• Scarlett Michele

June / Ashley

Name - Ashley Bilbro

Age - 24

Lives in - Lexington, KY

Alma mater - Asbury University in Wilmore, KY

Studied - Art

Graduated - 2014 

Takes her coffee - Chai tea latte (Ashley is a tea woman!)

Last read - W magazine

Works at - Rainwater Photography as CEO/Photographer

Responsible for: Communicating with clients, booking photography sessions, editing photos, and promoting her business through social media and blogging.

SIB: What’s the best part about being your own boss?

AB: Setting my own hours. I have a lot of freedom, and that’s wonderful. Sometimes. It’s just a lot to handle all on your own, ‘cause you’re everything. I do all the emails and phone calls, and all the meetings, and obviously I take pictures, and then [I] go home and edit, and then [I] have to blog it, and then [I] have to advertise [myself]. It’s a little bit of everything into one [job].

SIB: What does an average workday look like for you?

AB: I get up every morning at like seven [am], and I work until noon and then I eat lunch, and then I clean the house a little bit and go back to work. I get off whenever Johnny [Ashley’s husband of three years] comes home from [his rotations at] the hospital. (Johnny is currently in medical school.) That’s basically my everyday life. And then I shoot evenings and weekends. 

SIB: Tell me about being the main earner in your household.

AB: As of right now, my husband’s in medical school, so he doesn’t make any money. *laughs* We have loan money, which isn’t the same as making money, [but it] doesn’t affect anything in our lives. It was really hard in the beginning because I couldn’t do [photography] full time. This is my second year, and [I’ve become] full time and it’s a lot easier to manage. [Johnny’s] great. A lot of marriages are like, “he’s the head of the household” kind of thing, but [with us], it’s even.

SIB: You work with a lot of couples in your job. Having been married for several years, what’s something you’d advise a couple planning for marriage?

AB: Date often. Because life is sucky sometimes and you have to have that. Every week we go out on Friday, or we have home dates on Friday, every single Friday. And I don’t usually book any session on that day because that’s our set day that we always do. Just because during the week you forget, and you need that. Learning about each other too. But dates. Go on dates.

SIB: Most people these days, myself included, belong to blended families. You’ve navigated those waters beautifully. Can you tell me about that, especially in starting your own family?

AB: Obviously growing up in a divorced house wasn’t the easiest thing in the whole entire universe. I was always scared of marriage becauseI never [saw] a functional relationship and [I thought] “Do I want that in my life? ‘Cause I don’t want to get divorced at a young age like my parents did.” It’s funny now that I am married. It’s not even a thing that you think about, and their marriage didn’t have any affect on mine.

SIB: What is the best way to fight fair?

AB: I’m always right is the best way to go about it. Just kidding, but honestlyI’m very argumentative. [Johnny] is not, which is a really good thing in our marriage because it evens out. He’ll just sit there and stare at me [while] I’m yelling at him, and I’ll laugh about it because he’s making faces at me and I’m being ridiculous. I know it’s not like that in every marriage, but for us it works out. I’m usually the first one to say sorry, and I feel like for us it’s [about saying] sorry and [getting] over it. I always express what I want to express. *laughs* If there’s a tiny thing that pisses me off, I will say it. He listens to me about it, which is nice. I think it’s important to always [talk about things early], so I always tell him how I feel. A little too much sometimes, but that’s okay.

SIB: What gives you hope when you’re in a bad place?

AB: This is cheesy, but family really helps. My mom. My dog. *laughs* It’s ridiculous, like when I had a hard time, [my dog] would come and nudge me when I cried until I got up. And Johnny. He makes me happy. I married him, so I guess I like him most days.

SIB:What are some areas you’re challenging yourself in? What area couple of goals?

AB: I’m really bad about being healthy. And being organized. I’ve gotten better, ‘cause with taxes and stuff you have to be. I have an app that helps me organize, which makes my life a little easier. I got a gym membership. I go sometimes. *laughs* I gave up McDonald’s sweet tea, which is a big step for me.

SIB: You’ve openly expressed your struggle with self-love on social media, which is incredibly brave. Can you tell me a bit about that struggle?

AB: When I was in high school, I decently liked myself. Obviously, getting married adds pounds on, ‘cause you’re comfortable and happy. It’s like a love/hate relationship. In marriage, you always have someone who’s like, “You’re beautiful,” but then you have to look at yourself and actually think that, which is the hard part. It’s always funny, shooting boudoir. I feel like every woman comes in [saying], “I don’t like this part of my body, so if we can hide that…” and when I look at them, I’m like, why wouldn’t you like that part of your body, ‘cause it’s beautiful.

SIB: You are a huge proponent of all women’s body types being represented in media, as shown in your project you did a few months ago. Can you tell me about that project?

AB: I’m the most insecure person in the whole entire universe. So I think it makes me feel better too, to make other people feel better about themselves. I did the project where I had [about] twelve girls, all in underwear. I did an individual shoot [with each woman], and then I did all of the girls together. Most of them didn’t know each other, which is really fun, because we were there the whole day shooting, so they had the whole day to spend time with each other. At the end, they were all talking and exchanging numbers, which I was like, “Yes!” I wanted people to interact with people who are different from them. I think that’s important. A lot of times people don’t look at people who are different from them. I wanted [these women] to feel comfortable and confident with a group they didn’t know. That was my end goal, and I loved it.

