Hi, I'm Ashley!

It's been a few years since I've kept up with a blog for my business and I wasn't quite sure how to get started again. I figure since I'm in a relatively new studio, and I've been rebuilding since COVID, that I may as well start at the roots, with me. In the next couple blog posts I hope to offer a deeper insight into who I am as a person, what my goals and ideals are, and a little history behind my business.

Photographer, Ashley D'Annunzio poses wearing black, in front of a wall where her infant props are displayed.

Image by: The Best Nest Portraits - 2023, in my studio located in Old Town Spring

I have been interested in photography, just about my whole life. It started when I was a little girl and someone let me take a disposable camera to my uncle's wedding. I fell in love, and while most kids were buying toys, I spent much of my allowance on more cameras and the fees to have them developed. I love seeing the world through that tiny little viewfinder box. It's the best kind of tunnel vision.

In sixth grade I had the opportunity to work on my school's yearbook. I always fancied myself a writer and while I focused much of my energies on writing, I also enjoyed snapping candids of my peers. Starting in middle school I began working with actual Canon cameras (The memory card was a floppy disk, can you believe that?!) and I remained on the yearbook staff until I graduated high school. While I enjoyed photographing our sports and snagging quick candids for my interviews, it wasn't quite love. In college, Photo 101 required shooting with and developing our own film. I took this opportunity to focus on landscapes and gaining a deeper knowledge and control over my camera and images. With film you don't know what you've got until you get into that darkroom.

Enter, my first maternity session. I had minimal editing experience, a point and shoot Nikon, and a whole lot of excitement. Thankfully the "client" was my mom and short of blowing them out completely or shooting too dark, I'm not sure there's much I could have done that my mom wouldn't have loved. I look back on those images and I see all of the technicalities I got wrong, but I also see all of the love I have for my youngest sister. I was just starting out and thirteen years later I have seen so much growth.

A blonde, pregnant woman wearing a tan dress faces to the left and is leaning against a large tree trunk

Image by: Ashley D'Annunzio - 2010

For the next few years I did free sessions for friends and family, while I built up my skills and saved up for a more professional camera. In the meantime I had begun a career in childcare, starting in a daycare setting and eventually moving to nannying. I was blessed to be able to take my sister with me and we built such a strong bond. One of our favorite activities to do together was to read, and her favorite book for years and years was The Best Nest by P.D. Eastman. She loved it so much that the lovely little rhyme said by the little birds in the story became our hello and goodbye song. We sang it for so long that I can't remember when we stopped, it's something I miss very much now that she's a teen.

When it came time for me to open my business, four years after that first maternity session, I searched for a name that would mean something to me. I wanted more than just Ashley Nicole Photography (nevermind that I have one of the most popular names of the 80's and 90's, ha!). Finally after half a notebook's worth of ideas and logo sketches I settled on The Best Nest Portraits. If not for that sweet baby I may have never found this niche or started my business at all, and this book meant so much to us.

After I finally settled on a name, an associate of mine at the time was so excited for me that he designed my original logo pro-bono, something I will always appreciate so much. It was a cute little Suess-esque bird carrying a camera, and I used it until just last year.

A newborn baby wearing a green hat, lays on their belly on a green layer with a wooden heart beneath

So cute right? Logo by: Matthew Esparza of Wonderbros - 2014 Image by: The Best Nest Portraits- 2021

For the next several years I continued in childcare full time and ran my portrait business on the side. I took sessions as they came and spent my weekends photographing expectant parents, newborns, and families. I was building my client base and enjoying every minute of it. In my personal life I had many ups and downs, as we all do, and in 2018 I had a medical situation that required a major surgery. I was diagnosed with Endometriosis (stage 3) and I lost part of my reproductive system. As a result my spouse and I decided to begin building our family, and so began a three year battle with infertility. As each month passed we hurt more and more, and while I tried not to let it interfere with my work I just couldn't face staring at those sweet little faces on my screen every day.

Photographer Ashley D'Annunzio and her spouse hold each other, crouched near an old fashioned wooden cradle

Image by: Lindsay Sprague - 2019

My turn around time slowed, my passion for my craft waned, and I lost a good deal of my client base. I saw two dreams simultaneously slipping away. Eventually I took charge of the one thing I could control and threw myself back into building my business. Things started to pick up again and I was stoked, but we still ached for the missing piece of our family.

I had a couple more medical procedures done in that time and after a particularly painful one, we were finally expecting! Words could never grasp the sheer joy we felt the day we got that positive pregnancy test. I know that I will never forget it.

A couple posed in the left of the frame against a colorful backdrop, wearing white and tan with their foreheads touching

Image by: SBhikha Photography - 2022

We reveled in the joy for about a week before I developed Hyperemesis Gravidarum and was put on modified bedrest for the first half of my pregnancy. One day while I was laying on the couch, feeling particularly frustrated with my body, I got a text from a doula I know through my work in birth photography. (I'll tell that story in its own post, I promise) And she asked if I was still doing birth work. I let her know I was actually in the midst of a high risk pregnancy myself but would be returning after my maternity leave. She only knew some bits and pieces of my story, but she was so excited for me that she called me immediately and we talked for an hour. I told her my whole journey and she nearly begged me to take her on as my doula. I was on the fence about having one, since I knew I'd be delivering in a hospital setting but she assured me that she'd have plenty of support for me even there and that was that! Stephi supported me through the remainder of my pregnancy via many a midnight text, and through my labor she was absolutely irreplaceable. I made it through twelve and a half hours unmedicated thanks to her guidance and encouragement of not just me, but also my spouse. All that to say, I love her and all doulas ROCK. Get you one if you're expecting. ;-P

Doula Stephi Anderson massages Ashley's back as she sits on a yoga ball during labor.

Psst, book a birth photographer, don't be like me. Doula: Stephi Anderson, Everdoula - 2022

A newborn baby is posed inside an empty tire with a small yellow helmet and gold trophy nearby

Photo by: The Best Nest Portraits - 2022

After having my son I began attending a new parent support group at Stephi's office, which is in a shared space with many other birth workers. TLC Doula Group are an awesome collective of folks all passionate about helping people welcome their babies into the world safely and peacefully. Each week a different doula hosts a new parent support group and so through the weeks I got to know just about everyone in the building. One day I got another abrupt, and life changing text from Stephi. She asked if I had any interest in moving into their building, as an opening had come up and so had my name! UH HECK YES! I promptly met with Kathleen, signed a lease, and moved into my very first studio!!

This is a community that I love being surrounded by, and feel that I am thriving in. The Best Nest Portraits still resides within TLC Doula Group's walls and I see that as a huge bonus for my clients. Anyone who reaches out to me about birth or newborn photography can find resources for doula, lactation, pelvic floor therapy, and massage services located conveniently within my same building. This is an atmosphere that I am incredibly happy in, and I look forward to many years here!

Below you can find some of my work since I have moved into my studio space. <3

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