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Meet Joy Portinga

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joy Portinga.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I started photography in high school (San Gabriel High School) because my friend Eric just got a new camera and we would go out on photoshoots for fun and take photos of each other. I learned some basics of posing, directing others as well as using a camera. However, what impacted me the most was the good time and personal connection that developed from taking photos together. I learned just about everything about photography from Youtube. I’ve utilized some of my coursework in media production and business at UC San Diego, but for the most part I started off as self-taught. I’ve been mentored by Megan Guerrero, who has helped me hone in my photography skills and voice. 2021 was my first year photographing full-time, and it exceeded all of my wildest goals and dreams. I’m excited for what the future holds.

As a small business, I resonate with serving people more than being a photographer. Photography is just the best medium for me to make a difference in people’s lives and make them happy. I’m honored to be invited into intimate moments of people’s lives and celebrate once in a lifetime moments. I love learning about cultures from all over the world and how to tell my clients’ stories. I am incredibly motivated by the feedback and encouraging words that I hear from clients, friends and family.

My passion lies within telling stories of diverse communities — especially queer, people of color, religious and cultural stories. Through capturing each couple’s story, I have the privilege of sharing their love with the world. Representation matters so much to me as a queer, Taiwanese-American, follower of Christ. I want to be able to hold space for people to live authentically and be themselves. I want the world to look at each couple’s love, and be able to see themselves in it.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
This is my first year photographing full time (2021). It took me about four years of building a client base through graduation shoots at UCSD, pivoting into couples and weddings, building relationships with other wedding industry professionals, and working with Amari Productions to reach where I am today. One of my greatest lessons has been affirming my worth as a professional outside of my age. I turned 22 this year, and I often feel as if I have to hide my age in order to appear more experienced or professional. However, I’ve reframed this perspective to appreciate the enthusiasm and fresh eyes I bring to every project because of my youth. Beyond this, sharing my insecurities with my colleagues has helped me learn that professionalism and quality of work is not tied to age.

My greatest challenge has been battling the internal comparison game. Sometimes I get wrapped up in seeing other amazing photographers’ work, and wish that I were like them. I can look at my images, see everything that I want to change, and become mentally paralyzed.  It’s difficult to admit, but sometimes I will hate every single picture that I take.  I often have to pause, remind myself of the unique angle and value that I bring, and affirm my own work. This can be especially challenging because of social media and the public nature of sharing my photographs. It feels as if I am sharing myself to be judged by the world. However, recognizing how I feel and seeing how it affects my self-worth continues to challenge me to become a better photographer and even more importantly be kinder to myself. I know that my work has value.

I share my inner-critic in this interview because I hope my vulnerability will help other creative business owners feel more seen and likewise know the value in their work.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I am a wedding, elopement, couples & portrait photographer. I specialized in this type of photography because of the impact and personal relationships I can cultivate with my clients. I’m originally from LA, now I’m based in San Diego but I love traveling all over! So far, I’ve been to Washington, Sedona, Arizona, and I’m photographing a wedding in New York this March! I’m proud of being able to connect with almost everybody and getting people to open up and be vulnerable in front of a camera. Last year I was named one of the top 9 elopement photographers in San Diego by Peerspace!

What matters the most to me in my work is having fun and capturing authenticity, beautiful imagery, and diversity. I care for each and every person that I meet and how I tell their stories. I try to spend as much time as I can connecting with them to best highlight their individuality.  I hold Zoom meetings with each and every one of my clients. That connection point is the most important part of my business because I want to be more than a photographer and become a friend.  I love putting on music while I’m on shoot to create a lively atmosphere. Recently, in my work, I’m trying to find the perfect balance between guiding clients and creating space to cultivate natural candid moments for couples to fully be themselves. I’d like to say that I’m pretty good at letting people be themselves ✌️

Any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general?
Don’t be afraid to contact people you admire, even if they may not have time to mentor you in the way you would like, they will remember you and it makes their day better. Last year, I had the privilege of assisting Gabriel Conover on a styled editorial fashion shoot in LA, simply from responding to one of his Instagram stories! It was amazing to get to meet him and especially see how his creative mind works. He is on to great things! Advice that I’ve heard is to always offer to give to people more than what you’re asking from them. Kindness will return back to you. In photography, I’ve made some incredible friends from going to styled shoots. These are portfolio-building events for creatives to work together to create content for their brand and attract clientele. From these events, I’ve met new colleagues and friends in the wedding industry. Don’t be afraid to tell other people when they are doing a great job! It’s easy to want to feel really exclusive with our art and work, but the scarcity mindset immediately sets us back from being open to collaboration and connection. I like to comment on my friends’ posts and respond to their Instagram stories.

Join Facebook groups! Some photographers will advertise about needing second shooters there, which is a great introduction to the wedding industry. Genuinely care about other people whether they are your clients or a mentor. If you ever have someone’s time, ask really meaningful questions to them as well. Some of my favorites include: What have you been learning lately? What inspires you and your work? What sets you apart in this industry? What advice would you give me as a newer creative?

Ultimately, be yourself!! The creative industry thrives when people are comfortable in being themselves. Be a team player and collaborative. It’s easy as a photographer to think that we are really important to a wedding day, but it’s a team effort! Make space as well as taking space. Lastly, be humble, there is so so so much that I have yet to learn too.


  • Wedding/Elopement – Starting at $750 for 2 hours of coverage
  • Couples – Starting at $300
  • Portraits – Starting at $250

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