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Making It Happen: Interview With Toya Heatley, Photographer

Glamour shot by Toya Heatley of burlesque dancer Phoenix Flame.

Glamour shot by Toya Heatley of burlesque dancer Phoenix Flame.I love it when a woman achieves her dreams – expresses herself, starts up a business, gets creative. And this blog is going to have occasional interviews with talented women like this who I am fortunate enough to know.

Our series debut is an interview with Toya Heatley of Digitalpix Photography. She is a prizewinning photographer in the Wellington area. Her photography website is, and her wedding photography site is Is she available to take pictures for you? Yes, she is, especially over the winter season.

This delightful interview  includes photographs, what it feels like to win competitions, and a behind the scenes look at wedding and glamour photography, so click below to Read More!

Hi, Toya! How did you learn about your talents for photography?

I come from a very creative family, my mother and aunt are both very creative people, as was my grandmother. I grew up learning all sorts of different crafts.  However it was my father who fostered my interest in photography. He bought me a Nikon camera after a trip to Norfolk Is and I found myself trying to take ‘postcard shots’ as I called them back then. Film and processing was expensive so my love of photography went on hold until the event of digital cameras. Wanting to improve my skill as a photographer I took a night school course in photography and from there I joined a couple of camera clubs and it grew from there.

And when did you start doing photography professionally?

Wedding moment snapped by Toya Heatley.I don’t see myself as a professional photographer at all. I have a full time job in Marketing and IT; photography is what I do in my spare time for relaxation and fun. It’s a hobby for me. Yes, I charge for some of my work as a photographer but not to make my fortune, rather to cover the costs of the equipment I use and to allow me to upgrade it as I can. If I ever win Lotto I would definitely go full time with photography, but for now it is not to be.

Tell us about your wedding photography…
I choose to do wedding photography mainly because I really enjoy weddings. The emotions, the excitement and happiness just make it a fun thing to do. I also enjoy the fast pace of the photography. I don’t have time to wonder if I have the settings right, or if the light might be better in half an hour, I just have to go with the flow of  the event and focus on capturing as much of the excitement of the day into the images as I can for the couple. Then I can tap into the creative side when I process the images.

I love to capture the raw emotion of the event in candid photos just as much as I like the more formal posed shots. I work as part of a team of two with the weddings and don’t see this changing. I like the freedom it gives having two of us covering the event. While one photographer is working with the bride and groom the other can be wandering about the guests capturing all those special moments that might have otherwise been missed. Most of our weddings come to us as referrals, so we must be doing something right!

Your wedding photography and your portraits are fantastic, but you capture the A tui and a tiger, both captured by Toya Heatley's lens.whole world with your lens. What do you like to snap when you’re shooting just for yourself?
While I am very passionate about photography I am not focused on any one style more than any other but if I had to make a choice it would be nature.

I enjoy trying to photograph birds, particularly native New Zealand birds, such as the tui in this photograph here, and have traveled to such places as Cape Kidnappers and Tiritiri Matangi Island in my efforts to capture great bird shots. The zoo is also another of my favourite haunts. Every time I go there I come away with something different.

It seems like a lot of photographers are men, and that women photographers often get very specialized, focusing particularly on portraiture and weddings. Any thoughts on that?
I am not sure I agree with that statement. If you ‘Google’ photographers in Wellington you will find as many female photographers as you will male. In the past it may have been different, but since women have moved into the workplace much more I think things have definitely evened out in that respect.

Smouldering glamour portrait of Phoenix Flame.Can I ask you about your glamour work?
For me, one area of photography that I wasn’t overly confident about was photographing people. However I have gotten over that with the weddings and now really enjoy portraiture. Glamour photography is just one step further and I am lucky in that I have some great friends who allowed me to practice photographing them in a home studio setting. We have a lot of fun doing these shoots and I am very happy with the results so far.

My latest project has been the world of burlesque. I am totally in love with the big feather fans and the possibilities they have for glamour photography. I really must get a pair of them soon! Burlesque is the art of the tease using dance and it is no different with the photography. I am keen to create the perfect tease in a photo and again, having friends who are willing to let me practice on them has helped me to learn how to achieve this goal.

You’ve been so successful in photo competitions. Does it feel great to win prizes?
Everyone likes to win prizes but what I enjoy more is the validation that winning gives me. It reinforces to me that I am on the right track with my photography. I enjoy being able to share my images with others and competitions are another form of doing just that.

This image of young Quinn won me a trophy in the Canon Online competition run by the PSNZ. He wasn’t happy having his photograph taken so we gave him an old suitcase to play hide and seek in and hey presto we had the perfect shot. His parents were very happy with it, as was I.

Toya Heatley's prize-winning photograph of a young man named Quinn.What else would you like to tell us all?
Photography is a passion for me, I love taking photos, and every new opportunity to do that is just as exciting for me as the previous one. I like to try and recreate images that I have seen in books, magazine or on the internet and see it as a challenge to work out exactly how they achieved the shot – then add my own spin to it.

Photography is like an addiction for me, if I don’t get the camera out at least once a week I start to get twitchy. During the winter months when I am forced to spend more time indoors I have plenty of time free to do more portraiture and glamour shoots, so if any of your readers are keen just contact me and we can discuss their ideas.

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