We had the good fortune of connecting with Marissa Aden and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marissa, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
The true me is not a risk-taker at all! I have always been happy in my comfort zone. I’m definitely an introvert and was naturally a bit timid. When I started photographing weddings in 2010, I quickly learned that you can’t be timid and quiet when shooting a wedding. People need direction and guidance — especially when it comes to taking large family photos! This forced me to (quickly) step outside of my comfort zone, because I wanted to do a good job and was eager to succeed in the wedding industry.
I’m incredibly thankful for the way photography has shaped me into a confident leader. These attributes have not only helped me in photography, but in other aspects of my life.
I also work part-time as a psychiatric nurse. As a psych nurse, a large majority of my clients are minorities and/or a part of the LGBTQ+ community. It is estimated that more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth (ages 13-24) seriously consider suicide each year in the U.S. — and at least one attempts suicide every 45 seconds. For me, it comes down to this: People matter. People’s feelings matter. People’s love matters. People’s lives matter. I felt a calling to bring more diversity into the photography community — a community where there isn’t much diversity to be seen on social media and in magazines. I took a risk, because I had no idea how people would respond to me being so vocal about supporting the LGBTQ+ community. Fortunately, I haven’t had much backlash; the majority of it has been met with resounding support. If just one person/couple can see themselves in my work and feel that they are seen, that’s enough for me.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My passion is photographing human connection. When two unique people come together and create this bond, there’s something so incredibly beautiful in that. Through my art, I strive to capture this connection in a way that represents each individual couple. For me, it’s way more than just having pretty photos to look at in the end. It’s about remembering the moments that created those images. I don’t want my clients remembering how I posed them and how awkward they felt. I want them to reminisce on how hard they laughed while they were dancing, how carefree they were, and how they felt so much love for one another in that moment.
As a photographer (or any business owner for that matter), it takes a long time to find your groove — to define your brand. I’ve experimented with so many different shooting styles, editing styles, and brand pillars. I am proud to say that I’m finally at a place where I am so incredibly confident in saying, “This is my work.” My editing style feels unique to me, and a lot of my clients book me for that reason. It isn’t light and airy, but it isn’t dark and moody. It’s somewhere right in the middle where colors are natural and everyone’s skin tone is as it appears in real life. I stand for diversity and inclusion in my business and strive to show this through my work. I want anyone to be able to see images I’ve taken and to be able to envision themselves in my photos — no matter their skin tone or their sexual orientation. I want people to know that they matter and that their love matters.
I’ve been doing this for 13 years, and there have been a lot of ups and downs and back and forth. I want other creatives to know that finding your style, solidifying your brand, and working with your ideal clients don’t just happen immediately. I takes a LONG time. With social media, it’s so easy to compare yourselves to others in your industry and to think, “My work doesn’t look like theirs. The weddings I photograph don’t look like the ones they do. They sound so confident in their work, and I’m not.” I used to advertise on Craigslist (not recommended!) and photographed TONS of low-budget weddings for $300. These weren’t the type of weddings you see on Pinterest … and that’s totally okay. You have to start somewhere, and all of those weddings taught me so much and brought me to the high-budget weddings I photograph today.
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?
Ooooh! This is a tough question, because I’m such a homebody. An ideal evening for entertaining a friend would be to have them over to our house, hang out under the string lights in the backyard, make homemade pizzas, and serve them fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies.
BUT, if I had to take them somewhere, we would definitely go to Laguna Beach, because I think the rocky beaches there are some of the most beautiful in Orange County. We would grab dinner at Sancho’s Tacos and take it to the beach and eat it while watching the sun set. We’d grab dessert at IceCreamTon in Huntington Beach, because they have the most incredible churro and ice cream combo. Then, we’d head back to the beach, light a bonfire, and just enjoy the evening 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?
As cliché as it may sound, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my husband and my mom. They are my biggest cheerleaders — in the most different ways!
My husband goes through different phases, and when we were 19, he wanted to get into photography. He bought a DSLR camera but didn’t get to use it much, because I was using it all the time. I immediately fell in love with capturing people. So, if it weren’t for him, I don’t know if I would’ve found photography. Since then, he’s been with me on this journey for the past 13 years. He’s learned with me, photographed weddings with me, given me honest critique, and pushed me to better my photography skills and my business.
My mom has always cheered me on in photography. She always wishes me good luck before a shoot, asks me how the shoot was, and is always the first person to comment on any of my Instagram posts. She always encourages me in my efforts to showcase all types of love, and I’m just incredibly grateful for her constant support.