At just 28 years old, photographer Amber Venerable has already held multiple internships, freelance gigs, full-time jobs and a photojournalism fellowship—including her current position as Photo Editor at American Baby Magazine.
“Everything has an expiration date,” explains Amber of her zigzagging ascent through the ranks. “If you stay in positions for 4 or 5 years at this stage in your career, that doesn’t benefit you. You have to move around in [the publishing] business in order to move up—you have to take advantage of opportunities, you have to be passionate about what you do, and you have to keep growing.”
Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Amber moved to Washington, D.C. to attend Howard University, where she majored in print journalism and minored in photography. During her college internships at InStyle and People Magazine, Amber realized that her interest in photography overshadowed her writing pursuits. “That’s why internships are so great,” says Amber. “That’s when you learn what you want to do.”
Amber had racked up the accolades on her resume to land a full-time job at Shape Magazine as the assistant to the creative director when she graduated. Though the experience taught her much about photo shoot production and design work, Amber experienced a minor quarter-life crisis: “When you graduate and have your first job, you jump right into it. You don’t realize you’re going to be working for the rest of your life.” A 4-month photojournalism fellowship whisked Amber away to Mozambique, Swaziland, and South Africa to work on her craft, and when she returned to New York City, her network helped her land jobs at Health Magazine and Good Housekeeping.
Our photographer and design guru realizes the value of the professional network she gained through her summer editorial internship with Time, Inc. “I grew super close with editors who are now directors and managing editors at major magazines,” she says. Not only do her colleagues stay connected over available positions, but they also refer interns to each other. “If I have a friend who is looking for an assistant and I recommend someone, it’s going to make them feel at ease about bringing [the intern] on,” explains Amber. “Work hard and maintain relationships because it matters in this field. Some people I’ve known for 8 years now, and they’ve looked out for me so much over the years.”
Her latest career move brought Amber to American Baby Magazine, where she’s held the title of Photo Editor for the past year. “I’d never worked with babies before,” says Amber. “It’s awesome. It’s completely different. You don’t know what you’re getting ever, on set. You probably have 10 minutes before they start screaming!”
For students and recent graduates, Amber offers encouragement and advice for those hoping to break into the publishing industry: “You have to be passionate about your craft, be strong in your vision, and have a voice. When you’re an intern, respect the people above you, but be honest when asked for your opinion. Come with more than people expect, have ideas, and be over-prepared—I can’t stress that enough.”