That’s right, y’all! It finally happened; I am the proud, new owner of my own photography studio! *Faints*
Conveniently located just minutes from my house, and big enough to host every newborn, milestone, mini-session, Santa experience, and boudoir package a girl could ever dream of; I’m still in awe of where this beautiful journey has taken me. The process of acquiring and transforming this space has been absolutely exhausting and equally rewarding. Keep scrolling to read more about my proudest moment yet as a female business-owner and single mom.
Before we go further, I have to point out that my vision for this studio goes well-beyond a gorgeous space for me to work out of. I’m also striving to provide local and traveling creatives with a space fully-optimized for production. Whether their shoot features commercial products, an individual, families, brides, or fashion, my space allows artists room for endless opportunities. Having dedicated my life to nine years in the business, I know what it’s like to be hindered from growth due to a lack of space to create in. I’ve made it my mission to remove that roadblock for other artists, so their businesses can rise to new heights. That is truly why I believe I was given the ability to purchase this space- to make an impact in the lives of others.
This space is fully equipped with everything a creative could possibly ever need. Here are some of my favorite highlights:
• Private Chesterfield, VA studio near 288 • 1,100 square feet • Magnetic wall: 8’x8′ • Fully-decorated boudoir suite • Clawfoot bathtub setup • LED overhead lighting • 9’ ceilings • Private entrance
• Spacious restroom • Private parking lot • Huge storage closet for props • Styling area/ dressing room
• Sitting area in front • Kitchen area w/ sink & mini fridge • Newborn posing beanbag
• Wood-paneled backdrop option • White walls throughout • Custom teal barn doors • Frosted windows
As many of you who know me personally can well imagine, my type-A personality thrives in this custom-built space. I’d have to admit that the organization factor may have been my favorite part of planning this entire build. From the moment I got those keys, visions of clear storage bins and tall shelving units danced in my head like sugarplums on Christmas eve. Now I have a functional place for everything, and I finally have all of my props, balloons, decor and seasonal inventory catalogued and easily-accessible.
Oh, and I finally have my entire attic back. Damn, that feels good.
I must say, I couldn’t have pulled off this project without the help of some really amazing people. Throughout the entire process, I was blessed to have several friends and family members come through with the resources they could provide. From the talented guys who helped with installing my floors, rewiring electric and busting down walls, to my friends who dedicated their time towards painting barn doors and hauling stuff over; this was truly a group effort. I still cant seem to quite find the words that would fully express my gratitude for the incredible support system I have, but I whole-heartedly believe that life will provide me with countless opportunities to utilize this space and pay those favors forward to others for many years to come.
For me, one of the most meaningful parts of this entire process was involving my daughter, Reagan. From the very first day her sweet little soul joined me Earth-side, I made a solemn promise to Reagan and myself that I would become something she could be proud of. Years later, with hands trembling, I made that same vow again when I chose to call off my engagement and quit my job during a pandemic in search of a life than felt more true. My house was transformed into an office overnight, as I frantically re-arranged my living room into a makeshift boudoir studio. I sacrificed our guest room in the name of newborns and cake smashes, and just like that, Ashley Dorton Photography became my full-time gig.
I worked my butt off that year, not only to keep my promise to Reagan, but also to heal my broken heart. My counselor became my new best friend, my past became my catalyst, and my work became my therapy. Through photography, I connected with dozens of beautiful, strong women and business-owners who encouraged me to keep pushing. They’d share their stories of bravery and triumph as if they were opening up to their best friend, and I’d leave their sessions feeling a renewed sense of confidence I hadn’t felt before. Looking back, I needed those boudoir sessions just as much as my clients did.
Towards the end of 2021, I started to feel like my business was staring to grow out of the at-home studio I had thrown together the year before. My attic was overflowing with props, there was no room for guests to visit, and we had officially forgotten what it was like to eat at an actual dinner table due to lack of space. One night, after several hours of cleaning and prepping for the next morning’s session, I looked at Reagan and said “Well, girlfriend, I think mommy needs a studio.” She shot me a smile and a thumbs up, likely because she didn’t know what a studio was, and it was in that moment that I found myself reaffirming my promise to Reagan –– I will become something you’ll be proud of.
From there, my daughter got to watch her mama spring into action, once again. She followed me closely each day as I put one foot in front of the other to make my dreams of studio ownership come true. With each drop of blood, sweat, and tears I poured into flipping the studio, I could see my daughter’s eyes and world get bigger. One day off in the not-so-distant future, I hope Reagan will look back and be able to draw strength from this chapter of our lives. If she’s ever given the chance to take a risk in the name of a life that feels more true to her, I hope she’ll be reminded of all of the times that I took mine, and she’ll feel so incredibly proud… proud of her mama for what she did, proud of herself for what she knows she can do, and proud of all other women who choose to do the same.
Once the long and grueling renovations were complete, I hosted a big Sip N’ See for all of my clients, friends, and family to attend. We served snacks, shared stories, and gave tours all night- despite Mother Nature’s attempts to rain us out. I’ll never be able to express the amount of gratitude and love I felt that night–– for my life and for all of the special people in it. This dream has been a long time in the making, and to share the launch of my new studio with many of the people who push me forward was just the total icing on my cake.
To myself, to Reagan, and to everyone else who has loved and encouraged me along the way: we did it!!! And I vow to use this space to continue making us all proud.
To see all my behind-the-scenes videos and the full breakdown of each project the renovation of this studio required, jump to my TikTok channel here: https://www.tiktok.com/ashleydorton
Blog written by: Sarah Kelly of Aligned Artists www.alignedartists.com
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