Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

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: Beautiful <3

Kelly Heitman: 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: 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: 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!!

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

Cherise: Stunning! Those shoes...your hair....LOVE!

As a full-time working photographer, I’m usually shooting for my clients. But sometimes I shoot for myself. The shoots I do for myself are to give myself a little change of pace and to keep fresh and inspired for my next client shoot! This photoshoot was one of those creative ventures. The styling and inspiration for the shoot was the work of Amy Schaming, who is an exceptional hairdresser and makeup artist, and also the creative behind the hair and makeup of the Beautiful and Bombshell sessions at Bijou. Amy showed me several photos of Gaga and Tilda Swinton that made her feel inspired and we created this look and shoot based on those images. Special thanks to our amazing model, Lydia, who is beautiful and creative as well. She rocked that bit of tulle fluff we gave her!! Check it out!








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Wow! Am I excited to be sharing these images with you today! I absolutely love the two women we took inspiration from for this shoot….Marilyn Monroe and Madonna. The idea started while I was browsing for wardrobe pieces for my new photography studio located in Five Points, Bijou. I dropped by Revente’s Second Chances, an apparel shop on Millwood Drive benefitting The Women’s Shelter, and found this amazing dress. I immediately thought of Madonna’s Material Girl music video. That video was inspired by a musical number in the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes starring Marilyn Monroe. I almost squealed out loud when I came across the dress. I was foolish enough to try to put it on in the dressing room…hahaha. SOOOOO small. No matter. It was perfect, perfectly priced, and destined to be mine. I bought it and thought I could find the perfect petite blonde to put in the dress later! I also picked up some matching long gloves at Hip*Wa*Zee, a fabulous source for vintage and costume apparel.

At that point I had a passionate discussion with Amy Schaming, my hair and makeup goddess who works with me on my Beautiful Sessions, telling her of the dress and my desire to shoot a beautiful blonde as this character(s) and Amy was just as excited as me. She knew someone who would most likely fit the dress, was blonde, beautiful, and had experience working with photographers. After seeing a few photos of Nikki Thilges I thought she would be perfect. Amy and I also decided to bring in Tyson Keanum, who is so talented and did an AMAZING job on the makeup for this shoot! I couldn’t have asked for a better team to work with. Everyone did an fantastic job!

I used two different lighting setups for two different dramatic looks and processed the images in a way that I felt played on the vintage theme of the shoot. We played Madonna music and just let ourselves have a great time with it! And I think one of these needs to be a display piece at the studio! Any suggestions on which one to use?!

If you like this type of post, come visit my blog again next week! We dressed Nikki up and styled and shot her as another character this same day and I’ll post images from that session then. And if you would like your own fantasy beauty shoot, contact me today!

Have a great weekend everyone!










Joyce: Boy, that dress looks made for her! Bet she wanted to take it with her! I vote for the one with her hands up by her shoulders....

Ashley: Yes, I could not believe how fabulous she looked in this dress! I think the one you chose, Joyce, is Amy's favorite too. I love it but am also partial to the one just above it:)