THE JOURNAL

Ava is a luxury destination wedding and portrait photographer who creates authentic, timeless and profoundly beautiful imagery.
 Based in Nashville, Tennessee. Available for travel.

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THE JOURNAL

How I Left My 9-To-5 To Become A Full-Time Creative

Photo by the extraordinarily talented Christy Hunter.

One of the first things people always ask me is, “How did you become a photographer?” It’s not easy going from the traditional desk job life to living my days out behind a lens — and trust me, it’s been a long process! But in the hopes of inspiring other creatives along their journey, I want to share a little more about how I got here and what I’ve learned. 

My dad gifted me my first real camera when I was nearing middle school. At the time, it was the perfect distraction from the stress of “real life” (being a teenager is hard, y’all). I’d go for walks, finding random bugs or seasonal landscapes to practice my skills on. It wasn’t until college that I started thinking seriously about sharing my work with other people. I began taking photos for graduating seniors, which helped me realize how much I enjoy bringing someone’s story to life through portraits. 

I was serious when I said I’d find random bugs to photograph. Check out this one from 2011.

Meanwhile, I was hustling in the marketing world trying to build up a career. After college, I worked as a marketing manager for a local winery, managing the website, social media, email marketing, outside advertising, and sales. Two years later, I was offered a role as a marketing specialist with the City of Clarksville. This opportunity taught me so much about the field and introduced me to a boss who became my personal cheerleader, something I’m so grateful for to this day. 

My personal cheerleader and dear friend, Candice. 🙂

After three years of working two jobs and pursuing my photography on the side, I was exhausted. I knew I needed a big change, and thanks to the support of people around me, I felt confident to take a leap and go after my passion. You get one chance at life (sounds cheesy, but it’s true!), and I hoped that diving head-first into photography would reignite my spirit and my creative streak.

Taking a pay cut to become my own boss was scary, I can’t lie. I knew it would take awhile to build a client base, and I also wondered what people would think of me. Would they judge me for leaving a successful career as a marketing professional to become a photographer? Battling those thoughts was challenging, but the silver lining was that I felt so happy to be chasing what I wanted more than anything. A quote that really stuck with me was, “If you don’t have a plan B, then plan A has to work.” I just didn’t give myself an option to fail.

One of my favorite shots from a bridal portrait session.

These days, my life is a lot slower, and I love it. Fellow artists know that the more time you can dedicate to your craft, the more you’re able to grow and improve. It’s not all rosy and perfect, though — time management can be a challenge! Now that I work for myself, I’m responsible for my own priorities and productivity, and I have to be diligent and push myself to stick to a regular schedule (no sleeping in until 10 a.m. on a Tuesday — my life isn’t that laid-back!)

Everyone’s journey is different, and there’s no one “right way” to build the life and career you want. I am so thankful things played out the way they did for me. My degree and experience in marketing are crucial to the success of this business, and I wouldn’t be here now if I hadn’t spent those years learning and growing. It’s all about timing, and about trusting your gut to know when it’s time to stay put or shake things up. I’m cheering for you!

Cheers,
Ava

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