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Meet Rachael Thompson of Rachael Thompson Photography

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachael Thompson.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Storytelling runs through my blood. From the time I could write, I kept a journal, crafting stories about my experiences and my community, and unlocking a passion that would eventually lead to a 15-year career in investigative journalism. Those years taught me how to listen and observe, how to pursue and unveil the truth — not just facts, but insights into our joys, fears, ambitions and aspirations — and how to trust myself and my instincts.

But while I started this journey with ink and paper, my compulsion to get closer to each person and place I encountered drew me toward my camera. As a child, I documented friends, family and events with a purple Le Clic camera. By the time I was in college, that plastic tool had been replaced by a Nikon DSLR, and quick visits to the one-hour photo had evolved into long hours passionately developing film in the darkroom.

A decade later, my DSLR would become digital and I would spend just as many hours processing images with computer software. The moments I’ve captured with these tools tell the stories of people I love, people I don’t know, and new experiences and adventures, from Buenos Aires to Bogota, Auckland to San Juan. Even as a journalist, I sometimes used my camera as another tool in my storytelling arsenal, and at one point, I started shooting portraits and weddings on the side just for fun and extra cash.

When I moved from Miami to Los Angeles in 2012 with my husband and newborn daughter, I decided to leave journalism. I didn’t realize then that the universe would guide me down a whole new path. We didn’t know anyone here, so I spent a lot of time playing with my camera and photographing my daughter and my new environment. One day, a neighbor — a broke actor and model who had become a friend — begged me to shoot his headshots because he couldn’t afford to update them. I was reluctant at first because headshots are a major thing in L.A., and they weren’t MY thing. But having seen my work, he insisted, and I accepted the challenge.

My friend eventually booked a global commercial with those headshots. Meanwhile, another neighbor, a fashion designer, saw those photos and hired me to shoot her lines, develop and execute brand campaigns for both of her apparel companies, and build an in-house studio from scratch. This became a defining moment for me, and I knew that I would do this professionally for the rest of my life. So, during this time, I invested the first $10,000 for a new camera and computer equipment, built a website and formally launched a business.

Then, as if right on cue, yet another neighbor — an experienced network television producer — suggested I try working as a set still photographer for films and TV shows (which I didn’t know was an actual job!) and hired me to do some work on the show she was filming at the time. I slipped into this work comfortably because it combined the anonymity of photojournalism with technical skills and artistry. And you kind of have to be a ninja, too!

Since founding my business more than five years ago, I’ve primarily worked as a commercial, portrait and set/unit still photographer. My images have been published in the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, People,  Hollywood Reporter and LA Yoga, and have appeared on billboards, album covers and posters. But this year, I’ve taken the boldest step of all — finding my voice as an artist, actively pursuing my editorial vision and creating art that empowers both women and others who are underrepresented in our society. I still seek the truth in everything I do.

Whether I’m shooting cover art, a brand campaign or an intimate portrait, or just making art that speaks truth to power, I strive to capture and reveal the authentic stories of everyone and everything in front of my lens. My current project, Warrior Woman, is an ongoing series dedicated to revealing the profound beauty, intense passion and raw power of women.

At every turn throughout this journey, I have learned, grown and strived to perfect my craft and find my voice as an artist. I’ve allowed myself to be open to new opportunities and challenges, I’ve conquered fears, and, I’ve taken each step in its own time — purchasing new equipment only as I need it to tackle the next challenge, experimenting with new techniques, and building a portfolio and brand I am proud of.

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?
I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a smooth road in my life. In fact, my motto is “no grit, no pearl,” because every path I’ve ever pursued was rife with difficult challenges and personal strife that I’ve had to overcome.

I’m not gonna lie: It wasn’t easy changing careers and starting a new business in a city where I didn’t know anyone, and it isn’t easy being a woman or a mom in a male-dominated industry. But, as with most things in life, the struggle is where you find out who you really are and define your purpose.

This is actually what drove me to create my ongoing Warrior Woman series. As a woman, I’ve found that both traditional and social media distort who we really are. This project aims to upend that dynamic by giving a voice to the person in front of my lens because I think it’s important to show women in a different, more complex and more sincere light than we are typically portrayed.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Rachael Thompson Photography is a full-service image-making studio specializing in commercial, portrait, editorial and set/unit still photography. From concept to delivery, I develop and execute campaigns — including art direction, photography and editing — for brands, people, media and entertainment.

At my core, I am a storyteller who is committed to capturing the true nature of the people and brands I work with — who they are authentically and who they aspire to be. I strive to make photographs that make viewers feel something, and I care as much about helping my subjects flourish within the theme of the shoot as I do about crafting the end image.

Maintaining their trust is critical, and many clients have told me they’ve never felt more comfortable expressing themselves in front of a camera than mine, and I think that’s the highest praise in this profession. I take that to heart because my goal is to reveal the true essence of my subjects.

What were you like growing up?
When I was born, my grandfather told my mom, “You are going to have to break that child’s will.” She never did. I’ve always been strong-willed, independent, intensely curious and fiercely determined. Also, I obsess over details because details matter.

Pricing:

  • Headshots and portraits start at $500
  • Commercial and branding photography starts at $1,500

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Main photo: Alex Lombardi

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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