We had the good fortune of connecting with Ashlee Hamon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ashlee, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I love risk. I think being willing to take risks makes all the difference when starting your own business. It is even more important when that business is your art. I know that I have my willingness to try to thank for where I am today. When I first began my career seriously in 2012 I decided on not having a plan B. I went all in. While I was earning my BFA in Photography from UCF I tended bar. After graduating into the recession in ‘08 I ended up continuing to bar tend. I was feeling pretty miserable and lost so I decided to put my dreams onto a vision board and plot out which I should aim for first. In the mix was ski instructor, start my own photography studio, and backpack around the world. Since I was making a lot of cash and had very few expenses and no serious relationships I decided the order should be “travel, start the business wherever I ended up, and then in retirement be a cute ski bunny instructor.” Once I had the plan I continued to stack cash and started selling everything I owned, even my car! I bought a one way ticket to Australia and kicked off what would be a year long adventure from Oz to Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and the UK. I followed my gut and the cheapest flights. I took risks on street food, interesting hostels, and impossibly cheap and uncomfortable flights. After a year I was ready to put down some roots and decided to go back home. I realized that I wanted to be the change I wanted to see, to bloom where I was planted sort of speak. Instead of chasing some ideal outside of myself. When I got home, exhausted and down to my last $2k, I knew it was time to start my career. No bar tending, not even a shift a week to have some sort of income. I stayed with my parents and went ALL IN. I drew up my logo and called in favors from anyone I knew in graphic and web design. I launched my socials and a web site while I cold called and e-mailed any photographer I could find. I now get contacted my eager young shooters! After only a month of single minded dedication I landed the opportunity to shoot free lance for a wedding company, and a few months after that a second one! I hustled to get my name out there and asked every friend and family member for the chance to shoot for them. After only 2 years of free lancing and pieces together my own clientele I was ready to be 100% full time on my own. So what did I do? I signed a lease on a studio with 3 other creatives sight unseen! I jumped in feet first into having a drastically different overhead and gambled on getting along with other entrepreneurs. I’m happy to say that the risk paid off and we have all grown so much since that leap. My studio situation continues to benefit from risks even now. I pulled out of the second studio space I ever had when I had enough of its tiny size but no new direction to go in. I risked not having a studio for however long it took to find the right next step. I successfully navigated over a year of going without when the opportunity to jump into an almost 3k sqft space came my way. I decided to take the risk in leveling up before I had enough studio clients to really justify such a space. I think of risk as a “if you build it they will come” attitude. When COVID first reached Florida I was terrified that my risk would create a dangerous financial burden. After some initial grieving over my plans for client mixers and events to really kick off the space passed I hustled to pivot. My ability to quickly ramp up my momentum with commercial, editorial, and product work has seen me through to a thriving fall! I am so thankful to have a space that I can safely shoot in! My last tale of risk and reward pertains the tools of my trade. Back in 2016 I had the extreme honor of being hired to photograph an entire 2 week wedding adventure in Chile. After lugging my Nikon gear literally up a a few mountains I snapped. I knew mirrorless technology was on the horizon and I set my sights on making the switch. I flew out to the giant Photo Expo WPPI in Vegas to see for myself what was available. After not even knowing Fuji was on anyone’s radar I fell in love with their new line up. I bought a body and lens right there on the expo floor and after immediately shooting a wedding with it, I went all in. I completely changed out my entire kit bodies, lenses, flashes, and triggers. I was such an early adopter that I was even featured on the Bokeh podcast about it! https://www.photographersedit.com/blog/mirrorless-ashlee-hamon/ Today my peers are finally making the switch too. My upcoming online photography and flash courses are also all centered around mirrorless! Risk is ESSENTIAL. Taking risks on your pricing, your style, your partnerships, everything. I often leap before I look and encourage others to spend more time feeling your way into your next step than analyzing it. Good luck!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I love COLOR! My passion is to tell your story in vibrant color. I focus on brightly saturated tones, authentic emotions, and directional light. From the beginning I had a deep interest in making my own light. I learned early on how to master my off camera flash and am so humbled to now teach others. I believe that you should be able to solve the problem of making a great photograph no matter what. This is vital for wedding days since you are working against time, the sun or lack of it, and oftentimes gross indoor lighting. My knowledge of light sets my wedding and commercial work a part from many others in my market. A lot of my peers focus on a dreamy soft and light look that relies heavily on sunny days. I love that I can offer an alternative for those seeking imagery with a more energetic impact. The mood of my work overall is fun, high key, and authentic.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If you’re coming to Tampa Bay to see me you better be ready! I would start you off with rooftop cocktails at sunset at one of the great new spots along the Hillsborough River in downtown. We wouldn’t stay out too late though because in the morning we’re getting up early to drive about an hour north to Weeki Wachee Springs! We would rent kayaks and lazily paddle down the crystal clear waters of Florida’s best hidden gem. After lunching with the Manatees we would head back for a seafood dinner on the bay. There’s a new entirely outdoor spot call the Salt Shack that is perfect! On Sunday we would sleep in and debate brunch on the terrace of the Art Museum or a picnic on the beach in St Pete. I love to be outside and I love a good meal! Cheers!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Shoutout to my friends and family!! Without the constant support and encouragement from my personal relationships I would not be here. Thank you to my family for letting me bum in the guest room before and after my backpacking trip. Thank you so much to my dear friend Ann Cox for taking me in when my cottage flooded. Her care and welcome allowed me to purchase my my first house. To my college friends that took a gamble on a newbie photographing their most important days I have endless gratitude. Without those opportunities to jump into my craft I would have never been able to get started. To all the peers that I also call friends int eh Bay Area, thank you so much for being open and compassionate colleagues. Our industry is dedicated to community over competition and I am so honored to be among you!
Other: https://vimeo.com/user38742617 https://www.photographersedit.com/blog/brand-position-ashlee-hamon/
Self portraits made by me, Ashlee Hamon