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Success Spotlight with Ashley Burns: Owner and Photographer of Ashley Burns Photography
Ashley Burns is a lifestyle and wedding photographer based out of Los Angeles, California. She grew up with a love of photography since a very young age and started her business as a senior in high school when she was offered to shoot her first wedding. Nearly six years later, she has been published six times and has had the pleasure of capturing memories for hundreds of people with all different backgrounds and stories to share in front of her lens.
How do you define success?
I think there are many different avenues you can take to define success, but for me personally, success is built off the foundation of goals, strong work ethic, values, and overall happiness. Applying these things are incredibly important for financial and personal success because when we do things with purpose and integrity, I have found that opportunities knock, relationships are formed, and trust is built.
Everyone has his or her own journey and story to tell. Can you talk about your journey up to this point?
I think the best way for me to sum up my journey so far is that I turned left when everyone told me to turn right. I’ve never been someone to follow the status quo or conform to what everyone else is doing. I didn’t have a leg up from a prestigious college or trade school, financial backing, or even support from everyone when I pursued my business full-time. My photography business started when I was a senior year in high school when I was offered my first wedding. Ever since that day, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Photography initially was something I did on the side while focusing on school, but two and a half years later I decided I wanted to fully dedicate my time into growing my business and doing what made me happy. When I stopped going to college, many people raised eyebrows and asked if this was a good idea because they weren’t very convinced that I could make a career or living out of an inconsistent field. Oddly enough, this propelled me down my destined path. It made me more motivated than ever to make something of myself and be the voice for those to always go after what they’re passionate about, regardless of what anyone may say.
My journey up until this point hasn’t always been easy. The common and most irritating misconception about what I do is that a lot of people think my job is simple and that anyone can take a picture. Anyone that is in the same field as me knows that is absolutely incorrect and it takes much more effort and careful consideration. Aside from the actual act of shooting itself, I had to learn the business, marketing and branding, my style of work, and my niche in the photography field as a whole. It took a couple years of intensive trial and error to figure out what worked for me and how I wanted to represent my business. And if I’m being honest, I will never stop learning.
As of December 2016, it will be six years that I have owned Ashley Burns Photography, and three years since photography has been my full time career. I’m proud to say that for the past three years of being full-time, they have been entirely consistent, booking lifestyle clients two to three months in advance and wedding clients eight months to a year and a half. Working with people of all different backgrounds and stories to tell has been immeasurable. Nothing compares to the feeling of being able to share my work with couples and families, while creating something organically tailored for them to cherish forever.
When did you first realize your love for photography?
Photography has been an outlet for me to escape since as long as I can remember. I do genuinely feel, however, that I owe that credit to my parents. My mom, more specifically, was incredible at documenting my life growing up and I think it, simply put, it ‘rubbed off on me.’ I’ve had a camera in my hands since a young age and haven’t put it down since.
How did you get your first magazine cover and spread?
The founder of CupcakeMAG is a friend of one of my friends and clients that are in the public eye. She contacted me via email expressing that she saw all the work I did for our friend and was interested in having me shoot their next celebrity issue. It was a very easy decision to make because it was not only a great opportunity, but I also hit it off instantly with the owner of the magazine and she completely understood my style of work. I had never read CupcakeMAG prior to working with them – but they have successfully curated 7 million readers and were a very positive publication. I loved that the magazine is run by a bunch of women powerhouses that have created something special for parents and their babies!
What is photographing a wedding like? What’s your favorite part?
Weddings are one of my absolute favorites to photograph. In essence, if you really think about it, it’s a lot like recording family history. Though they are easily the most stressful (due to so many moving parts), there is something so special about capturing two people uniting in love and being able to document those moments and emotions with such authenticity. Emotion is what really fuels and orchestrates the day. Weddings go by in a blink of an eye and that is where my assistant and myself come into play – ensuring we photograph all of the details that will allow them and their families to relive their special day for a lifetime. I have two favorite parts of a wedding day: the vows and the parent dances. I give zero direction during both of those times and they are filled with such sentiment. Fun fact: I take a photo with each wedding couple I work with on the day of their wedding and have them framed throughout my office at home. Fun memory and simple daily reminder at how awesome my clients are!
