and if I want to remain in business then I need to charge for them.

What are you striving for, what criteria or markers have you set as indicators of success?
I would define success as getting to a place where you feel you have attained what you were looking for or where you achieve a certain goal or something that you were striving for. I believe that this is a place that is always changing because as a person you are always growing and learning, so, therefore, the boundaries of where success is found for you is constantly being pushed. Even though the point of success may change, as long as you have a general idea of what you are working towards and a level of contentment in doing so, then I would say you are successful.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I have so many plans for the future and they are of course always changing just like we all are, so it’s hard to figure out which plans to mention! One of the ones that I am looking forward to most is getting into wedding photography. Weddings are so beautiful and full of so many big emotions and wonderful moments that I am really looking forward to capturing these for people and along the way realizing my full potential as an event photographer.

Pricing:

  • Portraits, Maternity, Newborn, Family: 2-hour sessions starting at $250.
  • Standard Events such as birthday parties or corporate events: $150 per hour with a 2-hour minimum. For weddings and/or extra large events, additional fees may apply.
  • Headshots: 3 looks for $300. Professional make-up artist additional fee based on the artists’ own rates.

Contact Info:

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