By Emma Dunn
Meet the mother who makes a living creating magical photos of her children that look straight out of a storybook – inspired by her family’s day-to-day life.
Vanessa Rivera, 32, started experimenting with photography when she wanted to take nice snaps of her newborn, Indie, now five, but couldn’t afford to pay for a shoot.
The mom-of-four started positing her creations on social media and was shocked when they took off.
She started pushing her creations when her husband, Anthony Rivera, 34, taught her how to use Photoshop to edit the pictures and has now managed to make her digital designs into a full-time job.
The family makes over $100,000 a year creating endless magical photos, which can take up to 40 hours over two weeks to plan, photograph, and edit.
Vanessa takes inspiration from the family’s day-to-day life – such as creating an image with her son’s shoelaces turned into a massive ball with lots of things in it as he always leaves his shoes untied.
Vanessa, a content creator from Traverse City, Michigan, US, said: “I just started taking the photos with my phone using inspiration from social media.”
“I started using props and flowers around him and then decided I wanted to get a bit more creative.”
“Anthony taught me the basics of Photoshop, and then I started experimenting to create fun, whimsical images, but that had the inspiration from our day-to-day family life.”
“I give magic to everyday life.”
“I’m dying to make the image of a sock-eating bed as my son always wakes up with one of his socks missing – so it would be a play on that.”
“I never expected this could be my job.”
Vanessa started taking her own creative photos of her son Indie in January 2017 when she couldn’t afford a photographer.
“I just took inspiration from Instagram and posed him up around props and flowers,” she said.
“I wasn’t expecting it to take off as I wasn’t really doing anything different.”
“But then I decided I wanted to stand out and started coming up with more creative ideas.”
“I wanted to know how to put my daughter in the palm of my hand, so Anthony taught me Photoshop and I went from there.”
Vanessa continued to create the magical images with her three other children – Adyline, eleven, Xander, seven, and Vienna, one – and started getting inundated with commissions and brand work.
“My husband quit his job as a web developer, and we all started doing this as a family,” she said.
“We’ve called ourselves The Life of Aviax, which is the initial of all of us in our family apart from Vienna, as she came along since.”
“It’s really fun, but a lot of work goes into each image.”
Each image can take 18-30 plus hours to edit after the photo has been taken.
“I’ve spent 38 hours on one before,” Vanessa said.
“I usually work on them over a course of two weeks.”
“We work with our kids, so it can take a while to get their poses and expressions correct.”
Vanessa was ecstatic when one of her creations – a photo of her one-year-old daughter Vienna as a mermaid – was used as the Photoshop cover in 2022.
“I felt like an artist when that happened,” she said.
Vanessa has made up to over $100,000 a year through commissions, brand work and Photoshop workshops and lessons.
“The whole family is involved, and we try to have fun and do role play when we take the photos,” she said.
“My children have really gotten into drawing which is lovely to see.”
“My dream is to create a storybook using my artwork.”
“It’s incredible that this can be my job.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker.
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