photo of portrait photographer, Hannah Van Dyke.

Portrait of Hannah Van Dyke, a local photographer and videographer in Reno, Nevada. Photo courtesy of Hannah Van Dyke.

Freelancing is all about building connections and getting your name out into the world to strengthen your brand; However, the pandemic certainly didn’t help many local content creators in this season of their business. Everyone has had to adapt, and Aaron Gene Arao is taking this time to strengthen his videography and photography skills in order to take on bigger projects in his future. 

Arao lives in Reno, Nevada and attended the University of Nevada, Reno before taking a gap year as a senior. 

He describes his work as “passion projects” and has been creating Christian and faith-based content for the last two and a half years. Arao highlights the community in his projects, and finds himself out and about capturing what Reno has to offer. 

“For me, it’s showing love through what we create…through what I create specifically,” Arao said. “That can either be giving glory to God or just by making something I enjoy.”

Arao said the pandemic was challenging, but also eye-opening  to where he could build his brand as a Christian Digital Creator. 

Earlier last year, Arao created a TikTok account where he posted videos ranging from projects to behind-the-scenes shots of his work. 

“I was okay with COVID happening because school went online, and I was able to grow a TikTok audience,” Arao said. “It kind of worked for me in a way.” 

He added that gaining a good following which helped him grow his Instagram and YouTube channel where he posts vlogs, music covers and more. 

Currently, Arao is taking the year off of school to redefine his work and grow in his faith. He’s freelanced for Victor Hughes, a wedding photographer for Big Vic Media, as well as 1, 2, Tea, a local boba shop in Reno. Arao’s video work has also been featured on the E. L. Wiegand Fitness Center’s Instagram page. 

Aaron Gene Arao in downtown Reno, Nevada filming for a passion project.

Aaron Gene Arao in downtown Reno, Nevada filming for a passion project. Photo/Victor Hughes

Even in this time of uncertainty, Arao hopes to be a full-time digital creator in the future, and has acquired new equipment to start feeding his other passion projects. 

“This right now it’s more of an experience, an experiment,” he said. “If I really enjoy the process and it’s something that I can keep doing it might just turn into a full time grind.” 

In a sense, the pandemic provided Arao a chance to grow an online following for his work, but for Hannah Van Dyke, a local portrait photographer and emerging videographer, her freelancing business took off differently. 

Van Dyke runs a small freelance portrait photography business with her business partner and boyfriend. They both pursue their business part-time, and work full-time in other occupations, but Van Dyke wants to make her business full-time in the future. 

“If I could make enough sustainable living off of [photography] I would,” Van Dyke said. “I am so passionate about creating and being an avenue for others to express themselves.” 

The duo mainly relies on word of mouth to spread awareness of their business. 

Their photography style relies heavily on a minimalist outlook; Photos on their Instagram, @hd.raw, either focus on the subject, or key items around their subject. 

“It’s evolving, but currently I am in a minimal mindset,” Van Dyke said. “I just like to shed the excess stuff in my work…and to me it’s really focusing on a focal point.” 

She added they recently picked up videography and want to build their business to incorporate diverse forms of content creation. 

“We just invested in a gimbal, so we’re learning how to take shots that way,” she said. 

A gimbal is a tool that provides pivoted support which allows video shots to rotate about a single access. These shots are steadied and stabilized to give the video a smooth effect, similarly to a stand-still tripod. Van Dyke hopes that through this medium she can tell different stories that are interactive and engaging.

While working during the pandemic didn’t necessarily hurt Van Dyke’s business, there were a couple protocols her and her boyfriend needed to take in order for their subjects to be comfortable during shoots. Considering social distancing and masks where all a part of the new transition Van Dyke faced. 

Van Dyke is still looking forward to using her photography and videography skills to highlight the unique individuals in the Reno community.  

“I think it would be cool to take somebody who isn’t super confident in their body, and then have them open up to me and show them they are beautiful,” Van Dyke said. 

Business has carried on as usual for the duo, and while they want to make a larger profit and grow their brand, the pandemic has added an extra layer of challenges for them to face.

Emilie Rodriguez can be reached at emilier@sagebrush.unr.edu or on Twitter @emilieemeree.