Alex & Connie

It's so evident in the first three photos how in love and happy these two are. I meet a ton of couples... a ton and I don't think I have ever met a couple that has this much chemistry. Alex and Connie are the type of people whose personalities make you feel as if you've known them your entire life. We met on the boardwalk in Virginia Beach and I instantly felt so comfortable with these two because they are so full of life!! I couldn't stop laughing the entire time we were shooting and clearly neither could they ;) Alex drove all the way from Harrisonburg and Connie drove from northern VIrginia in just two days notice! I'm so thankful they were able to make the session because it's GORGEOUS! 

I met Alex through his sister's wedding (The Smith Wedding), and I originally had their wedding date taken. However, a previous bride backed out and their wedding day came open and I knew it was fate. I had so much fun with this family at his sister's wedding that I was so thrilled when they asked me to come back! (They didn't get sick of my awkward rambling!!!) Anyway, I am so excited for August 23rd because if their wedding is half as fun as just these two, it'll be the time of my life! 

Elizabeth & Amer

I'm taking a break from countless hours of writing papers and studying to bring you the most beautiful sunrise session ever! 

Meet Elizabeth and Amer! I sat down with Elizabeth last year while she was in the midst of her search in finding a wedding photographer. I am so happy (and honored) to have been chosen for her big day because it sounds like it's going to be a blast! Liz and I instantly bonded over our mutual obsession with our dogs. Finally, someone who understands my need to dress up and take pictures of Max! ;) 

We finally got to meet up for their engagement session on Saturday and it was super early, I had to wake up at 5:45 to get to the location on time and I was everything but enthusiastic about being awake that early. However, the light from this session was totally worth the early alarm. The weather went from warm and sunny to super dark and about to storm, then back to sun again! Whatever the weather decided, we went with it and had fun in Yorktown! 

For anyone who has been to Yorktown, you may recognize that little white boat, but I assure you, we asked permission before trespassing to take pictures! 

The Clayberg Wedding with Violet Iris Studios

Last month, I had the extreme honor of assisting a wedding for the first time ever! I can't believe that I have never been a second shooter until now but I sort of fell in love with it. Being able to capture all of the beauty of a wedding day while some else has to worry about the timeline is a thing of beauty (Sorry Cate!) haha! 

Cate of Violet Iris Studios asked me to tag along and help capture all of the gorgeous DIY details and rustic charm that came along with this wedding. Becca & Phil were married at The Mill at Fine Creek which is secretly my dream wedding venue in Richmond. It's so beautiful that I jumped at the opportunity not just to shoot alongside Cate, but also to see the venue firsthand. 

The wedding day was literally picture perfect. Warm sunny blue skies and all the best hints of spring showed up just in time! Becca & Phil's ceremony started just as the sun began to hit and what resulted in the most gorgeous sunlit ceremony ever! 

Here's a few shots from the day and head over to Cate's website to see her gorgeous photos as well! 

Roanoke: Last Call

Dear Roanoke/SW Virginia Friends: 

I posted a previous announcement that I am moving to Virginia Beach next month! I am super excited and anyone who knows me knows what a great opportunity this is! While I am excited to be with my boyfriend and a beach, I am super disappointed to have to leave all of my Roanoke clients behind. 

I could not have built such an amazing clientele and improved my skills nearly as much without each and every one of you. Every one of my friends who let me harass them with my camera, the families that I met and made memories with, and the couples who let me into their love stories. ALL of you are equally important and absolutely crucial to the development of me and my business.

This state is such a saturated market full of photographers and I am beyond thankful for everyone that chose me. New clients, repeat clients, friends, and family, all of you have meant the world to me and for that I thank you! 

These sessions will be my last advertised portrait sessions in the Roanoke area. I will certainly be back several times for weddings, and I will always be booking weddings in the Roanoke area. While I wish I could offer free sessions to everyone, I still have expenses and as a soon-to-be-college grad, life is about to get real expensive. 

