Today we’d like to introduce you to Savanah Alvarez.
Hi Savanah, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I started photography during my undergrad while studying in Santa Cruz where I focused my photography in emotions. Specifically ones that are hard to talk about such as PTSD, depression, anxiety and so on. I loved showcasing real raw emotions from people’s lives that weren’t “pretty” to talk about. That’s where I fell in love. Taking photos and telling stories through them. After I graduated, I came back home to East LA and ended up pregnant. During the time, I felt very lonely and wanted to capture this amazing time in my life so I took a lot of self-portraits. I also asked my boyfriend to travel with me to different places like Joshua Tree, Arizona, Nevada and all throughout California to getaway before the baby arrived. Of course, we took lots of photos and got all dressed up to be extra about it. I shot our maternity photos on my own. I deeply fell in love with the mixture of being in an adventure, going through a life adventure and landscapes. So while I was pregnant, I started to take other photos too. I thought, why not help others with capturing their moments in life too, especially a better way than with your cellphone as a selfie or at random times wherever. Why not give people some nice quality photos to hang in their home to remember the adventure.
So for almost four years now (hold old my son will be) I have been documenting adventures. Not only my own but others too. I shoot everything from graduation, family, maternity, couples, engagements, weddings big and small, elopements, adventure sessions and so much more! I absolutely love it. My favorite sessions are elopements because of my love for travel and landscapes as well as intimate weddings because of all the close-knit love BUT I still am obsessed with maternity sessions. They always hold a special place in my heart since that’s how I began capturing a different kind of real raw emotion. Oh and when I decided to come up with a business name, I was stuck. Everyone had photos in their name and their actual name too so it was hard but then I decided to name my business after my son. That’s how Hearted By Gray became. Established in 2017 (his birth year) because that’s when it all started. My maternity self-portrait sessions, taking other’s photos and just documenting everything. I try to make every session filled with love and laughter and get to see the world which is the one true thing I ever saw myself doing as a kid. They always ask you “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and all I ever said was travel. Not sure of what I was going to do but I knew I wanted to see the world and I am lucky that I live that dream. I guess we can say that if it wasn’t for my son, I wouldn’t be a photographer (at least the kind I am today).
I also recently lost my mom to cancer during the pandemic and I can not explain how much more motivated it has made me to tell everyone how important it is to have sessions with your loved ones so you can have nice photos of them too. Sometimes we forget to do that and end up with cellphone photos or just random photos that when things like this happen, you appreciate having nice photos to remember them by. Now I don’t mean always do a photo session. Maybe once a year for fall or mother’s day or father’s day but to always take photos at home as much as you can. A lot of people have good quality cameras in their pockets or even just like me and it’s always important to capture as much as you can. I think losing my mom opened my eyes to the real meaning of why I started shooting. I wanted to document everything and of course, you get happy and lost in all the beauty of photos but looking back on memories and times in your life are forever. She was my biggest and I miss her like crazy but she pushed me to grow so much more that I know she would be proud of where I am now. I am just a real person who cares. Cares about you, your adventure in life and want to help document that time in the best way I can.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Being a photographer has definitely not been a smooth road at all. I think realizing my worth and not being afraid to ask what I am worth because I have a family of my own to feed and take care of so I had to learn to say no to people. Also, because this is the career path I am trying to make for myself and since I invest so much money into myself, I think that the work I also put out is good that having to be a businesswoman too has been a new learning experience. It’s not as easy as people think when you say you’re a photographer. Most people think you just take a picture by pressing one button and boom, you’re done but there is so much more to it that people don’t see. You are curating lots of photos and in my case, over a thousand just for my regular sessions, editing a large amount because I am such a generous gallery giver it’s almost up to 200 photos for one session sometimes more, imagine for weddings and elopements! WAY WAY MORE.
You also have to learn how to be your own accountant, marketing team and learn social media to get the best SEO and create a website and be on all the trending social media accounts and do things like Reels and TikTok videos. There’s just so much more to it behind the scenes that definitely asking for what I am worth took a lot from me. I still think I might be too generous in my prices but I also want to balance being affordable for my clients because I care so much about documenting their stories. There’s just a lot to it. Another bump in the road is comparing yourself to others. I am not going to lie I still do this from time to time where I wonder why I am not getting as many booking as others or wondering if my work is good or not. It’s just something that comes up especially when on Instagram and you see all these gorgeous photos and you’re just like “WOW”. But every bump in the road takes time to fix. I invested in myself a lot from equipment to education to mentorships and more that it has just helped me become better and better and I know with time I will only improve so much more.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I specialize in intimate weddings, adventurous elopements and maternity sessions. This doesn’t mean I don’t capture everything else because I do, it’s just something I am more excited to shoot. I want to say I am known for my more moody style but I could be wrong. I feel like that’s everyone’s own interpretation. It could be my outgoing personality. There are some sessions where my clients and I are just laughing the whole time and not regular laughing. I am talking about your abs hurting kind of laughing. Or it could be my landscape shots with my clients and the beautiful landscape. I am not sure but I hope it’s something awesome. I am most proud of my relationships with my clients. Some have become dear friends and I am most thankful for that. I think that’s what also sets me apart is the good times we have that you just want to take more photos with me, hang out or just talk. It’s always more than a photoshoot.
Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
What helped me was investing in myself by finding education in The Heart University where I was then exposed to a group of photographers who help each other. From there, I was able to do some swap sessions, edit and hang out together and just make some great friends. I think just reaching out to people who inspire you and who you want to work with doesn’t hurt. The worst thing they can do is say “no” or leave you on read (which has happened to me plenty of times) but don’t let that stop you. There are some amazing people out there who want to help you.
- $250 Any kind of photo session
- $500 Adventure Session
- $1500 Intimate Wedding
- $800 Elopement
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: https://www.heartedbygray.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heartedbygray/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/heartedbygray/