#FollowFriday: Sandra from SandraChile Photography

Happy Friday, homies! Today, we continue our #FollowFriday series with a spunky lady that is making the world a better and funnier place, one click at a time.

Sandra, owner of SandraChile, is a wedding photographer based in Pittsburgh that specializes in alternative, fun couples who like to do things a little differently.

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Source: SandraChile.com

We had the chance to talk to her about the joy of out-of-the-box (and green!) photos, her experience growing up in Chile, and how she uses her business to give back. This is what she had to say…

How did you get started as a photographer? Was it something you always wanted to do?

I always liked pictures, but when you grow up in a developing country, like I did, being a photographer is not “a thing”.

I went to college for visual communication and when I came to live in the US, photography became a language to explain my friends back home about my new life; pumpkin pies, bonfires, or the concept of a white christmas (all things that we don’t have down there) took a different meaning through my pictures.

Little by little, I became close friends with photography and I developed a business out of it. I suddenly realized that wedding parties and love stories where my favorite. And can you blame me? Partying to celebrate love is always the best!

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Source: @SandraChileP

Tell me more about how you keep your business green and sustainable!

My business has a giant emphasis on ethics and sustainability because I genuinely care about others and the planet.

Photography is not a very green practice on its own. First, consider all the chemicals that come together to coat a picture, album, or photo book, and their residual effects. Then we add the deforestation that takes place to create the paper and packaging: Boxes, tissue papers, paper bags, ribbons, plastic… the list goes on and on! Do you follow me? The impact just one person can have is massive.

Most people don’t know this, but the industry of photographic products can be so toxic that workers can end up with severe skin burns. This issue gets magnified when photographic labs are outsourced to developing countries where safety and sustainability are not a priority.

This is why I am proud to be one of the few photographers in the country who offers exclusively vegetarian and sustainably-sourced products.

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Source: @SandraChileP

When it comes to prints, I have handpicked labs who are environmentally friendly and use plant based inks sourced from locally harvested soybeans. In addition, I do not sell any mass-produced items. Instead, I prefer items made in countries where labor laws are in place to protect workers. In fact, most of the the items I sell are proudly made in the USA, prioritizing collaboration with small business.

What inspired you to be a charitable vendor?

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Source: SandraChile.com

Part of it has to do with the fact that I didn’t have a good upbringing. Not only did I grow up in a poor country that was recently coming out of a dictatorship, with an unstable socio-economical situation, but I also didn’t have a loving and supportive family by my side.

I ended up homeless at the age of 16. I am where I am today mostly because of the compassionate people God put along my life journey.

Growing up like this made me realize that every second can be used to make a difference in someone’s life, and I have chosen to make that difference particularly using my business.

What do you do to give back? What type of charities do you support?

As part of the ethical standards I advocate for, my business donates a percentage of every wedding fee to Too Young To Wed, an organization started by a photographer that creates awareness about forced child marriage. That way, whenever someone books my services, they immediately become participant of this tremendous cause.

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Source: @SandraChileP

If someone cancels a wedding, instead of just walking away, I arrange for a charity photoshoot to take place that day. I ask the couple to send me to any charity organization near where the wedding would have taken place to take pictures for free. So while other vendors take that day as an opportunity to make more money, I make sure we fill that day with happiness.

Lastly, I put together goodie bags that I give away to every homeless person I meet. The bags contain basic travel-sized toiletries, water, and a meal that doesn’t need cooked. The funny thing is that usually I distribute the most bags whenever I’m on my way to shoot a wedding!

What are your favorite wedding photos to shoot?

My favorite wedding pictures are the ones that show raw, real emotions, particularly of people having fun. I strive to capture laughs, funny dances, drunk moments, and all of those awkward situations that other photographers avoid. That is my jam! I believe life is made of stories built around those moments, and as a photographer, nothing makes me happier than the thought of people gathering to enjoy and laugh at a picture I took.

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Source: SandraChile.com

Know a wedding vendor that’s going above and beyond to help others? Leave us a comment and we might feature them next time!

