Photographer Hector Leyva, owner of Sugar Mill Studios, can relate to the freshly minted founders of Nevada’s medicinal marijuana establishments (MMEs). He, too, left a good corporate job to follow a dream that had its risks.

“I quit a corporate job and was done with corporate life. I wanted to figure out what I wanted to do and I did,” says Leyva of making a career change to become a professional photographer.

Leyva’s career transition came as a result of his hobby building lowrider cars. “My cars always got featured in magazines like Lowrider and so they were photographed a lot. One of my friends, and now a mentor, Saul Vargas, showed me a picture he took of one of my cars then he made me move my car a half-foot and it changed the shot like night and day. I thought to myself, I need to learn how to do that because look how something so minimal made such a huge difference.”

A professional photographer for the last six years, Leyva started dabbling and “one thing led to another and next thing I know people are paying me to take pictures. My first paying gig was a family portrait,” explains Leyva. “I really love to photograph people but rarely do they like getting their picture taken. They don’t really look forward to it. Especially guys, they are the worst. I am really good with babies and kids, they are a big part of my work. You gotta be able to have that interaction with people that makes them feel comfortable.”

Leyva’s subjects are diverse — shooting everything from real estate to medicinal marijuana. “I do a lot of automotive photography,” says Leyva, though noting that “the diversity of my pictures is what I love. Today was real estate,
I am scheduled to do a model in a little bit, and tomorrow morning is a baby.”

The Los Angeles native has also worked in the medicinal marijuana industry taking food shots for The Happy Chef THC’s cookbook as well as doing work for Travel Joint, a few labs, and product shots of medicinal marijuana. But it’s the people behind the industry he is most excited to photograph.

“It’s the leaders, the doctors, the people behind the scenes — that’s who I would like to capture. The normal, everyday professionals who are starting these businesses and are at the forefront of the movement are the most fascinating to me.”