Each session will last 45 minutes and you will receive all of your digital files via an online downloadable gallery. I am offering sessions once an hour from 10am-7pm and these slots will fill on first come, first serve basis. Please share with your friends as I would love to meet new people before I move! 

To book your session: please contact me via to select your date and location! 

The Jones-Smith Wedding

Once upon a time.. there was a beautiful princess and unbeknownst to her, a superhero was awaiting to end their love story with a happily ever after. I was so honored to be a part of this fairytale because it truly was just that, a fairytale. Chauncey and BaShaun are truly a perfect match for each other and BaShaun's obsession with Batman really brought an interesting twist on the classic 'royal wedding'. 

The scene is set at the legendary Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, VA. Tall cathedral ceilings tower a classically designed rotunda where friends and family gathered in preparation of "I Do". Chauncey and BaShaun both have an excellent eye for detail and left nothing without their personal touches. The softest pastel pink's accompany a venetian gold to create an elegant, classy, and royal affair. 

Chauncey & BaShaun: Your wedding was the epitome of perfection. I am head over heels with the decor, the personal elements, and of course, you two. As a couple, you radiate the chemistry that clearly was the reason you two fell in love to begin with. Affectionate, fun, and adventurous doesn't even do you fair justice. I wish you two the best of luck in your future and I cannot thank you enough for letting me be such a big part of your love story.

To Amanda of Amanda Dorian Photography: Thank you SO much for assisting me for the day! Your work brought a whole new perspective to the day and I could not have captured some of these moments without you. Your expertise and eye for an excellent shot far surpasses anything on my level and I will forever owe you for lending me your knowledge that day! 

The shots below are just a small representation of the beautiful wedding, but I hope you can feel the excitement and fun that was at an all time high throughout the day! 

Wedding Colors: Venetian Gold & Pink

Wedding Cake: The Jefferson Hotel

Groom's Cake: Jan Butterfield

Wedding Dress: Maya Couture

Bridesmaids' Dresses: Dessy

Groom's Attire: Jos. A Bank

Groomsmen Attire: Jos. A Bank

Florist: Flowers Make Scents

DJ: Earnest Anderson


The Hamm Family

When you shoot in the winter, it's extremely hard to get that 'colorful' look I strive for in every photo. The grass is dead, trees are bare, and winter light is just not as magical. However, I am always in a sunshine state of mind and I am so glad this family can read my mind because they definitely livened up the environment and their colors just scream SPRING! 

I was so so excited to shoot this family because I've been in touch with Kendall for many months now. Whenever someone is as excited about their photos as I am, it truly makes me 10x more enthusiastic about their session. Little Avery and Preslee are the cutest of girls but being at ages 2 and 3.. they were the boss. 

Here are a few from our late-winter/early-spring family shoot.

Bonus: BLOOPER REEL! Because we all know those cute little smiles didn't come easy...


Mariah & Andrew

So Andrew and I go wayyyy back, I mean 8th grade Spanish class wayyyy back and I haven't seen him in forever since we both parted ways after high school. It was beyond exciting not only to see him and catch up with his life but meet his bombshell of a girlfriend, Mariah! I swear, these two are just meant to be and I can't even begin to explain how perfect they are together. I kept hearing so much about Mariah and I couldn't wait to harass her with my camera... turns out, the girl CAN MODEL. We walked around downtown Roanoke which is probably the most overused location for photos but we took advantage of some fun backgrounds and made it work. 

Here are a few of Andrew & Mariah's mid-day downtown shoot! 

Megan & James

It's becoming a broken record... "I love shooting with other photographers" but I swear it's true and Megan is no exception! It's so much fun just to chit chat about photography/camera/nerdy stuff! (Check Megan's work out here!) If you have ever shot with me before, you know that I have trouble directing poses because it's super hard for me to get the vision in my head out in words. Luckily, there are some people that can just read my mind and Megan and James did just that. 

