So, earlier this week I promised to share a little bit about my personal story and why I do what I do. Before I get to that, I want to extend an invitation to everyone to join me at the studio, Bijou, at 716 Santee Avenue on Saturday 4-7pm for a holiday celebration along with my 5 Points business neighbors. I will be offering a tour of the studio, refreshments, including chrysanthemums (prosecco and cranberry juice), some savories, and an incredible sale on sessions (and gift certificates) only available at the celebration! Please join us! We would love to see you there!

Since I opened the studio this April, I have had a lot of questions from people about my new session offerings. Some people may not even be aware of all the change my business has gone through this year and some have but want to know more. I will start by saying that I still offer child and baby photography and love seeing my clients’ children. However, my studio’s main focus has shifted to providing a one of a kind makeover and session experience for all women. This is not something brand new for me. Years ago I offered “women’s sessions” and worked with a talented makeup artist to offer makeup applications and photo sessions for a very reasonable fee. I loved working with women in this way. I found there were quite a few obstacles that I just didn’t know how to overcome at the time, however, and my focus shifted to children, family, and babies specifically. I always thought that eventually I would offer a unique session experience for women again.

Let me detour a little here and just give you some background on me:) I love the arts! I have a heavy arts background. I was surrounded by music from the moment I was born. My father was a music professor and choral director and my mother was a music professor and vocal coach. So, do I sing? You bet! I was classically trained and sang in many choirs and was second chair first soprano in All State during high school. I studied voice in college as well and sang in my father’s choir that I listened to for so many years as a child, once even performing in Notre Dame cathedral with them. When I left college, I joined up with some talented musicians and became the lead singer of a hard rock band. Yes…..very different from my classical music training but I loved rock too from an early age and my parents never discouraged that. I don’t think it was their plan for me to hit the road fronting a hard rock band though;)

I also loved dance. I started ballet at the age of 3 and by 13 was auditioning for scholarships to prestigious dance schools. I took a scholarship and moved in with a sponsor family while attending ballet school in Texas for a time. Even though I later decided ballet was not going to be my career path and left the school and went home to my family, I still studied dance through high school and college for fitness. And I still love attending the ballet. And I am thankful for the grace and flexibility and determination it taught me.

You might wonder why I told you these things and what they have to do with a photography session. I believe this life experience taught me things about being in the spotlight, and performing, and connecting with an “audience”. Those experiences taught me about body movement, grace, and line…about how you can sometimes tell a bit of a story with the movement of your body. And I use that experience when working with women to create a beautiful and powerful image. I don’t just tell my clients how I want them to pose. I often get down on the floor or lean against a wall, shifting weight and twisting my body and placing my hands and demonstrating to my subject exactly what to do.

Also, don’t be surprised if you hear me singing away as I prepare the studio for a shoot! Music is always a part of our session experience and clients ALWAYS get to pick the playlist.

The reason I wanted to open the studio and start working with women again is because I wanted to empower women. After I had my daughter, my life’s most precious blessing, I went through a time where I kind of lost myself. I forgot, much of the time, to nurture my own spirit and celebrate my own life outside of just being a mom. I neglected myself in many ways during my 30s. I stopped pursuing a physical outlet for my energy. I neglected my body. I also deprived myself of little things that would have brought me joy. I felt guilty for spending time or money on myself. And there were times where I would rebel against this. I once took up ice skating as an adult and started private lessons. I LOVED my time ice skating and was becoming fit again. But as stresses mounted due to a lack of time to get all the things done that I felt needed accomplished, I decided to let go of that outlet…..that ME time. I’m sure I could have worked through it if I had really tried and found a way to keep that passion alive. But the guilt I felt about family or business life suffering due to my ME time was more than I wanted to deal with. And so I began to neglect myself again. And this was a real cycle with me. I did not value just plain old me enough. I was only of value and worth effort when viewed in my relationship to someone else. And this transferred over to being photographed as well. It was not worth the time, effort, or money to have portraits made of just ME. I would only be photographed in relation to my position in my family. So until recently, my last REAL portrait was a bridal portrait. I cannot tell you how frequently I hear this from my clients as well. Actually, no. I can’t even say that. That was a photograph taken of me by myself at my wedding but I never actually had a Bridal Session. So I guess my last portrait session for just me…..in relation to no one else…..was for my senior high school portrait. Until now. And yes I have heard that from women I have photographed before too. And I think it is so sad that we aren’t celebrating the amazing women that we are and are not leaving behind beautiful professional portraits of ourselves as vibrant, beautiful ADULT women for our families to cherish! And by the way, I am excluding snapshots and business headshots, because that’s not what I am talking about here.

