We had the good fortune of connecting with Kami Olavarria and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kami, what are you inspired by?
More than anything, my couples inspire me (which sounds cheesy but it’s 100% true). Every couple brings out something a little different in me – I love vibing with their energy and letting that direct the shoot. I love hearing their unique story and creating images that feel authentic to THEM, not what I want. Outside of my couples, I’m also super inspired by music videos! I’ve always loved watching them, and even more-so now has a photographer. The art direction is always so rad and intentional – and there are so many times when I watch music videos and am like “I want to create images that feel like THAT.” Then I’ll play those songs during my sessions if I feel a certain vibe would fit, and it helps me get into a more creative space!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’ve been a full-time wedding photographer since 2014 and have learned so much over the years. Something I’m most proud of is I moved my business from Seattle to San Diego in 2017, which was NOT easy. It took a few years and a ton of work – but I did it! Building a wedding photography business in a place I grew up was relatively easy – I knew hundreds of people from school and life I could share my services with and who would hire me. But building your business in a place where no one knows you is a completely different beast, and I’m so proud that I was fully able to transition my business to a place I love so much. Something else I’m super freakin proud of is in 2019, I photographed a wedding in Antigua, Guatemala (the bride is a fellow San Diego photographer) and it won Wedding of the Year on Junebug Weddings! I have looked at that contest for years and dreamt of seeing my work on something like that, so to even be nominated alongside other photographers I’ve looked up to forever was insane, let alone WINNING that. It’s so surreal!!!! One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to always have a people-first business. The people is what makes this kind of business special, and to think like a service provider/people business BEFORE an artist and it will never steer me wrong! Another huge lesson I’ve learned this year is that it’s okay if I’m not doing everything in my business exactly how everyone else is. That’s the whole reason I decided to start my own business in the first place! Different things work for different people and there isn’t one right way to do anything. Make your business fit your life, not your life fit your business!!!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
SHOWING SAN DIEGO OFF IS MY FAVORITE THING BECAUSE IT’S THE BEST CITY EVER! First, we will get tacos and margaritas at our favorite local spot, Cantina Mayahuel, then run across the street for cocktails at Polite Provisions. That’s just our first night after I pick them up from the airport. The following days, we would do: Liberty Station (an absolute must), Mission Beach (stop at Sandbar for rooftop TKO tacos + margaritas after a day on the beach), take our dog to Fiesta Island and make them watch her run around in the waves, a day trip to Joshua Tree and Palm Springs, the OB Farmers Market, Sunset Cliffs, Torrey Pines Gliderport…. and find new places for tacos + margs to try together.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are SO many people in my life who I feel deserve so much credit in my story. Firstly, my Dad. He’s the first entrepreneur I ever knew and always made me believe I could do whatever I wanted in life, and could just create the job I wanted for myself. Over the years he’s given me so many wise lil nuggets about how to be a good business-person and treat people well. When I was younger, I was super creative and at the time wanted to do music professionally, and my dad would always tell me “you can be the best artist in the world, but if you aren’t smart, kind, don’t treat people well, don’t have a good head for business… it won’t matter and you won’t make it. The most successful musicians in the world are brilliant business people and incredibly smart.” Even though I didn’t end up pursuing music, this advice has been the guiding post for everything I’ve done and I believe it’s been the biggest thing that’s taken me to where I am today. I focused on good business and treating people well FIRST, then the ‘art’ of whatever I was doing second. My husband Victor is also a huge reason that I’m at where I am today – we started dating when I was in college and he was also pursuing his own passions a few years ahead of me in life. He helped me believe I could truly go out there and start whatever I wanted and would always say “do what you love and the money will follow.” That was so important for me to hear in those early years figuring out what I wanted to do. Then fast forward to the busiest years of my life – he’s the one who made sure I remembered to shower and feed myself, and would take care of all the grocery shopping/cooking when I was working 12+ hours a day to make this thing happen. He’s my TRUE partner and I’m so grateful for how he has always championed my success and been my biggest fan! My couples also deserve ALL the credit and recognition. Without them trusting me to capture their special moments, none of this would be possible. Over the last 6 years, I’ve photographed around 300 weddings – WHICH BLOWS MY MIND! I can’t thank all my couples enough for believing in me. I attract the raddest people and I wake up every day freakin stoked to create images for them! I could keep going forever… my sister was my first assistant who came to all my weddings with me in the first few years of my business and it was SO fun doing that together. It truly gave me the confidence to go out and slay on my own! And my stepmom who is the first woman in my life who showed me I can ‘have it all’ and be an equal partner to my husband and we can build a beautiful life together. Also to all my friends who don’t get mad at me and still love me when I go dark for weeks on end when I’m in the editing cave! So many people in my life I could truly go on about this forever, this truly made me emotional to answer!
All images by Kami Olavarria