10 Minutes with children's photographer Amy Smyth
Amy Smyth has been working with us since we first started out and so our relationship with Amy as a photographer is pretty special. Responsible for the Dotty look which encapsulates the playfulness, honesty, and joy of childhood, we credit Amy for helping us to create that signature Dotty look that all of our photos have.
She is a joy to work with, and we thoroughly enjoy letting her lead the direction of our photoshoots. All our kids love working with Amy too, which is why all of our photography looks like such fun, it really is!
We couldn’t wait to sit down with Amy to catch up on being a photographer, mum, and her move from England to sunny California.
It’s so lovely to catch up with you Amy, thanks for agreeing to chat with us!
Sounds like you have always been a passionate photographer, when do you first remember being drawn to a camera and wanting to take pictures? Did this start in your childhood?
Since I can remember I’ve always loved old family photo albums. When I was 14 my parents gave me a film camera for Christmas and my first roll of film was portraits of my siblings on a family holiday in Goa, India. These pictures are still my best work and my family is still my favourite subject matter.
You moved from England to LA, that’s quite a transition! How did you find the move, and what helped you settle into California living?
I had never been to LA before I moved here. Our first month in California had record-breaking rain. I’d been sold on the weather! I was so homesick! Making friends is key. One of the best ways to make friends is by doing courses. If you study a subject you are really interested in, the chances are you’ll meet like-minded people.
You have been working with us since we first began, what has been your favourite shoot so far? Or the most memorable photoshoot!
Hard to choose! Our first ever shoot was pretty special and a bit of a miracle. It poured with rain but the weather gave us just enough breaks to make the shots happen. Shooting Spring/Summer in the middle of winter was memorable! My favourite is the pink car and the camper van shoot. You can’t beat tanned skin and bare feet.
You are so great at capturing the essence of childhood, those raw moments when children are really in the present moment, how do you manage this?
A lot of practice and patience. If I ask my children to pose under a tree they are going to pull strange faces and be bored within a minute. If I ask them to pretend they are monkeys and climb a tree, then it’s another story. The real secret is putting kids in environments where they are having fun and then the number of moments is infinite.
Do you have any tips for photographing children? What’s the best way of capturing family outings in a natural way, especially for those children who are more shy and may not enjoy having their photo taken?
Don’t ask them to say “cheese”, I’ve never known this to get good results! Instead, just follow what they want to do. I love getting their expressions when they are looking at something. Eating an ice cream is always a great way to capture them in a moment of messy joy. I like to tell the story of the day, so I don’t shy away from photographing a tantrum or getting them passed out covered in snacks. It’s all part of it.
What do you love most about being a photographer? What is your favourite part of the process when working with clients?
I’ve had so many adventures because of my camera. It’s a great excuse to travel, meet new people and see parts of the world you wouldn’t normally see. I love collaborating with clients on their creative direction. I’m a huge fan of moodboards.
How do you manage balancing motherhood, with building a successful career as a photographer? Has it got any easier as time has passed?
I’m a perfectionist and my bar is way too high for what is actually possible in a day. So for me, balance is knowing that some days the house will be tidy, the kids go out to school with brushed hair, cute outfits and perfectly packed lunches. Then on other days, it is odd socks, wildly feral children, who empty the snack cupboard before I can make dinner. The balance is being okay with the ebb and flow between the two. I’m trying to keep everything simple. Short shoots locally, simple meals, saying ‘no’ to anything that feels draining and smaller achievable goals. Most of my shoots are on my doorstep which really helps! With credits to my husband for being a very hands-on Dad.
What one piece of advice would you tell your younger self about your journey in photography? Were there any moments when you felt afraid to take the leap? How did you get through those moments, and keep going?
I would go back to my 14-year-old self and tell her to give University a miss and to go find an old portrait photographer to assist. One of the greats like David Bailey, Tom Stoddart or Terry O’Neil. Or a photographer in New York.
When I was 25 I took a leap from advertising to photography. It felt huge but that set me up for every leap I’ve taken since. It’s harder with kids in tow but we are lucky to have a big family and a large support network. We will always have food on our plates and a roof over our heads. The leaps always work out. Even if they don’t work out how you think they’ll work out.
What’s next for your photography business? Do you have any exciting projects coming up?
I’ve spent the last 4 years learning to make films. I’m currently making how to / micro-documentaries about farmers and herbalism, which I share on my YouTube channel “People of the Plants’. I’m also working on a few different book projects, which I’m very excited about.
And lastly, our quick fire questions!
Tea or Coffee? Tea
Movie or Boxset? Movie
YouTube or Netflix? YouTube
Cosy night in, or Evening with friends? Cosy night in with friends
Beach BBQ or Sunday Roast? BBQs on Sundays in a garden.
Starter or Dessert? Starter
Summer holidays or Christmas? Hot holidays at Christmas time.
Trainers or Heels? Trainers.
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