Fresh Faces :: Shalyn Nelson (Part II)

Earlier this month, I introduced you to Shalyn Nelson, the stinkin’ adorable wedding photographer with an incredible outlook on life. She had so much great information to share about her business and her career as a wedding photographer that I couldn’t even fit it all into a single post.

So, I’m bring you the FIRST EVER Part II to Fresh Faces (if you missed Part I, you can find it HERE). And because Shalyn is so awesome, she even shares 13 (yes, 13) pieces of advice for those interested in getting started in the photography business. It’s a long read, but it’s worth it. I promise.

Fresh Faces, Love The Nelsons

What helps ignite your creative side when you’re feeling a block?
Being creative is an exercise. Sometimes you’re ON, and sometimes you’re not. It’s important to not get frustrated when you hit “the block” because guess what? It won’t last forever. It’s important to acknowledge all of the inspiration around us. The hustle and bustle of life distracts us from it because we get so used to just going through the same motions and are always in a hurry. When is the last time you drove somewhere on your every day commute to work and thought, “Wow…the way the sun hits that building is absolutely beautiful! MAN! That tree is really cool!” I feel that sunsets are truly magical, and let’s face it…it usually takes a really gorgeous, show stopper sunset to really make people stop and take in the beauty that is all around us. Most likely, you will see it on your Instagram feed or Facebook feed with a caption under it saying, “God is good” or “Cotton candy skies…so beautiful!” And yes, while I agree with those statements and realize that sunsets are, what about everything else around us? Why does it take a picture perfect sunset to slow us down to see the beauty around us? I have come to realize that when I hit a creative block, it’s usually when I’m “too busy” to look up. I forget to stop and breathe in life around me. I find myself quickly walking to places, looking down at my phone or glancing at the clock in my car, stressing about not being late to an appointment or trying to figure out how to navigate my car around the “slow poke” in front of me who might, just might be taking in the beauty around us.

My biggest advice? SLOW DOWN! Pump those breaks. Inspiration is all around us begging for us to see it. You just have to look for it, y’all! It’s there…in the shapes, colors, people, relationships, clothes, buildings, skies, trees, sounds and roads all around us. God has created this immensely beautiful Earth rich in love, beauty, natural or man-made eye candy. Put your phone down, stop scrolling feeds for “ideas,” delete Pinterest for a week, stop depending on other’s ideas and shut your computer off. GET OUTSIDE. End rant.

P.S. – I also like to explore other creative outlets, like watercoloring. It’s the most therapeutic thing in the world. <3

Wedding photography is an extremely demanding career choice. How do you balance work, a personal life AND hobbies?
You know, it’s not easy! :) I think the whole “balance” of it all is the hardest part of this entire profession. It’s something I struggle with daily, but is a constant work in progress. Some days I am the bomb diggity and give myself a high five, and then there are days where I high five myself…in the face. It’s hard y’all, but as long as you are aware that there needs to be a balance and are actually trying to balance it the best way you can, that alone is a HUGE accomplishment. I usually blame this balancing problem on that bone in my body called, “Loving to make people happy” and usually the word that makes other people happy is “YES!” However, it’s imperative to be nice to yourself, to do your best, and to create boundaries early on with your clients as well as yourself.

When I started out in my business, I was working a full time job, a part-time job on the weekends and photographic whatever I could whenever time allowed, while – wait for it – still playing softball and volleyball two nights a week. That doesn’t even include the normal ups and downs of every daily life that alone can exhaust you. Or seeing family. Or friends. At one point, I was working 8-5, commuting home about 30-40 minutes in traffic, would say hi to my husband, make a quick college-esque dinner, and eat at my desk while editing until 2, 3, sometimes 4 in the morning. That quickly exploded into a very unhealthy lifestyle. Sleep? Ha! Exercise? Pshhh. Date night? In my dreams. I felt terrible and knew that I needed to make changes, and fast. I attended Making Things Happen in October of 2012 and I will honestly say it was a game-changer. Tt empowered me to make those changes that were staring me in the face and made so much sense; it gave meaning and value back to my life. Slowly, I made small changes – mostly notably, BUSINESS HOURS. Game changer, y’all. If you practice unhealthy habits in your personal life, there is a 99.9% chance that those unhealthy habits will spill over into your business life.

Happy & Healthy Life = Happy & Healthy Business. In that order ONLY.