I love to leave my locations up in the air until the night before because I try to pick locations that are unique. (Keyword: try, it's a small town ya'll) I texted Megan the night before and told her to meet me behind Grand Home Furnishings and she's probably thinking... "what?!" -- I know I sounded crazy but the shots we got were so worth her skepticism. It started off as a cold and snowy morning and about an hour into the shoot it started warming up tremendously! I am so thankful these two were so adventurous, the morning wouldn't have been possible if they didn't want to walk on private property, crawl into a snowy forest, and squat 1,000 times ;) 

Megan and James are getting MARRIED in the fall and I am so so so excited to be a part of their beautiful day! 

Here are a few images from our super early engagement shoot! 

SNOW-Shoot with Kayleigh

I absolutely love shooting and working with other photographers. It's a sort of camaraderie that only photographers know about. It's a time to dish, vent, gush, and of course, shoot. I was so so so excited to shoot with Kayleigh because not only is she one of my personal favorite area photographers but she's also A BEAUTIFUL MODEL. I mean, seriously... She has the 'fierce look' down like no one else.

We spent the evening in 4 inches of snow and freezing temperatures but it ended up working out just fine because of the awesome shots that came out of it. This field was actually behind the most random store out in the middle of no where and it just goes to show that photographers really can make something out of nothing!

Kayleigh is a super super super talented photographer out of Roanoke/Salem, you should go like her on Facebook because she's the next big thing out of the star city. 

In Bloom

This is a personal post, bear with me!

These last two weeks have been harder than any other in my entire life. Last September, my Grandaddy was diagnosed with cancer. In less than 6 months, he was gone. It is so hard to come to terms with such a situation because my grandaddy was one of the closest relatives I have. 

I grew up living a few streets over from my grandparents and then I moved right smack beside them. Whenever I got into one of those teenage fights with my parents, I would run next door and they would feed me junk food and let me go swimming. My first trip to Disney, continuous summers at the beach house, and adventures to Pigeon Forge and an unreal amount of places I cannot recall at the moment, all sum up my childhood with my grandparents. 

I could literally make a novel about how many memories, the funny stories, the embarrassing stories, the sad stories, etc, but I would rather leave you all with this: 

  1. Photography is such an important aspect of life. You can hire a photographer to capture those formal moments in life but I am begging you to capture any and everything you can. Every smile, every emotion, every silly, funny, or awkward moment, capture it. Memories are supposed to last together but I made so many with my grandparents that there are a few of them that just slip between the cracks. Take your actual camera, your camera phone, or even one of those $3 disposable cameras, and capture it. If you don't know how to use your camera or want to take better pictures, please don't hesitate to contact me! Not only take them but get them printed too! Memories are so much more real when you can hold them and I realize that now as I hold the pictures below. 
  2. Appreciate everything. From sunshine on your face to fresh flowers, take it in. Life is so precious and it sometimes takes a tragedy to make you realize it. All of the flowers we received are just a simple reminder that even in the darkest of hour, life still finds the light and blooms. 
  3. Hug your friends and family. Telling you that you love them will suffice but nothing feels as good as a hug. I can't even begin to describe how thankful I am for the hugs from family, friends, and even strangers. They really can turn your day around and I never want anyone to take a simple hug for granted. Once someone is gone, it'll be all you wish for. 

^This last one was taken on the night after he passed away, the stars in the yard looked like glitter and I know he's up there. Fly high, Grandaddy! 

Chelsea Sledd - Mary Kay headshots!

Chelsea is just the absolute sweetest girl you will ever meet. Not only does she have the most amazing personality but she's also doing HUGE things with Mary Kay! I've been watching her on Facebook just grow and grow and now she's a sales director!! So crazy! Anyway, I am so honored to capture how beautiful she is and truly let her natural beauty shine (although that Mary Kay makeup doesn't look that bad either!) 

Thanks so much to Chelsea for hanging out with me and keeping my mind occupied! I had so much fun being girly with her for an hour and I can't wait to see how far she goes!

