DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?
Susannah Marlowe-Galan – owner – Alumbra Photography
I follow Jesus.
I’m a mama to two crazy little girls (and a little boy coming soon!), and wife to my handsome husband Josue.
I love salt and vinegar chips and coffee (not together, silly!), foreign language, my backyard hammock, DIY remodeling our home with my husband and our little helpers, and games of all kinds (but especially the loud, yelling, laughing kind).
I own Alumbra Photography and Unveil by Alumbra; two photography brands that are committed to photographing people authentically and beautifully and capturing seasons of life so that they may be remembered for generations to come. (DCF: Her work is AMAZING!!! She makes you look good!!)
DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?
SM: Well… having fun while employed! I genuinely love what I do. I love empowering people to see themselves as beautiful and unique, and I love documenting life’s sweetest and most fleeting moments.
SM: I studied Spanish photojournalism in college and always dreamed of being a National Geographic photographer (who didn’t?) or a war correspondent. After one year working at a newspaper, I quickly learned that I didn’t want to be in that industry long term. Around that same time, I started second shooting for a wedding photographer who encouraged and enabled me to start my own business…and the rest is history!
DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?
SM: My parents…they let me try anything. I played five different instruments and at least five sports over the years…they never said no. As for fourth of five children, they were incredibly busy running from one school, to another kid’s practice, to another’s game etc. In every new venture, they cheered us on. They challenged us to work hard, practice hard, and give it our all. My mom is an entrepreneur and because of that three of the five of us kids run our own businesses and we are all part of a family business that is launching our second product this fall!
DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?
SM: Wow…what didn’t? Every experience builds on top of the next. There was no business training on photojournalism school so learning to run and operate a business around what I love has been a process, and I haven’t stopped learning!
SM: Specifically though, my training as a photojournalist taught me to treasure imperfection and to focus on the story. My fine art training taught me to take time, treasure concept and seek beauty. These two seemingly opposite approaches to photography are what brought me to where I am today as a photographer.
DCF: Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?
SM: I find inspiration in so many places. I love flipping through magazines, especially fashion for ideas and concepts that are new and different.
SM: My greatest motivation is my family. My husband and two little girls are my greatest treasures. I am so thankful for a business that allows me to be flexible and with my girls as much as possible, and also sets an example for them to build something wonderful!
DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?
SM: Balance…to me it means setting priorities and finding boundaries to protect those. My priorities are my faith, my family and my work…in that order, so I try my best to allow my time to reflect that. It is constantly changing and always requiring re-evaluation.
DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
SM: Early on in my business I was photographing weddings, and worked most weekends each summer for quite a while. Because of that I missed friend’s weddings and other summer events. I also end up working a lot around the holidays, and often even right up to Christmas Eve! Sleep is probably the next thing that has been most sacrificed! With little kids, I try to give them as much of me as I can when I’m home which often means pulling out the computer after bedtime and working late into the night.
DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
SM: Honestly, not a lot, at least not specific to my industry. I have definitely struggled with men not taking my business seriously, but usually that just motivates me more!
DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
SM: Oh my…I’m sure there is lots but nothing comes to mind right now! What I do wish I had done, was take some business classes or work in a small business before starting my own. I would encourage any young entrepreneur to spend time learning from someone with experience who can teach them about what it means to run a small business.
DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
SM: Maybe not taking more risks? I can’t think of one huge failure that stands out, but instead many small ones. I wish I had been more bold early in my business…more willing to share with others what I was doing and why it was awesome! I think I always worried that it would come across as self-promotion or arrogance, but in hindsight I think I missed out on connecting with and serving some people who would have been a great fit for Alumbra!
DCF: What is your proudest moment?
SM: Opening my first studio. It was so scary, and felt like I was taking a huge leap out without knowing where my feet would land. I worked so hard out of my little space, meeting and photographing clients, staying late and arriving early, and eating on the go. I remember buying our (first) house, and being able to pay for our closing costs (not cheap!) and new floors out of my income! It felt SO good and so empowering!
DCF: What’s next?
SM: Opening a NEW studio in Fairfax, with a really exciting membership option! Details are still in the works but I will be able to share much more in just a few weeks!