Have you ever looked at traditional wedding photography and felt something was missing? That the images didn’t quite capture the range of diverse love stories and cultural identities all around us? You’re not alone. This is a sentiment shared by many, and it’s what makes my conversation with Cristal Wallin, an extraordinary wedding photographer, so relevant and powerful.
Cristal, a proud Queer Chicana feminist, isn’t just taking pictures; she’s redefining wedding photography to embrace a beautiful spectrum of love and identity.
Internet Woes and Relatable Experiences
To start with, Cristal and I shared a quick laugh about the internet problem in San Francisco – a city you’d think would have flawless connectivity. This got us thinking about the role of the internet in shaping our photography niches. Cristal’s online presence, despite its challenges, has been pivotal in connecting her with like-minded clients who seek authenticity and inclusivity in their photos.
A Shift from the Conventional
Now, on to the main topic: The wedding photography industry. As Cristal points out, the industry was once dominated by imagery of predominantly white, cisgender, heterosexual couples. This narrow representation was what she encountered in the industry some seven to eight years ago.
Cristal’s approach marks a significant departure from the lack of diversity. She emphasizes the responsibility photographers hold in shaping the perception of industries like wedding photography – it’s about showcasing diversity, changing industries, and challenging the perceived ideas of beauty, gender, and sexuality.
Photography and Personal Branding: How Do They Intersect?
Cristal’s artistic values shine through her work, creating a personal brand that’s both inspiring and inclusive. She stresses the importance of aligning your personal values with your professional work. This alignment not only attracts the right clients but also fuels passion in your craft.
Juggling Identities: More than a Photographer
Balancing a day job with a thriving photography career, Cristal embodies the versatility many creatives strive for. She believes having multiple roles enhances her perspective, enriching both her personal and professional life.
Juggling a full-time job alongside her photography career, Cristal discusses the balance between her professional and artistic pursuits, “I have a full-time job in addition to photography. And the great thing is, I think when you talk to artists, and photographers, I think most people are, like, ‘Oh, yeah, you’re a full-time photographer, you’re like an actual artist. You can actually make money to keep yourself afloat from full-time artistry.’ Like, that’s so cool.”
This dual role has allowed her to focus on working with people she feels connected to. She candidly talks about her experiences and realizations in the world of photography and entrepreneurship, “The reason I’m sharing all this is that I think having a full-time job has also really allowed me to focus on working with people that I super feel connected to. And if you have seen my website, if you’ve done any internetting about me, you would know that like I’ve got, you know, very specific folks, or a very specific client base that I work with, and that is LGBTQ folks, and BIPOC.”
Cristal also opens up about financial planning and the implications of pursuing photography full-time. She candidly talks about the safety net her day job provides, not shying away from discussing the realities of financial stability and future planning.
Work-Life Balance: A Creative’s Quest
Managing a photography business while maintaining a personal life is no small feat. Cristal emphasizes the importance of rest and setting boundaries to avoid burnout. Her strategy includes being selective with projects, ensuring each aligns with her values and artistic goals.
Navigating Business Growth and People Management
In the world of photography, managing client expectations and building relationships are as crucial as the art itself. Cristal’s experience in her day job has significantly contributed to her adeptness in handling various client dynamics in her photography business.
Identity, Vulnerability, and Inclusivity: The Heart of Cristal’s Work
Perhaps the most touching aspect of Cristal’s work is her commitment to representation and inclusivity. She creates a safe space for her clients, allowing them to be their authentic selves. This approach not only enriches her art but deeply impacts the lives of those she captures.
She also believes in the immense power photographers hold in diversifying the world’s perception of beauty and relationships, “We have platforms as photographers, to put images into the world, I believe we have a responsibility to conscientiously and intentionally make sure that we are building relationships with people of all varieties. We have the responsibility to show diversity in our portfolios. And I believe we have the responsibility to change the industries in which we work and change them towards the beautiful, beautiful diversity that does exist in our world.”
Marketing, Niches, and Authentic Connections
Cristal’s approach to marketing her work is as unique as her photography. Despite initially underestimating her marketing skills, she’s succeeded in carving out a niche. By being specific about who she is and who she wants to work with, Cristal has attracted clients who resonate with her values. This authentic connection, she believes, is key to creating art that truly captures the essence of her subjects.
Artistic Values and Personal Branding: The Soul of Her Photography
Cristal’s work is a testament to her belief in the power of authenticity. By staying true to her values and beliefs, she has created a personal brand that resonates deeply with her audience. Her photography is not just about capturing moments; it’s about telling stories that otherwise might remain unseen.
This conversation with Cristal wasn’t just enlightening but it was also very inspiring. Her dedication to using her platform to showcase diversity, along with her personal journey in balancing various aspects of life, offers invaluable insights for anyone in the creative field. Cristal’s story is a reminder that in the realm of art, authenticity and passion are your greatest assets.
Cristal fell into wedding photography long after getting two higher education degrees, when she started seeing images of non-traditional couples doing things their own way. She is a proud Queer Chicana feminist (she/her/hers pronouns) whose life is defined by her connections with others. And her work is a magnificent portrayal of these values.
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