Now DO NOT get me wrong…..the time I spent with my family was fabulous and wonderful and a gift and I was happy to be with them. BUT, I was a mother and a wife and a business owner but I wasn’t much of just plain old me. I know I could have been an even better mother and wife and daughter and sister and business owner and friend and all those other things if I had also allowed myself to be just me sometimes too…to explore my interests, to nurture my mind and body, and to give myself more outlets.

I do believe that photography became my career because of one of those rebellions. It was a creative outlet that became so much more. For years I worked passionately at child and baby photography. And while I still provide that service, the shift has now moved to empowering women through photography and helping them express themselves in beautiful ways. My fabulous friends/makeup artists & hairstylists/session stylists/business associates/partners in crime have worked with me this year to provide this service in a way that is very meaningful to my clients. And although I knew this work was important to me, I did not realize all that I would receive from this work. You see, pouring my energy into making my clients look and feel amazing, powerful, beautiful and sexy has had a surprising effect on me. All my intention is being mirrored back at me! I didn’t know it would happen, but I feel empowered too from these sessions! I feel beautiful and sexy and strong too! I am learning to love my curves! What a gift! And I am now on my own new fitness path that has only served to strengthen my conviction in the work! I am dancing and working with a trainer and have changed my diet completely. It’s a new path for me and I am just as dedicated to me now as every other commitment in my life. And I am inspired by my clients daily. I am forever changed and challenged by their internal strength and beauty. I can only hope my work has this much impact on them as well. I have been told by many of them that it has been a powerful experience for them and I am humbled and grateful for that information.

OK, so…..there I am. That’s me. That’s how I feel about the work I do. That is my desire for ALL of my clients. That is the passion you can expect from me.
I’ll post again soon and go over all the session options and experience in as much detail as I can. I know this post is a little heavy on the “about me” aspect, but I believe you WANT to know who you will be working so closely with and what she stands for. And hopefully now you do:)

To end tonight, I’m sharing a few images taken during a “recharging the creative battery” shoot that my partners and I participated in a few nights ago at the studio. We came up with ideas for how we wanted to be photographed. We transformed and shot ourselves and had a wonderful time doing it. For my part, I was a shoe diva, because I am one just as much as I can be. When shopping for new clothes I can ALWAYS find a new shoe that makes me feel amazing….even if I cannot find anything else. And of course, I was a songbird. And I celebrated me! Here are some images from that night. Enjoy.



Amber posted the following on December 13, 2013 at 11:31 am.

Beautiful <3

Kelly Heitman posted the following on December 13, 2013 at 12:42 pm.

Thank you so much for sharing your heart and passion with us. You are a blessing in my life and, I know for sure, many others!

Audrey posted the following on December 13, 2013 at 3:46 pm.

Beautiful! I’m so glad you’re photographing what you love. Thanks for sharing your passion and why you do what you do. You’re such an encouragement!

Reshma posted the following on December 13, 2013 at 6:52 pm.

Absolutely loved getting to know Ashley Ward! these images are rockin’ and you are empowering!! Keep on keepin’ on !!! Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. It helps people connect to you, and your passion.

P.S: Had no idea you had a killer singing voice. That is pretty great!!

I cannot believe it has been a full month since I have update my blog! WOW. It is not because we aren’t busy with work. Quite the contrary. We have so many different jobs and projects going right now I am finding it a bit difficult to keep a normal routine! And my lack of time these days goes deeper than that. I’m going to share a little personally with you this week. I have a story to tell…..as we all do……and I want to share some of that with you. But it will take a little time to write so here is what I wanted to post today!

Did you know I used to be the lead singer of a rock band?! True story. And I know it’s tooting my own horn but I was quite good. I had a strong voice that was classically trained with great range and I developed just enough grit to my sound to play front(wo)man for an extremely talented group of hard rock musicians. And just because I don’t sing with a band now does not mean I can’t still belt out a song or two! As a matter of fact, if you are at the studio in hair and makeup, you are likely to hear me singing away to the playlist you selected as I prepare the studio lighting and backdrops for your shoot!

