We had the good fortune of connecting with Melissa Montoya and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melissa, you love what you do. It’s clear to anyone who knows you. Why and what about your work do you love so much?
I love telling people’s story, visually. I love creating images that have an emotional impact. Photography is more than just pushing a button. Being able to tap in to people’s inner story and create a safe and comfortable environment for your subject to feel confident and trust you enough to bring it out of them is the art of photography. I call this the photo metamorphosis. I even give it a name, as some people do to their alter ego, when I am able to channel and harness the person’s true personality. This helps to propel it even more and they get fully into character. It’s like when you are running track, the last lap of the race, and the spectators cheer you on, you somehow get a burst of energy that comes from deep inside you. I am here to cheer you on! I also love the editing process as well! It’s my way of attempting to recreate the experience of the session. I would describe my aesthetic as moody, but emotionally lit. Like the Maya Angelou quote that says you will never forget how people made you feel, that’s the impact that I want my images to have on people. When you see them, either for the first time or you are revisiting them, whether you are the subject or not, I want you to feel something. I want them to impact you in an emotional way. And your reaction to them might change, because you might be in a different state of mind. That’s what’s beautiful about photography, the photos stay the same, but the way you react to them changes or could change.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a full time lifestyle + wedding photographer. This didn’t happen overnight. It took years to get over self doubt and fear that I couldn’t make a career out of my passion. You have to have patience and really be dedicated. People always think that when you work for yourself you have all the time in the world and are free to do what you want, whenever you want. This might be true, but that won’t make you successful. My workdays are usually on weekends and sunset, so I had to be ok with giving up on social obligations. Now I am not saying that you have to be all work and no play, you must find a balance. This was something I still continue to learn, because when it’s wedding season, you barely can come up for air and you have to be able to set some boundaries for yourself, and mental self. Once you experience it full time for a bit, you start to see what kind of work you really want to attract and what kind of work isn’t worth bending over backward. I have learned that I love focusing and shooting lifestyle and weddings. I like to interact with people and help them communicate their story visually. I think what sets me apart from others is my ability to connect with my clients and be able to channel that inner confidence that we all have. It takes special attention to bring out that vulnerable and side in someone. No matter how technical and great you are at working your camera, you have to be gifted at being able to establish that human connection with your subject.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
San Diego is an amazing city and I love that I grew up here and can still call it home. (I am originally from Peru). I love the outdoors, so I would definitely recommend going to the beach! My go to beach since childhood is Windansea Beach. The sand is perfect, the ocean is blue and it’s small and surrounded by rocks. I also love going on trail hikes and would suggest Torrey Pines in La Jolla, or Mushroom Cave in Solana Beach. Mount Laguna is only a 40 min drive east on the 8, and has beautiful trees to photograph! If you want to just picnic in the park with a stellar view, I would suggest Kate Sessions Park. Biking the boardwalk from Pacific Beach to Mission Beach is always a fun time and good workout! So much good food to be had in San Diego. Although I am Peruvian, I love Mexican Food. If you want a delicious California burrito, I would suggest Don Carlos; The Taco Stand for carne asada tacos and Rigoberto’s for carne asada fries. All three are in La Jolla and near the beach, so they go hand in hand. Marketplace grille is delicious, if you like rice and skewers. I am a huge Thai food fan and love Spice + Rice Thai. If you are looking for drinks with a view you can visit Mr. A’s rooftop. For steaks: Cowboy Star (also great spicy margarita’s), Riviera Supper Club and Eddie V’s (great bread too). To dance off all this food, I love going to Spin or El Dorado. El Dorado has reggaeton nights once a month!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
People, whether they know it or not (and whether YOU yourself know it or not at the time), make contributions to your success and journey throughout your career. I would like to give a particular shoutout to my sister-in-law, Natalie, who prompted my first professional shoot. I was still working full time and wanted to follow my passion and turn it into a career, but as I am sure many self-employed creatives can agree, it’s scary to make the leap! I kept making excuses like I needed my website to be up and running and have everything perfectly organized before even starting my professional photography work. Natalie gave me the push I needed and said she had a friend who needed a family shoot and that she wanted it the following week. In that moment I wanted to say no no, I can’t yet, I don’t have my logos, or font, a beautiful website, but before I went down that rabbit hole of self doubt, I told her I would do it and thanked her for the referral! This is what finally sparked my shift into working as a full time photographer. Thank you Natalie!!
Other: Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/melissamontoyaphotography/boards/
Profile Photo of myself taken by Verina Olivari. The remaining photos were taken by me.