Mormon Artist

Brooke Schultz

Brooke Schultz is a wild-hearted Utah wedding photographer based in Salt Lake City. Her work has been featured in Martha Stewart Weddings, Style Me Pretty, Ruffled, Wedding Chicks, and a variety of other local and national publications. Website
Photo courtesy Brooke Schultz

How did you first get interested in photography?

I started doing Photoshop for another photographer when I was 17—she heard me saying that I loved to color and wished there was a way to make coloring a career, and she took me under her wing. She taught me Photoshop, took me on shoots, and gave me an up-close look at life as a photographer. At the time I wasn’t interested in making it my career, but after a co-worker who was trying to save money convinced me to photograph her wedding, I was hooked.

What is your favorite part of photography? Least favorite?

My favorite part of photography is telling stories—choosing the things I want to showcase, curating moments and elements of events and relationships to a cohesive whole. I can take the best in people and freeze it forever, and people can be reminded of the deepest, most wonderful feelings they have for the ones they love when they look at photographs. I love the stories the most subtle things tell: the way he touches her hair, whispers in her ear, the look on a father’s face when he sees his daughter in her wedding dress, the way only a mother can soothe her child. So many of those things go unnoticed, mostly because we have no words to adequately describe them, and I love to magnify and celebrate those moments with my photographs.

My least favorite part is accounting. And taxes. How’s that for a transition from the sublime to the mundane! Another least favorite thing is the struggle I have for clients to tangibly experience their photographs—to see them buried in a Facebook feed and dying a slow death on clients’ computers hurts my heart a little. It thrills me to no end when clients get beautiful albums and big prints to enjoy their photos in real life.

Photo courtesy Brooke Schultz

What camera do you use? How do you process your photos?

I use a Nikon D700, and process my photos with some custom presets in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop).

What do you enjoy most photographing? Do you have a favorite shoot?

I love photographing “first looks,” where brides and grooms see each other in their wedding clothes for the first time. It is such a full moment, realizing the bigness of the thing they’re about to do, and how much they love this person and want to be with him or her for absolutely ever. I don’t know if I could choose an all-time favorite shoot, but this one is stealing my heart as of late.

Photo courtesy Brooke Schultz

In your opinion, what makes lifestyle and wedding photography an art?

I admit that not all of my photos qualify as “art.” We need the “everyone-smile-at-the-camera” shots for posterity, and while those do take skill, I don’t view them as art. When a photo tells a story, it’s art, to me. Virtually everyone takes photos at the weddings they attend, but those photos don’t get hung on the wall because they don’t tell the story of the moments that happen at the wedding—the look on the groom’s face, the tears the aunts wipe away during the first dance, the bridesmaids giggling in a corner. Even describing these moments in words falls terribly short, and I feel that’s where the artistic process comes in—choosing the stories you want to tell, and through which lens (ha, ha) you want to tell them.

How does the gospel influences your work?

I see it influencing my work in the way I see people—really believing that every person is a child of God makes a difference in how I interact with them and photograph them. Also, the knowledge that families can be together forever makes photographing families a near-sacred experience for me. I recently photographed a family who had a baby die of SIDS, and their connection to each other and to him was beautiful and such an honor to document. In a culture that is valuing family less and less, I am driven by my gospel beliefs and values to keep standing up for family as the most wonderful thing on earth, and photographs are my way of putting that out into the world.

Photo courtesy Brooke Schultz

How do you see your photography building the kingdom?

Whatever is light is of God. With so much ugliness in the world, I see much value in adding things that are virtuous, lovely, and of good report to my sphere of influence. Also, in portraying the moments of love within families is a huge tool in people saying, “I want that in my life.” I hope that clients look at their photos and see the best in themselves, and that the photos serve as reminders of how much they love their family and inspire them to live closer to their ideals. Beyond the photographs themselves as a tool to build the kingdom, there are times when my interactions with people while photographing them border on sacred. We connect in the most beautiful way, and through photos I feel like I really see them. In turn, I also have to be vulnerable and let them see me, and in that process I hope they see the way God and the gospel penetrate my life.

How do you balance motherhood and photography? In what ways do you think it might become more difficult to maintain that balance as your family grows?

I just heaved a sigh thinking of how to write about this, because it is so delicate and so individual. I have a five-month-old baby girl, and it is a constant adjustment to balance caring for her and loving her with photography. Right now I can do most of my work while she naps, and my husband can watch her while I am shooting. I’m lucky that my work also largely doubles as my “personal” time, so I often come back from shoots refreshed and, I believe, able to be a better mother to her when I’m home. So many factors have come together to make the balance work for the time being, and so I move forward just so grateful that at least for now, I totally feel like I “have it all.”

That said, I am constantly analyzing the direction things are going, trying to streamline my work so I can spend as much time with her as possible, and deciding how much work to take on to try to keep that balance. I am amazed that my life has turned out this way—that I’m technically a “working mom.” I grew up believing moms who chose to work didn’t love their kids as much. Wow, that’s a big admission. I still struggle with some of those beliefs worming their way into unnecessary guilt, but knowing how wide and deep I love my baby girl makes me sorry for all the times I’ve judged a mother for how she was doing things. I hope all of us mothers can move toward compassion for ourselves and each other—it’s already hard enough without the added shame and “shoulds” the culture sometimes places on us.

I believe there really is a time and a season for everything, so I intend to keep being deliberate about the role of work and photography in my life as other things become more needful. I have no idea what my life might look like in a few years as far as photography and motherhood—as my family grows I imagine I’ll work less and outsource more elements like editing, etc. The beauty and the madness is that it’s impossible to know how things will go. Trying to find this balance has made me realize both how powerful and simultaneously how powerless I am—powerful in how much I can accomplish when I’m focused, and powerless in how much I can’t make my darling girl conform to my schedule, in how unpredictable life is if I really submit my will to God’s. That dichotomy is one of the most thrilling things I’ve discovered in motherhood.

Photo courtesy Brooke Schultz
Photo courtesy Brooke Schultz

It seems that at-home photography shoots are becoming more popular. How do you capture the authenticity of families rather than staged shots when in their home?

I think people are increasingly hungry for an authentic way to document their family relationships, which is so exciting to me. I consult with the families about their favorite things to do together, their kids’ favorite toys, their favorite places. I don’t think it has to be completely documentary to be authentic—I don’t forbid families to clean their houses or coordinate what they wear, but I love the idea of taking steps toward acceptance of the incredible beauty of what is. We dance to their favorite songs, play the games they actually play in their yard, and do a lot of snuggling and tickling. :) I suggest things here and there, but a lot of times I’m a fly on the wall and they just play. It’s incredible.

Connecting with your clients is important to you. How do you foster that connection with new clients? If that connection isn’t working, would you continue as their photographer?

I just act like we’re already best friends. Ha. I find people are nervous getting their photo taken, so I make a lot of opportunities for them to laugh and relax, whether that’s frolicking together in front of the camera or just because of something silly I’ve said or done—I’m the clumsiest person alive so it’s not hard. I also feel like people get a good idea of who I am and how I work from our initial meeting and interaction before they’re ever in front of my camera, so if they feel like I’m a presence they want to add to their wedding after we meet, I’m in. I would just hate for someone to hire me because they just need “a photographer” and then find out as we’re working together that they don’t like me or how I do things. I’m with a couple on their wedding day more than anyone else, so they need to like me and trust me.

What does the future hold for you?

Wow, isn’t that the question! I hope it holds more photography, more babies, and a whole lot more vacations. :) ❧

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