Mother Run: Jaclyn Shaw of Jaclyn Shaw Photography

Jaclyn, her husband Chad, and their three kids.

Jaclyn, her husband Chad, and their three kids.

    Jaclyn Shaw’s love of photography began during her teenage years.  “My dad first introduced me to photography when I was 15,” she remembers.  “He had a Minolta camera that he showed me how to use and it was always a welcomed excuse to hang out with him.  In high school I began taking photography classes and really loved it. I HATED taking pictures of people. Those were the assignments that I literally begged my teacher to let me do something else.  I was too nervous and introverted and wasn’t comfortable with that type of interaction with people. It’s still a struggle that I deal with, but I force the interactions and as soon as I’m doing what I do best, all the anxiety melts away.”

    While her photography passion had its beginnings as a kid, it wasn’t until much later that she knew she wanted to make a career out of it.  “I picked my camera back up after a very long hiatus, when my kids were little,” she explains. “I had forgotten how much fun it was and I began posting the images I took.  I had a close friend ask me to take photos of his brother’s wedding and it took me three weeks to decide that I would do it. I was a nervous wreck the whole time, but every time I lifted my camera, I would instantly relax and learn to have fun.  That’s when I knew I needed to start putting more energy into it to see how far I could take it.” At the time, she was the mother of an eight year old girl named Sophia, a four year old boy named Sampson, and was pregnant with her third child, who would be a boy named Sullivan.  She wasted no time diving into her new venture. “I actually went into business blindly and as things popped up, learned along the way,” she recalls. “It was not an ideal, or probably smart way to go about things, but it worked well enough. I had a huge struggle in marketing appropriately and figuring out what made sense to charge my clients for what I had to offer.  The more I worked, the better I felt about my product and the more confidence I gained in charging what I thought was, not only appropriate, but necessary in order to be able to contribute to my family.”

    Prior to taking that plunge into entrepreneurship, Jaclyn worked in residential and commercial property management, as well as being a real estate agent.  “I made great money, but it was immensely stressful, time consuming, and was not filling a personal void that I felt,” she explains. “It got to the point where I had a really hard time ‘finding my happy’ and I knew that this was affecting my family.”  Making a career change into your own business is always a risk, but she knew it was the right move to make. “Photography was something that I knew that I enjoyed immensely,” says Jaclyn. “I’ve never once felt the need to complain about what I was doing.  It was never a ‘chore’ to shoot or sit at the computer for hours editing. It was fun--each and every time, and I felt a creative release that I didn’t know I needed to fulfil. I was lucky enough to have a husband that was willing to both financially and emotionally support me.  We knew it was a risk to relinquish the salary that I was making, and that running your own business takes time to take off, but personal happiness and fulfillment have always been things that my husband and I have seen as top priorities, so we took the risk.”

    That risk paid off and since beginning she has honed her craft in so many types of photo sessions.  One of the fun and challenging things about photography is using different skills for different types of photos.  “They are all SO different, and bring different things,” she explains. “Newborns require a little finesse, lots of props and very careful hands and poses.  They aren’t the type of session you just show up to and hope the best for. They require such small, specific details in order to run smoothly. Families are always great fun because you never know what you’re going to get.  You can drive to the session all while thinking of what poses you may want to try and realize as soon as you get there that what you wanted to do won’t fit that family. I feel like I have to think more quickly and really be on my toes, and I have to be immensely flexible, especially when dealing with multiple kids.  My mind usually races during these sessions and sometimes I feel like I’m all over the place, but if there are little ones, I usually AM all over the place. Family sessions require lots of running, lots of time on the ground and lots of fart noises.  Senior pictures are ridiculously fun, each and every time.  These are kids that have grown up in front of a camera, whether it be a friends or their own, and they know how to pose!  They are up for any and all of my crazy ideas, so it’s great creatively. There are usually lots of laughs and great conversations at these.  Weddings are special on a whole other level. It’s a long day watching months and months of a bride and grooms vision come to fruition. Being present for each and every moment, and having the opportunity to capture those moments for all of time is the greatest of compliments, especially as a photographer.  I have the unique opportunity to sit back and watch an entire day unfold. I get to see the bride and her dad standing in the corner laughing and crying and sharing a special moment alone. I get to see flower girls twirl in a mirror and feel like princesses and I get to see friends and family spend an entire afternoon celebrating the coming together of two insanely in-love people.  There is also a special friendship that ensues with photographing weddings. I come to the point where all of my clients feel like family or friends, but I spend so much time with the bride and groom that it just feels a little different.” She recently expanded her offerings into a new type of session. “Boudoir photography has always been on my bucket list, and I’ve recently started dabbling in it, and I am SO glad that I did,” Jaclyn says.  “It has been rewarding both creatively and on a level with my clients that I just don’t get in any other way. It’s a very personal experience and takes a lot of courage, and it requires conversations that you never typically have. Having the opportunity to show women, of all sizes, how incredibly beautiful they are in ways that they don’t ever see themselves fills my heart each and every time. It has become a very special route for me to be able to offer my clients.”

