Episode 197: Raising a Business and Baby (or 3) – Laurken Kendall
Are you ready to take your business to the next level but struggle to find balance with being the parent you want to be? You don’t have to choose one over the other!
Enter Laurken Kendall, our guest in episode 197 of the Bokeh Podcast. Laurken is a photographer, wife to a farmer, and mother of three. She’s a believer of legacy and insists that her sons have shown her the true meaning of love. Listen in as she shares about life on the farm, raising 3 boys, and the 4 principals that allow her to successfully balance every aspect of her life.
The Bokeh Podcast is brought to you by Photographer’s Edit: Custom Editing for the Wedding and Portrait Photographer. You can also subscribe to the Bokeh podcast on the Apple podcast app, follow on Spotify, add to your playlist on Stitcher, or listen on Overcast.
Brand Position: I’m Laurken. I’m here for the imperfect and in love
The Gear Bag: Nikor 58mm and 35mm
Tips to Manage Your Time:
1. Create a consistent weekly schedule.
2. Outsource parts of your business that aren’t necessary.
3. Set boundaries with your schedule.
4. Focus on 3 tasks that will move your business forward.
Principles to Successfully Juggle Work and Life:
1. Self Care
2. Knowing When Enough is Enough
3. Creating Boundaries
4. Create a Good Support System
You are a Badass at Making Money: bit.ly/bp-bamoney
Brooke Johnson – Blush by B: blushbyb.com
Check out the transcript from this episode below:
Nathan: Hey friends, welcome to Bokeh, a podcast exploring the ever blurring lines between the personal and business lives of professional photographers. This is your host, Nathan Holritz and I’m happy that you could join me today and connecting with photographers and entrepreneurs as we discussed photography business and … oh yeah, that sometimes messy thing that we call life. This podcast is brought to you by Photographers Edit, Custom Image Editing for the wedding and portrait photographer. Just visit photographersedit.com.
All right, Bokeh podcast listeners, we are back for yet another episode today and I’m here with a new friend of mine, Laurken Kendall. Laurken, thank you so much for making time for myself and for the book of podcast listeners today.
Laurken: Oh yeah, Nathan, thank you so much. I’m honored to even be asked.
Nathan: Well, no, actually I have to say, and hopefully this doesn’t come off to cliché or otherwise, but it’s truly the honor is truly mine. I sent you an email, I think it was maybe Thursday or Friday probably, and just to touch base with you again before we did this interview and I told you at the time that I was scrolling through your pictures, literally in tears as I had some emotional soundtrack music playing in the background or something, but your work is absolutely stunning and I want to start off with that. I had the opportunity just kind of look through some of your couple’s sessions that are just stunning. I was already, in fact, I shared a link with my girlfriend. I was like, “I think we may have to go make a trip out to the Seattle area and have a session done because this was just incredible.”
Laurken: Oh my gosh. Yes, please. I think I’m in love with you now. Thank you so much. That’s really the best reaction that you can ask for as a photographer is that somebody’s reacting emotionally to what you are putting in front of their eyes, so thank you so much.
Nathan: Well, you know, there’s a lot of conversation in the photo industry of an image capturing the individual, the subject and who they are at the deepest level, or maybe in a similar sense, capturing the relationship between two people. But your image is really do capture a raw element of interaction between these people, the couples in your sessions and I have to share it with everybody. For those of you listening in, you’ve got to go to Laurken, L-A-U-R-K-E-N. Laurken, am I pronouncing that correctly?
Laurken: Yes, my mother spelled it horribly. It’s pronounced Larkin, L-A-R-K-I-N but it’s spelled like Laurken. And what’s funny is my sister’s name is actually Lauren. So we have one letter difference and we’re 18 months apart. It’s basically a nightmare that I live every day but my name is pronounced Larkin. So it’s laurkenkendall.com.
Nathan: Correct. So it’s K-E-N-D-A-L-L dot com. So L-A-U-R-K-E-N K-E-N-D-A-L-L dot com. And of course we’ll link to this in the show notes at bokehpodcast.com. And also make sure you check out Laurken’s work on Instagram, same place Laurken Kendall, we’ll also link to that in the show notes. But again, major props to you for your work. I was truly inspired and again, I’m not all together joking that I may be out there in Seattle. I actually have family that lives out that direction, we may have to come out there for a session at some point.
