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.

Fresh Faces :: Shalyn Nelson (Part I)

This month’s Fresh Faces might be a little later than normal, but I promise it’s worth the wait.

The first time I was introduced to this awesome gal was more than one year ago at the Texas Style Council’s Blogger Conference – unfortunately, she seemed wayyyy more awesome than me, and I was too scared to introduce myself so I followed her work from afar for the next 365 days before I braved up enough to send her an email introducing myself.

Here’s the thing, this month’s feature, Shalyn Nelson, is just as awesome as I thought she was, but she’s also so stinkin’ sweet. She has an amazing outlook on life – one that you can’t help but want to embrace right along with her. And even if you haven’t had the chance to meet Shalyn personally, her welcoming and personable nature on Instagram and her blog make you feel as if she’s your lifelong friend. Oh, and by the way, she’s also an amazing photographer, and runs a stellar wedding photography business with her hubby, Drew.

I was luckily enough to chat with Shalyn about her business, Love, The Nelsons, finding your passion, and what it’s like to be a photographer. See what she had to say in this month’s Fresh Faces.

Fresh Faces, Shalyn Nelson Love The Nelsons

When and why did you decide to create Love, The Nelsons?
My sweet mom swears I came out of her womb with a Crayola in my hand. I was that little girl who would fall asleep with one thumb in my mouth, two fingers wrapped around the pony tail on her head, and face planted in a coloring book with scribbles all around me. Oddly enough, I’ve always been drawn to capturing moments and life around me. I was obsessed with scrapbooking, journaling my life in books, and taking pictures with anything I could get my hands on. I always invited friends over to give them “makeovers” and would take my disposable camera and snap photos of them afterwards. I took pictures of leaves, bugs, trees, my toes, my cat, mac and cheese…anything that was in my path, I took pictures of. It never really dawned on my that I was so passionate about photography because it was just a natural, effortless hobby that I loved.

I was working in the corporate world for a marketing company in Austin when this whole photography business started. I was still secretly wanting to be a wedding planner on the side, but not really knowing where to start. So, I started blogging in hopes of figuring out life, share my life, and used it as a creative outlet. Naturally, I took pictures of what Drew and I were doing, what we were eating, where we went on the weekends, the trips we took, and slowly but surely, started to share my dreams and passions with the Internet. Aside from my marketing job, I also had a second part time job on the side where I would coordinate weddings at a venue on Saturdays. After a few months of this, I quickly realized that my personality wasn’t quiiite fit for the job. My passion was in weddings, but not coordinating them. During all of this self discovery (aka “what the heck am I going to do with my life” moments), my niece called and asked me to take her senior photos. I didn’t even question it – I was happy to help her out. When I got to the shoot, something happened. I started snapping away, and BOOM. This explosion of happiness inside of me went off; a light was sparked; everything clicked (pun intended). When we left the shoot, Drew and I sat in the car in silence for a moment. I looked over at him and he had this huge smile on my face – we just kind of knew at that moment that I found my calling. It’s been there all along, but I never thought for a minute that I could make a living doing something that I’ve loved so much my whole life. A quote I’ll never forget: “Babe. I don’t even know what to think or what to say right now, but seeing you out there just now…I’m so impressed. You were a natural, and it was sexy!” From that moment on I never looked back.

Love, The Nelsons was born one day when I was sitting in my office still operating under “Shalyn Nelson Photography.” I was writing a letter and signed “Love, The Nelsons” and I immediately froze. My eyes got wide and I said, “THAT’S IT!” I texted Drew, “LOVE, THE NELSONS BABE!!! It’s PERFECT!” and he responded, “Yeah I like that. But we might need to take the word “Babe” off the end.”

What is your favorite part about wedding photography?
I absolutely love watching the priceless reaction that the father of the bride has on his face when he walks into the bridal suite before the ceremony and sees his daughter all dressed up. It’s such a special moment and gives me a lump in my throat every. single. time. I would also say that my favorite part is documenting real, honest, life-long love. The meaning of marriage is so important to me. When I photograph a wedding with my husband, I always feel like it’s a constant reminder for us, and even takes us back to the moment we were saying our vows. I love looking across at him during the ceremony and making eye contact during those important vows and smiling at each other. Sometimes we will mouth “I do” to each other and it just really is the best, I’ll tell ya that! Photographing love fills my heart and soul with so much joy. Knowing that I get to document these love stories while telling their story through my eye and providing them with images that they can cherish for a lifetime is the most beautiful gift I can ever think of giving. It fires me up yo! :)

Was this what you thought you’d be doing when you were 10 years old? If not, what was your plan?
You’re going to laugh…but when I was 10, I wanted to be a Medical Research Scientist. And if that didn’t work out, I wanted to be an actress. Gooooooood times! #atleastiwasambitious?

Imagine this is 2024 – will you still be running Love, The Nelsons?
Ya know? I really have no idea. I would hope so, but the Lord might have different plans. I’m excited to see what the future holds for us, but as long as I’m still creating, snuggling up to my husband and his hot pants, loving others, and serving the Lord the best way I know how, I will be one happy lady. Stay tuned! Dun dun dun.

What is it like to work with your husband?
UGH! It’s the WORST EVER!!! 😉 I’m totally kidding. Honestly, it’s a blast in a glass. Some people may think it’s crazy to work with your husband…and ya know, it’s probably not for everyone, but it works for us. He does have his own career, so it’s  not like we work together in the same room 8-5 every day. I run the business during the week and he’s my invoice handler/super hot accountant, hot pants wearin’ second shooter, so the role he plays in the business is just perfect. I feel extremely grateful that he supports this passion of mine, and enjoys it as much as I do. We have so much fun together, bust a move on the dance floor almost always, and really balance each other out. I’m an excited person by nature, a little too hyper at times, very energetic, I talk too fast (my brain goes faster than my mouth can keep up with), and sometimes, I can get stressed out really easily (female POWAHHH!); but he’s my yang. He somehow has found a way (with lots of practice) to keep me calm, collected, organized, focused, and grounded when I need it. I’d say we’re a pretty great team!

What is your camera of choice?
I’ve been shooting with a Canon 5D Mark ii for the last two years (LOVE this camera), but recently upgraded to the Canon 5D Mark iii. I’ve only shot with it for one wedding, so the verdict is still out on that one! I’m also playing around with my Contax 645 (film camera) and I’m loving it so much. I can totally see what all the fuss is about. Basically, I love Canon and Contax…and pretty much anything that clicks and captures love and life! How generic, I know.

Fresh Faces, Love The Nelsons

Fresh Faces Love The Nelsons

If you can believe it, that’s not all Shalyn had to say! Stay tuned for Part II of October Fresh Faces for more of her great spirit and advice…