We had the good fortune of connecting with Amanda Gardner and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Amanda, every day, we about how much execution matters, but we think ideas matter as well. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
My mom Peggy Attaway and myself started this 16 years ago! We were shooting high school football on Friday nights for my brother’s teams and we were asked by a family in the community to do a very small intimate wedding. They weren’t financially able to put a lot of money in a photographer and we had ZERO experience, so we took the wedding as “a trial run” and it’s been a wild ride ever since. We often joke about that first wedding, how different our lives are now and in shock we have still made it in this fickle industry. If you would have told me that day I would not only be shooting weddings 16 years later, but have traveled to some amazing places for work, and I would be teaching photography, I would have laughed (hard!).

What should our readers know about your business?
From a business perspective both Peggy and myself came from medical backgrounds. Personally, I loved my job but am far from type A and definitely more of a free spirit/creative type. I knew if I were going to do this long term I needed this to be FUN! Those first few years we tried hard to keep up with “The Joneses” so to speak. We tried dressing up and networking, and wearing clanky heels and going to mixers, but that wasn’t who we were. So one day we looked up and decided to be US. I wanted clients that loved our work, appreciated who we were and were totally ok with us being loud and funny, and bold and not afraid to march the beat of our own drum. We also had to listen to and respect each other. Two people especially family members running a business is tricky. We really had to learn to “hear” each other and try new things and not tell the other person their ideas were dumb or fight over who got to take the picture, or who had control, that was the biggest stage of growth for our business really. We also learned to sell ourselves, and be ok with being different. For many years and still today we read so many photographer bios that said “they were born with a camera in their hand, loved puppies and lattes, and would be their clients best friend for life”. While those things sound lovely, this isn’t a dating site. I do love puppies, but I wanted to be a damn good photographer, and give them an incredible product they would cherish for a lifetime, not be their BFF. I have had the privilege of teaching photography in Atlanta for 8 years now. I started with Showcase photo and video, and now The Atlanta School of Photography, and have seen it all from a new photographer stand point. The most common advice I pass along to newer photographers, is to BE YOURSELF. Take up that space, or be quiet. Edit how you want to, shoot how you want to, have client relationships that serve you! We do not have to be like all the photographers appear to be on social media. Trust me, they are struggling inside too, even if it doesn’t seem like it!

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
As Atlanta natives, this is so fun to answer! The most beautiful part of Atlanta/Ga is the blend of cultures, nature, and fun. I love that people who have lived here for 10-15 years feel like they are from here too. There is change every year or two and so many fun new places popping up! So tough to pick…I would also skip the fancy spots and hit up all the hole in the wall places! Food- Buford Hwy is a must! From the Ramen and Sushi to Mexican and Vietnamese, Baldino’s and more there so many incredible options. I love the Buford Hwy Farmers market too! I also would HAVE to take a visitor to the Dekalb county farmers market, No doubt. -Matthews Cafeteria (Peggy would totally want me to shout out on this!) This place should be a national landmark. It’s incredibly uncomplicated and predictable and delicious. -Grindhouse -Mary Macs tearoom -Eatz -Fellinis (who doesn’t love cheap pizza!?) I live in Roswell and also really love going to From the Earth Brewing co, their food is amazing! Nature/adventure- Arabia Mountain (one of my favorite spots!) So many beautiful hiking spots around GA and quick little day trips, maybe one of the canyons. We are a big disc golf family, so visitors would probably have to hit some of that up with us, we have some amazing courses around the state We also love live music! SO many amazing music spots..Variety Playhouse, Eddies attic, Terminal West, Matilda’s (up in Milton) and The Hunt House (in Marietta) are so of my favorites to visit! Can’t wait to get back to live music… Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Well like I mentioned, it all started with a little dream and a lot of grit and, craigslist lol.. We really took those first few years of weddings from craigslist when that was still a thing, so funny to think back on that phase now! But we really got through the years with AMAZING clients and a support system. Our families were incredibly supportive while we would be gone on weekends, they would pack the cards, charge batteries, pack bags, make that 20 minute scramble while we ran out the door to be gone all day for a wedding or corporate event. They would make the dinners, and bring the coffee while we pulled all nighters for clients with a 12 hour turnaround. And our clients- Wow, have we been incredibly fortunate. We would NOT have the work we do without our clients. Almost 90% of our business still do this day is word of mouth, or friends of friends. We have watched familes grow, couples build their dream homes, we have photographed their now graduating high schoolers, we have seen divorces and remarriages, all through our lenses. It’s been beautiful really…and we are so grateful! Photographers- This is a big one..The industry is huge, and feels like it could swallow you up at times. Other photographers became a huge part of us finally feeling successful. We have an amazing business partner Damian AhChing, who joined us 12 years ago. We have been a team since then, even as life ebbs and flows and we all tackle new projects and journeys. We all went to school for commercial photography and have some incredible peers that we have both worked with or cheered for watching them carving out their own path. To this day we have industry friends that we can’t get buy without! It’s so important to find those on a path similar to yours, the struggles, successes and more. Only people on your path can understand and provide the actual support you may be looking for.

Website: www.thecolcollection.com www.colcorporate.com www.atlschoolofphoto.com

Instagram: @thecolcollection

Image Credits
Amanda Gardner Peggy Attaway Damian AhChing

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutAtlana is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.