A Q&A with Amber Perley, the Quintessential Austinite

Photography by Hannah Gibson Gresham

Amber Perley is a true embodiment of Austin, Texas. She’s open-minded, welcoming, yet holds tight to her creative passions and is unshaken by others thoughts or opinions. We couldn’t tell you what she’s doing today, because she juggles photography, marketing, acting, and also designing clothes for movies and her own labels, PEARL and Pearl Southern Couture.

By turns innovative and yet also free-spirited, she’s got her hands in a lot of local efforts (a favorite of hers is Save Muny), but the one thing they have in common is making other feels valued and beautiful. Most recently, she helped photograph Volume 10 of The Scout Guide Austin, shooting the hero images for Estilo, Carrie Shannon Fine Art, Austex Fence & Deck, our very own editor spread, and Gottesman Residential, one of our favorite spreads to date.

Today, we were lucky enough to buy some time from her for a Q&A about the why behind her work, the recent landscape shifts in Austin, as well as where she’s traveling these days…

Q: You’ve shot for many publications locally, what do you think your greatest asset is as a photographer?

A: “I have a good eye! Haha, but seriously, as a photographer I love capturing my subjects and portraying them in their best light – beautiful images that capture their best angles, their inner glow and the energy they want to emit. At the beginning of every shoot, I make sure everyone feels comfortable, relaxed, and has fun! A genuine smile or laugh connects the subject to their audience. I am also a perfectionist with my role and the quality of my work – I want everyone to be pleased with the finished product.”

Q: Let’s talk about the hats you wear, of which there are many…

A: “My career started in the world of fashion. I started sewing when I was 6 yrs old – I then went on to earn a degree in Fashion Design & Photography from LSU. A few years later after gaining industry experience – I launched my own line. As an Entrepreneur, I was self-taught and on a tight budget! I taught myself everything – setting up my LLC, managing a small team of contractors, traveling to trade shows, building my website, paying my taxes, shipping my orders and acting as the photographer for my photoshoots. 

After many years of running my company full-time, I began to utilize that valuable knowledge and experience and started consulting for other brands – helping to bring their vision to life, much like when I photograph for TSG…I understand the importance of capturing small business owners – because I know from experience how much work goes into building their company and image.. It’s my job to portray my subjects in their best light so that readers can connect with them and want to do business with them.

In addition to fashion and photography, I have always been fascinated by the world of film. 

Whether I am creating a garment, a photograph or acting in a film, the common thread is story-telling and that is my passion. Over the past couple of years, I have pushed myself WAY outside my comfort zone and auditioned/volunteered for productions in and around Austin. I was recently cast in a western film last year and designed the costumes for my character – total dream job!”

Q: Where are you from and how did you get to Austin? 

A: “I was born and raised in the Big D (Dallas). After spending time in Louisiana for college and a short time in NYC, I made the move to Austin in 2011.”

Q: What do you like about Austin? 

A: “3 things originally drew me to Austin and still hold true today; the beautiful landscape – accessibility to rivers, hiking, and the great outdoors, The people…everyone in Austin is friendly, open-minded, and of course the music, it’s nice to have live music around every corner.”

(Amber is the co-founder and designer behind Wavemakers~Women in Music 40+)

Q: Many changes over the last decade…do you still think Austin is all the things that made it famous…quirky, accepting, creative, etc.? 

A: “Change is inevitable and the secret is obviously out. There have been so many changes. Luckily, Austin remains a very accepting and creative community – some incredibly successful companies were born here in the past decade that have become household names nationwide. There are still quirky people and spots, but sadly I am seeing less and less of them. Like the infamous man who used to ride his bicycle around town in a thong, Dry Creek Cafe, Shady Grove, or the fabulous Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds on South Congress.

My biggest concern is protecting and preserving our parks, historic buildings and airspace. Stop blocking sunlight and views to the river – and definitely do not put an underground parking garage anywhere near Barton Springs. I am a big supporter of the Save Muny Conservancy and their ongoing efforts to protect Lions Municipal Golf Course. I commend the efforts of the Bridges family breathing new life into historic venues and businesses like Antone’s, Cisco’s and Deep Eddy Cabaret – some of my favorite local stomping grounds that are Austin institutions.”

Q: Shifting from the professional side of you, where’s your favorite place to travel?

A: “I love to travel and have really ramped it up over the past year. I just returned from an incredible trip to Costa Rica…Traveling is a time to explore, soak in other cultures, be open-minded and educate yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in your own little world or the daily grind. Also, having a trip planned gives you something to look forward to and a fresh outlook on life.”

(We couldn’t agree more)

Q: If you’ve been apart of TSG Austin for even just a short period of time, you know we are dog people! What about you?

A: “Absolutely! Moon aka ‘Wolfie Girl” is my 10 year old Siberian Husky. She basically runs my life. She is my first born and only child – and she knows it. Moon accompanies me all over town, attending events and checking out the local dog park scene.”

Q: Now in closing, let’s chat photography, specifically… you shot 5 spreads in our recent decennial volume, including our editor spread which is the very first page and Gottesman Residential’s spread which is the very last. What is your process when shooting for TSG? And when shooting individual business clients. 

A: “I love shooting for TSG! My process, first and foremost and connecting with the client’s vision for the shoot. Understanding the look and vibe they are going for. I always ask if they have a mood board or an inspiration/picture I can reference. On the actual day of the shoot, I always spend the first 5 minutes getting in the groove by warming up, relaxing and having fun. 

I move around a lot and like my clients to have fun and laugh! Sometimes I treat every photoshoot like a fashion shoot…tell a story, and look and feel your best!”

To contact Amber Perley for photography, marketing, film or fashion design needs, you can reach here at Amberperley.com — and when you reach out, don’t forget to tell her #Scout sent you!