We had the good fortune of connecting with Natalie Chiles and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Natalie, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I was a music teacher for 13 years, and I taught in a prized district with amazing colleagues for most of it. However, as my family grew my love for teaching was rerouted into my children, and I realized that teaching was not the only calling in my life. I took a risk in 2011 and left teaching, and while it was scary at the time, it was the right decision. I slowly grew my photography business as my children grew. My business is basically my fourth child. Fast forward to two years ago, and I took another risk by opening my studio in La Mesa. Having a studio space has opened opportunities to me that I would not have been privy to if I didn’t have a space in which I could be creative. Corporate and creative headshots, fine art portraits, and more are possible because I have a space in which I can create.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I think a lot of where I am today comes from the support I have been given from my family, especially my husband. I am lucky that a career change was even an option. It was not easy to leave a career in which I was doing well; some people told me I was crazy or didn’t understand why I would leave teaching. I was called to change and today it is clear why because I love what I do so much. I’m proud of my growth in studio work over the last few years. When I started I remember (foolishly) thinking that I would just be a natural light photographer forever and that would be just fine. But learning about studio light and all that goes into it has expanded my understanding and knowledge of photography. I will never learn everything and I love sharing what I do know. What sets me apart now is that I can shoot in so many settings. San Diego offers countless locations that look amazing, but sometimes a studio is what is required. Having both means I can offer my clients options to create the exact result they want. My brand is one of love and acceptance. I love taking photos of humans and finding that twinkle in your eye. I offer a wide variety of photography including family sessions, studio and on location headshots, branding photography, high school seniors, modern school portraits, and many creative endeavors including, most recently, box sessions!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Oh gosh! San Diego offers so much. My absolute favorite thing is driving to Torrey Pines State Reserve from East County. Take I-5 North and exit at Carmel Valley Road, go west. When you hit the coast, turn south for the most spectacular view of coast line. It takes my breath away every time. I’d walk the beach, or if time allows hoof it up the hill and take the beach trail down for a great workout and a clearing of the mind. Then I’d probably hit up a restaurant further south in Little Italy or North Park. I’d end the day downtown having cocktails and finding a place to enjoy some nightlife. But who am I kidding- I have 3 kids so this doesn’t happen very often these days- haha! When I moved here in 2001 one of the facts I remember is that, at the time, San Diego had more restaurants per square mile than cities twice its size. We have so much good cuisine here! La Mesa has turned into a foodie haven with City Taco, Farmer’s Table, Bo-Beau and so many more. The community of La Mesa has really come together this year, and it’s a wonderful, bustling hub of small businesses. East County used to be a place people looked down their noses at, but it’s really a beautiful place. My last favorite spot is Balboa Park. Even though Balboa has a lot of construction going on right now, there are still so many great spots- you can visit several times and still find something new each time.
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?
Oh gosh, so many people have been a part of my growth and success. My husband and kids for cheering me on as I grow and learn. My teacher and mentor, Cynthia Shaffer, who taught me how to use my first DSLR and has become a friend and colleague. The ladies from San Diego Women in Photography who provide a safe space where we ask for help, support each other and get nerdy about photography. And lastly, my family who gave me a foundation of love for photos. I grew up with photos around the house, a dark room in my basement, a Dad with a camera in hand quite often, and a Grandpa and Great Grandpa who entered photography competitions together. Photography is such a human art form, and so many humans have played a part in my little slice of it.
All photos by Natalie Chiles Photography