Photographer Profile: Ayaka Sano - Chicago


Hi Ayaka! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi there! My name is Ayaka and I am a portrait and fashion photographer in downtown Chicago.

What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I have my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in music – specifically, violin performance. I also have my real estate license but that was not the path for me. Being creative is definitely something that makes me happy and fulfilled. I took headshots for my friends while in conservatory, but I had a point and shoot and shooting on auto!

What drew you to photography? 
I love that portrait photography is a collaborative art form. Having a great HMUA and model really takes everything to the next level. I also love that I can show people my perspective through photos. I also really love editing. The whole process is so fun for me.


When did you start doing photography as a business?
About a year ago.

What is your photography style? What do you love to capture most?
I would say my style has been pretty versatile, but lately I’ve gone for creamy tones and I think that’s going to stick around. I really prefer shooting with natural light whenever I can. Sometimes I do shoot fitness instructors or rappers so I do take a different approach for those shoots. I love capturing movement and mixing textures.

What are some of your short/long term goals? Do you have a dream collaboration?
Short term and long term, I’d like to figure out a better marketing and business plan. I’m not very business savvy. Shooting for big fashion brands would be a dream! I would love to shoot for Molly Goddard or Mansur Gavriel. That would be amazing.


What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
I honestly love the feedback I get from clients. In portrait sessions, I love when someone says “Damn, I look good!” or “Wow I did NOT think I could look like that!”

I’m always striving to learn and improve, and I feel like seeing the progress really keeps me going.

What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face?
I’ve been editing on my old Macbook Pro and the screen is super scratched up! First world problems, am I right? But in all seriousness, I think starting fresh with anything is tough at first. I really had a hard time deciding what kind of “style” or vibe I wanted my photos to have. I think I’ve finally got it down for the most part and I’m pretty happy with what I’ve come up with, but I’ve also decided that not all shoots or subjects or clients have to be ONE way. I’ve never purchased presets. I’ve learned that my versatility has set me apart from a lot of other photographers. I’m also pretty introverted so it’s not the easiest for me to go to events and network. It’s something I need to work on!

At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
Honestly, most of my creative teams have been all women! It’s been amazing working with other creative and talented women. It’s important for women to support each other because we have a lot of the same hardships and issues and it’s a lot easier to help each other through it all. I also think in photography, there are a lot of harassment issues with male photographers. We have to look out for and protect each other.


We have a series called Purchase from Women - what women owned businesses are you encouraging with your dollars?
I love supporting local businesses! I’m a big fan of candles, and Milk Handmade and Tatine have great ones – and are women owned.

I also really like the jewelry brand Mejuri. Town & Anchor has amazing skincare products as well.

Do you have any creative, business, or female-centered resources that have been helpful to you that we should know of?
I’ve found a few creative through The Hub, which is a network of photographers, models, makeup artists, and a few others. It’s worldwide so I’ve been able to find people to work with while traveling in Europe as well, which was super helpful!

What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
I would love to learn how to sew so I can have original pieces to shoot! I have ideas in my head of pieces I would LOVE to shoot but either can’t find something similar or it’s an insane designer item that’s not very accessible. I’d also love to learn a new language – I’m fluent in English and Japanese and know a little bit of French, but it would be great to learn another!


What are some of your favorite places in Chicago?
Food is one of my favorite things, so I love eating in West Loop. Momotaro, TWO, and Bavette’s are a few of my favorite restaurants. I also love the Art Institute, including the gardens in the summertime.  Beans and I also love walking around Grant Park & along the lake!

Okay, maybe most importantly, could you tell us about Beans???
Of course! Beans is my (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) son. He’s turning 3 in June but thinks he is a puppy! Most mornings when we go on walks, he picks up a stick and brings it home to trade for a treat. He also has a stroller in the summer since he is very hairy and overheats easily – we call it his “Uber black.” In the winter, he spends a lot of time on our balcony eating snow.

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