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#FollowFriday: Raven Shutley from YouAreRaven

Happy Friday, friends! Today, on our #FollowFriday series, we had the chance to talk to yet another amazing wedding vendor that is using her profession to give back.

Raven Shutley is an Atlanta-based photographer who is doing everything she can to minimize her business’s impact on our planet. Not only does she almost exclusively use eco-friendly and recycled materials, she is also an active supporter of charities such as Stand for Trees, a global grassroots organization that is intervening to halt deforestation.

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How did you get started as a photographer? Was it something you always wanted to do?

I’ve always had a strong drive to be an artist. I grew up obsessed with art in various forms – theatre, drawing, design, coloring, and then came editing and photography. Starting out as a photo editor in college landed me a job at Medieval Times in the photography department, and the love of actual photography just grew from there. I definitely never saw myself taking this path which is usually how love works, you know? It surprises you and yet feels like what you’ve been working towards it the whole time.

Tell us more about how you keep your business green!

Most everything I do is digital. If I can keep from using paper, I will. This is a personal choice that lends itself easily to my business, as well, as I tend to do all of my notes, contracts, and correspondence online. All of the products that I offer were carefully chosen; I prefer smaller companies that have sustainable practices and offer heirloom quality products, and choose recycled goods whenever possible!

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What inspired you to be a charitable vendor?

It was never something I set out to be but instead grew out of the things I’m passionate about. I’ve always been a fan of giving back whenever possible, and have donated to a number of different charities over the years. I’ve always had a passion for making the world a better place in whatever way I can, so it makes complete sense to me that I ended up being a charitable vendor.

What do you do to give back? What type of charities do you support?

The number one organization I support is Stand For Trees, and choosing this charity was a really easy choice considering my constant effort to live and run my business as green and eco-friendly as possible. When I found it, I knew I’d found something I wanted to actively support for the rest of my life. I do what I can with other charities as well – various ones depending on the project – and also just started including clutches from The Tote Project in all of my client welcome gifts! I’m so excited to be adding that in; ending human trafficking is another cause that’s really close to my heart.

What are your favorite wedding photos to shoot?

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My favorite wedding photos are the ones that involve adventure or raw emotion – or, in a perfect world, both! I’m all about capturing who people really are and what their love looks like, and if we can be somewhere breathtaking, especially when it involves nature and the outdoors, it’s the perfect mix.

You can see more of Raven’s work on her blog. If you want to book Raven for your special day, send her a message here.

Know a charitable wedding vendor who’s using their business to give back? Let us know in the comments and we might feature them next week!

#FollowFriday: Becki & Ryan Smith from Smith House Photography

TGIF, amirite? Today on our #FollowFriday series we talk to Becki Smith, one half of the Houston-based wedding photography duo, Smith House Photography

Becki and Ryan are all about giving back. In 2014, they donated all their business profits, a total of $12,000, to Living Water International. They also traveled to Nicaragua to build a water-well with their own hands, and sponsored another well that was built in the summer of 2015. They continue to support Living Water International and also donate portions of their proceeds to She Has Hope, an international organization that supports human trafficking victims and survivors.

Ok, the idea of a wife and husband photography power-duo is adorable. How did you guys decide to start your own business?

We love being a husband and wife team! But in full disclosure, we didn’t launch our business as such! Before we got engaged I was working a job that I loved, but that was also insanely consuming. We knew that 1am phone calls and getting called in on my only day off of the week was not how we wanted to start a marriage, and especially not how we wanted to raise a family. Our priorities were building a life together, traveling, and serving others; but our (total lack of) work-life balance was not reflecting that.

I had always loved photography; not just for the art, but also for the relationships with our clients and other vendors. Owning my own business also meant I got to set the hours and the workload, which truly just meant I could get on a plane to go to Colorado with my husband without getting a phone call that an employee hadn’t shown up and freaking out about whether or not we should still go. So I took a much more time-manageable position working 9-5 in an office and launched my photography business. Luckily, I didn’t have to work that 9-5 for very long before going “full-time photography”.

