My name is Mike Stempler, and this company is my baby
My other baby is a three-year old whom I am madly in love with. She is my greatest joy and my greatest pride. This company and this work are important to me in a way that I’ll talk endlessly about if you let me. But as important as “photographer,” “business owner,” and my dozen other identities are, “dad” is numero uno. Oh and “husband” too probably. Let’s call that numero dos. That’s my wife Laura below. She’s awesome and brilliant and—in a very real way—the brains of this operation.
I want my daughter to learn from me that being herself and being kind are the highest ideals. I’m not sure if being a photographer helped me develop these values or if having these values helped me develop as a photographer. Regardless, I understand myself and my work better when I examine them through that lens. Also I’m so sorry for these photography puns I CAN’T HELP MYSELF.
My first several years as a photographer saw mostly derivative efforts: basically just looking for inspiration online and trying to recreate it. There’s nothing inherently problematic about that. I think it’s actually a pretty healthy and constructive way of learning, though if you’re a big comparer like I am, it can get messy.
As I started getting more comfortable and confident with my photography and my business, I began to notice a pattern in my reactions to so-called “inspiration.” I’d either become discouraged that I’d never accomplish anything so wonderful or contemptuous at amateurs attempting professional work. Not good looks for me.
So I stopped listening to everyone else and started listening to myself. I gradually realized it wasn’t inspiration I needed; it was practice. Practice at not trying too hard. At not overthinking. At trusting that my eyes and my instincts CAN BE TRUSTED. And what a boon to my work it has been! Not just to my creativity, but to the way I interact with my clients. When I take my brain out of the equation, I have a lot more room for my heart.
If you work with me, you might be surprised at how little actual direction I give and how much I say things like “that light is nice let’s go over there and do something.” Because it DOESN’T MATTER WHAT WE DO. We’ll just laugh and talk and be ourselves, and I promise you that you’ll be amazed at your photos. I’m amazed every time, and I literally do this for a living.
You might also be surprised at how “familiar” I am. I’m not doing your taxes or giving you legal advice or renovating your kitchen. I’m making photos for you. OF you. You as you actually are. So I’m going to show you pictures of my daughter and make jokes and probably embarrass myself a little, because who cares. I’ll be me, and you be you. Let’s find some pretty light and make some pictures.