Photographer Interviews: Ashleigh Wells
We are excited to bring you another Photographer Interview! This week, please meet Ashleigh Wells, of Ashleigh Wells Photography.
Describe your Style:
I would say my style is simple and modern, but still classic. I try to emphasize clothing choices for my clients and choose settings for my photo sessions that will not “date” images down the road. As a custom photographer who focuses on prints I feel it is important to create imagery that will stand the test of time so my clients can feel comfortable hanging images on their walls knowing that they will always be in style and can easily fit with any home décor they have currently.
What was your biggest “A-ha” moment?
My biggest “A-ha” moment was learning about clothing choices from my first mentor, Andrea Joki. She explained how to direct clients in terms of clothing choices. It can seem very particular when I send the clothing recommendations out and it may seem like this would have almost nothing to do with photography, but since I started to educate my clients on what to wear they are more confident going larger with their images. The clothing for photography differs from what looks good in day to day life. Many of the larger chain stores for families have clothing designed to look best under fluorescent lighting. We do not photograph people under fluorescent lighting so it’s important to be aware of what looks best in natural light and what will complement the current décor in their home should they choose to enlarge images from the session.
What is your education? Degree? Self-taught? Workshops?
I am largely self-taught, but early on I had some wonderful advice from a friend. I wasn’t getting the images I was seeing in my head out of my camera. I was at a roadblock and she suggested I find a photographer who was already producing images similar to what I was seeing and ask if they offer mentorship. I did just that and found Andrea Joki who has transformed the way I shoot and furthermore, the way I view the world around me. For my weddings I found another mentor I am currently working with as weddings are very different from portraits and I have gained a new set of skills as a result. I also attend conferences workshops and classes as often as possible and have travelled to many cities in the US, Canada and even got to go to the Bahamas to do so!
What made you decide to become a photographer?
At the risk of sounding like a dreaded MWAC, I have to be honest and say that my daughter was a driving force for me at the beginning. I have always loved photography and spent many hours in the darkroom in high school as well as courses at the arts center when I was a teenager. Those days it was all film and my hobby was set aside when I entered college and then university. I didn’t have the time to learn the new digital format so I didn’t do much other than take snapshots. When we decided to start a family I had to take a year off of my education to do so. I graduated with my BA while I was pregnant and was waiting to enter the teaching program once I had my year of maternity leave. While I was off I suddenly had the time to explore photography again. As I took photos of my dogs and my daughter when she was born I was getting more and more requests to photograph friends’ and families’ babies. I joined a great forum (www.ilovephotography.com) and through that forum learned how to start a legal and successful business in large part thanks to all of the wonderful pro photographers there who shared so much information! I started my business when my daughter was about 8 months and haven’t looked back. I love that I can combine my passion for animals and children and that no two days ever look the same.
How long have you had your Photography Business?
It’s been about 3 years now.
What would be the hardest part of having a photography business?
By FAR the most difficult thing has been learning how to balance personal and work life. The start-up phase of any new business has to take a lot out of you, and photography is no exception. There is so much behind the scenes that people don’t see. I have had to be receptionist/secretary, owner, accountant, photographer, salesperson, and so on. Add to that my new role of mother and wife and I can tell you I haven’t slept much at all in the past 3 years. Thankfully, this year I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have worked through many challenges and found some more efficient ways of getting my job done. I look forward to achieving my personal and professional goals this year and am still working daily on becoming more “present” in my life.
What would be your favorite part?
Definitely meeting the wonderful families who have helped make my business a success. My clients are all so good to me and I love hearing about their families and watching them as they grow!
What gives you ideas and inspires you to create such amazing imagery
My clients inspire me. Every session is different because every family is different. I love when they come in with their own ideas too because I love finding a way to put my own personal style into their idea to create something totally new.
What has been your most memorable shoot & why?
My most memorable shoot was probably a shoot I did with a family who came to me to have a session at the request of their 13 year old daughter. Her father had terminal cancer and she wanted a photo session with the 3 of them. I can’t put into words how honoured I was that they chose me to preserve this memory and to this day those images make me smile because of all of the laughs we had that day and the loving bond that was evident between that beautiful girl and her father.
