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Check Out Victoria Hjelte’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Victoria Hjelte.

Hi Victoria, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
I discovered my love for photography when I was 13 years old. I went on a cross-country road trip with my family from my hometown in Minnesota to the PNW, and I found myself taking photos on my iPod Touch of everything in sight. That Summer, my mom let me borrow her point-and-shoot camera and gave me a stack of photography magazines from the library. I absolutely devoured the articles in these magazines and came away so inspired to take more photos of my own. I was obsessed, to say the least and told everyone that I was going to be a photographer one day.

My teen years were spent taking as many photos as I could, watching photography youtube videos, and reading blog posts on everything about DSLR cameras, Photoshop, posing, and composition techniques. I quickly found that I loved taking photos of people the most, especially in the outdoors with natural light. Midnight of my 16th birthday, I launched my first website and started booking sessions of all kinds. By the time I was 17, I photographed my first ever wedding. I was so nervous and put a lot of pressure on myself to do a good job. The couple was amazing and trusted me completely, so I didn’t want to mess up the only documentation of their wedding day. The night of the wedding as I was going through the photos in happy tears, I realized that this was something I had to dive into with all I had. Capturing these precious moments in time as an expression of art was (and still is) such a thrilling experience.

I moved to the Nashville area with my family in 2016 with a huge passion for wedding photography, minimal experience, and zero connections. I decided to pay for a little advertising on a wedding planning website to get my name out there. I prayed that I would get at least two or three weddings to cover what I had paid, but little did I know what would happen. As time went on, messages and emails started pouring in from interested couples to inquire about my services.

I ended up booking around 25 weddings in my first year of living in Tennessee. I learned a lot that first year and gave it all I had. I didn’t realize how much my clients would mean to me and how quickly so many of them would become my friends. Being a calm and helpful presence on wedding days and delivering photos that my clients adored only fueled my passion and gave me so much purpose.

5 years later, I am continuing to pursue wedding photography full-time and take on around 25-35 weddings a year. I still pinch myself during weddings and can’t believe that I actually do this as my job. I get to meet so many incredible people every day. Not only my couples, but their families, friends, and other vendors I get to work with to make their day unforgettable. It is such an honor and gift from God to use my passion to serve my clients with the art of photography.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Being a self-employed wedding photographer has not always been easy. With so many other talented photographers in the area, it is really easy to doubt yourself and lose confidence in your craft. You don’t have a boss telling you what to do and oftentimes it can be very lonely trying to work through the unique challenges of wedding photography on your own.

I had to learn over time how to be adaptable when plans change and how to be disciplined with my time. It is also difficult to draw boundaries and make sure I’m getting enough rest during busy seasons to prevent burnout. Though this industry has its challenges, I am so thankful that many photographers in Nashville believe in #communityovercompetition and have been such encouraging and helpful friends in this journey. I know that I am not alone as I have a large network of other photographers that I can call on for help when I need it.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Though I do take on family and maternity portrait sessions from time to time, I specialize in couples and wedding photography. Most of my clients are laid-back, genuine, and joyful people who are deeply in love, intentional, and want their day to reflect what makes them uniquely them. I am really excited about the warm, vibrant, and authentic photography style I’ve developed over the years, and I think that is what sets me apart from others.

Ultimately, I’m here to serve my couples well. I want them to feel seen and cared for on their wedding days by making the process unforced, fun, and comfortable. I’m known for being a peaceful presence on wedding days when things can get a little stressful!

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
Covid-19 definitely threw a wrench in what was supposed to be a fully booked successful year. About half of my bookings were postponed or canceled in 2020 and I had to learn how to bounce back from such a hard hit. It was a humbling experience, but I learned so many important lessons along the way. Firstly, I learned to never take my job for granted again. Today, I have a whole new appreciation for the couples who choose me to photograph their wedding days. I learned the importance of showing grace and understanding even if it didn’t make the most sense business-wise. My clients were going through a lot too and I felt it was really important, to be honest, and communicative with them if they had to postpone or cancel their day.

I also learned the importance of rest during the quarantine of Spring 2020. Since I had so much free time, I was able to find new hobbies, refresh my website, go on a lot of walks, and help my clients as they walked through the difficult process of postponing or canceling their wedding plans. It was honestly a much-needed time of rest and vision casting for my business. Thankfully, weddings are thriving again and my books are getting filled up once more! God answered a lot of my tearful prayers in 2020, and I know that I am now a stronger person and better photographer because of what I went through during that time.

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