On Equine Photography & Being So Good They Can't Ignore You with Shelley Paulson (Equestrian Author Spotlight Podcast Episode 2)
Episode 2: Welcome to the Equestrian Author Spotlight podcast! A weekly podcast featuring interviews with equine authors who love all things horses and writing about them. In each episode, you’ll hear inspirational stories from horse book authors including writing advice and marketing tips to help you write your own horse book. If you are an author, aspire to be an author, or simply love horse books then you are in the right place! In this week's episode, you'll meet award-winning equine photographer and horse book author Shelley Paulson.
You'll learn ...
About Shelley Paulson
Shelley Paulson is an award-winning equestrian photographer based in Minnesota. She has combined her deep love of horses with her passion for creating heartfelt, meaningful images to create a thriving full-time career. Her work has been published worldwide and can be seen in various equestrian publications and in advertising for major equine brands such as Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman, Nutrena, and Farnam.
Watch Shelley Paulson's Interview on YouTube
Or Listen to the Audio Only Episode
Shelley Paulson Podcast Interview Excerpt
Carly: Tell us a little bit about you and and how you got into equine photography.
Shelley: Well, we'd have to start with when I got into horses. I came out of the womb and really insisted on a pony. You know how it is. You're born just loving horses. I spent a lot of years as a wedding photographer while building my equine photography business and doing them side by side. Eventually I took the leap to become a full-time equine photographer. I've been able to build a business that's just equine photography. It's a really unique career. I feel like I have the best job in the whole world.
Carly: You certainly do! I am a huge fan of your equine photography. I was so excited to have you on the show because I've been a fan for a very long time. What is even more exciting is that you are considered one of the the top equestrian photographers in the country.. How does that make you feel to have have that sort of reputation?
Shelley: It feels great. I'm not a toot your own horn kind of person, but I do know that I have extraordinary opportunities because of the many years of hard work that I've put into my career. I know that my brain works really well for this and my heart is really into the work, but 90% of it is really just working on my business, being smart about marketing, and taking good care of my clients, so that I can stay in business and keep doing what I love. It is an honor to be recognized and to have my work in magazines like Horse Illustrated and Western Horseman, but I try not to think about it too much because I still put my pants on one leg at time and I go clean horse stalls every morning. I'm just me.
Carly: Well, you're fantastic and completely humble. Your work speaks for itself. When it comes to horses, what really excites you about photographing horses and their humans?
Shelley: I really love capturing the bond and and helping people preserve the memory of the relationship they have with their horses. Our relationships with our horses are complex. They're beautiful and sometimes they're full of conflict. They're just as complicated as a lot of our human relationships are. To be able to capture that for people, especially because we're going to outlive our horses (hopefully), so when the horse is gone, people have the ability to remember the good times. Being able to be a part of their stories is the reason why I really love end of life sessions or senior horse sessions.
Carly: It's really funny that you mentioned the end of life sessions because my husband, my horse hubby, actually interviewed me for the first episode of the Equestrian Author Spotlight podcast to help people get to know me a little bit better and then asked some surprise questions I wasn't expecting. One of them was what what is my biggest fear. It actually brought tears to my eyes because my horse, Sissy, is getting older. My biggest fear is one day having to say goodbye to her. I'm so fortunate that you were here in Phoenix not too long ago and did a portrait session with Sissy and me, so I have these beautiful photos that I'll forever be able to remember her by.
Carly: Obviously, you're an animal lover and a horse lover can you tell us a little bit about your furry friends?
Shelley: I own a 27 year old Quarter Horse mare named Maggie Sue, and I have a 10 year old solid Paint-bred named Fritzi. She is like a really flashy bay with lots for white socks. Fritzi came along when we moved to our farm our five acre farm four years ago. Also, I have two Miniature Schnauzers and a couple of barn cats.
Carly: You and I just had a blast galloping around Arizona together. Can you tell me a little bit about what brought you to Arizona from Minnesota and how we ended up working together?
Shelley: I've been doing photo shoots for Farnam Horse. They make horse health products and they had a contest called the SuperMask SuperModel where people could submit photos of their horse. If they won the contest, they get all of this product, but they also got a full day photo shoot. This year's winner got to have that photo shoot with me and this year's winner happened to be in the Scottsdale area, which is just outside of Phoenix. You and I have been connecting on a business-level kind of a two-person mastermind, so when I found out that I was doing this shoot I knew I was going to ask you to assist me on this shoot because I knew we would work well together.
Carly: Your book Horses: Portraits and Stories just won the Best Equine-Related Non-Fiction Book at the American Horse Publications Equine Media Awards. How did you feel when when your book won this prestigious award?
Shelley: It was a huge shock like for me. It was an honor because I really consider the American Horse Publications a very prestigious organization.
Carly: Tell us about your newest book. You've just put out an ebook The QuickStart Guide to Equestrian Photography.
Shelley: The Quick Start Guide to Equestrian Photography is geared towards people who are already photographers that haven't done a lot of equine work or people who are doing equine work and want to learn how to do it better. Some of the key things are what equipment I use, settings I use, and then a huge part of it is posing people with horses. When you order the e-book, you get a posing guide app for your phone, so then you can just bring it up on your phone secretly when they're changing clothes or something in the session to get some different posing ideas. I like to help people become their best selves and do great work.
Carly: Your work has been published worldwide and can be seen in all these fantastic equestrian magazines. Can you tell us a little bit about how you began building relationships with these brands like Farnam, Nutrena, SmartPak, Horse Illustrated and Western Horseman?