Jaime & Seth are ENGAGED

If you didn't read my last blog post, it'll basically just repeat the following: I hate the cold and snow. However, I'm beginning to absolutely LOVE snow for photos. The bright white makes for a natural reflector and it just works every time. However, let's not get excited because I feel like white sand would do the same. Beach > Snow. Anyway, I have been DYING to shoot at Tuckahoe Plantation ever since I saw pictures of it and this place is 100x more beautiful in the snow. If you're in the Richmond area...please do yourself a favor and go visit! 

I've known Jaime since middle school and I literally couldn't (or want to) picture her with anyone else. Jaime is the absolute sweetest girl you will ever meet and it's truly an honor to just be around or know her. Seth is definitely her perfect match, because when they are together, they just radiate light and happiness everywhere! Watching them interact makes me fall in love with the both of them.. is that weird? 

I am SO so excited for their wedding in June! Until then, here's a few of our engagement session!

Valentine's Day SNOW-Shoot

It bears repeating, I HATE SNOW and I especially hate being cold. However, I also hate being stuck in the house all day so I knew I had to get out and dust off my camera. I called my go-to Richmond model Lizzie and of course she was down, I love her so much for being on call literally whenever. I also wanted to join in on the misery so I called Cate of Violet Iris Studios (please do yourself a favor and go drool over her work) and we got to work. 

Now let me tell ya, if you've never shot in the snow, don't try it.... unless you go prepared. I have never done a shoot in the snow so I didn't bring anything to wipe my lens, gloves, or warm socks. It's safe to say that I was miserable the entire time but I didn't hear Lizzie complain once. She's amazing. 

Anyway, here are a few from our very last minute Valentine's Day SNOW SHOOT!

I still have this gold sequin dress from NYE that is constantly screaming at me in my closet so I had to join in for a LITTLE bit. These below are from Violet Iris Studios:

Life Lesson: Part 1

It occurred to me when I was driving to Roanoke on Friday.... you make your own happiness.

I spent all of 2013 complaining because my life sucked. I had terrible things just happen one after another and I think I blamed everyone but myself. I was so angry at everyone and everyone because life was so unfair. Half of my family really let me down and I blamed the other half for it. I was throwing blame like a flaming ball of fire. It occurred to me when I was driving home that the only person that I can blame for being so angry and unhappy is myself. I have the ultimate power in life to decide how I want to feel and how I want to channel my emotions. I'll be honest, until I found a way to channel my anger, I threw punches at anyone who would listen. It wasn't healthy. I'm not saying that I have found an end all, cure all, but I think I've found a way to minimize the radius of people I hurt when I'm upset. 

Whether you have music, photography, art, dance, or the gym, everyone needs a venting tool. I use to be one of those people that would just sit around and bottle up my emotions and pop off the cap whenever it got completely full. Again, that's not healthy. So what's this huge epiphany I had? Here it is... 

"To Be Better, You Must Do Better..." 

It sounds so simple right? Good karma and all of that? Well it is. I took a step back and looked at how I was living my life from another perspective. I'm not saying I was a bad person but I didn't go out of my way to make other people feel better either. I started complimenting people throughout the day, telling people that they were good at something. I started venting my anger and hurt at the gym instead of on people. (I'm still working on this one) I started eating healthier and waking up earlier. I started staying full and living life. All of these things together really have made a huge difference. I wrote last week about "staying full" and how you should fill your days with as much life as possible so that there is no room for negativity and sadness. However, if you have a family like mine, that still creeps in there from time to time; knowing how to handle that is key to finding happiness as well. You have to do better all the time in order to be a better person. Doing better to others and to yourself. That's why I started eating better and taking care of myself health-wise (I still look like a bum when I go to class), but it's a start. 


All of this hit me as I was driving to Roanoke to see my grandaddy! I'm so close with my grandparents, they've always been there for me. I grew up living less than a 5 mile radius at all times. He's real sick now and to say it breaks my heart is an absolute understatement. I won't go into detail about the situation because I respect my family's privacy (not that too many of you read this anyway) but finding a balance in my life and learning how to cope with my emotions has been my saving grace. If I had to deal with today's events in yesterday's mindset, I would be a wreck. I don't want to get all depressing on the few of you reading this, but I just wanted to share my great escape to happiness, or at least my building blocks to get there. 

