Local photographer adapts her business for a pandemic world

by Stacia Friedman
Posted 12/30/21

Before the pandemic, photographer Amber Johnston was doing a lot of wedding and portrait photography, specializing in capturing intimate moments in the lives of diverse couples and families.

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Local photographer adapts her business for a pandemic world

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Before the pandemic, photographer Amber Johnston was doing a lot of wedding and portrait photography, specializing in capturing intimate moments in the lives of diverse couples and families. In response to safety concerns, Johnston pivoted.

“Instead of shooting inside houses of worship and reception halls, I offered  portraits of couples and families in natural settings and on their front porch,” said Johnston. She calls these sessions “minis.”

“I often do mini sessions in the Wissahickon Woods, just off Western Avenue,” she said. “Then, the family or couple can choose the photo they wish to have as a print or use for their holiday cards.” (Yes, there is still time to schedule a mini holiday photo shoot of your family!) 

While there is no shortage of area photographers, Johnston brings an unusual quality of emotion to her work which often documents pregnancies in full bloom. “I try to let clients forget that I am there. Sometimes the best moments are right at the end when I stop shooting and they let their guard down,” she said.

So, exactly how invisible does Johnston become at weddings? According to comments from clients on her website, she’s a regular Houdini.

“You wouldn't have even realized she was working through the wedding,” said one. “I never once noticed her, yet the photos convey every emotion that crossed our faces during our vow and ring exchange,” said another.

Johnston’s ability to blend into the flow of a celebration rather than distract from it may be credited to her background in dance. “I studied all kinds of dance starting in my childhood and I still participate,” she said. 

Now that weddings are happening again, Johnston looks forward to helping couples document their special day. “I often feel I am part of the family after shooting a wedding, and I feel really honored that I get to witness people at these special moments in their life,” said Johnston. 

Johnston’s clients include members of the LGBTQ community. “I see marriage as a sacred contract, often as activism for those who have not been allowed to show their love in the past.  I see my role as photographer, as the “unexpected family member” who documents your bond and the story of your love,” she said.

“I am inspired by the small gestures throughout the day of a wedding, fathers telling sweet stories about their daughters, best friends telling jokes, or catching a mother's tears as vows are exchanged. Through photography, I become a conduit for these memories, making them tangible, real and lasting.” said Johnston.

A Kentucky native, Johnston originally moved to Philadelphia for her undergraduate degree in ceramics at University of the Arts. She then earned an MFA in photography at Rochester Institute of Technology. She was drawn back here and proceeded to teach photography at UArts and Fleisher Art Memorial until last year when the pandemic stopped studio classes.

“I had lived in just about every part of the city and none of those neighborhoods felt right anymore. All my friends had moved to Germantown, so I came here three and half years ago,” said Johnston. 

Once here, Johnston discovered another reason to stay. “I was drawn to the Wissahickon. I love being in the woods,” she said. “I’m thinking of teaching a class on nature photography there.”

 For more information, visit AmberJohnstonPhoto.com.

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