The light behind the lens of Sun7Studios
Meet Ashley Hayes, an unbelievable photographer and videographer living in PA. Ashley and I immediately clicked when she took my photos for my bridal portraits and then our wedding. (video and pictures here, they are too amazing not to share!) Her ability to make you feel comfortable and confident behind the camera is unlike most photographers I have worked with. There's something so different about her spirit, she's so bubbly and authenticity flows freely from her life-you'll see why below. Ashley has built her skills up over the past 7 years, working on various projects for I Am Second, her LLC, Sun7Studios and now Sun7Senior Photography in PA. She's incredibly tech-savvy and also a mom to the cutest little boy! Ashely's faith inspires me tremendously and I know she will do amazing things where she's at now.
What Success Means To Me
Tell us about yourself!
I am originally from Harlingen, TX…Dallas, TX was my current city (opportunity to work with one of my favorite ministries brought me here), until about 2 months ago when I moved to Pennsylvania where all of my family is. I love running, lifting, and volleyball. I received my B.S. in Visualization from Texas A&M. My favorite blog and resource is scottkedersha.com
What do you do professionally?
I am the Owner/Director of Sun7Studios LLC, a creative business that offers videography, photography, and graphic design. With my new location, I also started a niche photography brand, Sun7Senior Photography.
I manage my company, and a team of contractors to accomplish the creative needs of my clients. What I do day in and day out depends on my current clients/jobs. The tasks for the day can range from preparing for a video production shoot, to designing corporate documents or websites, managing a web design build, editing photos, doing a portrait shoot, graphic design etc.
My previous jobs required me to work on a team of creative professionals helped me realize that it takes a team to accomplish something great – delegation is absolutely necessary. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have a team of talented creatives to partner with in every project that I take on. We work better together and our end products show it.
I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have a team of talented creatives to partner with in every project that I take on. We work better together and our end products show it.
What does success mean to you professionally?
Professionally, in the past, success has meant that I accomplish what my client needs, and exceeding their expectations with the final product I design, shoot, or put together.. success used to mean being recognized and praised for my hard work whether that was a personal e-mail from a client or an overwhelming response on social media.
Now, as a mama of 1 (and soon 2), having scaled back and restructured my business has changed my definition of success. I cut back on social media and try to do only what is necessary. Success at the end of the day, as I define it now, is having the opportunity to do something that matters with my portrait photography, while still having time to be a part time stay at home mom and contributing to my family’s income. I have the unique opportunity to speak into the lives of 17-18 year old ladies when I take them on a senior portrait shoot, to build them up and remind them how valued and beautiful they are.
What the world tells them is perfection is an unrealistic standard, and I make an effort to pull them out of their insecurity and help them realize they are beautiful. That’s success to me now – making a small difference right where I am.
How have you brought innovation to your industry/current profession?
For years, I’ve worked on trying to fuse fine art media (photography, video, traditional acrylics and other media) with a greater purpose: making a lasting impact through conversation and creating impactful imagery. I have several processes such as doing a shoot without make up, and facilitating a counseling portrait session of sorts to expose insecurities that women have and breaking free from the chains that hold us back as women. All of this work, research, and processing has leaked into how I approach every portrait shoot that I have the opportunity of conducting. The image results are incredibly impactful.
Did you have any obstacles along the way to your current role/profession, how did you overcome them?
I cast a wide net at the beginning of my career, offering anything and everything I could think of to offer. And while the Lord brought the right jobs at the right time, and I was never without work, I believe narrowing down my offerings was a necessary decision to make. If there was any obstacle that I encountered, it was that I overwhelmed myself with too many options and I wasn’t effective in my marketing because my audience was so large and unpredictable.
How has health and fitness brought you success in the workplace?
I wholeheartedly believe that taking the time to run makes such a huge difference in my productivity and mindset for my day.
As a small business owner, and mama, it’s easy to let my “self-care” fall to the wayside. But I absolutely see a difference when I don’t make time to invest in fitness.
What is your best advice for someone who is unsatisfied in their job or their overall career industry?
Not every ounce of my job is dreamy. I’d say only about 25% of it is. But I do the jobs and tasks I have to, so I can have that 25%. Do I love designing corporate documents? No it’s not my dream, but it’s a skill I have that paves the way for me to be ABLE to shoot portrait photography where my heart really is. My advice for someone who is unsatisfied in their career or industry, would be to take a step back, grab a glass of wine, and think about what you want out of life. Do you want to be a career woman who climbs the ladder, or do you want to be a part time stay at home mom? Find a way to make the money you need, and enjoy the life you live. If you’re in a situation where you really can’t leave your current job for financial reasons, look for things that you enjoy about your work. Focus on the ways you can improve and better yourself so you can be an asset to your company, and that in itself is rewarding. And remember that even working for yourself isn’t always glamorous. When you work for yourself, the job never really ends. And although rewarding, it can be daunting. Just remember the grass isn’t always greener.
What role does validation and recognition play in your career path? Does it give you motivation to keep going?
Validation and recognition used to play a huge role. I judged my success based on it. It’s still a struggle I still deal with. But I try to look elsewhere for motivation.
How do you make time for it all?
What does balance mean to you? I for sure don’t have this figured out! Balance means that I make my list of priorities and try to stick to them. Making time for Jesus, my husband, and my son first and foremost is my goal. It’s difficult not to spend all my time on my phone though, answering e-mails and making to-do lists. Setting boundaries with work is important, and small term goals help a lot (for example, leaving my phone downstairs after 7PM).
That’s the jackpot – molding those two things together: making an impact alongside making a living. I can’t think of a better professional goal.
Why is it so important for women to have professional goals?
As women, we bring a lot to the table, and I can’t imagine not pursuing professional goals (no matter how small or large). It’s my prerogative as a wife and mother to bring a set of money making skills to the table, while making an impact with that set of skills. That’s the jackpot – molding those two things together: making an impact alongside making a living. I can’t think of a better professional goal.
What is a unique experience you’ve been able to have because of your job?
That you wouldn’t get if you hadn’t stepped outside your comfort zone? In the thick of growing my production company, I was able to travel to South America and Europe for shooting documentary films and photography. My skillset has been strengthened in coordinating and leadership as I’ve been afforded the opportunity to manage a large production crew on a few occassions. Had I gone a safer route of working in the corporate world, I might not have had these diverse opportunities. Was it hard and difficult to navigate at times? YES. Worth it? YES.