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Meet Jessica Spinella of FLY Photography in San Gabriel Valley and La Verne

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Spinella.

Jessica, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve always been an artist. My mom still talks about a drawing I did of myself at age 4 of my reflection in our family pool. Apparently, this was impressive to her.

I studied graphic design at Biola University and post-graduation worked freelance in several LA based design firms. I’m very type A, so the lack of steady paychecks was an issue for me. My roommate at the time was getting her teaching credential and that seemed fun, I figured I could teach art and enjoy it for a few years. So I went back to school for my Masters and a teaching credential at UCI and that landed me teaching photography at a high school in Orange County which was SO FUN!

As a teacher of photography for several years prior to starting FLY, I began to feel this pull to creating/designing art myself. I hated that I was teaching but not creating too! I was so focused on showing students how to take great images, edit and so on, and on being a good teacher, that I had allowed myself to get really sucked into that and to stop *making* on my own.

Around that same time, the girls whom I was mentoring at my church were graduating high school. A few of them started asking me if I would do some photos for them for their graduation. I agreed to do it, but only if we could make them look super editorial and not cheesy. And then everything sort of just feel into place.

I started doing professional photography in 2011, messing around in all sorts of genres, but really found myself drawn in to High School Senior photography. I attended a TON of workshops and business strategy sessions with some incredible photographers/mentors/industry leaders and eventually really found a good groove in business. A year or two after I started shooting professionally, I became really focused on my brand. From there FLY Photography was created.

I have, since its 2012 birth, photographed over 130 Seniors, which probably doesn’t seem like that many, but my business model is boutique, small business, super personal, lots of individual attention, so that’s a lot for me. Nothing about what I do is cookie cutter, its highly individualized and specific for each client. It’s a real-life super model experience and it is SO FUN! I’m super passionate about it and my clients know that. And BONUS: I do all of my own design for my clients, which has been SUCH a fun use of my design skills.

I still shoot other things, recently some really fun corporate headshots, and lots of band headshots, as my husband is a professional musician. I’m so very grateful for getting to *do* as well as *teach*.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Is owning and running a business ever a smooth road for anyone? Seriously, it has been SUCH a learning curve. I knew how to shoot, how to edit, how to design, but the day to day/back house stuff is 90% of owning a business. It was an enormous undertaking to figure out how to actually run a successful business. And by successful, I guess I mean profitable.

Many people are a bit overwhelmed when I explain to them my pricing. Overwhelmed because what I do is not inexpensive, quite the opposite. The reality of it is that in order to create one of a kind artwork featuring people as the subject, it takes time, creativity, and a lot of patience and planning, not to mention overhead. So for me, helping families understand the investment, and allowing myself to really price my work at a price-point that seems out of this world to some, but that allows me to actually have an income from my work that is reasonable, was a big step. I have absolutely limited my clientele because of price, but you know what, I’m SO ok with that. I understand the value I bring, and so do my clients. I think pricing and honestly, learning how to sell my work, was one of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome immediately in business.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with FLY Photography (Free the Lovely You) – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
FLY Photography specializes in high end, creative, editorial, high school senior portrait experiences and custom designed one of a kind products (albums, graduation announcements, canvases, etc.).

What sets FLY apart in the biggest way is that products are designed for each individual and are one of a kind. I create a custom logo and print package for each client’s collection of images and products. Designs are never re-used, which is really unique in the industry, as many photographers simply purchase templates and drag/drop their images.

I’m most proud of the unique experience that is a natural byproduct of this type of photography. SO many of my clients have been told that they are nothing special. It’s absolutely incredible to see how all of that changes after they go to hair and makeup, have me shoot their images, then see how insanely gorgeous they are. I LOVE that these young girls grow in confidence through this experience and that I get the opportunity to invest in them at such a pivotal time in their lives.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Well, until this past summer, FLY was located in Fullerton CA. In July of 2016, my family and I moved out to La Verne, so I am eager to get the ball rolling in my new community and spread the word about what I do here in the foothills!

It will be a bit of an exciting challenge to start re-building in this new space, but it’s an exciting challenge!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jessica Spinella

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