Shelley: Well, you and I have both read a book called So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport which I highly recommend. Not a single one of those relationships started because I sent an email or made a phone call. They all started because I have put heart, soul, and 100% effort into creating the best photos I can – being technically strong, being professional, hard-working, and having a great portfolio online. Every single one of those connections came from people reaching out to me.
I try to be available and responsive. I think one of the top things is when someone emails you to reply efficiently and with a lot of positivity. I'm big on positivity. I think it's really important in business-to-business relationships to be a good problem solver. I hear a lot of stories of bad experiences with photographers and a lot of it's about bad communication, improper expectations, unprofessional behavior. There's ways to behave, there's ways to take care of people, and treat people that keeps you front of mind.
Carly: Tell us more about the book So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport? Cal Newport's books started the foundation for our friendship.
Shelley: It's a fantastic book about why you need to be exceptional in order to succeed in your work. That's a mistake I see a ton of photographers make is they're just really happy with the status quo, following trends, and being like the top photographers. They don't do anything to stand out. Another one of Cal Newport's books is Deep Work. They don't do deep work. They don't really hone their skills.
Carly: Cal Newport and his books brought us together. We're both avid readers and we both enjoy self-improvement. At this year's American Horse Publications conference, you recommended another one of his books to me and you you've also written this really eye-opening blog post about your experience reading this book which is called Digital Minimalism: On Living Better With Less Technology. I was wondering if you would share a little bit about how you re-examined your relationship with technology and talk to us about what your experience was actually going through a 30-day digital detox and and why that was so life-changing for you?
Shelley: I read the book Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport because I was feeling like my relationship with my phone wasn't healthy. I was getting a screen time report from my phone every Sunday and it was telling me I was spending ungodly amounts of time on that phone. I just felt like something wasn't right in my life, like I wasn't living it and so I read the book. The book challenged the reader to take 30 days off of social media. About a week into it, I sat across from my husband on the couch. I'll never forget this moment, he said it's nice to finally have you living here with me again. I was like oh my gosh, I've been I've been checked out and every spare moment I was scrolling my phone looking at social media and not engaging with him, not being out with my horses, not spending time with friends, not living my real life.
Carly: In talking to you, a couple of the things that I think were really a take away for you from doing the digital detox was you were more present or more in now with your horses, your work, your husband, and your life, but then also, this kind of trickles back a little bit to Cal Newport's book Deep Work, what you really got out of the slimming down on how often you were using social media for personal needs or just scrolling to entertain yourself is that you took that time and actually we're able to generate more productive products for your business and in for your life. Right? So you took that time you were kind of just scrolling mindless entertainment and you were able to transfer that into creating things that elevate the work that you are doing.
Shelley: Right. That is absolutely right! The e-book ... The QuickStart Guide to Equestrian Photography, I wrote it in two days. I designed it in two days because when I was writing and when I was designing everything was off – email, social media notifications, my phone was on silent
Carly: You've mentioned podcasts so many times throughout this conversation and clearly you're a fan of podcasts. Podcasts are growing in popularity and they are a great way to get information as you're commuting or cleaning stalls or cleaning the house. I've used them when I'm at the gym. I listen to a podcast so I'm learning while I'm taking care of my body. I was wondering if you would recommend some of your favorite podcasts?
Shelley: My number one favorite is How I Built This by Guy Ross. It's just all these amazing founders of companies and the stories of how they built their business – some became billionaires and some ended up empty-handed. It's fascinating to me to hear the stories of entrepreneurs. Another is called Your Art Producer. The host is a photographer's agent and she interviews art producers at companies and agencies on what they are looking for. The Northrop's, Tony and Chelsea Northrup, have a great photography podcast I love the Building a StoryBrand podcast with Donald Miller. I story branded my entire website and I just love story-based marketing.
A BIG thank you to Shelley Paulson for participating in my Equestrian Author Spotlight series. I learn so much from other equine authors and appreciate how unique each of our writing journeys are. I love that all the authors featured in this series are linked through our creativity, passion for writing, and love of horses. I think it is so important to support each other. I appreciate the support of a fellow author. Thanks for giving me the gift of your time, Shelley! #authorsunite
Connect with Shelly Paulson
Feast your eyes on beautiful horses all year long by getting one of Shelley's calendars! They also make a great gift for that horse lover in your life. ?❤️Go to https://www.shelleypaulson.com/store/ to order yours today.
Shelley Paulson's Recommended Resources
Read about Shelley's 30-Day Digital Detox:
How I Built This with Guy Ross
Dear Art Producer with Heather Elder
Picture This: Photography Podcast with Chelsea and Tony Northrup
Building a StoryBrand with Donald Miller
More Equestrian Author Spotlight Episodes
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Are you an equine author? Want to be on the show?
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About Equine Author Carly Kade
Carly Kade is an award-winning equine author and the host of the Equestrian Author Spotlight podcast. Creative writing makes her spurs jingle! She writes fiction about horses, horse shows, Western pleasure and a handsome cowboy or two. Her books are for people just like her — crazy about reading, horses and cute cowboys!
In her free time, Carly enjoys competitively showing her registered Paint Horse, works on her next novel, reads voraciously, spends time with her two adopted dogs, and loves exploring the great outdoors.
In the Reins, the first in Carly's series of novels inspired by the equestrian lifestyle, has been an Amazon best seller for more than 10 weeks, is an EQUUS Film Festival Literary Award Winner for Best Western Fiction and has earned two Feathered Quill Book Awards in the Romance and Adult Book featuring Animals categories. The In the Reins horse book series is available in Audiobook, Paperback and eBook on Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks and Kobo.
Books by Carly Kade
Carly Kade writes for anyone who loves horses, handsome cowboys and a great romance. Creative writing about horses makes her spurs jingle!
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