​Ryan started tagging along to engagement sessions to lug gear and coming to wedding days to assist me with lighting and the gear. It didn’t take long for me to realize I would much rather have him alongside me on a wedding day than anyone else. And he was fully on board with working together long-term. So he slowly started shooting. He has grown a ton from “stand here and push this button” to shooting alongside me, creating great images, and his most recent venture: learning to shoot with a prism.

We officially made the transition to “husband and wife team” last fall and we wouldn’t change it for the world!

View More: http://melissaenidphotography.pass.us/smithhousephotography
Becki & Ryan Smith giving us real #CoupleGoals
What are the best perks and biggest challenges to working with your spouse?

​There is nothing better than working with your best friend. We love being able to build a business together, but even more we are able to build a life together that we wouldn’t be able to do if we were working with anyone else. But truly, the best part of working together is getting to know all of our couples, to encourage them as they start their marriages, and to tell them that it is absolutely okay, normal, and expected that marriage is hard! And another major perk is getting to look up from my camera across the ceremony as our brides and grooms are saying their vows and fall in love with my husband all over again. We add to the vows we took at our own wedding just about every weekend!

The biggest challenge is separating life and business. We have couples that truly become our friends, so over dinner we start conversing with them as friends and then somehow end up talking about their gallery and what canvas to order. It also is hard sometimes to tell Ryan why I didn’t pick some of the images he took to be in the final gallery. Apparently “I just didn’t like it” doesn’t always fly!

What inspired you to be a charitable vendor?

​Serving others and giving our best is a theme that is wrapped fully into our lives, not just into our business. Our church is heavily involved with local and international missions and participates every year in Advent Conspiracy. During the 2013 Advent, I was spurred by the question of whether or not we were doing enough, whether our way of giving was truly impacting us and the way we lived our lives. So after a few brief conversations, and absolutely zero planning, Ryan and I decided to give everything from our business the following year to Living Water International.Ryan and becki on a water well trip to nicaragua

I had just photographed my first weddings (right before Ryan and I got married ourselves) and made nearly zero dollars. So while this definitely seemed like a radical move, we didn’t realize just how radical it was going to be. I was still working my full-time office job, but our photography business really took off and I ended up leaving the office halfway through the year. It was a huge leap of faith, but it truly was the best thing we ever did! Ever since then, we’ve made it a point to give back as much as we can.

That’s amazing! So, can you tell us a bit more about what you do to give back?

Our biggest commitment each year is to Living Water International. In 2014, we traveled to Nicaragua and were able to help in the hands-on drilling of a well! In 2015, we sponsored another well in Nicaragua. It is incredibly humbling to see your name on a life-giving source of water! Our goal for 2016 is to sponsor yet another well and travel to Central America to drill it ourselves!

Another organization we are also connected with is She Has Hope, an anti-human trafficking initiative in Nepal, Uganda, and the Philippines. We are on the advisory board for the organization and have hosted Happy Hours to benefit their Nepali rehabilitation home. She Has Hope was also the primary beneficiary of this year’s edition of The 24 Hour Project, which Ryan and I participated in.

What’s the secret to taking the perfect wedding photo?

View More: http://smithhousephoto.pass.us/smithhousestyledshootI don’t know that there is a single secret, but we have always found that our brides and grooms love images so much more when they are genuinely smiling, laughing, or reliving a moment! And in turn, we love these the most as well!

Our goal with our couples is always to get them comfortable in front of the camera and get them interacting with each other rather than feeling posed. We spend time to get to know them before their wedding day (engagement sessions are awesome for this!) so that we know what makes them laugh and know memories that they are passionate about. This allows us to interact with them naturally on their wedding day and create beautiful photos that they will love and that will show their grandchildren and great-grandchildren what they were really like.

You can learn more about Smith House Photography here. Know any wedding vendors that are doing great things to give back? Let us know in the comments and we might feature them next time!