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Rising Stars: Meet Sarah Yates

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarah Yates.

Hi Sarah, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
Growing up, I always wanted to work in HR or at least in a corporate setting—that’s what my dad did and I wanted to be just like him. I studied Interpersonal and Rhetorical Communication in college, did multiple internships and had a few jobs in digital marketing, and was set to go into the corporate world. A week after graduating in 2018, I started an internship (which quickly led to a job) in digital marketing for a real estate broker. Around that same time, my boyfriend (now husband) saw that I was taking a small interest in photography. I always loved the idea of storytelling but wasn’t sure what medium to use to tell stories. He encouraged me to start learning more about photography and within four months of picking up a camera, I had my first paying clients! By the spring of 2019, I was still working full time in digital marketing while balancing an ever-growing photography business.

In March of 2019, I took the leap of faith and quit my corporate job to pursue photography full time. I started out doing senior, family, and couples photographs. I realized that I was the most passionate about couples’ photography and telling their love story. I had no plans to shoot any weddings in 2019, but somehow ended up booking two weddings—I absolutely loved them. By the fall of 2019, I was marketing wedding photography with the hopes of doing at least ten weddings in 2020. Obviously, 2020 had quite a few unexpected twists and turns, but I ended up photographing 14 different weddings! Although this year was extremely difficult at times, I was able to slow down and invest in education, spend time honing my craft, and telling some of the most joyful stories of 2020.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
2020 was supposed to be “my year.” And as cheesy as that sounds, it’s true! It was my first full year in the wedding photography industry and I was ready to take on the world. I could never have anticipated that for months during my first full year, I would be spending copious amounts of time in my apartment during a shelter in place mandate. Instead of just sitting around during this time, I decided that I needed to make the most of my time. I learned new forms of digital marketing for my business, invested in photography education, and with the help of MoxieGal Marketing, I completely rebranded my business. 2020 presented many struggles, but I know that myself and my business are stronger because of it.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I’m your go-to beach photographer! I focus on photographing couples and weddings at the beach. I’ve found the beach brings me so much joy and so I thought, “why not spend all my time working here?!” It’s the best decision I’ve ever made. There’s something special about watching the beautiful colors of the sunset develop over the ocean while capturing my couple’s love stories unfold. Besides being a beach photographer, I absolutely love getting to know my couples and their story so I can accurately capture their love. All of my wedding packages include an engagement session for two reasons: First, so they can have incredible photographs for save the dates and for prints, and second, so I can get to know them. Not only do I listen and learn about their love story, but I also focus on figuring out how they feel the most comfortable in front of the camera. If it’s not comfortable or natural for them to do something like piggyback rides, I am not going to have them do that! But if one of their favorite things to do is get in a tickle fight, you know that I’m going to give that as a prompt! For me, it’s all about getting to know their relationship and their love story so that I can accurately capture that at their engagement session, but also on their wedding day.

Risk taking is a topic that people have widely differing views on – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
I would have never considered myself to be a risk-taker, but looking back on my life, taking risks is what got me to where I am today. I grew up in Minnesota and never planned on leaving! I decided to take the leap of faith and head out to California for college, where I knew absolutely no one. Six years later, here I am as a beach photographer on the coast of Southern California! The other major risk I took was quitting my full-time job in 2019. I wasn’t entirely sure that my photography business was going to be successful, and it felt like a huge risk. I told myself that I had one year to pursue photography as a career and that if it didn’t work, I would go back into corporate marketing. It’s been a year and a half of hard work, dedication, and many long workdays, but quitting my corporate job was the best risk I’ve ever taken. I am so thankful that I’ve had the support of my friends and family in this job. I am so thankful that I get to do the job that I am so passionate about, and I can’t wait to continue to capture love stories.

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