We had the good fortune of connecting with Walter Afalla and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Walter, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
In 2009, after getting laid off from my corporate career working as a senior graphic design as a director for a fortune 500 transportation civil engineering firm due to the economic downfall, I decided to focus on my photography degree from the Art Institute of Seattle (class of 1989) by opening my own studio called AfallaStudios. At the time I really didn’t know what type of service I wanted to provide my customers. And I didn’t want to call myself a photography studio because I was still being asked to freelance as a graphic designer for the engineering community. So I was smart enough to create a brand that could be used for both my graphic design and photography talents. I had offered everything from high school senior portraits, headshots, family portraits, logo design, marketing graphics, product photography, engagements, and weddings. But as time went on, I realized that I needed to scale back on my business by removing the services that I didn’t enjoy doing.
Today, AfallaStudios mainly focuses on headshots, product photography, aerial and landscape photography. I also create content video production for my clients. This includes but not limited to graphic design branding and marketing design for small businesses. Since then, I was able to land huge ongoing contracts with Atkins Engineers, Sony, AvodahMed, Owens Fazio, DFW International Airport, U.S. Figure Skating, International Skating Union, and the American Physical Therapy Association. My most recent big clients, Atkins Engineers, awarded me five contracts over the past two years and I was able to help them win all five contracts totalling 62 million!
Over time, I eventually started to get momentum with my wedding photography and needed to think strategically by creating a new brand called White Tiaré Weddings. Why? From a marketing perspective, this brand needed to attract brides. In business, the most critical step in starting any business is the brand name and what the logo would look like. I didn’t want to look like everyone else in the industry. I wanted to separate myself from the typical wedding photography brand. So I focused on “flowers”, something feminine that would relate to a bride. The name tiaré is derived from the French word “tiara,” suggesting that the tiaré flower is the queen of all the flowers in French Polynesia. In Tahitian, it refers to a strong presence and means perfume, scent or fragrance. By putting the words together, tiaré quite literally means, ‘a strong fragrance.’ And that’s how we want the images of our couples to have ‘a strong presence’ showing their love for one another. The white tiaré flower relates to my Polynesian heritage and is worn by both men and women of this exotic culture. Therefore, I welcome clients from all walks of life including our LGBTQ+ community.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
What helped me get to where I’m at today in my photography is my technical background as a graphic designer. When the average person would get into digital photography, whether it’s professionally or as a hobby, they often forget that you have to post-process images. Many rely on this to correct anything from over/under exposure to color correction. As a graphic designer, the computer is my main tool which makes it easy for me to process my images. The challenge that I faced is the networking of devices such as a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device to store, backup, and archive my many images. Sometimes you have to wear many hats in the photography industry including being your own IT department. The way I’ve overcome this challenge is by hiring an IT consultant that I’ve followed on YouTube by the name of SpaceRex. He does a lot of informative DIY videos of network solutions.
I’ve learned a ton of lessons along the way as a photographer. For one, the wedding industry is a very challenging part of photography. There are a lot of wedding vendor organizations and although many have benefited from being a part of these groups, they’re not for me. I just keep my head down and focus on my work, my clients, and my business. I really don’t have to the best photographer in my location. I just need to be the version of myself and provide a positive experience and high-quality products for my couples. I want people to look at my brand and see my service as an investment based on a long-lasting relationship. I’ve had couples come back to me for photography services years after their wedding from anniversary portraits to photographing their firstborn.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The day with my best friend would start off with a homemade breakfast of avocado toast and scrambled eggs. Then we would start our adventure for the day that is based on the historical sites around DFW like the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge to take in the Dallas skyline to Dealey Plaza. We would then head over to a hearty BBQ lunch at Pecan Lodge in Deep Ellum on Main Street. After that, we would take a nice drive to the Fort Worth Stockyards and do a little shopping and sightseeing. Then on our way back to Dallas for a midday caffeine fix, we’d go to North Richland Hills and have a cup of coffee at the brand new Black Rifle Coffee Shop which is a veteran-owned coffee company that serves premium coffee and culture to people who love America. For dinner, I would take my guest for a delicious Tex-Mex meal at Mesero on Lovers Lane and Inwood.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are three people in my life that I want to recognize for my success.
My best friend, Lorraine Borman who is the coach of the 1984 Olympic women’s figure skating silver medalist and 1983 World Champion, Rosalynn Sumners. We used to coach figure skating together for many years in Seattle and she’s the one who brought me to Dallas to pursue my career as a figure skating coach/choreographer. I guess you could say that she’s my Gemini twin because we’re so much alike.
My life partner, Mark, of 26 years. He’s my rock and the one that can keep me in line when I go off course in life. He has always encouraged me to be the best version of myself and don’t listen to the negative noise that often surrounds me in this wedding industry.
And my late parents. Mom and dad always encouraged me to dream big and work hard. Growing up poor, they always tried to provide me and my siblings with the things they never had from their parents. My dad was a U.S. Army veteran who loved his country with a passion. After working on the military base, he would strip down to his surf shorts, go to the beach, and spearfish dinner for us because it was free. He grew his own vegetables and often share his catch with the neighboring families in the community. Mom worked at a local tourist sundries store that sold anything from souvenirs to aloha attire.
I certify that I own the rights to the images provided for this article. All images were taken by Walter Afalla of White Tiaré Weddings.