Laurken: Yes. Holler at me. I would love to. I feel that I don’t get to shoot a lot of anymore since I’ve taken that, the deep dive into the wedding industry. When I do couples work it’s fewer and farther between these days that I get to sit down with the couple and spend a few hours just kind of exploring who they are, screwing around, taking some photos, experimenting. I play a lot of the people that I’m around.
So it’s also part of what I do is being able to read people. That really helps me kind of tune in on what is different from couple to couple. So I love getting to do that and I feel like I don’t get to do it enough, so holler at me.
Nathan: I absolutely will, but now you have me curious because you said something that struck a chord with me that resonates with me and that is that you said you play off other people that you’re around. In this case, particularly couples.
Nathan: I find that I do the same thing and I think a lot of human beings just tend to do that, we play off the energy of other people, but how do you overcome that in some cases where say maybe you’re connecting with a client who doesn’t have the best energy in the world and you know that you want to carry yourself in a way, but you also know that you play into the energy of other people. How do you overcome that?
Laurken: I think what’s super important is first of all, I spend probably the first 20 minutes just trying to figure out what kind of people I’m working with and I normally, I mean 99 percent of the time I nail it within that first 20 minute window. And then there are people though that you will find like this, there was a couple of weekends ago that I had a couple totally different from the couples that I’m used to shooting, they did not react to a lot of the things that you usually work to get. Above all things, I strive to get true emotional reaction.
Whereas, you know, the photo shoot is a manufactured experience inherently. I try to make sure that I’m not telling people to laugh or to cry or I like to create an environments and direct them into a situation where everything is actually occurring. That’s on their faces. So I had a situation where it just wasn’t working with some of these people, a couple of these people that I was working with and I was just like, “You know what, it’s kind of time to do it their way.” And sometimes that’s what it takes. You need to, I need to be able to say … it was hard for me, but I stepped out of my comfort zone, I struggled trying to direct in a new way.
These were people that were not high energy. They really needed me to be more calm and I’m extremely ADD as well, so it’s like I bounced all over the place. So it needed a new element for me. It was very challenging. It was great. It was a good experience. But in those times, you know, I like to play around when I see that something’s not working, I kind of will switch gears.
Some people need you to be high energy and they’re not going to be the intense, intimate, desperate looking photos. They’re going to be the fun playful because that’s where their comfort zone is. And then some people need you to just talk softly or not talk at all and whisper and you know, help them move, move a little bit different than they normally do, but also stay within calm and quiet. And so it’s all challenging across the board, but you have to be willing to step out and make an ass of yourself to accomplish a true depiction of what everybody’s like.
Nathan: But you are describing here a scenario, which I think is not discussed enough, which is the significance of empathy for the environment that you’re in and me. This is true on a personal level, just day to day in the way that we interact with people. I’m amazed at times at the lack of intuition and empathy that people have and the way that they engage in an environment. And the statement they will hear a lot of times as well, this is just who I am, and you know, there’s a bit of ego there that is innate to that type of statement.
But especially as photographers, I mean sure we may be artists, but at the end of the day, if we’re going to serve our clients, if we’re going to take care of our clients and we’re going to create images that actually reflect who they are, then the kind of empathy that you’re describing is absolutely necessary and you’re setting a wonderful example for us.
I love that we started off with this and maybe if we’re lucky enough we can have you back on again, just to talk specifically about how you go about those sessions because it’s some of the most stunning work that I’ve seen of couples and so, so long, so major props to you.
Laurken: I would love that. Thank you so much.
Nathan: 100 percent. And we’re just gonna kind of go a different direction here, right off the bat, but do tell us something totally random about yourself that maybe most people don’t know.
Laurken: Okay. I got married in the nursing home actually.
Nathan: No way.
Laurken: Which is so ironic because I never actually had my own wedding and yet I spend a great majority of my time going to other people’s weddings. So it’s pretty interesting. My husband’s and I have been together for 15 years, we are high school sweethearts, which I hate that word, but that’s what we are.
Nathan: Why do you hate that word?
Laurken: I just think it’s so cliché and so I’d shy away a little bit from the cliché terms, but it’s true. We met when we were young. We’ve grown up together. We have a minimal amount of family style so we’ve kind of leaned on each other. We started, our first son was we had when I was 21 and then we ended up getting married four years later, so we got married, we had this big plan for this fall wedding and it was going to be on our farm.
