Yelm Man Turns Passion into Photography Business


Adam Cunningham, 46, of Yelm, is in the process of growing his part-time photography business, a venture that started in wildland firefighting, but has spanned to a second generation of Cunningham shutterbugs.

Cunningham offers all sorts of photographic services from landscape prints, to family photos and weddings.

“I’ve had a camera in my hand since the old 110 days, the 110 camera,” Cunningham said. “So, it was just kinda of a hobby. I remember back in the 90s, I was in the military — we were fighting forest fires — and I had my old 110 camera with me taking pictures while I was fighting forest fires. I seemed to always have one with me.”

And then, after he was married and had kids, his passion grew.

“With the kids coming along, they’re probably the most photographed kids you’ll ever know,” Cunningham said.

He didn’t turn his shutterbug passion into a business until he moved to Michigan from Yelm in 2013.

“I was like, ‘hey, maybe I should try to make a buck or two at this,’ because people always liked my work,” Cunningham said. “So I got there, and at the time I had some relatives that worked for a local school district, and just like that, I was photographing school proms and homecoming, and a couple family photos and stuff like that.”

He moved back to the Yelm area about a year later, and used his family and friends to grow his business.

He has photographed sports teams, weddings, birthday parties, family events and more.

“Every client that I’ve worked with, afterwards they’re like, ‘it wasn’t even like a photo shoot,’” Cunningham said. “They were like, ‘it’s just like we were hanging out, having a good time, capturing photographs,’ And I tell them, ‘that’s what we strive for.’”

He said he’s not the photographer that’ll tell people where to stand or how to look and act.

“I’m the photographer where you tell me what you want that’s in your head,” he said. “I’m the photographer that will make that happen.”

And he often goes above and beyond for the job, he said, sometimes literally.

“I’ve been on top of 17-foot tall step ladders, getting a shot downward at the wedding party,” Cunningham said. “I’ve climbed trees, scaled walls. That’s what I want to be known for. I want to be known as the photographer that will go above and beyond.”

He said he’s waiting for a client to call him and ask to take photos of a backpacking wedding or a hike because those are two of his hobbies.

Cunningham said he likes meeting people and having fun with photography.

“I like going out and creating something that somebody has thought (about) … and being able to make that happen and achieve that,” he said. “And having them say, ‘holy cats, I can’t believe you did that.’”

The business rates are $150 for a 30 to 60 minute session of family photographs for up to five people, with $25 extra for each additional person. He charges $150 an hour for events like birthdays and $800 to $1,500 for weddings.

And now Cunningham has passed on his passion to the next generation.

His daughter, Ashley Cunningham, 20, who studied photojournalism in high school, is his second photographer and digital communications officer.

“She’s been my right hand,” Adam Cunningham said. “Especially with all her computer work. She’s completely redone my website.”

He said he was at the point in his business where he needed a second hand, and his daughter fit the bill.

“I really like when we meet new people and we’re getting into it,” Ashley Cunningham said. “And after a little while, everyone just kind of relaxes and everyone’s clearly just having a great time.”

To book a photoshoot, go online to or call 360-701-2412.


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