So that was the reason I wanted images of me singing. This was shot last night. It was a “recharging the battery” exercise…..and maybe a little more than that. Amy and our friend, Tyson, and I played with hair and makeup and lighting and ideas and Amy and I stepped in front of the camera. It’s a good exercise to get on the other side of the camera now and then. It’s a vulnerable place to be. For me, it gives me a stronger connection with my clients. When I commit to being photographed, I KNOW how tough it can be to drop your guard and try to commit to the experience. It’s hard to let the beauty pour from your eyes or bring your sexy back if it’s been stuffed in a closet for a long time. But when you are taken care of during your shoot by people who really care about making you look and feel your best and who want to celebrate YOU, it only lasts a short time…..I promise!! And then you just……rock it!

George Schafer posted the following on December 10, 2013 at 1:19 pm.

Love the photos!!! This may sound lame, but maybe there should be a night of karaoke in our future!!!

Cherise posted the following on December 10, 2013 at 7:40 pm.

Stunning! Those shoes…your hair….LOVE!

Hello Lovely People! It’s been an exciting few months here at Bijou and with the holidays and new year fast approaching, I wanted to let you know about your last opportunity for some amazing promotions at the studio AND 2013 pricing!

HOLIDAY MINI SESSIONS

Firstly, holiday mini sessions for children will be held Friday, November 22, 2013 and Saturday, November 23, 2013. Bring your children in their holiday best or their holiday pajamas! Packages with session time and high resolution files are available for $99 for 2 files, $149 for 3 files, or $195 for 5 files. First come, first booked! Act quickly to snag one of these spots.

BIJOU BABY – Newborn
You may know that I built my photography business by specializing in family portraiture and specifically in newborn baby photography. At Bijou I am still available for newborn sessions. My use of props and posing is classic and clean, focusing on each baby’s beauty and the bond between baby and parents.
Right now is an amazing time to book your newborn session at Bijou. Every client booking a newborn digital session collection will receive a complimentary Mini Maternity Beauty Session! The Maternity session includes hairstyling and makeup application, shoot time, and 5 fully edited high resolution digital files! This is a $575 value.

BIJOU BABY – 1 Year Cake Smash
Currently there is also a promotion on First Birthday Cake Smash sessions. These sessions are a perfect way to document your child turning 1! Bring in a small cake or cupcake, a couple of outfits, and we will have a mess of fun! Right now book your child’s cake smash session for $500 for the session and 12 high resolution digital files!

BIJOU BEAUTY
This session is for women and teens who want to star in their own photoshoot. Whether you prefer fashion-inspired beauty photography or fine art portraits, you are going to LOVE the way this shoot makes you look AND feel! Each booking begins with a consultation appointment where we will talk about your style and the kinds of images that inspire you. We will go over wardrobe recommendations and discuss ideas for hair and makeup, you will take a tour of the studio and have an opportunity to view all the luxury products available. The day of your appointment you will be pampered and given a beautiful full makeup application and hairstyling. You will look and feel amazing!
During your shoot I will carefully pose you to accentuate all your best assets. I will coach you from your eyelashes to your toes….demonstrating all along the way. Your hair will be joojed and your makeup will be touched up and you will be given the full supermodel treatment.
See below for a fabulous promotion for this session offering.



BIJOU BOMBSHELL
Bombshell sessions are for women who want to bring the sexy back! Have you always loved Pinup styled portraits? Do you love vintage portraits of the glamorous Hollywood starlets? This is the session for you. Bombshell sessions start with consultation appointments also and include full hair and makeup and expert posing as well. Lighting and posing and wardrobe will have you looking flawless. We aim to portray you as the devine diva you always knew you could be!




With both the Beauty and the Bombshell sessions, you will feel gorgeous and confident. Don’t waste that amazing feeling! Plan a night out with your sweetie or a night out with the gals.
The BEAUTY & BOMBSHELL PROMOTION:
Currently all clients booking a BEAUTY or BOMBSHELL session will receive a gift certificate for a Mani/Pedi on us!! Use this gift certificate to get your hands and toes looking their best for you photoshoot!
As well, all clients booking Veronica, Jayne, Rita or Marilyn session packages will save $100!
This offer is good through 11/15/13.

We would love to make your session dreams come true! Call 803-348-3306 to book your session or purchase a session for a loved one fill out the contact information found here.

I neglected to post these images from one of our creative shoots! This shoot was very loosely based on a concept of the queen of hearts…..but pinup or vegas style;)
We LOVE pinup shoots. Hope you love this one:)








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