Rachel is the Founder of Rachel Rowland Photography, a Pittsburgh based photography company that shoots weddings, portraits and lifestyle photography with the focus on telling stories and preserving legacies.
I’ve had the privilege to getting to know Rachel, and let me tell you, I live for her Instastories. I can promise you you’re in for a treat with this one!
ALV: So, what inspired you to start a business?
RR: Well, I studied film and photography in college and had a mentor that is a filmmaker and just always knew that I wanted to do something in the digital media arts field. I got my first SLR in 10th grade and took it on every trip with me and for some reason ONLY shot black and white film, and I am just so thankful when I go back through those images because I honestly had no clue what I was doing, but photography just always felt “right” to me.
Then on my wedding day in 2009, my husband, Jerry, gifted me with my first ever DSLR. It’s crazy because I had never talked about starting my own business or even pursuing wedding photography (although my photo mentors and friends Hot Metal Studio were our photographers, and I was OBSESSSEDDD with their work).
While we all know that entrepreneur life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, it certainly has its perks!
RR: I worked a few jobs right after college, and I honestly just hated being told where I had to be and when. I always knew that I was an artist and I was always told that artists don’t make money or get jobs. I was 23 when I started to truly pursue entrepreneurism, and I felt like I was just such a baby at the time and didn’t really realize where I was headed with it.
Although Rachel didn’t know where she was headed with it, she’s managed to grow her company by staying laser-focused on her goals.
RR: My ultimate goal is to not just take photos that show what the day, the moment looked like but to trigger what it FELT like. Photos tell the story of who we are, what we did and who we loved to the future generations. I want all of my clients to look back at the images I took for them 20 years from now and to see themselves fully. I want them to say, “YES that is ME in a photo, that is us, that is our love.”
I am also very passionate about getting files off of computers and phones and getting them into albums and on to walls. We are in this crazy age where everything has been digitized. We text, we swipe, we share we tweet blah blah blah. But what did our grandparents do? They wrote each other love letters. What did our parents do? They printed photos and shoved them into albums for us to all go home and flip through at our will.
What are WE doing though? Everything is cataloged on some cloud, everything is perfectly curated for social media. What about 100 years from now? Are our great-grandchildren going to sneak up to their parents’ attic, find our smartphones, blow the dust off of them and start swiping through our Facebook page? Or are they going to go find an old leather-bound box, wipe off the dust, open up that book and flip through the pages and images that tell our stories?
Wow. I don’t know about you, but I definitely have goosebumps after reading that. I’ve spent time thinking about my legacy before but nothing as impactful and specific as this. Knowing this is Rachel’s mission, I’m sure I’m not the only one waiting to see how she impacts the world through the years. However, it’s no surprise to see the impact she’s already making.
RR: Sounds crazy but I have been shooting some of the same people for the last 9 years. I am shooting the last of 3 brothers’ weddings in 2020 after shooting the first in 2015, the second in 2017 and now their growing families. That my clients connect with my work and heart on such an emotional level that they continue to grow with me and become real and important parts of my life.
ALV: How do you celebrate your big moments and your mini moments?
RR: Fun fact about me. Any time I book a wedding, no matter where I am or who I am with, I put on Good Vibrations by Marky Mark and the funky bunch and I just straight up dance like a maniac until it’s over. It reminds me to still be thankful for each client that has entrusted me with such an important task and to never ever ever take that lightly.
Being a female-founded, female-run company, we know that not every day is a celebration, things go wrong, mistakes are made, and disappoints happen. However, every mistake is an opportunity to learn.
ALV: If you could start your business over again, what would you do differently?
RR: Nothing. I am still here. I am still going. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Starting a business is scary, and it’s a really different playing field than it was 10 years ago. Yet, the most important advice Rachel would give to a new entrepreneur is timeless.
ALV: What advice would you give someone starting a business?
RR: Be kind.
Put yourself out there.
Ask for help.
Fear is the enemy.
ALV: When you start a business and you run into challenges how do you overcome them?
RR: I will just say that challenges come with every job, with every part of life and it’s okay to be down, to feel sad and to reevaluate decisions. BUT it is not okay to stay there. Find a friend, a colleague or a peer who you can confide in. Someone who will validate your feelings but then also encourage you to not stay there. I wouldn’t have made it this far without my industry friends I swear.
Sometimes, we can’t get on without the help of our people and the people who inspire us. What some of us don’t realize is that inspiring people are quite literally everywhere if we’re looking hard enough.
ALV: Who inspires you when you’re feeling down?
RR: That is such a tough question because there are so many people who inspire me.
MOMS, all moms. Moms are the most amazing and selfless people on this planet. I will be walking by a mom I don’t know and I just want to hug her because I am so inspired by her, haha.
Too many photographers to name and frankly if I forget one I would never forgive myself.
If you’re anything like me you probably want Rachel to become your new best friend, amiright?
ALV: What’s a misconception people have about what you do?
RR: For some reason, people think I have it all together and I am completely happy with my work and my life.
I am a literal hot mess, I question what I am doing all of the time. I cry because I am so overwhelmed with life and business and mom-ing that sometimes I don’t know if I can get out of bed.
No one’s life is perfect and it’s so important to remember that social media is a highlight reel. Even though I try to post any time my kids are being jags just so people can see it’s not all sunshine and rainbows out here.
At the end of the day, what really keeps Rachel going is her family.
Whether she’s watching movies and popping popcorn with the kiddos, or getting inspired by her husband to keep on keeping on at the end of the day, she’s got a lot to be proud of.