We had the good fortune of connecting with Mahalia Ashby and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mahalia, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
In February 2020, I had my first kid. Literally a week after I had her, everything shut down because of COVID. I really wanted to get newborn photos of her, but I didn’t have much money as a single mom and no one was taking pictures during that time. I had started researching camera’s because I wanted to take my own photos of her. I learned photography in high school, but never had the chance to keep going with it since I didn’t have a DSLR.
I told my then boyfriend (now husband) that I was interested in getting back into photography so I could have nice photos of our daughter. Fast forward to May 2020, and he bought me a Canon Rebel for my birthday/Mother’s day (a day apart). I was so happy to finally be able to take photos of her and I dressed her up and would take photos of her everyday. I would google and youtube and reach out to other photographer’s I looked up to to learn more. In August, I upgraded my camera and in October I decided that this was a gift that I wanted to share with others.
I love getting to be apart of special moments for couples and families. I’ve shot everything from birthday’s, baby showers, weddings, destination shoot, and newborns. It has been a blast finding my passion and gaining new friends along the way. My whole basis for my business is capturing the little moments in time that people don’t want to forget, just like I wanted for me and my daughter. I think that having pictures, especially printed photographs, are the most important part of preserving memories. One of my favorite things to do is to look back through oldphotographs throughout my childhood, and I hope to gift that to other people along this journey.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I think what sets me apart from others is that I try to tell a story with my art in a creative way. Really, there is no one who will see things exactly the same way I do. In ever shoot I take on, I try to do one thing out of the box. Shoot in a way that I haven’t before. What I am most excited about are the possibilities of where my business can grow and take me. What I can learn or try next time I shoot.
I would say that I am not where I want to be professionally. I would love it if I could take my business full time one day. But I am still in the process of getting there. I am really happy with where I am so far though. It has been no means easy because I seemed to pick an awful time to try and start a business haha. With COVID, being a new mom, being a full-time student, and a wife, my life is pretty crazy! It doesn’t always seem like I can do as much as I would like to grow and advance my business because I am working so hard on creating a life outside of that. But, I never give up! I do what I can, when I can. Even if that is just editing one or two pictures for the day, or posting on Instagram, I count that as a win.
It is really difficult to struggle with the feeling like I am not doing enough or I am just ‘lazy’ because I have other duties in my life. That is definitely something I am working on! I’ve learned to take it one day at a time and have small victories.
I would want the world to know that even as a working mom, wife, and student who still has regular life struggles being thrown at her, it is possible to start a business! And it is possible to grow that business. I really want my daughter to see that it is possible to do whatever she wants, even against all of the odds. I had people tell me when I was pregnant that it was just a matter of time before I dropped out of college. Yet, here I am! One semester away from my Bachelor’s, raising the happiest little girl, and running a business that is growing!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oooo! This is such a fun question.
I am a sucker for some good Indian food, so I would definitely take them to Flavors of India in Gilbert. Since it is summer, I would probably also bring them to Sunsplash, but only for nightsplash. I have loved going to the water park every year with my friends and family. I always go at least once a summer! If you are up for a little bit of traveling, take yourself to Horseshoe Bend for an amazing freaking view. And then stop by the BirdHouse in Page, AZ for some bomb chicken! Last but not least, I would take them to Tucson to see Mt. Lemmon and the San Xavier del Bac Mission. These are absolutely some of my favorite places to go and explore!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Oh man, there are a ton of people who have been so helpful along my journey!! It is sooo hard to pick just one.
My husband has probably been my number 1 supporter throughout all of this though. After all, he bought me my first camera! He always looks through my pictures and tells me how great I am doing and what I am improving on. He has also gone through great lengths to purchase me new and better equipment, often without my knowledge. He would just surprise me with things that he did research on before buying. Whether that be SD cards, hard drives, tripods, etc.!!
I also want to thank all of the photographers who have been so willing to share their knowledge with me and teach me whatever they can when I ask. I’ve been very fortunate to meet another photographer named Santiago Almada who has been like the best photography big brother I could ask for! He has let me tag along to countless weddings with him just to learn and helped me become a confident second and associate shooter! He taught me a lot about lighting, off camera flash, and even business! I know that if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have grown nearly as much as I have so far. It would have taken me a lot longer!!
SO THANK YOU!! <3
Mahalia Waite Photography