Sarah Villarreal Photography is our featured guest artist for the Reflections theme.  Liz of It’s Still Life Photography by Elizabeth Wilson choose the theme and the winner, and we wanted to learn a little bit more about Sarah and her photography journey.

Tell us a bit about yourself? and Are you a hobbyist or a pro?

I’m a 37 year old mom to a four year old little boy and a two year old little girl. My husband recently retired from the Air Force, so before kids, we lived all over the place including Las Vegas, Nevada and RAF Lakenheath in England. Right now we are in Yorktown, Virginia and enjoy living near the ocean for the first time! I’m originally from the midwest, so it’s my dream come true.

I have a little photography business, Sarah Villarreal Photography, and shoot mostly families, couples, kids and newborns. This year I’ve ventured out into events and professional headshots. The VAST majority of my photos, though, are of my two little ones. They’re my captive models and my son is now getting into it and wanting to “collaborate”. We document some pretty epic dino/monster truck battles.

Acquarium

This is our favorite fish tank at the local aquarium. My son rarely stands still enough to get a silhouette in low light, so this was really cool to catch. I love how he looks to be sneaking up on that enormous fish

Tell us a bit about your photography gear. What is the lens do you not have but you desire to have the most?

I’m kind of a gear hoarder and seem to keep collecting things. I shoot primarily with my Canon 6D and my Canon 5D Mark ii and with my 24-70mm 2.8 and my 100mm 2.8 macro. I shoot with two bodies at once during family sessions making me look completely ridiculous, but I love having both lenses ready to go so I avoid sand and dirt in my bodies. I do a lot of beach shoots and can skip out on changing lenses.

I also have an assortment of other prime lenses and really like my 85mm 1.8 for portraits. I have a studio light set up with strobes and soft boxes which I’ve used for headshots and portfolio shoots, but I prefer natural light when I can get it!

My current reach lens is the 70-200mm 2.8, but it’s an arm and a leg, so it’s going to be a while before I can splurge on that. I’d also love to try the Lensbaby Twist 60. It creates such a cool effect, I’d love to just give it a spin!

My daughter is so goofy and I love the way her face is just one of the animals. She’s always smiling and happy, so this grumpy face is a rare capture.

How did your journey to be a photographer happen?

I got into photography the way lots of moms did and decided I needed to figure out my husband’s Canon Rebel after our son was born. My husband was about to deploy and I really wanted to capture beautiful moments for him since he was going to miss so much of those first two years. I became obsessed with it and spent every spare minute taking online classes, scouring YouTube videos and teaching myself Lightroom, Photoshop and portrait retouching. Once friends started seeing my pictures, I started taking on families. Recently I worked as an in-hospital staff photographer for newborns taking Fresh 48 sessions for new parents. I shot, edited and returned up to 10 family galleries a day and it was so much fun and amazing practice. I also teach an online beginning photography course, which has been really wonderful as well!

My goal this summer was to start learning macro photography. We planted a pollinator garden and drew in some really cool visitors.

Who inspires you?

The two photographers who have inspired me the most are Lindsay Adler and Dana McLeod. Lindsay Adler is an amazing fashion photographer out of New York who is an incredible teacher and I’ve worked through all of her books. Her posing book truly elevated my posing for women. The second photographer that inspires me is Dana McLeod. Dana started a Facebook challenge page, Snap Love Grow, and was the first person to really reach out and encourage me in the online groups, making me feel like a valuable part of the community. It was through participating in her challenges that I connected with so many other great and supportive photographers and kept my creativity going, even when I was in a rut. I’m truly grateful to her for encouraging me when I didn’t have the confidence at times to jump in. She is so lovely and I miss Snap Love Grow tremendously!

This is a collaboration with my son. He wanted to capture his entire “awesome jump”. I created a series of composites in Photoshop and we both loved how it came out!

What advice would you share to the aspirants in this field?

My advice is to shoot all the time, experiment and be fearless about making mistakes. I recently started taking an aerial silks class (crazy cirque du soleil people swinging around on fabric strips) and I am TERRIBLE. Everyone else in my class has been doing it for years, so I’m self-conscious when I flail around attempting the easiest tricks. I was so frustrated at one point, I debated just giving it up, when one of the students reminded me that everyone I saw in the class had been in exactly the same spot as me when they started out. The things that seem impossible today will eventually become second nature with time and practice. It was a great lesson and humbling to be the absolute worst at something where everyone was watching. To anyone starting out, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and learn! We are all our own worst critic, and everyone is on their own journey and improving as they go. As long as you enjoy it, that’s all that matters!

This is a true to life documentary shot. No posing, no clean up, gratuitous screen time. I love that photography lets me capture the reality of my (sometimes not so pretty) real life.

One thing that you have learnt as a photographer over the years?

I’ve learned that there is no endpoint in photography. There is always something new to learn and goals to reach. After trying macro still lives this summer I’m excited to learn compositing this winter. Photography is truly a limitless art form!

I love this photo because I took it with my iPhone. I think it really proves it’s not about the equipment, it’s how you use it!

Thank you Sarah for sharing your beautiful work with us.

We have about 10 more days for you to submit your {Double Exposure} images for a chance to be featured as the banner on the Facebook page and web page, as well as to do an interview highlighting who you are.  We would love to see your images.