…Put what you know aside. That’s great, you know it. What have you not explored. In what ways is your understanding of life limited. Get uncomfortable, learn something new.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Sheldon Botler of Sheldon Botler Photography. Sheldon is a portrait photographer in Los Angeles, whose main objective is to help people see themselves more powerfully and sincerely. His company has maintained a 5 star rating for quality and service for 5 years and has become one of LA’s go to photographers for portraits and family event photography.
On September 25, 2012, I landed in Los Angeles with two suitcases and the notion that I would find change here. As a hobby, I had picked up a camera as a means of making new friends and giving back to my artistic community ( I am a musician as well ). Very quickly, my works was becoming recognized as “more professional than anything ‘people had’ paid for”. As a hobbyist I was stunned to hear this, repeatedly. During a rather painful job transition, I was reminded of a bit of elder wisdom that I had heard time and time again, “Your career is something that you love and would gladly do for free.” I had been taking pictures for free, loved it, and people were pushing money onto me. From the moment I left that job, my trajectory was set.
Recently, I was hired to shoot a “Bris.” I was awestruck by the beauty of this event. In this child’s first experience of devastating pain and change, he was surrounded by his community. He was honored and referred to with love. His family and friends gathered to witness, and bare the weight of his pain. And I got to be there and document this gathering. In regards to human history, it is an honor to be invited into the sanctity of someone’s home, into their trusted circle. Additionally, it was a great reminder to stand in solidarity with my friends and family as they journey through lifes’ best and worst.
Oh boy. Where do we start? Well, there have been many, but this was a tremendous learning moment. A dear friend of mine, who is now a professional model and regular client of mine, was the first to teach me that it is okay to ask for help.
To set the stage, we were doing a lingerie shoot, and I am terrified. There came a point in the shoot where, artistically, had she adjusted her body ever so slightly, the photo would have been outstanding. Being new to my craft, I did not have the vocabulary to tactfully say, spread your legs. Yuck! Right, just reading it is hard. So, lol, rather than speaking at all, I spent the next ten minutes making arbitrary changes to my settings, sweating and small talking her head of. When she realized I was fishing, I had to explain that I had been fishing for a way to ask her to widen her stance. She was on her knee for the pose, and I did not want to make her feel uncomfortable or like I was making a pass at her. But when you’re new, you’re new. I learned in that moment that sometimes it is best to ask your clients how they want to be communicated with. This creates a collaborative process and for some, gives them a sense of control in the shoot that my help them get out of their head, because now they have something to offer. As I have gone deeper into my craft and worked with more seasoned clients, they expect that I know how to speak, behave and direct. And I am proud to be able to do so.
I strive to provide each client with a unique set of images. I loath cookie cutter photos and have zero intent on creating them. My team and I pride ourselves on quality customer service and quick delivery. And lastly I am dedicated making every client, from the corporate level to the individual, feel comfortable and satisfied, with above average results. I don’t plan on ever getting comfortable. This is a learning process for me even at my best.
Self care is a must as a photographer. We are constantly lifting heavy gear, hiking, or sitting for hours on end, editing. We must be mentally and physically at peace, as we are under the duress of new stimuli in every shoot. And lastly, the needs of our clients and our industry change constantly. So, we must be ready for change. I another interview recently I spoke about the importance of solid business management as well. One cannot be stressed if they are prepared. Artists tend to shy away from preparation, especially financially.
Four years ago, I was dancing at a club in Seattle, Washington with my long time friend Perrin Wasson-Howard (AKA DJ Thunder Pawh). He and I were hailed over by and older woman who was celebrating her birthday with some friends. After a bit of conversation she revealed that she had strong roots in Los Angeles and loved supporting up and coming performers and artistic professionals. I thought nothing of it, we exchanged information and we parted after a few good laughs.
Two years later, she reached out and made the decision to provide me with a sizeable donation that afforded me a car and helped me tremendously with my school debt. She gave me on condition only, that I continue pursuing music, acting and photography and that I continue to give to others. Complete stranger to this day.
Currently, I am gearing up for my first physical print gallery. It will be an exhibit of nature, photojournalism and architectural photography. I have no set date for the completion of this project, but the first piece in the series is now printed, framed and hanging in my home. This will be a very expensive and excited first for me.
In addition to taking photos, I am a life coach. My conversations with clients are often about their life goals and how they perceive themselves. Before taking photos, I believe it is important that my clients identify their goals and personal roadblocks. Once they are clear on those goals, and have made peace with their fears, we can begin to make art.
I provide free and discounted services to up and coming entrepreneurs and I teach photography through https://www.meetup.com/Photo-Master-Express/.
Lastly, I use the freedoms I experience to heal myself. I do not intend to pass on generational curses, and doing so starts with my own healing.
1. Understand the relationship between ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed
2. Have a clear intention when you shoot.
3. Ditch that intention.
4. Mimic the work of people who inspire you.
5. Reframe your thinking from good or bad to “what-if”.
The constant learner movement. Put what you know aside. That’s great, you know it. What have you not explored. In what ways is your understanding of life limited. Get uncomfortable, learn something new.
IG: @SheldonBotler www.sheldonbotler.com