We had the good fortune of connecting with Shelby Hoving and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Shelby, what are you inspired by?
I find inspiration in all of the little moments in life and in the people I meet. I love photographing landscapes and flowers, but my passion for photography is in photographing people. There’s something so beautiful about photographing the uniqueness of every individual and turning them into art. I want to help people — especially women, as that’s my primary demographic — to feel empowered in their bodies. I take photos to help boost their confidence and give them art that they can look at and feel as amazing as I think they are. The people I have the honor of photographing inspire me every time to push the boundaries with my art, and honestly their excitement is contagious and continues to fuel ideas for ways to celebrate them.

I find inspiration when I’m having a game night with my friends and we’re all a little tipsy and laughing so hard our faces hurt; it makes me want to capture that moment in a photo so that we will always remember it. Even playing with my dog at the dog park will inspire me to want to create an image incorporating my dog running carefree with the stunning colors of the sunset as a backdrop; every time I feel happy or peaceful or see something beautiful, it inspires me to create something. I scroll through Instagram or Facebook and see quotes about love, heartbreak, or perseverance, and I look to plan photoshoots that embody those feelings. The internet is genuinely a great place to find inspiration because there are so many people sharing their ideas and photos and it’s so easy for me to see someone’s drawing of a flower and think, wow, it would be so cool to incorporate that idea into my next photoshoot.

Sometimes you can get stuck in a rut and it’s hard to find the little things that make you want to create art, so whenever I notice myself lacking inspiration, I am reinvigorated by taking the time in my life to just breathe and really feel all of those small things that make life what it is. Taking the time to rediscover inspiration makes me want to create something that connects me with other people who are all experiencing their own idiosyncratic blip in this cosmic universe.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I started my photography business completely unintentionally in high school; when I was around 16 years old, a friend of mine asked me if she could hire me to take her senior photos. I had been taking photos for fun for about two years by then and had never charged anyone for my work. I quoted her some arbitrary number because I didn’t really know how much to charge and we did the shoot. More and more people started asking to hire me for senior photos and I just kept doing it until suddenly I had a steady stream of high schoolers hiring me for senior photos. That turned into being hired for couples photos and family photos and by the time I was 18, even weddings. I started really investing time and effort into my photography and taking courses to help grow my art. There were a lot of mistakes and I took a lot of bad photos before really getting my feet on solid ground. I didn’t struggle in the traditional sense of building my business, but it was hard because in high school I was diagnosed with several health conditions, including systemic lupus, fibromyalgia, and an immunodeficiency. I was too sick for traditional working hours, so photography became a great way for me to make money when I was feeling well enough and take time off when I wasn’t. I would struggle to shoot even when I was in a lot of pain and would have to push through it to get photos back to clients in a reasonable time frame. It really taught me to be upfront and honest with my clients about my health issues so that they understood why my turnaround time was a little longer than most photographers. I had to learn how to balance my work-life schedule so that I had enough time to take care of my health in addition to working and still having a social life. I’ve had this business for ten years now and I’m still learning and growing every day… talking myself up and advertising my talents will always be the hardest part for me, because it’s so uncomfortable to market myself and my art to people!

Since photography has always been such a personal experience to me, I wanted my business to reflect my own core values. I do skin retouching, but minimally and naturally. I refuse to slim models down and remove scars or stretch marks. I struggled with body image and confidence as well as an eating disorder in my teenage years, so I want my art to reflect the real world and have all different types of people. I strive for diversity in my portfolio and always look forward to looking with people who aren’t normally represented in television, movies, or magazines. I aspire to use my art to empower people. I want people to come away from a photoshoot feeling on top of the world. I want my clients to feel confident during their photoshoot and proud of the finished product in a way that truly encompasses them for who they are, flaws and all. I work hard to develop genuine connections with my clients and take the time to get to know them and their stories. I share intimate details about my life and my struggles so that my clients feel a little less alone for whatever they’re struggling with; everyone carries baggage into a photoshoot, usually centered around insecurities about how they look, and I think being honest and open about my own insecurities helps garner a relationship where the client can let their walls down and be themselves around me.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m a vegan, so the first thing I would do is take them to all of my favorite vegan restaurants. This includes City O’ City and Watercourse where we would chow down on seitan wings and the most amazing vegan pastrami sandwich I’ve ever had. City O’ City has a vegan bakery next to it, too, called Make Believe Bakery where you can get vegan soft serve ice cream and the most decadent chocolate cupcakes you’ve ever had.

I’m a huge sucker for museums, so I would definitely have to take them to the Denver Art Museum. They always have some kind of gorgeous photography exhibit on display, as well as a lot of other cool rotating exhibits. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is also a personal favorite, especially the gem section.

You can’t come to Colorado without visiting the mountains, so I’d love to take a day trip to Estes Park and drive around Rocky Mountain National Park. The views are beautiful and you almost always get to see some kind of pack of animals, whether it’s deer or moose. I also love to go to Echo Lake, and we’d definitely have to visit Red Rocks at some point.

They couldn’t leave Colorado without doing a game night with my friends and I; we love getting together and drinking more than we should while playing Cards Against Humanity or Overcooked on the Nintendo Switch (which involves a lot of yelling.)

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
When I was 12, my mom introduced me to a guy named Bill Nelsch who was a hobbyist photographer. I was at the awkward stage of my adolescence and as soon as I met Bill with his camera strap around his neck, I thought that he was the coolest. I began modeling for him, which was a huge self-esteem boost because I’d always been the “ugly” kid. By the time I turned 14, I decided I really wanted to give this photography thing a shot. I planned a photoshoot with one of my best friends and took a ton of photos at this grassy knoll by my house. Looking back, the photos are honestly terrible, but I sent them to Bill and he saw potential in me. He took me under his wing and began to mentor me, buying me my first camera and teaching me everything I know about photography. He set up a spare bedroom for me and I started spending weekends at his house where we would spend the weekend traveling around Colorado and going to all of his favorite spots to take photos. We would visit Rocky Mountain National Park or the Denver Botanic Gardens and we would even have my friends come over and model for me by turning his living room into a home studio. He was always incredibly supportive about my work and took the time to explain the technicalities of photography to me, constantly pushing me to grow my craft and try new things. He encouraged me to pursue photography as a career and would introduce me to all of his photography connections. He sadly passed away in 2019 of cancer, but he was the integral reason why I am a photographer. I am what I am and where I am today because of Bill. He opened the door that led me into photography and gave me guidance and freedom to grow my business into something real, and I couldn’t be more grateful for him and the time I got to spend with him.

Instagram: www.instagram.com/shelbyhovingphotography

Facebook: www.facebook.com/shelbyhovingphotography

Image Credits
I took all of the photos except for the first one and the very last one that has “Jamie L Photography” on it. That last image is my headshot, and the first one is a behind-the-scenes photo, both property of Jamie L Photography. All other photos are property of Shelby Hoving Photography.

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