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Shutterhead Studios_Mike and Renata-0002

My name is Mike Stempler, and six years ago I birthed ShutterHead Studios from my very own loins. Growing this little baby company from nothing into something has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. But when I first started, I was…not brilliant. I had entry-level knowledge of my equipment, and looking back, I think I edited my pictures with a shotgun.

Even worse, I tried to focus on posing. On perfection. On creating that perfect, best image. I scoured the internet trying to find inspiration. I perused “look-books,” read articles about how to be a professional wedding photographer, and obsessed over gear. My photography was good, but it wasn’t inspired. It had all been done before.

Then I stopped actively seeking inspiration. It wasn’t some big milestone, and I don’t remember the reason or the date, but I think I realized that 99% of the time, the so-called inspiration either made me jealous or prideful. I’d catch myself getting discouraged that I’d never be able to accomplish that caliber of work. Or I’d catch myself scoffing at other photographers’ work that I thought was inferior. Neither of these reactions is productive. So I stopped looking outside, and started looking inside.

Over the last year or so, I’ve tried hard…not to try too hard. Overthinking, I think, can crush raw creativity. Though it’s been hard, allowing myself to see more and think less, has been a boon to my creativity. For some reason, trusting my my guts and my eyes has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced. It’s also been the most inspirational.

I’ve also found, through Beloved workshops and straight-up soul searching, that there is more to photography than taking pictures. It can, and should be an experience–both for me and for my subjects. It’s an opportunity to connect on a level beyond just “stand there and smile.” In fact, I will almost never tell you to smile. I’ll tell you where the light is best and if you have some shmutz on your face, but  I’ll never tell you how to act, how to feel, or how to look. First and foremost, I want you to be yourself. But just in case that’s hard for you, I will be myself first. I’ll laugh and joke and be totally inappropriate and try to show you a little of who I am in the hopes that you will be do the same for me.

I know, it can be scary, being vulnerable with someone. But you can do it. You’re you, and you’re awesome.

This is Renata. Renata joined Shutterhead in 2013. If you knew how good she is at everything she does here, you would not believe that when she came to work here, her background included very little photography. I have never seen a person pick up something so difficult and so personal and requiring so much finesse, so quickly.

And it’s not just “easy” things like how to get so good at using the camera that it’s an extension of your hand or how to light a 4,000 square foot hall evenly and consistently. It’s hard things, like really caring about this company and our clients. It’s taking over operations 100% when I’m out of town, and when I come back, everything is still great and not a smoldering pile of rubble. She’s learned how to edit like a pro and design albums like she’s been doing it for years and years. She has very quickly become one of the best wedding photographers in Columbus and has become a great asset to ShutterHead Studios.

Also stupid bullshit business stuff like organize files, troubleshoot website difficulties, and deal with tax nonsense.

Renata has helped Shutterhead run about 300% more smoothly. And she does it all while still being artistic, creative, and just as silly and ridiculous as me. In less than a year, she has achieved as much or more than I had in five years.

Heads up world. This girl is on fire.