Brooke Schultz | Photo Native Featured Instructor
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? Mix is the magic word, baby. the coolest thing is that business can be an art in and of itself--there's improv, trying things you have no idea will work, creating something completely unique and true to you--blurring those lines and constantly creating in both worlds is supremely fun to me.
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?
Welp, I've had a baby or moved every year of my business except one. The only thing I can say is that I've always had a much deeper meaning driving all of it for me; I believe the gifts I give to my clients of being truly seen, having their silent most important work witnessed is literally priceless, and so that motivated me to do whatever I had to do to breathe life into my business. That doesn't mean I sacrificed being present for my family, although of course there are seasons of give and take. Photography and art and doing this for people also makes me come alive, so it was all very entertained and never from a strictly business standpoint that I wanted to do this work.
Q: How do you maintain your own, unique voice in your work in a world where you’re constantly bombarded with other artists’ images?
I bombard myself with the right images. :)
I spend a lot of time drawing inspiration from other sources and paying attention to what I like in any and every context. One of the most important things any artist can develop is a genuine, playful curiosity about why she likes what she likes.
Q: If you could go back in time and tell your photographer newbie self one thing, what would that be?
Pay attention to what is inside you way more than what is happening outside of you. Developing a voice and a style can only come from following the breadcrumbs of what you like. If that lines up with what other people want, you've got a business. If not, don't dull yourself or try to fit into a mold; you've simply got a really compelling, fun hobby.
Q: What is one of your best tips for running a successful business?
Be consistent. You market when you're not busy and then do zilch when work picks up--and then the internet thinks you're dead and you ain't got no work, boo. Slow and steady zeroing in on just a few things.
Q: How do you deal with burnout? What do you do to boost your creativity when you’re in a slump?
Get off social media except to post, only check email once/day, say no to projects and shoots that don't light me up, and give myself lots of creative input--reading, poetry, etc. I believe if all photographers adhered to these, burnout would drastically decrease, even if you can't lighten your shooting load or put together a personal shoot.
Q: How do you keep yourself an artist- but not a starving artist?
I'm constantly looking for the overlap between art that feeds my soul AND my wallet. I truly believe you can have both. Some elements of my business lean more to one side or the other, but I genuinely enjoy every part, and that's what I want for every photographer.
Q: How did you find your style? (editing, mood, lighting, etc)?
Style is always evolving and is just a compilation of the things you like, so it's not hard to find. At various times it's easier or harder to truly know what you like, which is why it's so important as an artist to pay attention to what you're drawn to in every context, especially contexts outside of photography. What do you notice every day? What could you look at for hours? What topics are infinitely interesting to you? The keys to a unique style are all inside you, and the fun of jigsawing the puzzle of what all of that is--that's the special sauce I'm after.
Q: What is your favorite part about teaching and connecting with students?
There's this inexplicable synergy of discovery that washes over a room when we all show up fully. Open hearts ready to give and receive, we all leave full and changed every time without fail. There's something about the vulnerability of making art and diving into that process together that creates a bond outside the power to describe it in terms of the five senses. And clearly I take this experience very very seriously so no smiling allowed ever. :)
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Creating, creating, creating. That's all I know. But then again I believe everything is creation so maybe that's a trick answer wink.
Q: If you are a parent, what’s one tip you have for juggling a super crazy photographer’s work schedule with parenthood?
You owe it to yourself and to everyone in your life to be well-adjusted and empowered, not burnt out and overdrawn and stressed to the max. You can't serve clients or your family at your highest capacity if you are in "survival mode." There are so many possibilities for revenue streams that don't involve trading dollars for hours and that sit in the sweet spot of things you love and things people want to pay you for. If you have a hard time believing that's possible for YOU, that's your first order of business: curiosity about why you're an exception, about why you won't allow yourself to accept that success. If that sounds hippie-dippy, welcome aboard. Our minds are the key to our whole lives and we spend far too much time trying to boss ourselves into things that don't serve us, when we could be creating businesses and lives that fuel our hearts and relationships along with our piggy banks. I'm not saying your business should check every box for you and that photography is going to keep you warm at night, but I AM saying, let's lower the flag of martyrdom and retire suffering as a badge of honor.