McAllen native Rafael Sepulveda received his bachelor’s in advertising from Boston University then attended photography school in Atlanta. Upon completing those courses and receiving Professional Photographers of America certification, he opened up two destination photography businesses.
During his time as a destination wedding photographer in Atlanta, he discovered that he really enjoyed teaching other photographers that assisted him on his shoots.
Sepulveda established RGV Photography Workshops in McAllen in 2015. The school, whose goal is to make professional photographers out of beginners, was established upon his return to the RGV after 18 years.
The school provides real-life instructors who are able to provide feedback on camera settings to their students on the spot. “I remember liking photography and not having any direction [in it],” he says. “This school fills the need of teaching photography hands on as opposed to someone trying to learn through videos online.”
RGV Photography Workshops uses the quarter system for enrollment and follows a curriculum. They offer Beginner, Intermediate 1, Intermediate 2 and Advanced classes for adults in both English and Spanish. Co-instructor Eric Sierra, who is also PPA certified and has over 15 years of wedding experience, leads the Spanish classes. Sepulveda follows the exact same curriculum in English.
Creative Assistant and Beauty Baddies Co. Co-founder/makeup artist Nora Cuevas works closely completing the looks on set. She also does the styling, and hair and makeup for the models for each shoot. Both Studio Manager Ana Perez and Cuevas also assist Sepulveda with social media content creation for the business and enjoy it.
Seeing the big picture
Sepulveda encourages his students to venture out and create their own businesses once they complete the 1.5-year-long program. He is a huge supporter of other local entrepreneurs. Perez provides models for the school’s use from her side business South Texas Digital Collaborations.
The school is the first professional photography school in the Valley that educates those with a passion for photography and equips them with the proper experience needed in order to succeed. The retention rate of the students who attend is incredibly high. It is a direct reflection of the passion that inspires the teaching.
“If you love photography, RGV Photography Workshops can take you to the mountaintop,” says Sepulveda. He believes that the school truly functions as its own community. “With everyone being in the trenches learning together, it makes it easier for them to humble themselves and ask for help in order to learn and grow.”