And then his grandpa who was the light of his life, like a father to him and also really close to me, got very sick and he went from, you know, fixing his roof to being in a hospice home center in a matter of months. So we just scrapped everything and we stood in front of him and we said I do and a little guys stood beside us and that has been … I would not take that back for anything in the world.
For all the pottery barn baking ware in the world and all the Aruba honeymoons, we never did any of that. So I really have a clear understanding of what’s important when I’m at a wedding. I think because that experience shaped a lot of who I am and how I view what I do.
Nathan: Wow. Do you have any pictures from that day?
Laurken: I do. Well this is the funny part is I paid, I was getting my hair done for my wedding that day and one of the assistants who was the hair washer was like, “Oh, I take photos,” and I realized, “Oh my goodness, I don’t have a photographer.” So I paid her $30 to come take some photos of me.
Nathan: No way!
Laurken: Getting married and that’s what I have, I have a bunch of low quality jpegs, but I have that most important photo of Cody’s grandpa, they’re looking on and our little guy right next to us and we’re just in the tiny chapel of the hospice center.
Nathan: Wow. What a stunning story. That’s incredible. I can again very much relate to what you’re saying, all the kind of hoopla, if you will that we see as wedding photographers these days around weddings and everything that goes into them. Well, they can certainly lend themselves to beautiful pictures. At the end of the day, we’re talking about a connection between two people and maybe their close friends or family with them and the representation that they bring to that, that picture literally and figuratively. And I think that is what’s most beautiful and I love how you described that. I’d love to see that picture at some point. I think that sounds amazing.
Laurken: Absolutely, I’ll send it to you.
Nathan: You mentioned living in a farm there too, and this is something else kind of random and unusual and I think really, really cool that you guys actually live on a wheat farm. Tell us a little bit about that.
Laurken: Yes. So, we live on Centennial Farm, my husband is fifth generation, which means my sons are six generation, I have three sons. My living room, where it is right now, a few feet away from me is where our original homestead stood in the 1880s and I have an actual photograph of the original family standing in front of the house. My tree that’s now massive in my front yard or a maple tree is very tiny and we really get a clear picture of the passage of time.
Legacy is a big deal for us, the dirt that we work is the dirt that generation. We know where our family comes from, and it’s right here, everything’s right here on this ground. And so I always say for my husband, for my boys, for me now, the dirt of this farm, that’s our blood. It runs in our veins, it’s everything to us. Also, it’s a thankless job that my husband does, it really is. It’s hard work, he’s in the sun, he works really long hours, he’s working on heavy machinery that nobody wants. It’s a job nobody wants, but it also affords us a lifestyle that nobody has anymore.
Nathan: What is that lifestyle? What does that look like?
Laurken: It looks like little boys just butt naked little boys rolling in a big mud pit. We have 1300 acres we’re dry land wheat farmers. My kids just run wild, we’re barefoot outside all the time. I don’t worry about strangers, we just have fresh air and freedom and I think it’s just something that’s fleeting this day and age.
Nathan: Oh 100%. That sounds just idyllic. That’s incredible. Do you find that if you have the opportunity to spend time with your husband, I know that his work schedule has to be crazy, probably early morning light to late evening sometimes, but how do you like to spend time together as just in the quiet at home or do you like to get out or can you in that area that you’re in?
Laurken: Well, we actually, that’s an interesting fact too, is we actually live … My son’s school is 30 miles away, so we drive our kid 30 minutes one way to school every day.
Laurken: The nearest Walmart is a little over an hour away. We live a quiet kind of a life, it doesn’t allow … The good thing about it is if I’m craving a cheeseburger, I can’t have it. So that’s what good outside of living, living so far away from the town. But so we don’t get out a whole lot because it is like it’s going to be a five-hour thing to go see a movie.
Laurken: So what we like to do is a lot of what the work that we do on the farm, especially during the summer, you said about my husband working long hours. Our seasons actually aligned so that his high season is mine as well. So it’s frantic in the summer he’s doing harvest and I’m traveling for weddings. So what we do is we, when we can, we work together. I’ll come home from a wedding on a Saturday in September, or Sunday in September, jump in the truck on Monday. Drive truck for my husband while he’s cutting the wheat, we’ll load the boys up a box full of otter pops and we do life … we do as many things together within our work life and our farm as we can. But then, you know, we curl up at night and just spend an hour watching TV together. We make sure that we’re all seated at the table for dinner. Just the little things that we can do.
