We had the good fortune of connecting with Ashlee Burgess and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ashlee, what do you attribute your success to?
The most important factor behind the success of my brand and my business is passion. It’s a cliche answer, but it’s true. No matter what obstacles have come my way, my business and brand have remained rooted because of my love for what I do. I had a brand new DSLR camera in hand and a whole lot of love for capturing fleeting moments when I started. Since I was a kid with a pocket sized digital camera, I captured anything that spoke to me. So when I got a camera with manual settings as a birthday gift from my husband, I found people and things to take photos of. My closest friends were engaged and pregnant that same summer, so I captured those important moments for them and shared them on social media. I did it because I wanted to, and because it meant something to me and to them. At that point, I was making nothing financially and spending my free weekends “working,” and yet it fueled me. From there I had other inquiries and slowly realized what this could actually become. I taught myself everything from shooting in manual to marketing my business, as I worked on my degree. I went to school full time during the week and shot weddings and portraits on the weekend. Even when I was exhausted, I pushed through because I knew what an honor it was for people to trust and ask me to capture these important moments in their lives. That has always added more to my life than the income ever has. Don’t get me wrong, making a living from what I love is one of the greatest achievements and blessings of my life. However, I truly believe I wouldn’t have ever made it here today without my passion for the work itself. I have always said “When I started my photography business, I never dreamed that it would actually become a business.” I used to feel silly for that statement, but over time I’ve realized that it has been a huge factor in my success. I’ve realized that it wasn’t that I didn’t ever want it to be a business… I just started doing something because it was important to me and because I loved it. I didn’t feel like I had to make a full time income right away on something that had to be built from the ground up. I just let my passion for this work be at the core of my decision making from day one. I truly believe that if you are passionate about something, the success is inevitable. You will find a way: at nights, on weekends, over years, and maybe even on accident.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a wedding and portrait photographer. I have photographed everything from newborns and children, to high school seniors, to beautiful families, but my heart is most drawn to people in love. Over the past few years, I have really been narrowing my work down to focus on that specifically. A quote I often find myself saying often is that “your wedding photos should stand out, and every photo should reflect the love, emotion, and warmth that your wedding day holds.” There is merit to all work and a different audience for every style of photography, but I have built my brand on creating cinematic, warm, moody, and romantic shots. One thing that I feel that sets me apart in the field of wedding photography is the emphasis I place on a couple being able to actually live their wedding day. I’ve seen it happen too many times: a couple is so focused on doing all the things they’re “supposed” to do, and they’re dragged all over the place by different vendors so that they’re exhausted and over it by the time the party starts. Couples pour so much love, time, and money into planning a day that they sometimes don’t even get to fully enjoy. There is so much more to a wedding day than than running around jumping hoops and spending more time “capturing memories” than actually making them. I try my best to make the photography part of the day as streamlined as possible to help with that. I work quickly and efficiently to make sure that couples have some quiet time alone creating genuine moments during their portraits, but still get into their reception quickly to eat and hang out with their people! I like to say “Your photos are guaranteed to document the day as it happens, with as little intervention from me as needed.” Having a ton of posed wedding photos is great, but so is having real life memories to cherish forever. My goal is to find a balance between those things that fits each couple’s wishes! On the other end of things, I have to say the biggest struggle in my business has been learning balance for myself, especially in the beginning because I was so young. Becoming a wife at eighteen, moving across the state from friends and family to be with my husband when he joined the Army, being a full time college student, taking care of a home, and launching my business at nineteen was a handful. I always want to give one hundred and ten percent to everything that I do, so figuring out where to put my energy and when to rest, even with a long to-do list, is something that was a difficult lesson to learn. Putting guidelines in place for myself like a 30 wedding per year cap or an 8:00 PM cut off time for working have been helpful in finding that balance!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My best friend and I would definitely spend a day walking around Little Five Points shopping, taking photos, and grabbing some burgers at The Vortex. The Georgia Aquarium never gets old, and The World of Coke is another classic must see so we’d spend some time doing the classic tourist spots. We would also have to spend some time in my hometown of Carrollton. We would have a day of feasting starting with donuts and iced coffee at 4 AM Coffee Roasters, lunch at the famous Corner Cafe, and a rooftop dinner and drinks at Nama Asian Fusion overlooking Adamson Square. To work off the day of feasting, we would spend some time walking on the Atlanta Beltline, and to be honest, we’d probably end up taking quite a few more photos!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would never be here today without two of the most important people in my life. My mom, Rebecca, and my husband, Beau. My mom is the reason that, once these pieces started falling into place, it was never a question to me that I could be a full time wedding and portrait photographer. When I realized that’s what I wanted, that was the end of it. It was going to happen. My stubborn determination is definitely owed to her. I also owe my heart for creativity to her. Both because she is endlessly creative, and because she fostered that in me for as long as I can remember. She gave me a necklace when I was 12 with a Bob Marley quote that said “Live the life you love, love the life you live” on it. I can honestly say I’m doing just that, largely because of her. I owe more thanks to my husband than I could ever express. From giving me the camera that reignited my passion for photography, to helping support me financially as I got the business side of things off the ground, to loving me through some very long years of pouring 110% of myself into this… I truly wouldn’t be here without him. There has never been a day he hasn’t supported me and my dreams. Our love is the reason I am so passionate about capturing other people in love. He’s my greatest blessing.
Ashlee Burgess Photography