If you are reading this, I want you to pay-it-forward tomorrow... Tell someone a compliment and watch their day turn around. (Or if you're like me, awkwardly smile and say things while internally rolling your eyes and refuting the compliment -- I don't take compliments very well)  ANYWAY, go out and do better and watch it make you feel better. 

That's all folks, thanks for hanging in there! 

Fall Workshop: A Styled Shoot

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm constantly on a budget. Some unfortunate events thanks to some unfortunate people have caused a ton of financial burden in my life and it's caused a real struggle when balancing my wants with my needs. Last fall, I entered for a chance to win a seat with the incredible Jessica Mae Photography. Her work is flawless and her business model is one to drool over. I entered to win because I've never attended a workshop or styled shoot, I needed to improve myself, and I wanted to meet some new friends! I accomplished all that and more at her workshop. Jessica is incredible and so is her work, for anyone wanting the perfect blend of film and digital, she's your girl. I won the seat and could not have expected what I took away from that day. So much information crammed into one workshop. Other photographers host workshops all the time and I definitely recommend that you go to one but please be careful which one you pick! Some workshops have upwards of 20 people and with that many people, you just don't get to learn or have a hands on experience like I did. I'm so so so thankful for the opportunity that Jessica gave me and I will definitely be forever in debt to her. This workshop helped my confidence and my work so much and I love her to death for that. This was definitely something that I couldn't have afforded on my own and I am so grateful for the opportunity to attend.

I think it's safe to say this workshop wouldn't have been nearly as awesome without Andrea Pesce Photography helping out too! 

I had so much fun meeting up with the other area photographers and I'm sure their images from this styled shoot will blow your mind. There's a ton of talent out there y'all! 

The wonderfully talented Jessica had her photos published!! eeekk! Check out her film photos here!

Here are a few of my photos from the workshop in November! 

 Venue: Oakwood Country Club | Hair and Makeup: Kathryn Miller | Dresses: Celebration Bridal and Church Street Bridal | Florals: Hannah Swanson | Styling: Andrea Pesce + Jessica Mae | Cake: Jessica Mae | Models: Brandon + Alex Wirth

Shinfo Fridays

Hello out there! 

I haven't blogged in 10 days, 10 DAYS! Holy cow, I had to dust the dirt off of my login screen. I'm going to start (and try to keep) a new theme called Shinfo Fridays. Shinfo? What's that you may ask? Well it's slang for "sh!#ty information" or information that's not necessary. So on Fridays, I get to blog about whatever is on my mind, going on in my life, or any sort of pointless information. I doubt anyone will read this but if you are, hello! Thanks for stopping by!

This past month has been extremely crazy. My Grandad is very very ill and I've tried to spend as much time with him as possible. It's sad that an unfortunate illness is what it takes to open your eyes and start living but that's exactly what this situation has done. I've made a vow to myself that I will live my life as "full" as I can. After reading another photographer's blog and her philosophy of "staying full", I've decided to do the same. Being busy can have a negative connotation and I don't need any negativity in my life anymore. I want to stay full. Full of life, full of activities, full of things to do, places to be, and people to see, because when you live your life "full", there's no room for negativity, depression, and sadness. On the topic of staying full....

I've seen an insane increase in the amount of posts about fitness, going to the gym, etc. I know that the main cause for this is New Year's Resolutions and I'm so stoked for everyone who has made the step to change their life.

I started Crossfit in December and it has changed my life. It's something that challenges me every single day, it's one hour a day where I can put my phone away, disconnect from the internet, and just push myself to the limits. The funny thing is, I never know what those limits are. Every time I go to class, I am astounded at how much my body is letting me do. It's only been a few weeks since I've started so I'm not going to write about how much my body has changed physically, but that's a blog post for the future! However, I can write about how much I have changed mentally. Every morning when I wake up, I have something to look forward to. I LOVE going to class and I LOVE working out, so every day I have something to look forward to and get me through whatever tough day I have ahead. It's also so refreshing to go to a gym where you're being pushed but also cheered on. Everyone there has been so awesome in motivating me and helping me get through the workouts.

