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Meet Trailblazer Shelly Anderson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shelly Anderson.

Shelly, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My photography journey started in college. I went to a small liberal arts school, Skidmore College, in upstate NY near where I grew up. I was a studio art major, but my school didn’t have a large photography department. In fact, they had two photography classes; beginners and advanced photography. Honestly, I was looking for more. I found a local wedding photographer in our town that was offering internships that my college was accepting. I interviewed for the internship, and was one of three who got it! Quickly after a few months of working with this photographer, I realized weddings were something I wanted to dive in to. She had truly inspired me. Now that I was about to graduate college and finally knew what I wanted to do, there was only one problem; I also wanted to move across the country to California. Oh, and I didn’t even own a professional camera.

Once I got to San Diego, I found someone selling their DSLR on craigslist and just bought it on the spot. A friend who lived in my apartment complex said she knew a local wedding photographer who needed an assistant. I got the job! Slowly but surely, after about three years of working for a few photographers as their editor, second shooter, associate photographer, and office manager, and slowly but constantly upgrading my gear, I finally realized that I was ready (and most importantly confident) enough to start my own business. I’ve been shooting weddings for myself now for about seven years! And this year I moved my business to Colorful Colorado!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The road to success is never easy or smooth, but you always grow from challenges. Speaking as a woman, especially a young woman when I was just starting out, I’d constantly get glares from “uncle bob’s” at weddings who also showed up to the event with their $6,000 camera and would grill me on what gear I was using and what school I went to. Literally as I would be shooting I’d have these family members over my shoulder saying “you sure you don’t want to use flash on them outside here?” or ask if this was what I did for my “REAL” job. Luckily I was confident enough in my skills that it wouldn’t bother me too much, but it sure was annoying to be looked down upon when they had never even seen my work to begin with!

That being said, I think the biggest struggle with photography this day and age is the urge to always want to compare yourself and your business to others. When you are going through a slow patch and you see your peers booking beautiful and stylized weddings, it’s hard not to get bummed about it. But you have to realize that there are always people who love YOUR work and YOUR style just as much.

This year I’ve been transitioning and moving my business to Colorado, and it has been a real struggle to get my name out there in an already saturated market. I’ve been reminding myself of how I believe my career took off in California, which is making friends in the industry. Every time I visit Denver I make sure to meet up with at least one or two other photographers, coordinators, and other wedding vendors. I want to show my face and meet them for coffee and get to know the industry in this new city as best as I can, and we’ve already been referring weddings to each other!

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Shelly Anderson Photography – what should we know?
I’m a photographer that specializes in weddings. That being said, I shoot it all! Weddings is my bread and butter though. I’ve photographed weddings all over; New Orleans, Napa, Miami, Puerto Vallarta Mexico, Scotland, Cayman Islands, Portland, Los Angeles, New York, Connecticut, Phoenix, Playa de Carmen, San Diego, Colorado, and more! I’ve photographed small intimate elopements in Yosemite, and I’ve photographed grand three day long weddings with a second line parade in New Orleans. I love them all! While I love destination weddings, I’ve been focusing more on my local industry and weddings that are in my own ‘backyard’ so to say.

After all my weddings, my clients tend to thank me on being so organized and easy through the whole process. I really try to make each and every clients’ wedding the best day of their lives, stress-free and beautiful. I want them to remember their day as they imagined it in their heads while planning it. I LOVE how every wedding is unique, and I urge my clients to make sure that it is THEIR day and how they want it. I love the funky untraditional party weddings, and I love weddings out in nature. I try to be an all-in service where the couple will get detailed wedding day tips from me, as well as preferred vendors I love to work with. I help you out at all costs and that’s what I believe sets me apart from others. I also truly and genuinely get so excited for EVERY wedding I do! I love what I do!

Finding a mentor and building a network are often cited in studies as a major factor impacting one’s success. Do you have any advice or lessons to share regarding finding a mentor or networking in general?
Finding local mentors and general networking within your community is KEY. I found that once I started bonding with fellow wedding photographers in the area and viewing them more as community and friends, instead of “competition”, my business truly blossomed. And so did theirs! I started out with a few mentors; other local photographers that I looked up to and asked if I could second shoot for them, edit for them, or do any office work they needed. A lot said no, but a few said yes! That helped me get into the wedding world and understand the practice a bit more. Once I found my community though, and found “my people’, I constantly had friends to bounce ideas off of, ask questions, send referrals to, and ask for honest feedback. So I guess the biggest advice I could give is; befriend your “competition” in a true and loving way!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Shelly Anderson Photography, Paige Nelson

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