Getting To Know: Amber Ellis of Creating Light Studio
Amber and I met on Instagram, by way of Barbara from Be With. Amber and Barbara are both based in Toronto, and if you've seen the gorgeous photos on Barbara's site... those are from Amber. #SwoonCity, am I right?
And if her photos don't take your breath away, then just prep yourself to read one of the most inspired, generous, and heartfelt interviews I've had the pleasure of sharing here on the blog.
I love that her approach to photography isn't merely about snapping photos on the shoot day, but it encompasses an entire process of taking baby steps to allow the woman to feel her most beautiful, her most empowered once she steps in front of the lens. What Amber is doing with her photography is sheer magic, and we all would be so lucky to have the opportunity to work with her! (Even though she's based in Toronto, she's open to travel, so gather your best gals and make it happen! Austin friends, who's in?)
Take us back to the very beginning. What made you first pick up a camera, and how have you built your photography business into what it is today?
I like to think photography found me. It was something I was doing as a creative hobby, and then became serendipitously part of my corporate gig for over 9 years.
The work I currently do capturing soul-led brands actually started out as a project called “Women Creating Light”. I was personally in a very dark place. I had just experienced a brutal burn-out at my day job, and it forced me to deeply question my purpose and the work I wanted to do in the world. And through this, I followed the call to interview 10 women that inspired me. I took their portraits + shared their stories on my blog.
I had the opportunity to show these photos at an art gallery. I had this moment as I looked at them all hanging on the wall, and I was like “THIS is what I want to do.”
That was how Creating Light Studio was born.
In August of last year I decided to take the leap and commit to this business full time, and I haven’t looked back!
What aspect of your work is the most life-giving for you?
I love that my work is about lifting other women up. Helping them to create a visual voice through strong + beautiful branding imagery. Enabling them to expand and impact even more people that truly need what they have to offer. Creating change and healing in a world that deeply desires their skills and their voices.
It’s so important for me to create a safe space for women where they are allowed to show up fully as themselves, as they are in that moment. I see so many inspirational and accomplished women shrink as soon as I bring out the camera.
It absolutely lights me up to have these women to feel SEEN, confident in their body & presence, to take up space and step into their power.
Was there ever a time when you happily ignored external validation or outside advice about your business so that you could follow the True North that you created for yourself? If so, how did making that choice to follow Your Why impact not only you, but your business?
Absolutely! When I first started my business, everyone was telling me “Go into weddings! That’s where all the money is!” But I knew in my heart that my work had a greater purpose, and it meant saying no to a lot of opportunities that didn’t feel aligned with that path. I’m so glad I allowed myself to find the space to establish my focus (supporting myself with a 9-5 paying job while doing so!). It has made Creating Light Studio what it is today, and allowed for me to find my place in the (photography) world that feels so aligned with my soul’s purpose.
I love that your approach to gearing up for the photo shoot is a really comprehensive exploration of self to allow a woman to show up and fully step into who she is in front of your camera. Can you share a little bit more about that process?
At the core of my work I see my role as a mirror and guide for the women I work with. To help them to see the light + vision + power they hold within. I want them to feel as though their essence is imbued in every step. With the photoshoot planning, with the outfits they choose, even in the energy of the space we shoot in. It’s also very important to make them feel supported, and for us to create a relationship that starts way before the shoot day. Trust is so very key because it gives them space to show up truly as themselves, knowing that they are fully supported and have permission to surrender….and have fun!
I truly believe every woman already has exactly what she needs inside her to create her branding photoshoot. We often feel we need to try to be someone else, or fit into the standard “box” of our industry. But every person is so beautifully unique, and I love incorporating in all of their amazing facets.
You expertly weave together an experience that is personally empowering, while also delivering final images that are functional as a business owner. How do you marry both concepts so well?
It’s very much a co-creation between me and my clients! I know all too well that time is precious when running a business and building a brand. So I support them throughout the entire process and bring their vision to life. That means walking them through an intuitive envisioning session, helping to scout locations, styling assistance (props + clothing), and create personalized planning resources so that they feel prepared for the day. Because they are so involved in the process you can really see their essence in the end result. My aim is to capture this, while helping with all the little details so that she can focus on what’s most important - being present and relaxed on shoot day.
I also have a surrender practice. Meaning we put all the work into planning as much as possible before the shoot but as with anything, life happens. Maybe it rains, or a shoe is forgotten. It’s not about pretending to be perfect for those couple of hours. It’s about trusting that everything will be ok, and happen exactly as it should.
What do you think are the essential ingredients to make for a stunning personal branding shoot?
I actually JUST created a beautiful free guide sharing all the top considerations for planning your own personal branding shoot! It goes over everything - from how to choose your photographer & location, what types of images to incorporate into your shot list, and the most valuable things to invest in to execute your vision beautifully + professionally. And most importantly... aligning it all with your “why”!
You’re based in Toronto, but for those of us outside of your local area, are there any plans of travel where we can work with you?
I love traveling to different destinations each year! A few places on the top of mind right now are: New York City, Colarado, New Orleans, and Vancouver. But I am always up for going to where my clients are. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me to let me know where I should come visit next!
Who is currently inspiring you?
All the women + humans currently standing up for equality in the world. Sharing stories of vulnerability and strength from all walks of life.
And to be completely honest...my clients! I love how each of them are putting themselves out there, going after their dreams, being seen for the magic they are creating. It inspires me to no end to do the work I do, every day.
We all hit rough patches of low motivation, fighting the comparison trap, and overcoming self-doubt. When you find yourself up against that wall, how do you pull yourself out of it?
I shift my energy by going out for tea with fellow boss ladies, to genuinely connect and have some #realtalk about life + biz. Also anything that gets me out of my head (where all that comparison and fear/doubt thinking comes from!) and into my heart & body. Things like meditation, a dance party for one (or 5!), going for a walk among the trees, pulling tarot/oracle cards, getting my sweat on, cooking/baking, cuddling with my man or cutie furball of a cat. All of this pulls me into the present moment and away from social media or my inbox!
Let’s get dreamy for a minute. If you could take a look at the future, what do you see for not only yourself personally, but also for your photography biz? What do you hope is your legacy?
My ultimate goal is to be able to shift the perspectives of women and others to embrace their bodies, imperfections and uniqueness so that they can stand in their power and be fully expressed. Because when a woman stands in her power, she inspires others to do the same (a quick nod to Marianne Williamson!). I see myself continuing to do this through photography, that book I’m going to write, and leading empowering retreats and programs around the world.
I truly believe everyone has a light within them worthy of being seen. So in its simplest essence, I hope my legacy is light. Bringing more to the world, and through the lives of others.
Want to know more? Eager to connect with Amber? Here's how:
Ready to get in front of the camera? Here's how you can connect:
Head to my website and send me an email! I love chats (in person or virtual!) over steamy cups of tea. We’ll get to know each other and starting creating the vision for your photoshoot to authentically express your beautiful brand!
Fun little extra:
For those local ladies (in Toronto!) I’m hosting a workshop called Be Seen. Be Heard. All about becoming more visible in your life + brand. You can check out more about the event and purchase a ticket here.