Nathan: I love that picture though. And again, I mean we were talking about the idea of what’s most important and that not only is that applicable certainly to a wedding ceremony, but even day to day life too and I love that. I’m very much a minimalist and I think at the end of the day, less stuff gets in the way of my relationships with the significant people around me, the better. That seems like you guys live that life too. That’s really, really cool.
Tell us a little bit about maybe one of the most impactful books that you’ve read because it, maybe this is an assumption, but I’m going to assume that with the style of life that you’re living, that books are a welcome kind of solace from the day to day business.
Laurken: You know, about. What would it be nice if they were, who has time to read books? Honestly. I used to read a ton of books, but what I’ve been doing recently is doing audio books while I’m editing and stuff like that. It’s kind of like listening to podcast. I listen to a podcast or listen to a book. But a book that comes to mind right now, it’s interesting if you are a badass at making money. So a lot of people have heard of you are a badass which is kind of all about that energy and bringing things to you with the power of suggestion and putting things into the world and into words.
This is kind of the same concept, but it kind of breaks down these ideas that we have that the wands of money is negative, because I think a lot of ways money, it kind of paints for your picture where money is actually only energy as well. And money allows you to be more charitable, it allows you to go experience the world, have things you otherwise wouldn’t have. It allows you to be the freest and most glorious sort of version of yourself and to create and to do things for the people that you love in a way that you couldn’t do.
So I love that and it kind of changed my concept of money and how I thought of money. So instead of having this negative idea of money being horrible and not having enough of it and I’m always fighting for it, I kind of am just like, “You know what, it’s going to come to me because I know that it’s good and I want to do good things with it.” And so it’s been impactful in that way.
Nathan: Well, it kind of like we talk about here on the podcast, the idea of structuring we’re creating an efficient workflow so that we can actually have a life at the end of the day or the end of the week as photography business owners. Kind of like, that’s not mutually exclusive from also being an artist. I think you can also intelligently and proactively make a good living while still being an artist. The idea that those two things can’t coincide, I think is an absolutely a misnomer and I love that you’re learning that too.
Laurken: Absolutely. And there’s a part of that too, where, you know, I’ve heard it said we have a little artist on one shoulder and a little businessman on one shoulder and the artist is truly … if you let the artists take over, then it becomes a game of ego. So you kinda have to find a good balance between being a business and being an artist to where you’re not leaning too far to either side.
Nathan: Oh, but I like hearing that statement coming from you as to me, the kind of the epitome of a photographic artists that you’re acknowledging the reality of ego because I think a lot of times in our industry that reality is not acknowledged, and people just kind of blindly move forward as you were saying, asserting the fact that there are artists and that tends to get in the way of business unfortunately. And if we’re going to actually make a living as business owners, we have to consider both sides. So that’s really, really interesting.
Laurken: Exactly. And I don’t feel like there’s any room for ego. If you’re capturing authentic intimacy between people, you can make it about yourself.
Nathan: I love that. I think we’re going to have to … I see some Instagram quotes and tee shirts coming from that, that’s awesome.
Laurken: Yes, give me all the tee shirts.
Nathan: That’s awesome. I am curious to get your take on this because I know that you’re a pretty open book and a straightforward communicator, but there’s been this trend and I’ve heard a lot about you are a badass. You’re a badass at making money with this was something that I think maybe even another guest on the podcast brought up. There were a series of books from Brené Brown that all seemed to be addressing insecurities that we have as human beings maybe as artists as well.
Where do you think that trend comes from? By the way, I can certainly relate to this notion. One of my biggest struggles as an individual and something personally that I’ve continued to work out and hopefully grow at, or my insecurities and how that plays into the way that I interact with or engage with other people even do business. But why do you think that that’s such a trend these days?
Laurken: I think that we are, as a human is at this point in time as a human species, we are taking on more information than at any previous point. With the Internet and social media, your brain is being overloaded all day long with images from other people with what other people are doing, how they’re living life, where they’re getting to go, what you’re perceiving as success versus what you’re putting out is what your failures are, what you feel your failures are.
And I think that a lot of it, it’s kind of goes that kind of modern day comparison packs as I call it. It goes hand in hand also with trauma that we’ve maybe had from early childhood because I think a lot of the things that we’re prone to feel badly about and our insecurities come from a time when we were young and first start.