When you aren’t doing Photography how do you escape & unwind?
This is a work in progress still haha! I spend time with my family and our pets mostly. We recently added a Parrotlet to our family so we spend a lot of time working with him to train him and just learning about how to best care for him. My daughter loves doing that with me so it’s really fun to see her love for animals grow. This year, it’s also my goal to make more time for yoga and reading which are things I have enjoyed in the past but haven’t made time for in the past 3 years.
How do you create balance between your business life & family time?
Since finding better balance is my goal for the year I have been spending time listening to audiobooks on this topic and creating systems to do just this. One thing that has helped tremendously was joining ShootQ which is a studio management system for photographers. It gives me form emails that can be sent out to respond to common emails so I don’t have to type the same things out repeatedly and it allows all of my scheduling, contracts and contact information to be stored in one place. This year I am adding Smug Mug to my arsenal and have just started my account so we’ll see how that helps as well. It will allow my clients to order in a more straightforward fashion and can be linked to my professional lab to directly mail the prints and products to them! All of these time saving techniques allow more time for my family. Also, keeping my pricing in line with the industry standard allows me to spend more time with each client ensuring the best experience while keeping my schedule reasonable.
Is there anything you would have done differently in your photographic career?
I am a Lightroom convert and I wish I had known about it much sooner. It makes organization of images and editing SO much faster and has saved literally HOURS of my life!
Your Favorite Image? And why is it your favourite?
My favourite image is this one of me and my daughter. I set it all up and my friend and business partner for weddings, Trina Letawsky was kind enough to take the shot for me. I love it for so many reasons, but one of them is that as a photographer we have to “create” moments that look like real and true moments. In this particular image I remember I wanted her to close her eyes and she absolutely refused. The 30 outtake images are so funny and then I saw this one and it was the moment I wanted without even knowing it. Her eyes weren’t closed obviously, but it’s perfect just the way it is and in fact I really love the look she gave Trina in that moment. People who see this in my home often comment on how sweet the image is, and I love that when I see it I see that sweet moment, but also can look back at that pure stubborn nature that my daughter has (no idea where that came from) and I can laugh knowing that the expression on her face isn’t one of calmness and wonder as most people read it, but it’s one of “Trina, my mom has lost it, let’s just get this photo so we can go play outside now please!”
Whats Your Gear?
I’m a Nikon gal although I still don’t discriminate against the Canon folks haha! Shooting in Vancouver means a LOT of rain. I need all of my gear to be weather sealed and my gear sure takes a beating when it rains on a wedding day. I have shot for 3 hours in a DOWNPOUR before and had my gear be no worse for wear!
70-200mm (a go-to for outdoors)
24-70mm (my favourite for studio sessions)
60mm (GREAT for macros!)
What is your go to lens & Why?
My 70-200mm for outdoor sessions because it helps me to create the 3D effect I am looking to create in my images. The background compression it gives is often necessary in the dense forest settings I love to shoot in.
For studio sessions it’s the 24-70mm because I love the versatility of being able to zoom in or out and also at 60mm on manual focus it makes a great macro so I don’t have to switch out lenses very often when I have this baby on my camera!
Something Your still learning?…
To be confident in my work and to ask for help. My husband is starting to help with the business end of things and having trust to hand over jobs to him has been a challenge for me.
If you could have lunch with anyone famous living or deceased who would it be & why?
Michael Jackson. I found him fascinating all my life and I just think he had such an interesting perspective on life I would love to learn more. I think he really did feel he lost his childhood and there was a pureness in his personality that most people lose as an adult. I think it would be interesting to find out a little more about how his mind worked in that sense.
RAW or Jpeg? RAW
Nikon or Canon? Nikon
Mac or PC? PC
Lightoom or Photoshop ( or both ?) LR for basic editing and PS for detail touch ups
Favorite TV Show? Coronation St. (I know…I’m weird ok?)
Favorite Color? Red right now, but it changes often
Favorite Food? Anything with a lot of sugar. Or coffee. Does coffee count?
Which 5 words would your friends best describe you?
Determined, enthusiastic, compassionate, hilarious, and kind
Time to share! Tell us in the comments below something you are still learning!