In just 14 months, Anela Benavides, a junior from Oahu majoring in business management, said she has developed her rapidly growing photography business. Although Benavides found it initially difficult to balance her personal life and business, she said she was able to learn to prioritize her time better in being able to capture special moments for others. “I made big sacrifices personally, but in the end it paid off, and now I am doing what I love.”
Explaining her busy schedule, Benavides shared on how she had previously worked for her parent’s preschool, Bright Beginning. Her schedule also included “going to school as a full-time student, watching my daughter while my husband worked, and then taking photos in the evening and editing during late nights.
“It was hard, and it was a lot for me to take on. All I kept telling myself is, ‘If there’s a will there’s a way.’ I wanted this dream and vision of mine to work, so I made it work.”
Before Benavides could make her dream work, she said she always found herself at the end. “While having so much on my plate, I suffered. Physically I was not looking after my health. I ended up going to the hospital to find out I had severe acid reflux caused by high levels of stress. Mentally I felt anxiety and oftentimes depression through this past year. Spiritually I was drained, and I felt like I had no time for anything.”
She explained that it wasn’t until she took care of herself that her company was able to grow, “I realized if I’m not good, my company can’t be good. I had to take care of my health, fitness, and get back on track because I felt like I was everywhere. I quit the job at my parents’ company, then I just focused on my company.”
With her daughter Mahina to take care of, Benavides expressed her gratitude toward her husband and parents for helping her. “My parents are the most amazing grandparents and are our number one support. And my husband helps watch our daughter when I’m gone. He always keeps me grounded, practical, and realistic.”
Benavides said she has since learned how to manage her time. “My priority is first having a relationship with my Heavenly Father, second is myself. I take care of my health and my family. Once I put things into perspective and [do] what was best for me, I have found my best self. Then I focus on my dreams I had creating art through photos.”
In Benavides’ work of photography, her subject choice is typically couples. She said, “I’ve always dreamed of taking wedding and elopement photos and couples in general. I love the way two people can show and express their love in photos.
“When I started, I took any and everything that came my way. Recently I found my niche market in engagements, bridals, weddings, and elopements, and that is where my heart truly is. [It’s] where I do my best work.”
One of Benavides’ favorite shoots she said was a styled bridal shoot when she was new to photography. “I was really scared. I was working with five other photographers and it was kinda crazy. I was just trying to squeeze in and peek through and get a shot, and I got amazing photos.
“I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I was so scared about not fitting in with these other photographers who have been doing it for years and years. I’m six months in just trying to get a few shots’ and those were my best photos ever.”
Benavides also enjoyed a recent shoot she did when the sky was pink and purple. She said, “They were super cute and down to get in the water. I really love couples that are down to be adventurous, get wet, or jump in the water.
She described one experience were a couple jumped off Waimea Bay cliff, and how she was in awe that they were down to do whatever. “That’s why I love capturing different couples.”
Being a part of once in a lifetime moments such as getting engaged, married, and building a family is what Benavides described as her favorite part about being a photographer. “I feel honored each and every time to not only witness these moments for my clients but to be a part of it and play a huge role. I feel gratitude, love, and lifetime friendships from doing this job.”
Taylor Yamashita-Kauweloa, one of Benavides’ clients from Oahu, left a review for Benavides saying, “She is responsive, so easy to work with, and the picture turn around time was so quick. She knew how to take two awkward posers and make us look like naturals in front of the camera.”
Benavides said that she has also made many photographer friends from doing her photography business and clarified that it is important to realize how much opportunity there is for everyone. She said, “I feel like if you’re constantly competing with others, you’re just worrying about selfish needs, but there are so many couples out there getting engaged and married. So it’s not like, ‘They should come to me and only me.’
“I wanna focus on not only my clients, but also the community of photographers and videographers around me. Being able to collaborate with one another is really important, and I feel like I’ve been able to build and be a part of a community that enjoys all of that. We’re able to follow along on this journey whether you’re a photographer or client.”
Kaila Berg, a senior from Washington studying elementary education, said she and Benavides share the view of the importance of community over competition. “I think it shows because we’ve worked together as photographers so often, which wouldn’t happen if we only saw it as a competition. She’s let me in on so many of her shoots, and I’ve let her in on mine. We really encourage each other to lift each others’ businesses.”
Berg also commented on Benavides’ styled shoots, “They’re the best. She’s really good at networking, so it’s always really cool to see what she puts together. Especially because she doesn’t just work with the same person or company. She’s really good at reaching out to different people.”
Benavides described networking as a two-way connection. She said, “You actually have to build that bond. I feel like a lot of people who reach out to others or want to connect are like, ‘How can you help me?’ but don’t offer anything in return. You can’t build a connection if it’s one-way.”
She also continued to give advice and said to be authentic and real. “Even if someone has a similar style as me, it’s not like everyone is always just looking at my pictures. The clients I get like me as a person.
“I have really good clients who will pass my name on, so word of mouth gets me great referrals. So someone will say, ‘Hey I heard that you’re awesome to work with, you go that extra mile helping with whatever we need.’ It’s more than just a style, it’s a whole brand that I’m focused on building. It’s not just the images that I care about and offer.”
To new photographers, Benavides gave the advice to specialize in a niche market and serve those clients best. “I feel like new photographers get in the business, and they try to do everything. They try to serve every person, and they try to fit in and have a similar style as someone. In the end it really doesn’t work out.
“Find what style fits you and what you love, that way you stick out amongst the rest. There are thousands of photographers, so I think sticking out is the best way to go. Just be real and serve your clients the best you can.”