Ashton Rail is part of a growing number of local entrepreneurs who have decided to leave the 9-to-5 grind behind for the freedom that comes with being self-employed. The Bentonville native has recently taken the leap to expand her photography business into a full-time career, and she couldn’t be happier about it.

Taking photos is something that Rail has always enjoyed. “I always had a camera in my hand,” she says of her childhood. In fact, her first models were her stuffed animals and her cat, who she loved to dress up in doll clothes.

After high school, Rail spent some time trying to figure out her career path. She wasn’t really interested in taking the traditional college route, but wanted to explore her options. Around this time she found out that her grandfather, who was a retired pastor, had also been a wedding photographer. As she heard more of his stories, and worked with some of his old camera equipment, she became inspired to learn more about photography. “I took a darkroom class at NWACC, and fell in love with it,” she says. She went on to enroll in the photography program at John Brown University, which gave her the opportunity to study abroad in Germany.

Rail’s parents were very supportive of her desire to turn her passion for photography into a career. “We decided that if I were to do it as a job, that I needed to go to college for it, so I could have a degree,” she says. Having a degree is something that she hoped would help set her apart from other photographers in the area.

After college, Rail had planned to relocate to North Carolina to start her business there. However, those plans didn’t work out the way she’d hoped. “But it was a good thing,” she explains. “Because I’m from here, I already had a lot of clients here.”

Now that her business is up and running, Rail finds herself working on many types of photography. She specializes in everything from weddings and maternity sessions to product shoots and senior portraits. “I love weddings,” she says, hoping to book 15-20 wedding shoots this year.

Looking toward the future, Rail hopes that her business will allow her to travel and explore the world while keeping her home base in Bentonville. “My goal is to become a destination wedding photographer,” she says. She has attended photography conferences in Las Vegas, Denver and Phoenix that allowed her to practice with “style shoots” and showcase her ability to create beautiful destination-focused photos.

Managing her own business has been a learning process for Rail. When asked about the hardest part of the process, she says with a laugh, “All the little details…like taxes!”

On the other hand, there are plenty of enjoyable things about being part of the new work force. For Rail, meeting new people is a definite bonus. “When you have your own business, you have to go out and meet new people in order for people to know who you are,” she explains.

Find out more about Ashton Rail Photography and see her portfolio at www.ashtonrailphotography.com.

Click image above to listen