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Meet Rachel Iliadis of Rachel Iliadis Photography in East Atlanta Village

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachel Iliadis.

Rachel, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Like the tide to the moon, I’ve always felt a strong, intrinsic pull towards the art of storytelling, especially through photography. As an early lover of art, literature and history, I spent much of my childhood in the Atlanta suburbs learning about my heroes journeys through memoirs, writing my daily experiences in my journals and documenting the world around me through Kodak disposable cameras and a handheld video camera. Nothing was more thrilling to my 13-year-old self as receiving a newly developed roll of film. Since then, capturing the human connection and experience has been deeply personal and important to me.

When I was sixteen, I purchased my first DSLR and began learning everything I could about the technical aspects of the art. My high school didn’t have a dark room or any photography classes, so I was self-taught, relying on practice, the internet and any books I could get my hands on. 

After high school, I attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas and graduated with a degree in Journalism and History. At this point in my life, I was certain I wanted to pursue humanitarian photography and began work with nonprofits, such as Compassion International, Young Life, and the National Christian Foundation. I’ve always been passionate about social justice and believe deeply in the power of stories to create positive societal change. And, I wanted to be a part of the movement. 

Shortly after graduation, I also met my husband on a project in Liberia, Africa, which certainly changed my life forever. We married after a year of dating. 

It was during the first few years after graduation that I began realistically considering a career in freelance photography. While working a full-time job at a nonprofit in their communications’ department, I began shooting weddings on the side (and loving it!). Never did I really consider becoming a wedding photographer, but I loved the opportunity to connect with couples and capture genuine emotions and moments. Collaborating with them to create art that they would treasure for years to come was thrilling and satisfying. During that time, I also took several trips to Africa to document stories for nonprofits, which was equally as wonderful. Nothing brought me such joy than photographing those stories. 

I continued to work my 9-5 for three years until the birth of my first daughter, Penelope. After maternity leave, I decided to trade in the hour commute from Atlanta up to Alpharetta and the cubicle for the freelance life. In hindsight, I don’t really recommend starting a new business venture while simultaneously entering into motherhood, but I also get that you have to do what you have to do. Starting out, It was chaotic, exhausting and certainly not ideal timing. But, hey, I made it through and learned some valuable lessons along the way.

Even though at the time it was scary and fatiguing, it was so worth it. 

During the transition from corporate nonprofit to self-employed, I continuously gained clarity on what made the most sense for our family’s season of life, and wedding photography fit the bill. As much as I wanted to continue to travel internationally and work on humanitarian projects, it just wasn’t feasible with a newborn. So, right from the start, I pursued photographing weddings in a photojournalistic style. 

Today, I’ve been self-employed for four years, photographing everything from weddings to lifestyle products, families and portraits to large scale events. It’s been the most challenging, yet rewarding journey, and honestly, it feels like I’m just now getting started. It’s taken that time to discover my unique voice and style as an artist (and I’m still growing!), learn how to create the systems to run a small business, create boundaries (knowing your “yes” and “no”) and adapt to all of the roles and complexities that come with it. It’s an ever-evolving process, but I’m loving every minute of it and full of gratitude for the chance to work with such amazing people and provide for my family in such a life-giving and beautiful way. 

This year, my intention is to take a mini step away from weddings and create more space for personal projects. I love working with artists, makers and nonprofits and hope to have more opportunities to collaborate with them on their stories. I have full faith that this year is going to be the most meaningful yet. 

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome? 
Woah, there have been so many challenges and obstacles! I’m now a mom of two little girls (3 and 14 months), and it’s been a constant struggle to find a sane, healthy rhythm with work and family. (I hesitate to use the word “balance” because I’m convinced it doesn’t exist and it makes me feel like I’m always failing). So, my work and family intention is to work towards creating solid boundaries and a rhythm/flow that works for us. 

Additionally, another challenge has been saying yes to too much or the wrong projects. Tangibly, this has looked like being extremely intentional on the work that I say yes to and only accepting work that aligns with my business’ goals and values. 

Lastly, like many others, I’ve struggled with the comparison and scarcity mentality that can come with an unhealthy consumption of social media and personal insecurities. Too often I listened to the narrative that I’m not good or talented enough, the market is already too saturated, and no one cares about what I have to offer, etc. I allowed fear and those lies to completely block my creativity and the manifestation of my work for a season. Now, I’ve learned the importance in taking care of my emotional and mental wellbeing (and I really can’t preach boundaries enough!) Your soul, work, and really every aspect of your life, will thank you. Viewing the world from a vantage point of abundance (meaning a place of inner self-worth, confidence and the realization that there’s plenty of work for everyone) vs. scarcity (a fearful, anxious, self-conscious perspective) will change everything.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Rachel Iliadis Photography – what should we know?
My photography business specializes in honest, soulful documentation of human connection and moments. Whether it’s a couple exchanging vows, a mother holding her newborn for the first time, or a family cooking together in their kitchen, I believe the magic happens in the quiet, natural, in-between moments. When the camera fades into the background and no one’s looking. I care deeply about each person that I work with and desire to infuse soul into each photograph.

I believe I’m most known for capturing genuine emotions and moments in a beautiful, timeless and meaningful way. 

I’m most proud of the moments captured and relationships that have been developed along the way. I’ve worked with the most incredible people on this planet and have witnessed such beautiful interactions. It makes me a little weepy thinking about it. I feel completely humbled and honored. 

It’s such a difficult question to answer what sets me apart (self-promotion feels weird), but I do believe my personality, unique life experiences, and perspective sets me apart from other photographers. As an INFJ (MyersBriggs) and a 4 (hello, Enneagram), I am a highly sensitive, curious, intuitive and introspective person, and I believe those qualities help me foster deep connections with others and have the awareness to know my client’s needs. In my personal experience, this has led to high trust, great relationships, peaceful, fun shoots and ultimately, natural images.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success? 
I feel that my faith and trust in God has been the most important to my success. It’s been the foundation from the beginning, and I believe that God has provided and paved the way for my business to grow.

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Rachel Iliadis

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