Words of Wisdom: Ashley West

As a beginning photographer myself, I asked several professional photographers for Words of Wisdom about all aspects of photography—technical, artistic, business. I thought I would share their advice with any readers who are also beginning photographers, in an ongoing series that aims to provide some insight into the world of professional photography.

Photo courtesy of Ashley West
Photo courtesy of Ashley West

Ashley West is a local Columbus photographer. You can find more of her work at her website or her Facebook page. Here are Ashley’s words of wisdom:

Hello, fellow photographers. My name is Ashley West and I am a wedding and portrait photographer here in Columbus.

2013 marks my third year in business. I fell in love with photography as a freshman in college when I was given a Nikon D60 as a gift. From there I enrolled in the 2-year Associate of Photography Degree at Columbus State Community College, and snagged a job as a wedding photographers assistant.

Photo courtesy of Ashley West
Photo courtesy of Ashley West

To be a successful self-employed wedding and portrait photographer takes a combination of several talents and skills. Understand that I am still growing and learning as a young professional and creative person, so please don’t take everything I say as etched in stone. These little tips are just what worked for me. I encourage each and every one of you interested in this field to do your own research and compile your own lists of the wedding photography dos and don’ts. That being said, in my opinion, here are the secrets to success.

It takes a certain kind of person that can run a business, create beautiful imagery, deliver wonderful customer service, and keep their head screwed on. I am the sole employee of my business so I can tell you how challenging it can be first hand. But I promise you the rewards far outweigh these challenging times.

My passion for this business is what drives me. As a wedding photographer, we are documenting the most magical day in two humans lives. If you are not a believer in marriage, true love, and the idea that two people are meant to be, then my suggestion is to bypass wedding photography all together. A good wedding photographer’s love for love will come out in their images. This passion is what will drive you to learn.

Photo courtesy of Ashley West
Photo courtesy of Ashley West

An education is so important. Whether you learn off of YouTube or receive a formal education at a university, it is so important to invest your time into everything photography, business, and customer service related. Learn how to talk to clients, how to work your camera, and how to run a legitimate business. Investing your time in these areas will make you a better photographer/business person and drive up the value of the industry.

Get a mentor. Get an internship. Follow around a successful photographer that can give you experience in the field and in all aspects of the business. I did, and it was the best decision I ever made for myself.

Photo courtesy of Ashley West
Photo courtesy of Ashley West

Invest in good equipment. I shoot with a Nikon D800 & D700, two SB 910 flashes, 50mm 1.4 lens, 85mm 1.8 lens, & a 24-70mm 2.8 lens (just to name a few favorites). One of the things about wedding photography is that the lighting conditions are always changing. We have to be ready for anything. This is why a crop sensor camera with a kit lens will not do. You need equipment that has the capabilities to shoot in all of these unpredictable lighting scenarios.

And lastly, be 100% YOU. Being yourself will attract the right clients, and repel the wrong ones. Because, as my Grandfather says, there are “different strokes for different folks.” I believe my clients already have a sense of who I am as a person by reading my blog and about me section of my website. Then in our first consultation we have the opportunity to connect. Often times during a consultation, once all the chat about wedding decor and details is done, I find myself going on and on with clients about our other shared common interests (typically our dogs, food, favorite restaurants, and other things we like to do). I absolutely adore this opportunity to gain clients and make friends in this business. And hands down, I will cry on your wedding day. Happens every time.

Photo courtesy of Ashley West
Photo courtesy of Ashley West

I was asked to describe what I think makes a great wedding or engagement photo. I believe this means capturing true love in its purest form, so when that photo is looked at years down the road, all of that emotion you felt on that day comes rushing back to you. It means documenting you and the person you love in a way that is completely and uniquely you. It means me following you and the love of your life around and freezing the raw emotion that your love produces. Often times I will pose a couple, and then let them relax into each other. Ask them to look at each other, rub their noses together, and then just like that the giggles begin. Its amazing the natural chemistry of two human beings in love.

When planning a couples engagement shoot, I am sure to get to know them first. What do they enjoy doing together, their hobbies, interests and favorite things. I feel it is essential to get them in their natural and comfortable element so their love can be expressed effortlessly.

Photo courtesy of Ashley Weast
Photo courtesy of Ashley West

I tend to be a dreamer. I am a believer that a little positive thinking and a lot of passion can go a long way. If you love what you do, you will succeed. Really, its that simple.

Support your local photographers! Give Ashley’s Facebook page a big ol’ “like.”

Midwest Photo

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