Today’s interview is with Jamie Schultz!

You’re both a designer and a photographer; which came first, Jamie Schultz Photography or Jamie Schultz Designs?

The photography business came first.  The design business began when I started posting cards and other keepsake items I created for my portrait clients on various photography forums.  Fellow photographers were asking to purchase the Photoshop files so they could create similar products for their clients and that’s how Jamie Schultz Designs was born!

Some people attend college, others study online, while others attend multiple workshops in an effort to educate themselves about photography. What methods did you choose or was it a combination?

While photography has been a hobby of mine since I was a child, I decided to pursue a degree in political science and secondary education.  After completing graduate school I accepted a job teaching in an inner-city school.  Photography continued to be of interest to me so I spent time reading digital photography books and participating on photography forums.  When my first son was born I made the decision to leave my teaching position and pursue a career in photography.  In preparation I attended a few select workshops which have all helped me develop my signature portrait style and improve my technique.

What was one of your biggest a-ha moments in your photography journey?

Easily one of the biggest a-ha moments for me took place during a workshop by Cheryl Jacobs.  She encouraged me to stop looking at what everyone else in the industry was doing and focus instead on making an authentic connection with my subjects.  With this approach to each and every photo session along with the array of keepsake products I offer my clients I’ve been able to grow my business to a level I never dreamed possible.

Living in Wisconsin you obviously have cold, long winters. What happens to your photography business during those months? Do you take a break from shooting or do you offer studio sessions?

My schedule definitely slows down during the winter months, but I do still do some studio sessions and in-home sessions.  The sessions are typically for newborn babies or children which are conducive for shooting indoors.  I have been known to brave the cold with high school senior clients, as well, and have found that the process of running indoors and out not only keeps my subjects noses from turning red, but also helps me stay in shape.

You photograph children, families, and seniors. What is it about those specialties that you find so appealing?

Before I started a career in photography I was a high school teacher.  Working with children and teens is something I have always been passionate about so I think photographing them is a natural fit for me.  My experience as a teacher helps me connect with kids easily and I love nothing more than photographing the honest reactions that result from our conversations.

You have many returning clients and get the opportunity to watch babies grow into children. What do you think are some key elements on getting clients to return to you year after year?

I truly believe that my clients come back because they value the experience of working with me.  Prior to their appointment I collect information about what they hope to get out of the photo session and work through ideas on how they could preserve and display their favorite images. By providing my clients with a variety of keepsake products that are timeless and purposeful they leave my studio confident with their choices and their decision to hire me as their photographer.  It’s this experience that keeps them coming back.

And along those same lines, what do you believe are some of the key elements of having a successful photography business?

With the ever increasing number of photographers joining the industry I think it is essential for photographers to provide service and products that set them apart from their competition.  I also think developing a style that comes naturally to a photographer will help potential clients know what they can expect from their session and help the photographer settle into a niche of consumers perfectly suited for them.

Personal style is important in a creative field like photography. What do you feel makes your work distinguishable from other photographers?

No matter what trends are popular in the photography industry I prefer to keep the focus on my subjects and capturing them in a way that is both honest and emotive.  I also take great pride in offering my clients unique, yet timeless keepsake products that can be cherished for many years to come.

The dreaded creative rut happens to all of us but where do you look when you find yourself struggling to be inspired?

One of the  most important lessons I’ve learned during my career as a photographer is that everyone has peeks and valleys of creativity.  I’ve learned to embrace both and have developed some strategies to work through the down times so I don’t get overly discouraged.  Simply understanding that it truly is a creative PROCESS has been huge for me.

It might sound crazy but I’ve actually come to enjoy the creative “rut”.  When I feel myself slipping into that place I know it’s time to take a break.  That’s a signal for me that I need to step away from my daily routine and take time away from social media.  I’ve made a habit of using this time to get together with my creative friends, take trips to flea markets and/or antique stores, reading, writing, anything that isn’t directly related to photography.  I almost always find inspiration during this “break” and feel motivated to get back to creating.

You’ve had your work featured in several internationally distributed magazines. Can you offer any advice to someone who may be interested in working with magazine publications and how to get started?

My contribution to the magazines really stemmed from a place of genuine interest in educating others about photography and to offer pointers to those who were struggling to grow their businesses.  Having a portfolio of solid imagery along with a willingness to share tips or strategies that have helped them grow as a photographer and/or a business owner would definitely help anyone interested in having their work published.

You recently went through a redesign of your blog with Ribbons of Red. Would you tell us why the need for a new design?

Over the past few years I’ve found it harder and harder to update a traditional web-site.  I found myself blogging images from recent sessions but very rarely added new images to my web-site.  It was a big decision, but ultimately I decided to go to a blog only site where clients can see an overview of my work along with the information they need to book a session with me.  The new design was inspired by a photograph I found of my studio space from the late 1800’s.  The new look reflects my passion for both photography and history.

Tell us about This Lunch Rox and what motivated you to share your journey with everyone?

This Lunch Rox is a place where I share not only images of the lunches I pack for my kids, but also information about children’s nutrition.  As I was growing my photography business my family fell victim to convenience food and developed poor eating habits.  I started a transition to healthier eating to reach my own weight loss goals.  However, when I noticed how much better I felt mentally, emotionally and physically simply by changing the quality of food I was eating I knew it was something my entire family needed to embrace.  Because we had all grown so accustomed to eating junk food it was hard to get my kids to try new foods.  I found that by cutting vegetables and other healthy foods into small bite sized pieces and presenting them to my kids in fun, creative ways they were MUCH more likely to eat them.  I posted images on my personal Facebook page for my friends and family I thought might also be looking for unique ways to introduce healthier foods to their kids.  It seemed people were asking for more and more information so I decided to turn it into a blog and the rest is history.  I’ve been absolutely amazed by the response and feel more motivated than ever to keep doing what I’m doing with This Lunch Rox!

For anyone who is interested in living a healthier lifestyle, what resources would you recommend?

I would highly recommend the book “Secrets to a Healthy Metabolism” by Maria Emmerich.  This is the book that started it all for me.  The way she explains nutrition and how various foods impact our bodies made perfect sense and inspired me to make big changes in how I feed my family.

What goals do you have for 2012?

My goal for 2012 is to continue to lead a balanced life where my family, business, and lunch-making hobby can thrive.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us, Jamie!  We have enjoyed learning more about you and your photography and your other exciting endeavors and wish you continued success in all you do.  You can find Jamie around the CMforums as one of our CMpros as well as in her capacity as one of our premier vendor partners.  You can find more of Jamie’s work on her blog, her design site and you can keep up with her on Facebook and Twitter.  And don’t forget to bookmark This Lunch Rox for some delicious and nutritious meal ideas for the little ones!