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Meet Angela Renée of Angela Renée Photography

Today we’d like to introduce you to Angela Renée.

Angela, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My background is in the fine arts. Initially, I majored in psychology as an undergrad (which I still believe informs my work and interests) but after I traveled abroad inspired by all of the art I was exposed to, I immediately changed my major to Painting when I returned to the States.

My parents said, “Of course, we knew you were an artist!”. So I have always had the support of my family for all my creative endeavors which has been amazing. I went on to get both a Bachelors and a Masters in Painting and then a second Masters degree in Moving Image from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Shortly after, I became a professor at both SAIC and DePaul.

As soon as I made the decision to have my first child, I decided I wanted a job with more flexibility. Simultaneously (and as the story goes for many photographers) a friend asked me to shoot their wedding and I began my business. However, I held my positions at both schools until my business could truly support me full-time.

My clients always find it interesting that I made the shift from professor to a wedding photographer. But to be honest, I wanted to find my way back to making my own artwork and I was spending so much time in the classroom and for me, it was very hard to find the space for personal work. And then I had kids and it just got harder, ha.

So FINALLY, I am in a place with a really solid business and with children that are no longer babies, that I am getting back to making my own work alongside making work for clients. I do want to say that wedding photography has taught me so much about image making. I don’t really look at many wedding photographers because I want to really try to stay open to seeing each couple and each day as they are in front of me and I’m always, always, trying to push myself to create unique images.

But as a wedding photographer, you have to be creative on the fly and compose when you’re not even sure what will happen next, there’s no stalling. So I’ve learned a lot about anticipating moments and being more open. And even with more posed photos, my interest is in the minutiae and the unexpected. So as a creative, I am still interested after six years of shooting weddings. This job has been a really good fit for me at this time in my life.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I would advise anyone running a business to give away the things that you do not like to do. I have an accountant, a bookkeeper, and an assistant who helps me get images to vendors, send out things to be published, etc. I tried to do all of it at first and then realized very soon that it was silly to do it all and likely impossible. So I, fortunately, figured that out early on. It’s challenging to give things away to others but you just absolutely have to!

One of my initial struggles with my business was finding the right clients. You have to show the work to attract the kind of people you want to hire you. So shoot A LOT but you don’t have to show it all. Show what you want to shoot more of. I work with a lot of creatives these days–artists, actors, improvisers, designers, architects, etc. However, not all of my clients have creative jobs, but when I dig a little deeper in conversation, usually the person that has reached out to me has some sort of creative background or interest. These are my people and they tend to be the best fit for my business.

The thing I still struggle with is balance in my personal and work life. I am a perfectionist about my images which requires a good amount of time for each wedding I shoot and edit. So I’ve decided to take less weddings in order to have more time for my family and personal projects. I think the easiest way to decide what you need is to think about what you want to have done with your life in one year, or five years, whatever.

For me, it’s absolutely necessary to look forward to set those goals up now. I’ve really missed making my own art and that is definitely a top priority after my family time, so I just have to accommodate for those things. It’s so difficult for me to turn away any opportunity, but I want to be able to say yes to the work that feels most right for me right now.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Angela Renee Photography started out primarily as a wedding business but more recently I’ve been branching out into more portrait work and some lifestyle branding. I would say what holds it all together is that my style moves through all of the work similarly. I’ve had people reach out for branding based on my wedding work, which is awesome and it means that there is a visual voice that speaks through the images.

I’ve really been loving photographing families and will be expanding that part of my business more in the next year. Some of my couples are starting to have kiddos and I wanted to continue to tell their story. I have two daughters and I adore children. So this feels like such a natural progression for my business.

I’m interested in image making that is not pre-constructed. With weddings, with families, with lifestyle shoots, I want to go in fresh and observe and pick up on the beautiful, the quirky, the unexpected. I am an artist so I designate that space with my clients. Of course, with any job, you need to cover the bases but I leave a lot of room for creativity. Clients hire me for my unique visual perspective.

What were you like growing up?
I was always an artistic kid and competing in art shows but mostly with drawing and painting. Unlike many photographers, I didn’t really use a camera to make art until later on in life. I actually first used a professional camera to take photos of my paintings to apply for graduate school.

However, my interest was always in people. My paintings were portraits of my friends and my later moving image work was of family members. I have always been interested in the human condition and how we emote.

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