Summer Murdock | Photo Native Featured Instructor

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Q: When you think of yourself as a photographer, do you feel like you’re more business-minded or more art/creativity-minded? Or are you a mix? 

I am a good mix of the two. Some tell me I am a rare breed because of that. My heart lives on the creative side, but I am very logical too. It's like I have two totally separate personalities inside my head. I love the challenge of getting the two to work together.

Q: What do you think is one of the biggest challenges photographers are faced with right now? 

Oversaturation of photographers and a market that is continually telling us that we should work in exchange for credit or recognition. 

Q: What’s been one of the biggest hurdles you’ve had to overcome in your business in order for it to continue to thrive and be successful? 

I have had to overcome many hurdles for my business to thrive and be successful. My business has gone in a direction that I could have never predicted. Over the years, I have learned that a lot of people have business advice they think applies to all of us...rules that should not be broken. This is not always true. I have unique strengths and unique weaknesses. Just because something works for one person does not mean it will work for me. I have learned that I should listen to the advice and experiences of others but go with my gut.....even if it goes against the grain. Sometimes my gut has led me to fall flat on my face, but more often it has helped me to run a business that works for me and plays to my unique strengths.

Q: How do you maintain your own, unique voice in your work in a world where you’re constantly bombarded with other artists’ images?

It's really simple; I just don't spend too much time looking. It gets in my head. I have always been one to put my head down and do MY work. I look around occasionally, but I notice when I start looking too much, I start disliking my work. When I and open my eyes to the beauty that is right in front of my face and focus on that I make work that is ME. 

Q: How do you deal with burnout? What do you do to boost your creativity when you’re in a slump?

 Burnout is real and it is hard. When I'm feeling that way, I do several things. First, I stop looking at social media (or at least cut down on mindless browsing). Somehow social media makes me feel like my work looks like everyone else's work...and maybe it does, but if I am not looking, I won't know that. :) Next, I have learned that when I am feeling the burnout, instead of putting down my camera, I should force myself to pick it up anyways. I am always surprised at how just picking up the camera and opening my eyes to what the interesting things right in front of me, makes me feel creatively energized. To me, burnout is just another word for boredom. If I am bored, it's because I am doing the same thing mindlessly over and over. If I'm feeling it, it's a sign it's time to dig deep and push myself. So I figure out what I can do differently. I make sure I find time to make work that excites ME!!! 

Q: When do you feel the most creative?

I feel most creative when I am living in the present moment and aware of what is around me. Being outside often brings this out in me! 

Q: Have you ever felt that running the business side of things mentally overwhelms you? How did you overcome that?

Yes, it is an ongoing struggle for me. The only thing that keeps me sane is making plans and lists of everything that has to be done and getting to work. Lists used to overwhelm me because as a business owner, I pretty much NEVER have everything checked off the list. I am NEVER caught up. I have learned to accept that as normal. There will always be a list. I have learned to focus on the now and do what I can instead of stressing about what I didn't get done yesterday or what I have to do tomorrow. I only have right now. It has been a game changer for my sanity and anxiety. 

Q: How did you find your style?

(editing, mood, lighting, etc)So many people want a fast path to figuring out their stye, but there is no quick trick. It takes time, patience and experimentation. Style is a fluid thing that is always changing. I find it by listening to my heart. I recognize when I shoot something that excites me and know that I need to do more of that. When I shoot something that bores me, I know to go in another direction. Doing this over and over and over keeps me in tune with my personal style. 

Q: What is your favorite part about teaching and connecting with students?

I love learning. I am a forever student. I am obsessed with that feeling I get when I figure something out that I didn't fully understand. That feeling is what motivates me when I teach. I love observing and helping other experience those "aha" moments. I struggle with the idea of being the "teacher" though because every single time I "teach" a group of "students" I learn so much from them. Teaching and learning is a collaborative experience...one that both humbles me and energizes me. 

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I try not to plan that far ahead. I am reminded of a quote from a favorite book "The Alchemist" by Paul Coelho: "When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.” I am now doing things in my business that I would have never been able to dream ten years ago. I could have never planned this.  I have learned to look inward to know what I should do next in my life and my career and commit to it and DO IT. Once I commit to that thing and do it the next thing lights up..I do that, and then the next thing lights up….and the next. I have learned that if I just keep doing the next right thing, one thing at a time... it turns into a really good life and career. That's all I can do...the next right thing. I can't plan for ten years because who knows what's going to happen. 

Q: If you are a parent, what’s one tip you have for juggling a super crazy photographer’s work schedule with parenthood?

I have had to accept that I cannot do everything. As a mom to four kids who works mostly from home, this has been my biggest struggle. I can't be the room mom at school, keep a clean and organized house, run my kids to all of their activities, have dinner on the table every night, be at every single soccer game or event AND run a business. IMPOSSIBLE. I have to let go of somethings and hire out help when needed. Then I have to let the feelings of guilt roll over me and out the window. There is no room for guilt in my life. I am doing my best and I focus on that vs all the should have, could have, would haves. 

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