Haley Wheeler is a Toronto-based entrepreneur freelancing in photography, specialising in portrait photography and events. Haley decided to embark on photography as a career from the age of 18, since discovering that art was her way of combining her childhood activities into one by documenting her life through her life. Like many art sensitive introverts who just want to be left alone to create to their heart’s content in peace, we wasn’t at all surprised to learn that Haley isn’t so fussed about winning any popularity contest and much prefers to work only with similar minded creatives.
Clearly a family girl at heart, Haley is supporting her sister’s journey (who is also a newbie entrepreneur by recently launching Wheelers Wellness) by teaching her a few social media tricks and equally investing time by blogging as an extension to her photography pursuance. We caught up with Haley whom admittedly is out soul-searching and is in the mid-stages of transitioning herself into full bloom in preparation to help educate others whilst spreading a positive message. Here’s the interview…
Hey Haley, how is your day so far?
Good morning, I have a little bit more energy this morning after sleeping better last night. (Working on exciting projects keeps me up in till crazy hours) I woke up this morning, I watched a motivational video then I made myself a protein shake and spiked it with some coffee beans! After this interview, I am jumping back into revamping my newest website which is targeted to launch in May.
As a photographer can you tell us what a typical 24 hours for you like?
Well, as a freelance photographer, it’s a little different because sometimes I am on location and other times I am in a studio. As of right now I don’t have my own studio, so I rent studios dependant on where my clients are coming from.
The days I am not on location, I like to sleep in and wake and make a fresh fruit smoothie. I head off to the gym and shake off all of my excess energy before coming back and checking in with emails and photo editing work.
I rely heavily on public transit as I live in Toronto, most of my clients are in the downtown core so it usually takes about an hour to get to work. If it’s during busy season, That extra hour is very important – you’ll probably find me napping on the subway or snacking or possibly catching up on reading a business success book.
Can you give us a little background information and take us through the journey of how you got to where you are today?
Since I was a kid, I was enrolled in lots of extra curricular activities. This included anything from cooking to Girl Guides to horseback riding, even art classes and dance school. I tried out pretty much everything! I decided since I have always been shy and quiet, I often just wanted to be alone and to be left to create art – Drawing, Painting,Sewing,Scrapbooking etc. I think art was a way of reflecting on what I’ve learned through my experiences and applying it to my work.
Now that I have an Art Degree, I go out and I take photos and document my life and the lives of others around me. I always search for other like-minded and creative individuals to work with.
How did you arrive to the point of wanting to become a photographer?
In high school, which was an athletic high school by the way. I wasn’t super athletic and I was never a fan of huge competition. I was more so a fan of equality even back then, so I met my friends and the people I got along with best were also very introverted just like myself. High school was a time, where every one wanted to fit in and that was a struggle for me.
I found my tribe in my art classes – friends who I could hang with and do street photography, create indie films etc. My favourite teacher happened to be my photographer teacher. She was a strong believer in expression through art. She taught me to not be afraid of exploring different mediums and taking risks in what I believed in. Lucky for me, we still had a dark room, so I was able to learn the history of photography which sparked my appreciation. I used the darkroom whenever I had a chance, when I wasn’t in the darkroom I was studying new techniques and out taking photos.
How did you make that switch between hobby, to making it your prospective career?
Through schooling, as I got my Arts Degree. I think the best part of studying at Humber College was the people for sure, just meeting like-minded individuals and feeling like I finally fitted in.
What social media tools did you currently use to build yourself as a brand within Haley Wheeler Photo?
I have used them all, I was definitely a big fan of Tumblr back in the day as that’s where I had my first photo journal. Then I moved to Flickr, now I am on Instagram. I think Instagram is great because thats where I get a lot of clients and connect with lots of marketing agencies. I still have Facebook though I use it more so for my family and friends. I would say that a lot of the engagement that I currently get is from my large family (my biggest fans since day one aha).
How do you source clients? Have you got an agency or is all of your portfolio based on freelance?
That goes back to social media, it’s so great for finding clientele these days, I am still working on getting into an agency but as I haven’t been out of school too long and I am still young. I do find a lot of work through word of mouth and also reaching out to people I really want to work with through social media platforms.
Best project or collaboration to have worked on?
#CreatedtoCreateSeries, which you can find on Instagram via hashtag. That is where I document other visual artists. I take a portrait of the artist with their work behind them, I do that because I like to feel like I am giving the artist power by showing them that their own work behind them is their expression. If there’s artists looking to get involved, this is an ongoing series currently based on the Toronto art industry with hopes to expand.
All the artists involved are so powerful and super talented because they all have their own unique style and they aren’t afraid of being themselves – That’s probably the secret of how you really find your own unique style – just by studying art and expressing yourself not worry what any one else thinks.
Any great stories to share?
College was great! Being an art kid was really cool. I would say creating my portfolio, since I studied creative photography, it covered all different styles of photography. I knew for my graduation show (which was my portfolio viewing), I wanted to really stand out, and I did that by documenting some performance artists that I had met that year. The link is online via my website so you can view my work there.
Do you ever just walk into a set or studio, and just go with the flow?
Almost always, because I feel like that is truly how you get a real moment. Good photographers can easily read body language and be adaptive. I can sense who’s comfortable around the camera and who might need some extra coaching.
To get the perfect shot my subject must feel a sense of connection to you and feel comfortable around me. I think to learn that, you must have the ability to be vulnerable around people, this way they learn to trust you. Developing trust is such a good feeling, all based on faith and pure intension. My whole purpose is motivate other people and to let them know it’s ok to be themselves. I think that’s how I have gotten the best results.
Can you tell us a winning moment for you so far?
I am only 21, so I even though I have done a lot. My winning moments are yet to come!
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
From my mentors during internship who were advertising and commercial photographers that are also based in Toronto.
I learned what it means to be a professional photographer – it’s funny, some of the top professionals have less schooling then I do. I learned rather quick it’s all about real world practice and getting yourself out there! I was taught how to get out of my shell and learn to be myself even if that meant being different. Don’t stress too much on finding my style, that will develop over time.
What are you still learning about as photographer?
Lots! Every single day.
What advice would you give to other photographers out there that need are looking to get their foot in the door of the photographer industry?
It is super competitive. If you are only going into photography only for the money then that would be the wrong reason. You should go into photography because you feel passionate about it. Also, it’s not only about the camera you use, it’s about studying the art form its-self by going to art exhibitions and art galleries, leaning about design techniques and elements. Just by going out and exploring and using that as a core inspiration for your work. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
What areas are you looking at to continue the growth throughout 2018?
The main thing is following my heart as an artist and enjoying my journey along the way.