Yelp is all about connecting people with great local businesses, and we recognize that these businesses — led by artisans, doers and creators of all kinds — are the lifeblood of our communities. So we choose a few small biz badasses from around the world each month to spotlight and learn from.
Allow us to introduce: Haley Neal of Little Robot Photography in Indianapolis, Ind. Haley’s work ranges from food and product to couples “who are taking the leap into the wonderful world of marriage.” We have a special place in our heart for Haley’s work on Yelp Indy’s Meet The Maker event series. She has captured iconic shots of local business owners ranging from men’s fashion to fresh seafood.
When did you first pick up a camera?
It wasn’t unusual to find me running around with disposable cameras as a child. I took pictures of anything and everything: vacations across the country with my grandmother, summers spent volunteering and camping with friends, cars, houses, flowers, you name it. I even had a short stint in dressing the family dog in children’s clothing and creating elaborate sets — likely embarrassing the hell out of him by taking snapshots.
But it wasn’t until college when I started to get serious about photography. I was studying graphic design and, after taking the academic equivalent of Digital Photography For Dummies, discovered a true passion for the craft. Not long after, my academic advisor sat me down to discuss switching my major. I purchased my first DSLR in 2006, learned the ins and outs and have been head over heels in love ever since.
What is your favorite subject to capture?
It took me eight years to find my niche. After working in every realm of portraiture imaginable (school photography, church directories, in-hospital newborn portraiture, sports, events), I initially assumed it was what I was supposed to be doing.
In 2013, I created Little Robot Photography as a family, wedding and event photography business. It worked for a while, until I decided I wasn’t truly enjoying the venture. Additionally, competition in that specialty is fierce, and I felt my work paled in comparison to what so many others were doing.
So I took a good, hard look at what I was producing and decided that something needed to change. I chose to attempt to make a living photographing something I truly love: food. Since 2015, Little Robot Photography has been a strictly food- and product-based company. (Alright, I still work the occasional event because I love meeting people.)
What do you do to make sure you are regularly inspired?
I regularly flip through publications like Indianapolis Monthly and the Indiana Business Journal to look at images and learn about new businesses that are making their way onto the local scene. I also make the effort at least once per month to travel, if only for a day. It’s invaluable to me to visit new places and try new things — restaurants in particular.
What do you want the future to hold for Little Robot Photography?
It has been such an honor to have made a small name for myself in the city I’ll always call home. Meeting new people and working with new businesses who know me through my work is very humbling and, at times, also quite surreal. While I consider myself something of an Indy cheerleader, it would be such a pleasure to expand full-time and work on my own terms throughout the Midwest. It would be a dream to travel regionally and working with independent businesses on a regular basis!
If customers come away knowing just one thing about your business, what do you want that message to be?
I love meeting and collaborating with other small businesses, especially those that are just starting to find their feet. Indianapolis is really thriving right now, and it’s been a joy to see the rise and recognition of local goods and products. I know the struggle and passion it takes to make things work, and being able to capture that through photography is something I’ll always crave.
I’m proud to call Indianapolis my home, and I aim to help the city grow by artistically capturing those people who are seeking the same.