What advice do you have to give to any aspiring photographers, especially those looking to find a career as a wedding photographer?
Stop thinking about it, stop wishing for it to happen, and stop saying, “One day…” You will never get there if you don’t take the first step, and follow behind with a second one. Chances are you won’t be able to pick up a camera tomorrow and be the photographer you dream of being one day, but what’s important is that you realize how important your dreams are. If your passion for it is something fierce, GO FOR IT! Rome wasn’t built in a day, therefore, you need to manage your expectations and embrace the messy, tiring, amazing, beautiful, hard, gratifying, rewarding, and crazy beautiful journey to having a career as a photographer. 

Here’s some advice that I wish I would have known before I got started. I went in blind with a fiery passion, which I don’t regret for one minute, but there are things that would have made this journey a littttle less difficult.

  1. Remember – take care of YOURSELF. First and foremost. Establish healthy habits from the get-go to ensure these healthy boundaries pour over into your business. The most important piece of equipment you will ever own isn’t the fancy camera of lens. It is YOU. Bada bing, bada BOOM!
  2. Being yourself is the smartest decision you will ever make. I read this quote the other day on, dare I say it *cough* Pinterest *cough*, but it really, really rocked my world: “Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave other feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark.” – Jay Danzie
  3. Practice. Practice. Practice. As long as you are in this field, you will never be done practicing. Just so you know :)
  4. Find out where your passion in photography is. Is it babies? Families? Love? Fashion? Ask yourself the hard questions. Experiment in all fields. What fires you up and rocks your soul? Just remember, you can’t specialize in everything if you want to give your best to your clients and to yourself. It’s important to put your heart and your soul into the realm of work that fires you up the most. When you find it, stick with it, don’t apologize for it, ROCK IT THE BEST WAY YOU KNOW HOW, and naturally, shake what ya mama gave ya!
  5. Say no, manage your yes’s and thank yourself for it. It’s hard to do, but you’re only hurting yourself and your business if you don’t set these boundaries.
  6. Believe in yourself! If you don’t, nobody else will!
  7. You don’t have to have the best camera or all the lenses to get started. I promise. I’m 4 years into this profession and guess what? I’m STILL saving for lenses and cameras I want. It’s OKAY. WORK WITH WHAT YOU HAVE AND ROCK THE EVER LIVING MESS OUT OF IT :)
  8. Don’t overthink. Don’t compare. Don’t force it. Just shoot from your heart, and in turn, your images will be honest, real, and best of all…YOURS!
  9. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s part of the process, so embrace it, keep your head up, and smile. When I fail, mess up, or disappoint someone? I learn from it, move on, bend…and SNAP! You’ll eventually realize that mistakes are blessings in disguise and will make you a better business owner.
  10. You’re human, not superhuman!
  11. It’s not glamorous. It’s not easy. Don’t think it’s all glitz and glam because it’s not – it’s a lot of work; it’s a lot of trial and error. Tears will be involved…lots of them. You will question if you’re good enough. Self doubt creeps in from time to time. You can’t please everyone. Your back will never be the same. Wrinkles will happen. Business taxes will be your worst enemy. If you think photography is easy, just a click of the camera and bump in contrasting through editing, this profession is not for you. Want to be a millionaire? You will be quickly disappointed. It’s still a business.
  12. God is good. He is great. Lean on Him ALWAYS. ALWAYS. ALWAYS. Not only in the good times, but also in the hard times.
  13. However, you must also know that being a photographer is an incredibly joyful and rewarding experience. To me, it’s absolutely worth everything I listed in #11 and then some. Don’t ever forget why you started your business in the first place. If your heart is in it for the right reasons, your passion by far outweighs the sacrifices, and you are the happiest when you are behind a camera capturing memories your clients will feel confident in, I suggest you get started…right meow.

Every day, I’m creating memories that I will be gifting my clients to cherish for the rest of their lives. But what they also don’t realize is that, in turn, they are reminding me and showing me how to love. And that, my friends, is the best gift this photographer could ever receive.

Fresh Faces, Love The Nelsons

Fresh Faces, Love The Nelsons


If you find that after all that, you still can’t get enough of Shalyn and her jaw-dropping photography (I know I’m still hooked), I highly encourage you to follow her blog So Shay or follow her on Instagram to have more of this awesome gal in your life.


  1. Fellow Austinite here! I’ve always been interested in a photography business, but my budget can’t exactly make that happen right now, haha. Maybe someday! These tips were still super interesting though. In the meantime, I’m glad I found a couple other Austin bloggers like me! :)

    • Thanks so much for the comment, Rachel! Always glad to meet a fellow Austin blogger. You know, even if you can’t afford a fancy camera, the one on your smartphone would still do a great job for practicing your skills until you can upgrade.

      Hope you continue to keep up with One Fine Day, and I look forward to reading your blog in the future!

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