SIB: Being a photographer takes a surprising toll on your body. What are some tricks you’ve learned to staying strong while on a shoot or in other areas of life?

AB: [When you’re editing], you’re crouched, and your back hurts after a couple hours. Which I think [is] a health issue, cause I’m shooting for two hours, and then going home and editing for double that. I think a lot of people view photography always going to do something fun, which is not true at all. You’re not really doing anything but sitting. But if you’re not sitting, you’re not working. [So] I give myself a time that I’m going to go walk my dog or something. I [also] do yoga at home. I’ve gotten decent at it, which is fun. It’s good for your boudoir too.

SIB: You are not afraid to be bold with your hair and makeup. Where do you get your ideas? 

AB: Honestly for my hair, I have no inspiration, I just let it be. For makeup, I mostly wear MAC makeup. I’m obsessed with MAC, which is a bad thing, because they test on animals, and I hate that. But I have to buy it. I do look at a lot of magazines. My real inspiration is my cousin Savannah. She’s in beauty school, but she’s [my] go-to makeup person. She is amazing. She can make you look like a supermodel. She’s four years younger than me, so when she started wearing makeup, I taught her. And now that eyebrows and contouring are a thing, she teaches me.

I used to dress up for every session, because I felt like I needed to. I don’t do that anymore because first of all, I’ve gotten clientele. I don’t think they care about how I look; I think they care about how I take pictures. I used to wear dress pants and [a] blazer to sessions. And that’s crazy when it’s ninety degrees outside. So now I wear yoga pants and T shirts, because that’s comfortable. But as far as meetings and stuff go, I always dress appropriately. It is important to always look good for meetings, ‘cause you’re selling yourself and not just your [work]. I am my brand. 

SIB: Where’s your favorite place to get good clothing deals?

AB: Gabriel Brothers. I get Altar’d State there, you get Free People there. You just have to really dig. I’m a bargain person; I will never pay full price for anything. I like to go to outlets a lot, the GAP outlet in Florence, [KY] is really nice. I like anything that’s on sale. Goodwill too. You just [have to] go to the rich neighborhoods and then go to the Goodwill nearby. That’s how I do a lot of my styled shoots. I go to Goodwill and I cut outfits. I’ll find something and then I’ll cut it up until I find how I like it. I’m not a designer or anything, but I like to create outfits.

SIB: What’s something you feel confident about?

AB: Most of the time I feel confident with my pictures. And that’s kind of my only thing. Which took a long time, because I had a point a year ago [where] I almost quit photography because I had someone [insult me and my work]. Basically described me as being the worst person in the world. It was a wedding I did and the bride was unhappy with the way she looked so I think [that’s why] she got upset with me. [It] almost made me quit. I think that’s what pushed me into finding my own style, so once I found that I felt a lot more confident in my work. Which was nice, because for a long time I was like “I hate this, I can’t do this anymore.” I think that’s the thing that I feel the most confident about now.

SIB: What role do friendships play in your emotional health?

AB: When I got out of college it was really hard because a lot of people moved away. I had a point, during my depression time, [where] I didn’t have any friends. It was really, really bad. Working by yourself you don’t meet people. Stepping outside of your comfort zone to meet people is hard, but you have to. I feel like doing things outside my “normal” is when I started meeting people that I could be close with. Too many people stress me out. But I’m good at having a couple friends and being a good friend to them. Everyone’s all cliquey and #squadgoals, and I’m like no, you just need a couple good friends that are there for you no matter what. When I start being good friends with someone, I let them open up to me first, and then I open up, and even then I don’t open up all the way. When you see people’s true colors, the bad [stuff], then you can tell if you can mesh with someone.

SIB: What’s one way you “step outside your normal”?

AB: I’m a dance team coach at my old high school. And that’s about it, but it’s time-consuming. It’s a lot. I love it. I love working with high-school girls, they’re wonderful. Which is so funny, cause when I first started I was like, “This is going to be awful!” [But] they’re so sweet, [and] I like to make people feel good about themselves. We get to constantly be loving on these girls. And that’s important, ‘cause when you’re in high school, everything is the end of the world, so it’s nice to be there for them. I think I like that more than the dance stuff. I like to be a mentor, a friend, to high school girls. It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun. I think it’s helpful, when you have a dead season, to have something else to do, so then you’re not [idle]. With depression, when you’re not doing anything, that’s really bad. I felt like it was helpful constantly being around people, people that I liked. And I get to be a cool big sister, so that’s fun.

SIB: What does balance mean to you?

AB: I think I just try really hard to even it all out. I try really hard to make time for friends. I always give myself deadlines, and that’s how I balance work. It’s not hard for me to balance relationship stuff. I will blow anything off if I get to spend time with Johnny. So I’ll be late on a deadline if I have to, if it means I get to [spend extra time with him]. Cause that’s more important to me.


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