Scatter Joy! One Photographer’s Journey of Giving Back and Discovering True Happiness

1 Jul

By: Amber Shader

“Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of
achievement, in the thrill of creative effort” – Franklin D Roosevelt

I held my first “real” camera in the eighth grade. It was a Nikon F2 that I used while taking a summer photography class with a grade school friend at a local community center. Photography quickly became my new passion. Every weekend I looked forward to going to the community center to learn new things. Our teacher was super cool too. He rode a motorcycle, played guitar and looked just like Jerry Garcia. Every weekend, he taught us new things like how to shoot manually, how to develop film and how to do cool things with negative transfers using anything we could find like lace, bows, and big 80‘s hooped earrings.

Once the class was over at the end of summer, my parents got me my very own camera, but it was the type you had to put flash cubes on top of. I couldn’t change lenses, I couldn’t shoot manually or develop my own film anymore, so needless to say, photography didn’t stay a strong passion for me with my little flashcube Kodak camera. I didn’t start shooting again until my freshman year in college. I saved up and bought the cheapest Pentax film SLR I could find and took as many photography electives I could squeeze in while getting my degree in Business Administration and Human Resource Management.

Getting back into photography during college was fun, but I never thought I could make a living as an artist. I think the character Charlotte from the movie Lost in Translation summed up the extent of my college photography experience when she said, “I tried taking pictures, but they were so mediocre. I guess every girl goes through a photography phase. You know, horses…taking dumb pictures of your feet.” Before I knew it, I was working full time, dating my soon-to-be husband and completing my MBA in Organizational Leadership on nights and weekends. I stopped shooting completely and spent 13 years working in Corporate America, climbing the rungs of the corporate ladder. I was a Vice President of Human Resources for a Fortune 100 company, I had a great husband, a great home and plenty of disposable income to buy all the clothes, handbags and jewelry I wanted, but what I did not know at the time was that I didn’t have true happiness and was merely surrounding myself with material things things that did not matter.

It wasn’t until 2010 when a sudden car accident of one of my colleagues at work put everything into perspective. She literally drove across the street from our building to grab a coffee and another vehicle ran a red light and broadsided her. She died instantly. It wasn’t her actual death that was the lightbulb moment for me. My lightbulb moment was during her actual eulogy when people said how much she gave to the company. It was truly then that I realized I wanted to reinvent myself so I could do something I loved with my life vs. being a corporate title on an org chart.

After the funeral, I started to slow down and enjoy the little things in life more like spending time with family and friends, traveling, reading etc vs. working 60 hour work weeks. I also stumbled across an Emerson quote to “Scatter Joy!” and it became my new mantra. To me it meant and still means keeping it simple, traveling the world, finding beauty in all things, caring deeply about people and leaving the world a better place. Around the same time I stumbled across the quote, my wonderful husband encouraged me to start shooting again and he bought me a new Nikon D40 for my birthday that year. I started to get the passion back and I knew photography was what I wanted to do with my life.

I started shooting as a part time photographer on weekends and I slowly built up a client base. I also created my business model around my mantra “Scatter Joy!” and included a minimum of 12 silent auctions or charitable events a year. I started to discover the true power of photography, not just through the images I was creating but through the fact that I could give my time, talent and heart to make the world a little better. I know it sounds cliché but through giving back to the local community I discovered my true happiness. Charitable giving as a photographer also has another upside and if you have ever had the opportunity to listen to Sarah Petty or read her Joy of Marketing blog, then you know that charitable giving is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to grow your business by creating buzz. I am living proof of that too because I was able to make the leap from part time weekend photographer to full time professional photographer largely because of my mantra to Scatter Joy!

So how can this mantra work for you and your business? Here is some advice (in no particular order) that worked for me:

• Decide what you can afford to give in terms of your time, resources, services, products etc. and build that into your business plan. Giving away your time and talent is still an important business decision to consider in terms of cost vs. benefit. I personally landed on a minimum of 12 events/auctions a year, but that may not work for everyone.

• Decide your philanthropic priorities. Are you passionate about charities for animals, the arts, children, the environment? My personal decision was to focus on philanthropic efforts for children and animals since I am passionate about both and love shooting both in my sessions.

• Decide if you want to work with designated national portrait charities supported by PPA or WPPI like Operation Smile, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, Tiny Sparrow Foundation, etc. or create your own events and work with local groups. You can also do a hybrid of both. I personally decided to work with existing groups including The Moyer Foundation and The Real Charitable Housewives of Delaware.

