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Meet Jacob and Christin Willis of We Heart Photography in Carlsbad

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jacob and Christin Willis.

Jacob and Christin, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Our story really begins when Jacob was in 6th grade and I was in 2nd. We met at the church where my dad was the pastor so we kind of grew up together. Jacob moved to San Diego (Point Loma Nazarene University) for college in 2004 and by his senior year he had secured an internship with one of the most well-known photography studios in San Diego. He graduated in 2008 and they offered him a position as an associate photographer. He and I reconnected that summer and began dating. I came to San Diego for college (also PLNU) in the spring of 2008 to finish my business degree and in the summer of 2009 we got engaged. Jacob not only proposed that I marry him but also that we start a photography business together. I had never taken a photography course or even held a “real” camera. In the fall of 2009, he began teaching me to shoot and I went to all of the weddings and engagements he had booked on his own. We got married on June 19, 2010 and a few months later launched our wedding photography business, We Heart Photography. We photographed 25 weddings a year until we opened our studio in Carlsbad, where we now specialize in senior portraits as well. This year we will photograph over 125 high school seniors and 11 weddings and engagements. We also do corporate headshots and family portraits for previous clients.

So, this is us: We are Jacob & Christin Willis, a husband & wife photography studio based in Carlsbad, California. We specialize in wedding photography & senior portraits. We live 3 minutes from the beach with our 2 precious daughters, Lilah Rae & Sadie Joy, and silly puppy, Molly Mae. We heart weddings, seniors, sunshine, lattes, treats, natural light, the beach, twinkle lights, flowers, puppies, friends, family, our cozy house, & each other.

And of course… We Heart Photography.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Our first few years were as smooth as they could be. We transitioned seamlessly from college-life to what we considered to be a “dream job”. We got to be together all of the time, hanging out with other couples, building friendships, and attending weddings, the happiest day of our clients’ lives. Just about every one of our weddings was being featured on major wedding blogs so business was coming naturally. We spent $0 on marketing those first few years. We were completely content and felt the risk/reward was perfect. After a few years, Jacob crunched the numbers and we realized that we could continue focusing solely on weddings, shooting 25 a year, but that we’d never be able to move out of our townhouse or support children. We began looking outside of weddings to see if there was an untapped market that we could tap into. I followed an Australian photographer who specialized in mother-daughter portraits and I was inspired to do the same. I did a practice shoot and within a few weeks we had signed a lease for a live-work loft in Carlsbad that would allow me to have a real, full-blown studio. I dabbled in the mother-daughter portraits, newborn photography, and family portraits but never could make it worth the cost of the studio. Jacob eventually recommended that I try out senior portraits. I did a few shoots and immediately fell in love. It was the perfect timing because we found out we had a baby on the way. That reality kicked us into gear and really pushed us to make the senior portrait side of the business happen. That first year, 2014, I photographed 60 seniors, then 110 in 2015, and 125 in 2016. We moved into our studio in the fall of 2012 but the studio didn’t turn a profit until 2014. Fortunately, the wedding side of the business was able to support the studio for that time, otherwise, we would probably have closed up shop.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about We Heart Photography – what should we know?
Our company offers high-end, customized portrait experiences. We specialize in photographing weddings, high school seniors, and families (though we don’t photograph children under 6 years old).

Our wedding photography is known for being natural, beautiful, and emotional. Photographers and potential clients always ask, “How do you get your clients to look so ‘in love’?” My response is always, “They ARE in love!” All we have to do is make them comfortable and give them enough direction so that we can truly capture their love. So, Jacob makes a connection with the groom and I make one with the bride. We want them to feel like they’re just hanging out with friends on a double date, not awkwardly posing for strangers, We also want to make sure they’re not feeling annoyed that they’ve been taking photos for 3 hours. We work quickly and efficiently so that our couples get all of the images they want from their wedding/engagement while still getting to enjoy their wedding day. I think that’s what makes us different from a lot of photographers who are more concerned about getting the shot than they are about their client’s experience.

Our senior portraits are different than any other experience we’ve heard of. Each senior comes to our studio for a full photoshoot experience that include professional makeup, hair, and a 5-outfit shoot. We photograph our seniors in our studio on a variety of backdrops (our floral backdrop is our “signature” look), in our courtyard, and then at the beach. People are always surprised to find that we use all natural light and that’s what gives our images such a distinct, recognizable look. They always say that they’ll see a photo on Instagram or Facebook and immediately think, “That’s a ‘We Heart’ photo!” just based on the natural color, posing, and makeup.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
We have an incredible support system of family and friends who have encouraged us and supported us throughout our journey. They asked hard questions, encouraged us to take risks, and prayed with us as we made big business decisions. We are so thankful especially for our parents who have always been proud of us, even before we were “making it”.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
We Heart Photography

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