What kinds of challenges in the ‘wedding/photography’ industry have you seen and therefore had to navigate?
I think that most conventional businesses/industries struggle to find a balance of time. After experiencing such a demanding 2014, navigating through a new change of course was so desperately needed. In 2015 we made a decision to deactivate our Closer to Love Facebook page for a handful of months, and that was just the beginning. We then proceeded to delete our own personal Facebook pages, pulled back significantly from Instagram, blogged only 1 Wedding in all of 2015, deleted our Closer to Love email off our cell phones, got rid of our TV and replaced it with books. We needed to unplug from our gadgets because what our souls craved was time with the ones we loved most, along with a strong desire to fight for simplicity. Who would’ve thought that finding simplicity would be such a fight! Yet even in the midst of all those drastic cutbacks, which could easily dismantle any small business, God remained ever faithful. Just a few months ago we received word from MyWedding Magazine that Closer to Love was chosen as a Top 10 Favorite California Wedding Photographer by their editors in their Spring 2016 issue! FAITHFUL. All we could think about when we received that initial email was how faithful our God truly is!
The question I am most frequently asked is ‘how do I get started?’ What advice would you give to an aspiring photographer?
The first advice I would give is to never compare yourself or your work to others. That’s a time-stealer, life-stopper, and a trap. Be yourself. Create art that moves you and don’t slope to the opinions of others. Constructive criticism, yes, that’s wonderful as long as it comes from a respectful source. But don’t just take advice from anyone. Don’t be a people pleaser, be a God pleaser and care about what He deems as successful, not what others define as a “success.” The next advice I would give is be okay with making mistakes, failing forward, and leveraging mentorship joyfully. Asking for help is a beautiful thing. The next advice I would give is to JUST DO IT. Don’t wait around for opportunities to happen, make opportunities happen!
What advice would you give a couple thinking about potentially working together?
Find another couple that is actively succeeding at being a husband & wife photography team, earn their time and mentorship, and pursue them. If they agree to take you under their wing, thank them every day, be ready with questions and make the most of your time together. The best students will one day be the best teachers, so you in return can pay it forward and impact others with the lessons you’ve received.
Can you tell me a little about the idea process and making of your book, Storytelling?
Over the years we have accumulated a substantial amount of emails and messages from aspiring photographers asking us how we did it, how we built our photography business so strongly, so quickly. Always honored and humbled by such messages, I reached a point in 2013 when I felt like it was time to share our story – all of it. Our business approach has always been about being extremely transparent, so why not write a book?! Haha. It was in December of 2013 when I distinctly remember leaning into our girls’ bedroom one evening where Natalia was, and I asked excitedly, “What do you think about me writing a book telling our story!?” Oh, the look on Natalia’s face said it all. At first she wasn’t extremely thrilled about the idea because we literally had no room to add anything else on top of our already-full plate – and I think mentioning this whole idea during the holidays when time was simply not on our side – wasn’t the best choice. But, just a few short weeks later in January 2014 I decided that if I didn’t start and pursue this dream, I’d NEVER sit down and write a book. So in the span of one week, I buckled down and wrote our book, Storytelling. And that’s why the very first quote that we highlight at the beginning of our book is by Mat Kearney, which so beautifully proclaims: “We'll never be ready if we keep waiting for the perfect time to come.” I’ve always been a firm believer that the word “later” is a dream-killer. The dream I’ll pursue “tomorrow,” the passion I’ll live out “eventually,” the pursuit of adventure that will begin “someday.” I believe that a great danger we face is the moment we place our dreams on hold and tell ourselves we’ll pursue them “later.” Later never seems to come, so the best time, I believe, is NOW. Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do TODAY. And so, we wrote the book in a week! We then connected with an extremely talented friend/graphic designer (James Prunean), gave him full creative control to design our book, and in less than a month we had it designed, printed, and distributed globally! That season was a whirlwind but we are so honored and humbled to say that we had the distinct privilege of shipping out every single book from our home studio and handwriting every address! Seeing where our books were being shipped out to was priceless, just priceless! God is so good and, oh, so faithful!
I know we all have things we wish we’d done differently and I believe that looking back can often be a catalyst for moving forward… is there anything you wish you could have a second chance at? Maybe something you’d do different?
Oh, absolutely. I think the biggest thing I would’ve done differently is that I would’ve sought help and mentorship from successful business owners/photographers much sooner in our career. We literally, and I do mean literally, became full-time photographers overnight. So we made a lot of mistakes very early on, which we are very transparent about in our book, and we definitely had to reap the consequences of those failures. I’m grateful for our experiences, however, because we would not have grown if the road were always easy. We grew the most when we faced challenges. I’ve come to realize that difficulties are inevitable, but learning from them is optional. So now we see every adversity as an opportunity for growth. And for that, I’m thankful that we failed as much as we did.
Ok… having taken a look back, what does the road in front of you look like? What (not) impossible dreams are you dreaming for the future? What’s next??!!
Oh my goodness, our dreams have never been BIGGER and our future has never looked BRIGHTER. When you’ve seen God literally make the impossible, possible, how could we not dream bigger dreams? I’m 30 years old now and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that all my dreams, up to this point, have come true. Every. Single. Dream. One immediate dream that is just months away from fruition is beginning the homeschooling journey with Saylah, as a family unit. She’ll be turning 5 years old this summer and Natalia and I are thrilled to take the reigns and begin this adventure with her. We cannot wait for our classroom to be on the shores of a beach, in the ancient ruins of Italy, or in the comfort of our own backyard. Our dreams are endless.
We are in the process of trademarking the name for a café that we plan on opening in a handful of years. This will not be your typical café, but all coffee + menu items will be donation-only. All funds will go to charities dear to our hearts from regions around the world that we received the shipment of our coffee beans from. We envision the café being a community café, which means we want it to be an environment that everyone wants to be a part of. Walking in, you’ll instantly see and feel a noticeable difference. From live music, always, to extremely comfy furniture and a warm stirring aroma, this is how we desire to bring hope to a community that otherwise would never step into the 4 walls of a church building. The staff would be the best of the best, not having to hold 3 jobs to simply hold their children. But each barista, musician, and janitor will be well-provided for, to be able to provide for his or her family. At one side of the café will be our recording studio (Closer to Love Studios; fancy right? Haha) where café guests can see artists recording their EPs/LPs in real time, but separated by a massive glass window so artists can be in their zone to create beautiful music. Have we mentioned how much we love coffee and music? This is how we aspire to intertwine both passions together!
Other dreams, among so many, is building our dream home in Newport Beach in the next few years, living a life of radical generosity, traveling the world with our family and friends, and celebrating our 10 year Wedding Anniversary in Puerto Vallarta with those dearest to us, overlooking a harbor full of boats, in an all-white Italian cafe. Yes, we are very detailed about our dreams! We absolutely want more children and have recently talked about the possibility of adopting, perhaps later in our lives, although we are definitely waiting on God’s perfect timing and direction for that! We will forever be photographers, and we’re excited more than ever to witness how God will use the little that we have and transform it into something beyond ourselves.
In this season of our business, marriage, parenting, and life, Natalia and I have become comfortable with being uncomfortable. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be comfortable, BUT ultimately, dreams are designed to help others, while comfort is meant to simply help you. On January 1, 2016 we decided that the word we want to define us this year is FEARLESS. On our journey thus far, we have come to realize that jumping off the cliff of comfort to dive into the sea of uncertainty & risk is so much more exhilarating and rewarding! Dreams aren’t built in comfort zones, so we’ve decided to go into our panic zone and to CONQUER our fears! Once you become fearless, life truly becomes limitless. And so do your dreams.