We had the good fortune of connecting with Shay Shipman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shay, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
Work life balance has been one of the hardest and longest lessons of my entire career.
When I first started I wanted to hurry up and be successful so bad that I was pushing myself and working 24/7. And while that’s understandable and it did get me to where I am now, it made it extremely hard to go back and set boundaries once I was already booked out.
I quickly began to dread photography and I could tell I was always snappy, irritable and anxious. I was never getting anytime to rest and I had messages coming in from clients at all hours on a bunch of platforms. I had no way to check out or ever stop working.
I felt guilty for being annoyed with this because I did want to be successful and I truly love my clients but I was just flat out exhausted.
Once I got to the point that my lack of balance was costing my clients getting the best version of me I knew I had to make changes.
Its really hard to prioritize yourself after not doing it for so long and it was certainly not an overnight switch. I now take 2 days off a week from work completely, only shoot 3 days a week and I got a new phone number that is only for my friends and family that way I’m able to check out from work when I need to and have specific times and places for my business.
Putting these things into place made me fall in love with my job and my clients all over again.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m a dark and moody style photographer. I mostly focus on boudoir, couples, seniors and weddings. It took me a longggggg time to figure out my style and what art felt like it fit my soul.
In my area there was a lot of bright and airy photographers already and while I think their work is beautiful I knew it wasn’t me. I remember trying to mimic their captions and style and branding at first and physically cringing every time. I kept branding my page with sayings like “capturing all of your real and authentic moments” and I wanted to slap myself. No for real, I know that sounds mean but I knew that not a single one of those words were things that I would say. I am not a live, laugh love kind of girl. I am a zodiac, hot girl summer and swearing like a sailor kind of girl. It’s not that either of those types is any better than the other it’s that I was trying to force myself to be something I wasn’t and then expecting my clients to be authentic and open with me in their sessions.
IT DIDN’T FIT!
I’m so extremely proud of my brand. And while the visual graphics of it are absolutely killer, when I say my brand I’m really talking about the energy and the projection of myself people see when they click on my page.
You can be on my page for 2-3 minutes and get an extremely accurate idea of who I am and what I stand for. There is absolutely no fakeness anywhere on it. It’s me to a T. And yeah, it does piss a lot of people off and that’s okay with me. I’ve attracted the most amazing clients in the world because they are choosing me knowing fully who I am and to me that’s better than putting on a face to fit everyones expectation.
I’m very honest with my clients which is why I think they trust me with their most important moments. I’m never just trying to get a check from them, I’m trying to co-create art with them.
If there’s one thing I could encourage other photographers in it would be that absolutely nothing else is more important than client care. Let me be very clear that this does not mean being a push over or not having boundaries, boundaries are crucial to you staying afloat in this business. But I see so many photographers not truly valuing their clients or just seeing them as a check and it breaks my heart. I can’t be best friends with everyone, its not healthy nor possible. But I can love every single one of my clients with everything I have. For me this looks like not overbooking myself so I can give my full attention to those in front of me, it looks like keeping up with my clients lives, it looks like remembering the things they tell me during their session and bringing them little gifts. Catch me literally always throwing in extra photos on galleries.
Nothing matters more to me than my clients leaving an experience with me and feeling loved, valued and confident.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Girl. I live in Oklahoma. I respect this state fully but I recognize that it’s not everyones cup of tea and it can feel a little dull. My favorite day date with a friend would be a full day of thrifting in OKC followed by lunch at the loaded bowl (best vegan Mac n cheese in this world) and then a quick shopping trip to Craigs emporium, a local crystal store. I say quick because if I stay in there for more than an hour I will spend every dollar I have on crystals and regret nothing.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I know it sounds wild but by far the most impactful thing in my career was volunteering for the Humane Society of Stillwater. I’ve adopted all of my fur babies from there and when I first started photography I would go and take photos of the shelter dogs and cats to help them get a great headshot and find their forever home. The love and support all the workers and volunteers showed me really launched my career and connected me to some of my day 1 clients. Plus, nothing will teach you to get the shot FAST like trying to catch a clear photo of a dog running a billion miles right towards your camera.
I couldn’t be more thankful for everything the shelter has done not only for myself but for our community.
Facebook: Shay Shipman Photography/ https://www.facebook.com/shayshipmanphotography
Other: Tiktok: shayshipmanphoto