Nathan: Agreed. And it’s interesting that I never thought about the coupling of those elements of our current culture though. It just strikes me that, I mean you see it for example on Facebook all the time, that very obvious, even if the person posting doesn’t realize they’re doing it, this very obvious proclamation of insecurity in one form or another. And it just didn’t seem to be such a strong theme and again, while it’s a very, very much a reality for us, I wonder why it is so extremely present in our day to day life but I’ve never thought about it from that, from that angle. I guess with coupling both our childhood experiences with this knowledge, this awareness of those around us and not just around, just kind of all around the world literally.
Laurken: Absolutely, and when you think about it, we live in a day and age where we’re saying validate me, “Hey, here’s my photo, validate me. Here’s my family vacation, validate me. Tell me it was good. Tell me I did good. Tell me I’m a success. Tell me my family is beautiful.” We live in a very in age of validate me, and I feel that that’s also contributing to with the overwhelming information we’re receiving, with feeling like we’re not enough and then we want people’s validation and if we fall 20 like short of the previous posts, and oh, this must not be good.
Nathan: Right. No, it’s so, so true. Well, these are points of conversation that I’m sure it will be ongoing, but I really appreciate a perspective in that and then it’s good food for thought. Speaking of photography and posts on Instagram, social media, I’m curious about your business as a photographer and if you don’t mind sharing a little bit about how you got started, I’d be curious.
Laurken: Absolutely. So I started shooting. I mean, I’ve kind of always had a camera in my hands, not so much even thinking anything of it, but parties and all that stuff growing up that was kind of like what I did was I would stop and buy the disposable cameras and back in those days, that’s what we were up to. Then I had children and it kind of changed everything for me. Photographs became something more than just paper. They stopped time, they actually stopped time.
So in the spring of 2014 when I had my second son and my husband bought me a newer camera and I started taking photos of them, and I started posting them on Facebook and people were like, “Oh, you want to take photos of my family?” And I was like, “Sure.” So I would go to my friends’ houses, do the same thing. And it just kind of evolved and took on a life of its own and I’d never intended to be sitting here talking to you today truly, it all just snowballed and it all just kind of happened.
Nathan: I’m curious about that snowball because not only is your work speak very loudly for itself, but I mean you’ve got 50,000 followers on Instagram too. How does this all happen within the span of four years?
Laurken: I truly think, and this might sound egotistical, I don’t know, but I truly think it’s because I didn’t come with the bullshit to social media that you see every day. I never posted a picture of myself on vacation, I never pretended that my life was anything other than what it was. And if I have a bad day I say, I’ve had a really shitty day or I’ll crack jokes. I don’t take myself so seriously. If I have nothing to say, I’ll be like, “Meh.” That’ll be my caption or all right, I don’t want to caption today.
Nathan: So you’re not posting pictures of yourself smiling on your bed as you’re working on your computer.
Nathan: I see these types of where, sitting at the dining room table, having just finished a cup of coffee as you’re scrolling through your Instagram or in anything of the sort. It seems like these are a theme and I was literally actually scrolling through social media earlier and I think I even laughed out loud. I mean my apartment on my own, I laughed out loud seeing this picture because it’s so cliché now. You see this everywhere.
Laurken: Yeah, absolutely. I’m not that person. I embrace the mess of my life. I’m okay with who I am. I’m not perfect by any means and I just want to normalize a regular messy, crazy, scared life that we’re all living. I want to make that okay to show that because I think we would all have so much less insecurity if we were honest about who we are.
Nathan: But how do we then to our earlier conversation, and I’ll continue to go down this road because I think it’s relevant. We see it so much in our photography industry. How do you balance though that kind of, again, borrowing cliché words, vulnerability, transparency with not posting for the sake of our insecurity and wanting the positive feedback? Because you also see people that are just nonstop, you know, complaining or negative. We’re talking about all the things that they’re dealing with in life and it just becomes exhausting to read that too.
Laurken: It’s intuition. It’s knowing the things that you have to know what annoys you. So I know if I see someone complaining all the time, I don’t want to deal with that. I look at the accounts that I follow and that I like to look at and they’re just people that are living their everyday lives. They’re not putting on facades, they’re not pretending like there anything that they’re not. There’s a good balance between the good and the bad and I liked that because that’s what my life is. It’s a good balance between, you know, the crappy things that happened and the great things that happened.
