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A Look Behind The Lens With UMass Student Photographer, Portteia

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

If you’re interested in photography but aren’t sure where to start, you’ve come to the right place! Earlier this week, I sat down with fellow UMass Amherst student, Portteia, to chat about how she gained traction as a photographer on campus. Portteia serves as the Head of Photography for the UMass Fashion Organization, works closely with the University Programming Council, and has even established herself as the lead photographer for the local Amherst Band, The Baxbys. Be sure to keep on reading to learn all about her journey as a self-taught artist, and how you too can get involved! Psst.. you’ll definitely want to take a look at her portfolio as well to see all of her amazing work!

Portteia\'s image of Jack Harlow performing
Photo by Portteia Xaraiya

When asked how she initially got into photography, Portteia shared details of some of her earliest memories behind the lens. Between experimenting with the settings on her mother’s digital camera and learning the ins and outs of YouTube video production, she quickly became well acquainted with camerawork.

While she credits much of her technical videography skills to a valuable class she took in high school, her knack for capturing still images came entirely from her own devices, “Everything that I learned was all self-taught… nobody taught me anything, I did so so so much research.”

After years of exploring her capabilities on the family camera, Portteia’s parents surprised her with her very own DSLR camera after her final performance at the Detroit Opera House in her home state of Michigan. Yes, she’s a skilled violinist as well! The Canon Rebel T6i now travels with her to events all over the Amherst area and has captured images of singers like Jack Harlow and Tai Verdes.

I’m sure you’re wondering, how did she find herself shooting such high-profile events? I can promise you one thing, it wasn’t mere luck. Throughout our conversation, Portteia emphasized the importance of opening yourself up for rejection and understanding that the road to success comes with numerous failures. Her number one piece of advice for aspiring photographers? Reach out. “For every ten doors shut in your face, two open.”

While reflecting on her high school years, Portteia explained that there was a time when she used her craft to curate an image that wasn’t entirely true to herself. However, everything changed when her sophomore year at UMass rolled around. She began to step outside of her comfort zone and reach out to student organizations about photographing their events. Her Instagram and portfolio began to represent her soul work, and she discovered her passion for photographing bands. Just last year, she shot her first concert in collaboration with the University Programming Council, hosting Billboard Hot 100 Artist, Tai Verdes. It was here that the UPC Marketing Director described one of her images as “THE Money Shot.” Around this time, she also took photos for the UMass Fashion Organization’s Spring Fashion Show, and UMass WMUA’s Battle of the Bands, where she met the band she would later come to know quite well — The Baxbys.

Portteia\'s Image of The Baxbys performing
Photo by Portteia Xaraiya from

Portteia’s first few gigs increased her savviness behind the camera tremendously, noting that “you learn so much when you actually get out and start shooting.”

If you think photography is calling your name and you want to get your foot in the door, communicate with student organizations on your campus to see if you can bring your talents to their next event! And remember that it’s okay to be nervous. It’s all a part of your journey. While chatting with Portteia, I learned about the time she met Eugene from the Try Guys at a campus event and got totally starstruck, so her pictures didn’t come out according to plan. But guess what? Shortly after, she took the photo you see above of Jack Harlow, and I think she absolutely crushed it.

Now pop on over to www.portteiaxaraiya.com and show some love!

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Katherine Fillion

U Mass Amherst '24