San Francisco

My name is Melissa de Mata. I grew up in SoCal but I’ve been living in the Bay Area for the past 7 years.

My story starts during my first year of college, when I was required to take an art class and decided to take Intro to Film Photography. I’ve always been a creative person but it wasn’t until I took that class that I realized photography would be the medium I wanted to express my creativity through. After that first class, I started to take all of the photography classes that were offered at my Junior College; I even became a photo lab tech. I guess you can say that I lived in the photo building for quite a while. Photography has been in my life for over 10 years now and it’s been an amazing journey. 

I’d say my Green Acre is and always will be San Francisco. I moved to San Francisco in 2010 — I transferred to SFSU and thought I wanted to be a graphic designer but shortly realized I wasn’t very good at that. To the disappointment of my family, I dropped out of college and started working full time for a local company in their web team. There, I learned on the job how to use photography for web marketing, as well as the ins and out of retail e-commerce and social media. For the first time, I was living by myself away from my family and hometown. I came across so many individuals who provided me with various opportunities that have led me to this path I’m currently on. I learned my strengths and limitations, and came to the self-realization that I’m passionate and devoted to photography. I have worked to create a lifestyle that is sustained and revolves around it; photograph is much more than just a hobby for me. 

I don’t think I have one single favorite moment of my entire journey, but knowing that when I wake up every day, the choices I make with my time and my career are entirely my own, is a great feeling. It is completely terrifying, yet liberating, but I’m not sure I’d have it any other way.

Like every other career, mine came with certain obstacles to overcome. Being in such a creative industry, there are always people who are bound to have different outlooks and opinions than you. The very first time I received a negative response from a client, I felt sad and unworthy; I doubted myself, my skills, and my creativity. It honestly made me depressed for a bit, but after talking with other creatives and friends in the same industry, I had to understand that you cannot please everybody. When someone else does not like your work, you can’t take it personally. Feedback and criticism are crucial and necessary if you want to succeed, and all you can do it learn from it and move on.

The most valuable lesson that I’ve taken away so far from being in this field of work is to value myself and my work. Keeping a good circle of friends and colleagues in the same industry helps a ton since it serves as a support system that not only can listen to you but can understand what you’re going through. You need people to bounce ideas with, vent to, and learn from. Be transparent and supportive with other creatives about your work and interaction with clients in order to gain greater perspectives. The more we all know, the more we can lift each other up. 

I feel like I’m at a turning point in my freelance career right now; my work is reaching more and more people and it’s definitely landing in the hands of the right clients. I plan on challenging myself this year by being more creative with videos to broaden my scope of work, so it should be another great chapter in this journey! My friendly advice to anyone in the creative field or anyone who just needs a bit of inspiration is to just keep creating and truly enjoy the process just as much as the final product.

Follow Melissa on Instagram @melissademata and her website at!

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