BYU senior builds social media-based business

Utah wedding photographer Tressa Wixom at her own wedding in 2017. Wixom said she loves capturing a couple’s love through photography. (Ashley Zibetti)

Instagram can be a photographer’s best friend, and Tressa Wixom has used it to her advantage. She’s found her niche while still in school: high-end Utah weddings.

Wixom’s Instagram account is a carefully curated portfolio of her best work. In the year since she created the account, it has grown to include over 6,000 followers. More importantly, her following and engagement online translates to booked sessions.

Wixom didn’t always want to be a photographer. Originally she thought she’d do graphic design, so she spent a year working hard on a graphic design portfolio.

When it came time to apply for the graphic design program, she realized it wouldn’t cost her any extra to also apply for the photography program.

Wixom put together a photography portfolio in about a week but still tried to showcase her best work. Creating the photography portfolio helped her discover how much she enjoys taking and editing photos.

“It came so much more naturally to me,” she said.

When she heard back from The College of Fine Arts and Communications, she had not gotten into the graphic design program, but she did get into photography.

Now, as a senior, Wixom’s path to becoming a freelance wedding photographer is unusual among her classmates.

“A lot of my major is commercially based or fine art based,” she said. “People will intern and make their way up and go to New York. It’s a way different world than owning your own business and social media.”

When she was still new to the photography program, Wixom noticed that a girl a few years ahead of her was freelancing weddings.

“I saw that she was shooting weddings and making money while she was still in school, and I said, ‘I want to do that,'” Wixom said.

Almost one year ago, Wixom decided to focus on photographing couples and worked to build a portfolio for wedding photography.

“I just started copying what the people who knew what they were doing were doing. I worked hard at editing, went to workshops, networked and tried to find my own style,” she said.

Tressa Wixom photographs couples and weddings to capture their love and special moments. (Tressa Wixom)

One turning point in her career was attending the Photo Native conference in Salt Lake City in March 2018.

“It opened my eyes to what I was doing wrong on Instagram,” she said.

A big takeaway from the conference was the need to keep a consistent style on her Instagram account.

Wixom said at the conference, Utah photographer Kenzie Victory told her, “You are a product, and if your photos don’t look consistent, then people aren’t going to know what they’re buying.”

After taking this advice, Wixom said she felt like people were more interested in her account, and she started gaining a greater following.

“I think one thing that has helped her business grow is that she’s really nailed down her style, so her clients know what to expect and are more confident when booking her,” said Jessica Johnson, one of Wixom’s past clients.

While some photographers shoot weddings for the money in between bigger commercial jobs, Wixom photographs weddings because she said she loves building relationships with couples and capturing their love.

“She’s so good at catching authentic love on camera. She always makes me feel like it’s just me and my husband on a date, so I’m never nervous to be in front of her camera,” said Johnson.

Wedding photography isn’t just a source of income for Wixom. She said she loves it and plans to focus on high-end weddings after graduation.

“I want all my couples to care about their photos. I want them to invest in their photographs,” she said.

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