What is your favorite part of being a photographer? What types of clients/events do you photograph?
My business is pretty versatile being that I am a lifestyle and wedding photographer, so I do many different types of photography, but exclusively only photograph people. My favorite part about being a photographer is getting to evolve with my clients. It is so humbling having clients that you get to watch grow in all different capacities. Families are so fun to watch grow! It’s the intimate, sacred moments that people choose you to be a part of that will never get old for me. I also love that my job isn’t in the same place everyday. Ironically, I’m on a plane to Colorado right now for work.
What has been your biggest failure and how have you learned from it?
Taking things too personally and jumping to conclusions, by far. I’ve let my anxiety get in the way so many times. I used to translate any constructive criticism as people telling me I was incompetent, which made me feel unworthy. Instinctually, we never want to hear what we are doing wrong or what we could do better, especially when we work as hard as we do, but it’s necessary in order to grow. I’ve learned over time that we learn way more and are more productive in evolving when we don’t always hear what we want to.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
My dad always says, “do things with a happy heart and good attitude.” This very much applies to business and personal life, especially because just like anyone, I have my good and bad days. I’ve learned that people gravitate towards others who exude positivity and share happiness with others. Another great piece of advice my mom always told me growing up that has poured over into adulthood is, “you are who you hangout with.” It is so important to surround myself around genuine, good people who want the best for you.
What advice do you have for people?
1.Don’t do things for applause or validation. Sure, both of those things are nice to get, but the intentions of your hard work should be pure. When we do things for attention, it distracts us from the real reason we do what we do in the first place.
2.Be punctual. Punctuality is very key in business. It shows clients or those you work alongside that you value their time and respect them, as well as demonstrates to others that you care and take what you do seriously.
3.It’s ok to say ‘no.’ When I first started my business I said ‘yes’ to absolutely everything that could be in front of my camera because I felt it was important to gain experience. But, I do believe there comes a time in any profession when you choose your clients as much as they choose you. It’s ok to say ‘no’ to things you don’t whole-heartedly believe in. In fact, I’ve found it has led me to even better opportunities when I have been very adamant about being overly cautious with whom I work with or alongside.
4.Don’t compare your path with another person’s success. There is room and opportunity for everyone. We all can make it!
If you could have lunch with 3 people, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
Jose Villa – He’s the God of photography in my eyes and so incredibly talented. I’ve followed his work for years and find him so innovative.
Tyler Henry – I’ve always been fascinated by medium psychics and their inherent gift they share with the world. I think it would be fun to get a reading by him and connect with some loved ones that I didn’t get closure with.
Amy Schumer – Pretty self-explanatory, but I love how she’s undeniably herself and is a genius comic.
The Fundamental Round
Favorite food: Mexican. Extra side of guac. Or the Chinese Chicken Salad from California Chicken Café.
Favorite book: You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Kay and Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.
Favorite movie: Spotlight and Straight Outta Compton. Both incredible true stories and cast. And 90’s rap lives within us all, right?
Favorite athlete: John Elway… does the name even need an explanation? A legend.
Favorite sports team: Denver Broncos. Born and raised.
Favorite song: Anything by Coldplay and Lord Huron. Lyrically, just genius.
Favorite quote: “Don’t be impressed by money, followers, degrees, and titles. Be impressed by humility, integrity, generosity, and kindness.”
Biggest role model: Equally, both my parents. My dad has owned his first business at the age of 18, and collectively has owned 5 companies in his life and retired at the age of 43. Talk about a true success story. My mom owns two businesses and has never missed a single milestone in my life. Talk about a hero.
Animal you most resemble (looks or personality): Penguin because I’m dual-natured. I’m aggressive yet nurturing, outgoing but shy, and loyal.
You can connect with Ashley here:
Ashley Burns Instagram
Ashley Burns LinkedIn
Ashley Burns Photography