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Meet Ashley Strong Smith of Ashley Strong Photography in San Clemente

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashley Strong Smith.

Ashley, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Hello friends, I’m Ashley Strong Smith, the oh-so grateful photographer and owner of Ashley Strong Photography! I just love love. I love pure love. I love heart-pulsing, body vibrating, soul piercing, I couldn’t be more grateful for you kind of love! I love love in a way that love is the answer to all things. Love is the pulse between all of us. Love within the intertwined union of a couple, love wrapped around an ever growing family, love of oneself and the expansiveness that life is at this very moment. Love, is the vibration that connects all of us! And for the blessing, the honor, the privilege of getting to document and share so many vibrantly blissful and unique forms of love, I’m expansively grateful.

Originally, from the Southern part of California. Raised in a small town called Oceanside. Sprouted in the community of Long Beach and found my wings as an adventurer of this world. Flying my wings, expanding across the country, into various islands and tropical environments, through Central America, on the Southeast edge of Africa, landing on Mafia Island. And a lot of South Africa in-between as that’s where the roots of my second home live seeing as my hubby is South African.

I’m married to an oh-so-very handsome South African, Dan and we live with our two kitties, a full Siamese, Zaleo (meaning today in Swahili) and a Savannah-Bengal mix, Askari (meaning protector or guard in Swahili)! We’re nestled in the hills of San Clemente and love being by the beach!

I’ve been documenting time capsules from as long as I could remember. Just after college, I started mentoring under an extremely talented wedding photographer in San Diego! From there, documenting was no longer just a passion, but that which I wanted to turn into a profession! After traveling around the world and returning back to South California, Ashley Strong Photography was launched full time in April of 2015!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I’m a true believer that everything happens for a reason. The wins, the loses, the strengths, the weakness, the breakthroughs, the setbacks. Each moment is a beautifully anticipated time to truly be present, learn, reflect and as a result ultimately grow. I’m very mindful in that the more time I spend diving deeper into myself as a soul in this lifetime, the deeper space I create to be fully present with #aspcommunity and values in which ASP has been built upon. Therefore, enabling me to truly understand my clients and the depths of our photographic exchanges! With this, as in life, some days are so incredibly peaceful, productive and smooth. Other days, can be exhausting and challenging!

Please tell us about Ashley Strong Photography.
I’m someone captivated by life and the experiences that occur within those moments. Deep within my soul lives the want, the need, the passion for human connection. Those intimate moments where a friendship, a relationship forms. Me, seeing, honoring, documenting you, as you. The beauty within your uniqueness. Being inspired by the Author, Dave Eggers in one of my all-time favorite books, “What is the What.” He tells a story. The story of Valentino Achak Deng, a young man, once a refugee from Sudan, now a citizen of the United States. His vantage point, well it was told from the voice of Valentino Achak Deng in what would be the climax of this story, the book. Eggers painted the pictures so vibrantly, so passionately. A story. A true story within this life time lives by another soul, yet described as his own.

It clicked.

Me, yes me. I am drawn, connected to, put on this earth to tell stories. That story of you. My vantage point is this moment. Where you are in your life. Right here, right now. An engagement. You’re wedding. An anniversary. Documenting your new or ever growing family. That business you just started, are revamping or the personal triumph of you being the best possible version of you!

It is my whole hearted commitment to capture you in your best possible light sharing the natural beauty, euphoria, pure joy, the laughter, the tears, the wildly candid moments when you are skin glistens. I do this through and with confidence, transparency, an inspired heart and intimate connection. Your session is designed through a unique vantage point of posed expressions interwoven with naturalness. Your desires, space and time always of value, always honored because quite frankly you being you, creates space for me to be me.

Our photographic exchange is that time the very time for me to witness, take in, capture, process and share that every moment, that very part of your story. My communication will always be honest, sincere, and humbly truthful. As your connection, your love, your support and mirrored vulnerability will be cherished, valued, heard and held dear. ​It is my honor to document your story and to tell it, share it, through the most vibrantly unique vantage point.

Ashley Strong Photography’s foundation is based on these values of which are shared with each and every photographic exchange:
1. Down-to-earth, caring, sincere, truthful, passionate and fun-loving.
2. Being uniquely beautiful, both inside and out as this beauty comes from honoring the self,
creating time and space to both feel and look good.
3. A desire to dive deep into understanding the self-creating space for confidence, excitement and dynamic self-expression!
4. Believing in oneself, in genuine love, sincere friendships and transparent relationships.
5. Having a partner that is a best friend and no matter how long you’ve shared this exchange,
there is this giddiness hearing each other’s names.
6. Valuing great communication and thorough information.
7. Having a smile that is welcoming, a heart that is radiant and a love for oneself and those in our lives that is contagious.
8. Excitement to connect, share exchanges and meet new people.
9. Each day is beautifully anticipated as it is an opportunity to acknowledge, honor and share deep life enhancing connections.
10. Ultimate trust in that our photographic exchange will be one of professionalism
wrapped around vibrantly-fun, heart-centered, friendship-focused, dynamically blissful time capsule creation!

