So happy to be featuring the very talented Brooke Shultz today!
When did you develop a love for photography?
A kind photographer took me under her wing when I was in high school and taught me photoshop after she heard me saying I wished I could color for a living. After she took me on a few shoots and after a lot of over-photoshopped messes, I decided I could do this for real and jumped in.
What do you enjoy shooting the most and why?
I love photographing families, because being in a family is the most courageous, loving, heartbreaking, wrenching work I've ever known. So much of it is done quietly, without anyone there to see all the ways we are kind and patient and self-sacrificing. It feels like an honor every time to be that witness for families.
Your work has such a real and uncontrived feeI. Could you give us a few tips for how to capture these kinds of relaxed and candid moments?
I play to my strengths. I don't try to be someone I'm not. One of my gifts is empathy + a heightened sense of emotion--being able to reaallly feel what others are feeling as if their experiences were my own--so I use that. I feel with them, both in the moment of photographing and in a general sense with my own experiences of love, loss, life, happiness, kids. My work is simply an attempt to translate those big huge feelings into visual form. On a practical level: I do a lot of obnoxious laughing to get my clients to relax and laugh. It's very awkward and they can't help but giggle at the sheer ridiculousness. I also push them to do more and more--I'll ask them to hug, and then to squeeze, or to kiss, and then kiss two more times. Often on the first try they're just complying with a request, but by the third or seventh time I ask them to do something it feels natural and like it's their own.
Have you ever felt burned out? If so, what do you do to get re-inspired?
Yes. I think anyone who says no either hasn't been doing this long enough or just has a ca-razzy good sense of self, boundaries, and balance. To get re-inspired, I shoot for myself. I push myself to try new ridiculous things--a pose, or gear, or a way of using light. I also find that nourishing myself in other creative ways works wonders for my photos. I write, read, go for walks, plan something romantic for my husband--any exercise in creation nurtures all the others. How's that for philosophical mumbo jumbo? ;)
What's a typical day like for you?
Oh gosh, it's filled with babies! The drudgery and delights of motherhood with all the dishes and dinners and beautiful I-can't-even-take-this-joy moments. One of my daughters has special needs, so a lot of my days are filled with therapy and doctor appointments and the worst blend of logistics-managing for someone who can't even bring herself to open the mail. ;) I work during my two girls' nap time, about 2 hours a day, and that's it, unless I have a shoot, which is about once or twice a week. It completely drains me to work at night so I've just stopped doing that.
Something you're still learning?
How to give myself grace; how to really give myself what I need as far as self-care, boundaries, and patience. I'm always overflowin with new ideas and it's wonderful but often frustrating to have to put so so many of them on hold for the sheer time I don't have, at this stage in my life.
Favorite piece of gear?
My mamiya 645 af camera, 80mm 2.8 lens with portra 400 film. my go to.
Favorite photo? And can you tell us why?
It's a photo of the beautiful mess of being part of a family--every parent can relate to the feeling of KIDSEVERYWHERE and I repeat that theme a lot in my work. I love the sheer happiness of the mother and baby, mixed with the goofiness of the boys, and the fact that all the beauty comes from the people and the light and not some grandiose setting (though, nothin' wrong with those!).
How do you market your business? What has been the most successful for you?
I'm sighing thinking about this, because the truth is I've had two babies during prime wedding season and an out-of-state move in the 4 years I've been in business. Those things have made it so that I have to either compensate, or slow down. I've done both. I've always kept up with blogging, and again, trying to play to my strengths--words are a big deal to me so I spend a lot of time refining my website copy and writing posts for social media.
It's also helped me to collaborate with other vendors in the wedding industry, submit work for publication, and to reach out in genuine, kind ways--complimentary emails without asking for anything, personal gifts, etc. I still haven't found a butter-smooth system to keep everything rolling, but as long as I'm dipping my toes in at least a few of those waters at a time--blogging/social media, collaborations with other vendors, publication, and genuine kindness--I'm at least showing some love and gratitude to the universe for giving me the opportunity to do what I love.
Best 3 tips for someone just starting out?
OH mannn. 1- Get a mentor. A seasoned pro whose work you really look up to. See if you can assist her for free, and eventually work your way up to second shooting for different photographers you admire. 2- The internet is a great resource, but be careful of the voices you choose to listen to, as they'll shape your whole business and art trajectory. 3-Wait to start a business til you have alllll your crap together. Meaning, you've given yourself a chance to explore photographically so you know what you want to shoot and don't roll yourself out as a pet-boudior-grief photographer; you've gotten your legal ducks in a row; you know what it's going to take to run a sustainable business and you actually LIKE managing the business side, or at least have a plan to outsource it if you don't, because that's the majority of this work is the dreaded "business side." Okay I'm totally breaking the rules cause I have to share this--4--You don't have to do it the way everyone else is doing it. In fact, please, please don't. The world doesn't need another photographer. It needs you. Learn to listen to your gut and go against the grain in meaningful ways.