My name is Mike Stempler, and twelve 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. As I’ve grown and changed so has my photography and my philosophies about it. It feels wild to say it aloud, let alone here on my website for you to read, but this is my life’s work.
I used to focus on posing. On perfection. On creating that perfect, best image. I would scour 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 few years, 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 various workshops and straight-up soul searching, that there is more to photography than just 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 a tiny-bit inappropriate and try to show you a little of who I am in the hopes that you will 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.