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Meet AaronVan

Today we’d like to introduce you to AaronVan.

Hi AaronVan, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
My earliest memory of photography was loving disposable 110 cameras as a kid. I used to beg my parents for them any time we were on vacation. I’ve always enjoyed capturing a moment. In middle school, my grandfather gave me his Nikon film camera and it kept me interested in photography. In High School, I was the head photographer for my yearbook and newspaper. Around the time I was looking into college, I had been enamored with computer graphics and started dabbling in digital media. I was one of the first students through the digital media degree program at Full Sail and, after graduating in 1999, went on to a 20-year career in advertising. As a graphic designer, art director and creative director, I’ve worked with many photographers and have always had an itch to make photography my full-time career. I took a stab at it in 2008 and opened a consumer portrait studio focusing on family photography, kids, newborns, maternity etc.

Of course, this happened to be right at the beginning of the economic downturn. I kept that running for two years but it wasn’t sustainable and I went back to work in my original profession. Besides design and photography, I’ve also always loved to cook, I develop my own recipes and perfect ones that I find and love and in 2015, I entered a cooking competition, winning a foodie trip to Ireland for a week! We visited Dublin and stayed at Kevin Dundin’s bed and breakfast, where we relaxed, explored and learned in one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in my lifetime. I brought my camera along on that trip and took nothing but photos of food and experiences the entire time and simply fell in love with photography all over again. When I got back from the trip I knew I had to figure out how to make it my career but I just wasn’t interested in selling portraits. It took a while but I finally put 2 and 2 together and realized that I could make a career shooting food for a living.

Fast forward almost six years and I have opened my first food photography production studio, 4000 sq ft of space dedicated to food, beverage and product photography. I have shot work for top national brands including Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Nutrisystem, Tijuana Flats, Metro Diner, Darden, 12 locations at Disney World for the Patina Restaurant Group and Millennium Management Group and have even traveled to shoot in New York City. I work with a great team of assistants, stylists, producers, videographers, technicians and so many more who always bring excellence to their craft. I’m still growing, working every day towards my goal of shooting campaign images for top national brands. It’s been a difficult journey and an interesting one but I simply love what I do and am always looking forward to what I might create next.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I would say it’s been pretty smooth, it’s taken a while to get here and I know I still have a ways to go but every challenge is an opportunity to learn and grow. If it were easy everyone would do it, this takes a lot of patience and determination, something I’ve always had in spades. Consistency is always a struggle when working for yourself, some months are jam packed and others are quiet so you have to learn to balance and to go with the ebb and flow of the business. As a creative learning to be a business owner is difficult but I strongly believe that if you treat everyone as you would want to be treated and you go above and beyond to deliver exceptional work you can build a strong company. I’d much rather have something built on shared successes and strong relationships than on quantity with no personal connections.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I specialize in making people crave! My tagline is “You Create it, We Shoot It, They Crave It!” #create.shoot.crave I love bringing drama and desire to an image, to make people want to reach into the photograph and grab whatever is there. Most people tell me I’m known for my lighting, It’s one of the reasons I love working in the studio, to craft the light for the subject. I could spend all day working on the perfect light for my subject and not get tired of it. I think I’m most proud of how far I’ve come in building this business. Getting started so late in the game, with a family to support to switch industries and build something from scratch is not an easy thing.

Professional photography is definitely a long game, the real pros have been doing it for 20-30+ years and have built their network over time. Time is not on my side but I’m in it for the long haul and the way I look at it if others can do it there’s no reason I can’t get there as well. I take it one day at a time. I think what sets me apart from others is my background in advertising and graphic design. I speak the language, I understand the psychology of advertising and it helps to inform how I shoot my images. I also know what’s important to a creative director and art director, I know their challenges and I can communicate and collaborate with them on shoots to bring their vision to life. I am big on communication with my clients and they can always count on me to be prepared and on-time. Integrity is so important to me because I understand how important it is to my clients to work with someone they can trust.

We love surprises, fun facts and unexpected stories. Is there something you can share that might surprise us?
That’s a tough one, I’m not sure what surprises people about me. I’m a pretty simple guy, I have a fairly eclectic taste in music but love electronica, I love to cook and think anything worth doing takes time and care. I love movies and have a wall of over 1200 movies in my house. I’m very loyal to those who help me and who believe in me. I treat others how I would want to be treated. I have a 13 year old daughter who is growing up way too fast and a loving and supportive wife who I love sharing my life with.

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