For some aspiring artists and makers, losing a longstanding creative inspiration would be a dispiriting blow. For Amy Roth, a graphic designer dabbling in food photography to illustrate her recipe blog, the closure of foodie bible Gourmet magazine spurred her to raise the bar for her own work. “I decided, well, I’m not going to be able to pick up a magazine and see all these beautiful pictures, so maybe I should step up my game a bit,” Amy recalls. “That’s when I really made a push to take things to the next level.”
By 2012, Amy had become a full-time freelance photographer, and a year later she launched her Etsy shop, Amy Roth Photo. Today, Amy juggles a career as a product and brand photographer with her Etsy shop, where she’s best known for her drool-worthy art prints of fruits and vegetables and candid shots of her greyhounds. “Making the online experience feel personal is where Etsy excels, and that’s what I try to build upon,” Amy says. “My job is to come up with photos that make you say, ‘I really, really need to have that, right now!’”
Read on to discover how Amy balances her freelance job with her Etsy shop and her most memorable Etsy customer thus far, and shop her prints at Amy Roth Photo.
Because of your background as a designer and an art director, do you feel you’re able to see an idea as a finished project before you even begin?
I do see the whole thing, from start to finish, and I know exactly what I’m going for. I always shoot a photo the way I see it in my mind. I think I knew what made a good photo before I became a photographer, because of my design background. But now that I really know what I’m doing with photography, I can still surprise myself. Sometimes it’s all about the serendipity — finding the art that comes out of the shoot.
How do you find a balance between your freelance product photography and the art prints you create for your shop?
It’s all totally different mindsets! Product photography is really about simply showing the product in its best light, so it’s not necessarily all that creative. I think my Etsy shop lets me be fully creative. When I have a good idea I always think, “Will my customer like this, or is it something I’m doing purely for the fun of it?” If I don’t have a customer in mind, I’ll put it in the Etsy shop and see what happens. I didn’t necessarily anticipate that some of my best sellers would sell. Sometimes it’s just about throwing things out there and seeing what people like.
Your style is so distinctive, with its vibrant colors and gorgeous detail shots. How did you land on this look for your work?
You know that Coco Chanel quote, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one of the accessories?” That’s how I treat all of my photos. I process them, and then I take something away. I’ve always been a minimalist in my personal style, and I think that’s where my photography ended up. Sometimes there are no props at all, because I really like to let the subjects shine.
Who are some of your creative heroes?
The photographer I love beyond all reason is Vanessa Rees. She always does something unexpected, and her use of color is outrageous. Penny De Los Santos is another wonderful food photographer who does a lot of travel photography as well. She brings location into the food story, and gives you a lot of background instead of just the beautiful table shot — which she can do just as well, of course.
Do any of your images have a special personal meaning for you?
The dog photos are the ones that mean the most to me because I remember where and when we took them. The photo of the sleeping greyhound is a black and white of my dog Otis, and it’s one of the most popular images in my shop. I volunteer at a local animal shelter, so I take a lot of photos there as well.
What has been one of the proudest achievements of your career thus far?
I have one international client who contacted me because she’d just had a new house built, and she decided she wanted my photography to decorate her kitchen. She ordered four gallery wraps of garlic, duck eggs, cheese, and an avocado. Even though I didn’t shoot them as a series, I adjusted the processing for her to make sure they looked natural hanging all together. When she got them, she was so happy and wrote me immediately with pictures of her home to show me how amazing the photographs looked. That was so gratifying.
What are your goals for Amy Roth Photo this year?
My husband and I are going to adopt a new greyhound — maybe two! — in the next few months, so people can keep an eye out for more pet photos. I’ll have new food portraits coming in January, and my other goal is to shoot more every day this year. Hopefully you’ll be seeing a lot more yummy, delicious images that make you hungry.
All photos courtesy of Amy Roth Photo.