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Meet Crystal Rivera, Photo Mentor's Artist of the Month

artist of the month Jun 07, 2022
Photo Mentor Academy - Learn to SEE Like an Artist
Meet Crystal Rivera, Photo Mentor's Artist of the Month
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I’m not being uber dramatic or over-the-top when I whisper to you a little secret about April’s Artist of the Month Award winner, Crystal Rivera of Crystal Rivera Photography.

But, the thing is, Crystal was honest enough to reveal in the interview for this article that she nearly quit her dream of working as a photographer. And from the bottom of my heart, all I can say is thank goodness she didn’t!

The enthusiasm, creativity, and thoughtfulness Crystal brings to her art continues to deliver imagination and heart in every piece she creates. 

Her desire to “create” and not merely “shoot” is only one of the ways Crystal surprises and delights through her original artistic photography.

Avoiding sameness in her photography is something Crystal Rivera strives for and we giggled as we tossed around the idea of taking on the role of trendsetter rather than trend follower. 

But you know, with the way Crystal sets the bar so high for herself and is constantly experimenting and learning, reaching trendsetter status may not be as far away as it seems. 

What is nearly unimaginable is that Crystal only got her first “real” camera and began seriously shooting last August, so not even a year with photography! Honestly, that makes the work she’s already putting out there even more impressive and noteworthy. 

I feel like Crystal’s inner spirit and glowing passion are sure to propel her to her dreams. As part of the Photo Mentor Academy community, we are all extremely fortunate to get a front-row seat to her growth! 

And also cheering her on are four beautiful and talented children and the whole tribe’s head cheerleader, Jim, her husband. You can feel this family’s closeness as she talks about them and their sweet supportiveness. 

In It Together 

Not only does her family actively participate in Crystal’s creativity and endeavors in photography, but she also explains how they were the catalysts to ignite and inspire her to pursue photography in the first place.

Like Jessica Marshall, January’s winner, taking photos of her family and feeling the joy of having them kindles her desire to give other families the same joy. But more than that, Crystal expresses how she wants to make the image and memory a keepsake, a one-of-a-kind experience. Magical, even. 

(SIDE NOTE: I just have to pipe in here and say the kind of enchantment Crystal aspires to bring her clients is precisely the beyond-the-box thinking Lee Love is mentoring and encouraging around here all the time! This kind of thinking allows you to seek and find your unique style and tone. And it’s this kind of packaging that helps differentiate you in the marketplace.) 

Lee contends that Crystal’s Art Institute background, along with advertising/marketing experience and managing the family business, all impact her artistic vision, forging and forwarding her style. 

But before her son graduated, homeschooling four children and helping run her husband’s business, along with church and community involvement, kind of kept her hands full. So when her son opted to work at the company full time (Crystal’s photo below showcases one of his creative sides), suddenly, Crystal thought it might be the perfect time to pursue her love of photography

And you guessed it, her family is enthusiastically (or sometimes with bribes! she teases) all for her and behind her! She’s happy, she says, to explore and take the adventure to create magic with her photography, whether a business or not. Crystal fears her style isn’t the norm for her area. (Psst… Maybe it will be soon!)    

Learning Forward 

While Crystal was having plenty of fun exploring her new camera, a birthday gift and the first "not a flimsy Walmart camera" she’s used time and again, she thought she might need help. 

She looked to Facebook to better use her new Canon t7 and learn more. But what she found she says is, “they just have all these photographer rules, and all these photographer settings and (they say) if you really want to do photography you gotta do manual, and I was so stressed, and I thought I don’t know if I can go professional!” 

Crystal was losing her confidence, and worse, she wasn’t seeing anything resembling creativity in everyone posting the exact same thing in these groups. She was there to learn and grow.  

Oh my gosh, I was getting so overwhelmed,” she says, “I went from having fun and being creative to oh my gosh, gotta check my settings, gotta check this, and that and on and on.” She was starting to think she didn’t belong in the business of photography. Too many rules!

But luckily, that’s when Lee Love chimed in, helping to answer her question and guide her (yes, in some random group.) Others in the same comments were reprimanding her for her lack of experience. In a “beginners group,” too!  

“I want to be pushed, I want to be inspired, and I was looking for help,” Crystal enthuses about finding Photo Mentor Academy, “and when Lee first complimented my work, I told him you’re just pulling my leg here, you’re just messing with me.”

A Lee Lesson Frees Crystal

Crystal continues, “One of the first things Lee said to me when we first met was ‘just take the shot.’ And I was just like, yesssssss, can I really just do that, is that allowed?” She’s laughing now in the interview, but I can see and feel both her relief and excitement. Her spirit is lovely.

In their conversations, Lee reminds Crystal that her background and knowledge of composition, design, colors, and even advertising and marketing show in her work, even in its infancy. He relishes in her creativity and love of fun and family that shines through in her work. (In Crystal's playful self-portrait shown here, she makes the hectic roles of mom, teacher, businesswoman, photographer and more look like nothing but fun!) 

And Crystal loves the inspiration and encouragement she feels as a valued member of the PMA community. Wanting input on her work is one of the things she was searching for in joining groups, but the quality of the feedback from Photo Reviews, in the group, and with Lee personally is invaluable to her. 

Still, Crystal’s flair for creativity and desire to honestly produce artistic and meaningful photographs drives her to lean into learning. 

And better, it allows her to experiment with ideas and challenges as they come along. With experimentation, learning, and evolution, the most extraordinary gifts are often found. At the earliest stages, feeling your way around and trying things allows you to find your truest love, so go ahead and play a little to start to understand and find your unique style. 

I love the group,” Crystal explains, “because everybody has their own thing, their own creative niche, and uses photography in their own way.” Together we concluded that creative people rub off on one another and one lifts the other with ideas and inspiration. 

Inspiration and Learning Go Hand in Hand

But further, Crystal discloses, “I told Lee when we first started talking that I’m one of those people who, when I want to learn about something, I want to learn everything!

Oh my. Don’t get him started Crystal, because this is exactly what Lee loves to hear and is working tirelessly to provide as he continually strives to encourage, educate, and mentor photographers. 

Sharing his commercial experience, years of teaching, and Lee’s own ongoing studies mean he’s more than ready to go in any direction, and at any depth, in whatever topics the PMA community requests. I know you’ll love some of the phenomenal guest artists Lee has lined up for upcoming interviews on PhotoMentorTv. 

Still, Crystal talks more about the exchange of ideas, styles, and challenges happening within the group and programs at PMA. She’s on a solid path to learning, mixed with experimenting, and is trying to push herself to higher levels by testing all boundaries. 

She mentions that in other groups, everyone posts the exact same photos. Nothing inspires, it just repeats. 

Beyond learning the camera, lighting, technical skills, and processing, Crystal is embracing the creative and imaginative components in shooting her photography.

Photo Mentor Academy celebrates Crystal Rivera's fearlessness, achievements, and creativity going forward and can’t wait to see where her artistic eye takes her!

by Sue-Ann Bubacz

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