Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series of articles that features accomplished Galt High School and Liberty Ranch High School graduates. If you are interested in being considered as part of this series or you know a GHS or LRHS graduate with notable accomplishments, career or otherwise, please email Faith Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org or Bonnie Rodriguez at email@example.com.
Over the last decade, recent high school graduates have found themselves part of an increasingly independent workforce. Whether you’re part of the gig economy or embrace your inner entrepreneur, it’s all about hustle. For Ashlyn Coleal-Bergum, it was clear that she wanted to be her own boss even before she graduated from Liberty Ranch High School, and what started out as a pastime photographing horses on her family’s ranch quickly turned into something more. She officially started Ashlyn Coleal Photography in 2014.
“My niche as an equine and equestrian photographer is how I started in this career in the first place,” Coleal-Bergum said.
Having grown up around her family’s Arabian horse breeding ranch all her life, the horses made for the perfect models.
“I began photographing our horses for sales and marketing purposes, which got the attention of other friends, and people and clients in the horse industry, which then spread to working while attending horse shows, basically playing the role of paparazzi. It is fun, fast-paced and very competitive.”
Her sophomore year of high school, Coleal-Bergum was involved with yearbook and enjoyed helping to preserve the memory of the school’s first year. After graduating from LRHS in 2012, she attended Cosumnes River College and then transferred to of Sacramento State University, graduating in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in business management and a concentration in entrepreneurship.
While in school, she spent time studying photography and learning from other professional photographers. By 2014, she had started her own business, Ashlyn Coleal Photography, and when she graduated from college, she dedicated herself to the business fulltime.
In addition to equine photography, Coleal-Bergum also shoots weddings and portraits, and over her five years as a professional photographer, she’s seen her business grow and change.
“My dad passed away three years ago on July 22 and his passing had a major impact on me and my business,” she said. “My mindset changed from ‘oh, these are really pretty’ to ‘these will mean the world to this person one day.’” Photographs are truly like time travel and sometimes are the only concrete thing we have to hold onto memories.”
Aside from juggling the many roles required of a business owner, Coleal-Bergum sometimes comes up against the idea that anyone with a camera – or a phone – can take pictures and call one’s self a photographer.
“That is simply not the case,” she said. “Most people can look at someone’s work and tell if they have the skill or not. I mean, anyone can buy a fancy or fast car, but that doesn’t make one a great driver, same as a great driver doesn’t always need a fancy car to showcase his or her skills as a driver; they can prove that with a cheap little car, too. It’s just with the fancy cars that more things are possible.”
According to Coleal-Bergum, there’s more to photography than taking a nice-looking picture.
“There are lots of good pictures around, floating around advertising or social media. We see them every day. But a great picture is one that really portrays emotion or one that encapsulates a precious moment in time that otherwise would be gone forever.”
Coleal-Bergum is also the media manager for Coleal Arabian Horse Farm, the family farm that started in 1964, and where she got her start with photography. She is still actively involved and helps with everything, from feeding, cleaning and exercising the horses to helping deliver foals.
She hopes to continue to see her photography business grow in the future and looks forward to creating a lasting legacy that would make her father, who owned his own veterinary business, proud.
“The hustle it takes to keep it all going, let alone growing and expanding, is the most rewarding feeling ever and makes the struggles oh so worth it,” she said.