• Maximize social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook and blogs to highlight your charitable giving. Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself and the good works you are doing. I actually had The Moyer Foundation find me via my tweets about another charitable giving event I worked on for the American Red Cross. If you don’t post it, write about it or share your beautiful images, you are not maximizing the great PR opportunity.

• I’m not promising you will be able to quit your full-time day job as soon as you start taking my advice and adding charitable events to your business model. However, what I can promise you is that you will feel more fulfilled and happy and your business will grow.

One of my most recent events was the Real Charitable Housewives of Delaware’s “Help Japan Bloom Again” event, benefiting the American Red Cross and The Moyer Foundation’s “Evening at the Ballpark” (which in turn, benefits Camp Erin and The Moyer Foundation).

We were able to raise almost $4,000 for the American Red Cross and $100,000 for Camp Erin/The Moyer Foundation! I was so proud and happy to have Amber Shader Photography contribute and be part of both of these special events.

Longer term, even though I don’t ride a motorcycle, play guitar or look like Jerry Garcia, I would love to start teaching photography classes to kids at the same local community center where my love for photography started. Hopefully I can help Scatter Joy! and share my passion for photography with the next generation of future photographers!

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3 Responses to “Scatter Joy! One Photographer’s Journey of Giving Back and Discovering True Happiness”

  1. bobbie hall July 1, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    DEAR AMBER,

    I AM SO GLAD I CHECKED MY EMAIL TODAY AND FOUND YOUR MESSAGE. I AM A 45 YEAR OLD MOTHER OF 5. I RECENTLY LOST MY JOB OF 11 YEARS,FIRED ACTUALLY, AND WITHOUT ANYTHING TO FALL BACK ON. AFTER I WIPED MY TEARS, I DECIDED, IF I CAN INVEST 11 YEARS TO AN EMPLOYER( EX SISTER INLAW) WHO DIDNT APPRECIATE OR RESPECT ME, THEN I CAN INVEST TIME INTO MYSELF. I HAVE SINCE ENROLLED IN PHILA. COMMUNITY COLLEGE, PHOTO IMAGING DEPT. TO EARN MY ASSOC. PHOTOGRAPHY HAS BEEN MY PASSION SINCE 1984, WHEN MY FATHER GAVE ME A CANON AE 1. IVE TRIED TO STICK WITH IT THROUGHOUT THE YEARS BUT WITH FAMILY AND TWO DIVORCES, IT GOT PUSHED A SIDE.

    TO MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT, IM TIRED OF PUTTING IT ON THE
    BACKBURNER, I WANT TO MAKE A CAREER OF IT. I WOULD LIKE TO WORK WITH WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN THE SHELTER SYSTEM. CAN YOU PLEASE GIVE SOME ADVISE. RIGHT, NOW I HAVE NO MONEY , NO UNEMPLOYMENT JUST MY TWO A’S AND A B THAT I GOT DURING LAST SEMESTER, OH YEAH, AND MY PASSION. PHOTOGRAPHY HAS BROUGHT ME SO MUCH JOY AND SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE TO ME HOW GOOD I AM AND THAT I SHOULD PURSUE IT.HOW CAN I REALLY GET STARTED.

  2. hdipiazza July 4, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    Thank you so much for contributing not just HOW you give back, but WHY as well. There were so many moments when reading that I totally saw and could relate with what you’re saying – and I’m sure this resonates with many of our other Betties. Great post!

  3. Amber Shader July 6, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

    Hi Bobbie,

    It’s Amber. Thank you for reading my post and I truly hope it continues to motivate and inspire you. It sounds like you are taking the needed steps to pursue your dreams by learning as much as you can about the art of photography. Education is def #1 in this business. You def need the basic skills and photographic eye to excel in this business. There are so many free forums and networking groups online as well.

    You should also be very proud of yourself that you have the courage to do what you always wanted to do. As you already read, I am big on using personal quotes and mantras…One of my favorites that applies to you is “It is never to late to be what you might have been.” I know you mentioned money as a concern so you may have to find a full time job to get you through but still pursue your passion part time on nights and weekends. There are also plenty of shelters esp for abused women you can get involved with. How great it could be if you could boost their confidence by taking nice portraits of them. Best of luck and inbox me if you want to connect more.

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