    It’s now been seven years since Jaclyn went into business for herself and her business has changed so much.  “It’s evolved in so many ways, from the time that I put into it, to the product that I give,” she says. “I used to struggle to get my clients 20-25 images that were worthy of them even looking at, and now I have a hard time narrowing them down to 60-70 images.  I’ve taught myself how to edit the way that I want my images to turn out. I’ve taught myself how to design my own website - twice. I learned how to put together the proper marketing and contracts that I feel fit who I represent and I’ve changed my logo and ‘look’ about half a dozen times.  I’ve also learned a great deal with how to ‘read’ people and help them relax in order to get the images that I know they want to get. I still struggle with this a lot - some people are tough nails to crack, but I’ve learned to not take it personally. I’ve found a pretty good rhythm with how I run my shoots, and it seems to work most of the time. It’s always evolving, and being in the business that I am, it probably always should.”

From a recent newborn session.

From a recent newborn session.

    It’s not only her business that has evolved in that time, her kids have also grown up, changing the balance of family and work throughout the years.  “This has always been a struggle,” says Jaclyn. “It’s hard and there is guilt that comes along with always sitting at the computer, or texting a client or editing while your kids want to play or need your attention, or the laundry needs done.  Currently, my youngest is in preschool from 8am - 11am and some days I am able to squeeze in work during that time, or for a quick hour or so during nap time, but I primarily edit and do almost everything else from the hours of 8 pm- midnight, on a nightly basis - especially during the busy season.  We moved my computer from the basement and into the living room so I could at least be in the same vicinity of my husband while I edit on those nights. It doesn’t feel like there is quite as much of a marriage strain since we have done that. I can turn around and engage in conversations with him and we get the opportunity to catch up.  Typically, when the kids go to bed, that is the time most couples have to spend time together. That’s not always the case from the months of June through November, but Chad is understanding and I try to arrange some of those nights so we can go on mini-dates or hang out and play dominoes or sit on the couch with a glass of wine and just talk. It another one of those very important things to try and balance.”

    That balance has gotten a bit easier over the years as her children have grown older and starting this fall it will be even easier.  “At this point the kids pretty much get it and don’t seem to care as much,” she explains. “My youngest is not very forgiving about me working when he needs attention, and I make sure that I release myself from work as much as possible once the oldest kids get home from school so that I can be attentive to them.  Sophia usually has an afterschool activity that I need to be at, or run her to. Sampson needs my attention with math homework most nights, and Sullivan just wants someone to take the time to watch him play Legos. I make sure to be there for the kids for all of these things. Sometimes is means longer nights, and I’m ok with that.  Next year, my youngest will be in all-day Kindergarten, so I am looking forward to having the day to do my work, and hopefully have my evenings back for my family.”

    Her many years of photography had led to some great lessons.  Her work requires building a relationship between herself and her clients that didn’t always come easily.  “I was terrible at building relationships with my clients at first - or at least I felt that I was terrible at it,” she says.  “It’s always amazing to me how many photographers I’ve met that all feel that they are insanely introverted, yet they choose this profession.  I guess I’m a high-functioning introvert, but like with anything, you get better at it with practice. You learn how to read people and find where their comfort level is and the relationship builds from that.  Or, in some cases, you blabber nonsense and make a fool of yourself and when the session has ended, pray that your clients went home with smiles on their faces and that they at least had fun. Kindness and smiles always go a long way. As with any creative venture, pursuing a photography business is all about practice.  I’ll say it a million times over. Practice your craft. Practice talking to complete strangers, and practice making mistakes, but that is where you learn the most. And take classes or watch videos or read things that are pertinent. The more you learn, the more your comfort level and confidence grows, and it will come through in every facet of your business.”            

    Having started, and now successfully run, her business for seven years while mothering, she also is filled with plenty of advice for moms hoping to do the same.  “If you love it, stick with it. Make it grow. Take risks. Don’t give up. Ever,” she says. “There were a million times when I knew I wasn’t as good as the next photographer, but I read something one time that I never stop thinking about: ‘You can’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20.’  Everyone has to START somewhere, some people just started sooner than others. You’ll make it if you want it hard enough.” In addition to constantly learning and not giving up, there is one more thing she says is important to success. “For those who are looking to pursue the photography business, or any business for that matter, it’s all about passion.  If it fuels you in ways that nothing else can, don’t ever stop until you get to where you want to be. There are a lot of photographers out there and it’s a pretty saturated market, but those who don’t truly have the passion to do it won’t last. Some photographers will seem to have it all together, and some will have very specific strengths. Find the look and feel that fits you best and go with it.  Make it your own and you’ll succeed.”

 

Connect with Jaclyn:

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Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany