Local photographer and artist Olivia Witzke is starting to come into her own with her wedding photography business, but that’s not where it ends. She also recently discovered her talent as an artist and started “facesbyolivia” on Instagram, painting custom portraits of faces of friends, celebrities and pets on the side.

Making it as a successful businesswoman in the world of wedding photographers is a tough challenge and a long road. She’s been shooting professionally since 2011, focusing on everything from weddings to fashion editorials and classic portraits.

“I’ve had the privilege of shooting all around the globe from Chicago, to the Caribbean, and as far as Australia,” Witzke said.

Today, wedding photographers work within a fast-growing, highly competitive, dynamic industry, striving to portray their clients’ wedding days in their own unique style.

For Witzke, photography is her main passion and it has steadily become her full-time business, yet the journey to being able to completely rely on it without any side jobs took some time and hard work.

After attending college, Witzke started out by assisting other wedding photographers and learning hands-on.

“I just wanted to go out and do things because I learned by doing … I learned everything from them” Witzke said.

Becoming a full-time wedding photographer takes hard work and perseverance to get that much-needed experience under your belt when starting out. Long days of shooting and physical stamina are required.

Since then, she has been featured in Vogue Italia, book covers, magazines, and even worked with Disney.

“I actually only started doing art and photography full-time without a side job for around a year and a half now. I always had something small — very part-time on the side” Witzke said.

At this point, Witzke takes limited bookings per month to ensure her clients are properly taken care of. This way, she is able to provide clients with a quality experience from prompt communication, consultation, to posing direction, image editing and consistency.

“I only take on about a maximum of 10 weddings [per year] on my own now,” she said.

Being a woman in the creative industry can be highly competitive, especially now with Instagram and social media running rampant in our day-to-day lives. The pressure to find her own vision and style along the way has been a struggle.

“There are so many talented people. It’s so hard to not be thinking, oh, well should I be doing that? It’s so hard to keep your eyes straight and focus on your own path,” she said.

When asked how she stays focused on her vision for the company and keeps authentic to her own brand and vision, Witzke said it’s an ongoing battle.

“You are always going to compare yourself to others. I don’t know what exactly happened. Over the last year or so, I’ve just found a confidence in myself. I just used to care a lot more [about other people’s opinions] and now I do what I love. So I have it the way I want it and it’s perfect for me,” she said.

Her side project “facesbyolivia” was an unexpected venture after a co-worker asked her to do a joke painting of Mike Tyson and it turned out really well.

“That was kind of funny,” Witzke said, “but it wasn’t intentional.”

After that, a friend asked her to do three different paid portraits.

“It kind of started from there,” Witzke said, “which is awesome. To have people like that around you that are very supportive.”

Her custom painted portraits of pets and humans are now available by commission through her Instagram @facesbyolivia.

Having a balanced life as a wedding photographer and artist can be tricky, but the support of her friends, family and local community has been key to Witzke’s success.

“My goal is to capture where you are now in a beautiful way so that you too can look back and revisit those special times for years to come. For me, it’s not just about ‘taking a photo’ but about telling your story.”