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
In January of 2013, I embarked on a journey that has stretched, enhanced and brought a deep vibrancy to every aspect of the woman I am today. I joyfully paid to volunteer teach English at a secondary school on the remote island of Mafia Island, off the east coast of Tanzania, Africa. I taught 132 students ranging from 12 to 18 years old rotating amongst myself and two other teachers.

Quite frankly, I fell in love. I fell in love with learning from my students, with being a teacher, with being a part of a community so completely different than that of what I had known. I fell in love with a handsome South African who is now my husband. I fell in love with being surrounded my by nature, with being able to wake each and each morning with the rising sun, ending each day just a few short hours after the setting of the sun. I fell in love with the Swahili language and the culture that carried that very language.

While living on the island, my space consisted of a quaint concrete walled room in a lovely local families’ home where I lived with the second head master, his wife and their son Raymond who was 3 1/2 at the time. The connection, the bond, the friendship that formed with this little soul was so uniquely special. He filled my days with so much light, so much love, so many questions, just as many answers, and so much pure joy. Our communication consisted of tickling, swinging and laughing as there was a deep language barrier. Most evenings after I would run, Raymond awaited my return on the front porch, would sprint to me for some swinging time and then say “picha!” I would go inside, grab my camera and Raymond and I would take a long walk around the neighborhood taking pictures, pointing, giggling and laughing, truly just being in the moment.

My weeks were filled with teaching English Monday through Friday with alternating streams. I vividly remember moments being absolutely salama (peaceful) and a smile not leaving my face, while other moments were a bit frustrating and exhausting as the language barrier made it hard to say all that I wanted to my students. I wanted to share with the community to tell them how much I truly cared. My journal from this time reflected constant reminders. Reminders that words are not always needed, that it was my actions, my energy, my nonverbal communication, me being fully present, that’s is what truly matted.

My school was less than a two minute walk from our doorstep. I walked along a dirt road to my cook and new friends house for morning chai and lessons preparations for the day. After school, my Tanzanian teaching partner and I walked back to the very house we began our morning and ate deliciously cooked local meals by our enthusiastic and loving chief. The food, the richness, the colors, the rawness, the culture, it vibrates loudly in my mind. Chai ya asubuhi (breakfast) was by far my favorite meal as it consisted of either mandazi (a glazed biscuit) or chapati (a tortilla like bread), mayai (eggs), peanut butter, chai (tea), kahawa ya rangi (black coffee), embe (mango) and ndizi (banana).

Every evening around sunset, I ran around my neighborhood enabling me to reflect on the events of the day all the while physically and mentally regenerating and preparing for that which was. Runs were followed by bucket showers, yes, it was literally a bucket of cold water with a cup. Each bucket shower became more and more meditative. After mine and Ramyond’s evening walk, we’d sit on the front porch, he would color, I would write. Something sometimes the roles changed. These days, writing came very easily. The witnessing, the understanding, the fullness, the pure happiness, the euphoria of truly living vibrated my entire being. This, this is what living truly meant. This is what happy truly looked like. Contentment, it was a stale feeling of the past.

Throughout my time on the island, the word “community” took on whole new meaning. I was invited into so many people homes, just to sit in their living room saying all but a few words, just enjoying being in the company of one another. The community, the vibrancy, the purity, it was so inspiring. There was a synergy. Everyone just seemed to work together, to help one another, to look after each other. There was a hamna shida (no problem) way of life, where people were accepted for who they truly are and not by what they do or what possessions they own. The pace of life, it was very slow. People spent all day just being in the company of others, smiling, sharing, laughing, and telling stories.

Living and teaching on that island opened my eyes, my heart, my curiosity, my acceptance in many, many ways that unfolds daily and I know will continue to discover. While being engulfed in the Tanzanian culture, I observed, I listened, I explored, and I discovered unfamiliar facets of my very being through that of being fully present with the community around me. You see, this community radiated compassion through opening their homes and hearts to others. There was a trust, an honesty, a purity, a life enhancing I’m-flying-my-wings-and-really- living exchange. I am humbly grateful for every aspect of this experience as it challenged me, stretched me, expanded my understanding of myself and lead me into the humbled woman I am today.

Upon returning to the States, I wrote, “I can simply say I am absolutely in love with life. I have never felt so incredible, so beautiful, so free, so “me.” I have discovered a new me, a grown me, an open me. A me so full of love, light and gratitude. A me, so humbled. A me, thirsty for more.” My soul had been stretched.
My heart had been opened.
My purpose has been discovered.


  • Wedding Collections – Starting at $2300
  • Engagement Sessions – $550
  • Lifestyle Sessions – $525
  • Family Session – $525

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Photo of Ashley Strong Smith : Marcy Browe Photography
All other photos : Reflections of Ashley Strong Photography

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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