As of this week, I started kickboxing in addition to Crossfit and I have to say... I'm in love. Being able to go to a class and just relieve all of your stress and worries into someone else is kind of exhilarating. If you've never tried kickboxing, I totally recommend that you do. I'm the type of person who bottles up anger and emotions and this class is the best way to get all of that out in a safe but still violent manner ;)

Seriously, if you aren't taking exercise classes or have a personal trainer, you are missing out so much. Going to the gym is awesome, and I'm stoked that you're going, but you're not getting the most out of your workout if you don't know what you're doing. I was one of those people. I went to the gym and THOUGHT I was getting a workout. I would get so frustrated because I didn't feel better and I sure as hell didn't LOOK better. If you have any questions about crossfit or kickboxing, I'm not a pro, but I would love to help you in taking the steps to joining! 

With classes, Crossfit, kickboxing, taking care of Max, homework, spending time with the boyfriend and family, and photography, you can say my life is pretty "full." The thing is, I'm always looking for more things to do. I realize that I'll probably hate my life once school starts kicking up but I'm ready for the challenge. 

The more I start living my life, the more I realize that the photography industry is kind of a "weight" that keeps me down sometimes. There is SO much negativity in the industry, everyone is competing for clients, "likes", and overall attention. It gets a little ridiculous and I don't want or need to be submerged in the chaos of it all. From here on out, I'm going to remove myself from the "industry" and just be Ashley Lester Photography. I don't care about the latest and greatest, I want to keep improving my work and making new friends, but I don't want to feel like I'm competing with anyone. I realized that once you got into the "business" aspect of this field, it started to feel more like a job than a passion and I never wanted that to happen. If you want to book me for a shoot, I would love to have you! However, I'm not going to be dwelling over photographers who are booking way more shoots than I am. I'm going to just do my thing. Last fall, I got WAY too caught up in who was who and what they were doing and I realized that I started to resent creating a "business" -- sometimes you just need to take a step back and unplug yourself to realize what you've been wrapped up in. 

All in all, my first Shinfo Friday is all about clearing out the negativity in your life to fit as much positivity as possible. Find new things to fall in love with and don't dwell on what others are doing. The best way to watch life pass you by is by watching others. Go be the person that everyone else wants to watch and STAY FULL. 


Thanks for reading <3


Baby Ashby

 I absolutely love meeting newborns, they are such a reminder of how precious new life is. I was so excited to see that Baby Ashby made his arrival just before Christmas and I couldn't be more excited to meet him! We literally planned this shoot at the last minute and I was more than happy to brave the cold!

When I photograph newborns, I do them a little differently than other photographers in that my shoots aren't staged. I work with the baby and their mood to capture my photos, without props and poses, or backgrounds. Maybe it's just me, but I love natural photos. Little Ashby was such a trooper for the first half but I think he was catching on to what I was doing towards the middle. Newborns are always super fragile when it comes to their moods but I snap away regardless! Plus, who doesn't love a few crying/screaming shots? 

Here are a few shots from this morning's casual shoot with Baby Ashby!

The Sunshine State

I never get to write personal blog posts anymore because I just haven't had time. Finishing my second to last semester at school, some family emergencies, the holidays, traveling, and then Florida! I needed this trip to Florida more than anyone can even begin to imagine. I needed to get away for a week and what a wonder it did for my morale. I dragged my boyfriend Jon out to the beach for pictures (and before you ask, they are NOT engagement photos-- I've been getting that a lot.) A huge shout out to Ryan, the photographer who did an INCREDIBLE job of taking pictures of Jon and I. He's super talented. If you're in Destin, FL area, hit him up! 

Here are a few personal pictures from our vacation to Florida! 

Also, if you are interested in purchasing a print of my beach scenery, let me know!