And then just the, you know, the steady stream of life in between where there’s really nothing going on. But I mean just posting the Instagram, you are saying validate me, I’m saying validate me. I’m saying tell me that I’m okay, that I’m doing okay. That it’s okay to feel this way. I don’t pretend like I’m not, I’m playing the game like everyone else, but I just don’t take it as seriously I think because I have children and I just feel like that kind of changes the way that you view the world when you have something walking around outside of your body that has your whole heart and I know what’s important to me and it’s them. It’s not, I try not to let the little things bug me, like whether I’m getting my favorite photo that I love so much is getting the attention that I think it deserves.
Nathan: Yeah. I think you have a pretty balanced perspective in that regard. Talk to us about the brand position of your business, because this is a tough one. You mean you’re in a relatively large … I know that you’re away from the hustle and bustle day to day town or city life, but the Seattle area wedding market is a pretty large one. How do you set yourself apart from photographers in that market? What is your business’ brand position?
Laurken: What’s interesting is I’m just kind of working on my new I kind of putting it into words, but in Seattle the area has this overall motif of adventure. I’m here for the adventurous and you know the crazy people who want to go hike to the top of mountain and have their dress blow. I’m not like that. I’m what I call a roadside photographer like I don’t want to go hiking for nine miles up hill and sweat, and I like to work out in my own time. I don’t want to do that when I’m working.
I’m not a hiker. I’m not somebody that enjoys. I went to Iceland for instance, and I didn’t like it because I didn’t care to go look at a waterfall for two hours. That’s just not who I am. My photography brand position is on Laurken and I’m here for the imperfect and in love because I am in perfect and in love.
Nathan: Oh no, absolutely. Well, and we’re going to actually talk a little bit more about your family life here in just a little bit, but did you actually say on your website somewhere that you’re … that means you actually said these words, “I am not for the adventurous couple?”
Laurken: Yes. Yes. It’s I am not just for the adventurous because that’s what sets me apart from the every website that you’re looking at, whereas, yeah, if you Google Seattle Wedding Photography, so many of the words that hits you on the front page are adventure oriented words or adventure itself. So I put, “I am not just for the adventurous.”
Nathan: Well I think this is a good reminder of a really powerful idea for us as business owners and that is see what the market is doing and go the opposite direction, because there are a lot of opportunities when it comes to creating a brand position, there’s a tendency, I mean you see this even and I mean as the owner of an editing company, that conversation that I have are here quite a bit revolves around the idea of style.
And photographers talking about their and yet at the end of the day, many if not most, are simply kind of imitating a style that they saw somewhere else. Which means that probably hundreds or even thousands of photographers are doing the same thing. There’s this tendency that we have to kind of move in the direction that a person or group of people are going. But as a business owner, if you want to create a brand position, something that’s going to actually stand out, you need to go the other direction.
Nathan: And so I think this is a great reminder of that very idea and I appreciate you sharing that with us. Talk to us about gear a little bit. You said you mentioned the camera that you got from your husband back in 2014, what was that camera and then what have you kind of evolved to these days?
Laurken: Well, that was a Canon rebel. I no longer shoot Canon, I shoot Nikon, so team Nikon.
Nathan: For sure.
Laurken: High tech team Nikon. Absolutely. My favorite lens actually is a NIKKOR 58mm, which I don’t know that they make that in a Canon model. Maybe they make it into Sigma or something else. From what I remember, it’s pretty exclusive to Nikon. I love the 58, it’s my favorite lens. It has less warping, I love everything about it.
Nathan: So more specifically though, if you were to say like, this is my go-to lens because I mean, is it the depth of field, the style of Bokeh? Is it I’m the focal length itself, the combination of those things or is it something else?
Laurken: It’s a combination because it’s a feeling. I can’t put a word to it, I love how it feels when I look at photos that are taken with it. And then I love my 35 would be my next favorite because it has … I like that it’s not, I don’t like things that have a lot of compression in the background. So like in ’85, I’m not into like a whole ton of like buttery Bokeh.
Nathan: Interesting. Do you want more context to your photos?
Laurken: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. But I’m also the person that I’m not going to remove. People always tell me, “Oh my gosh, I love it because it’s messy and it feels like real life,” but it also is because I love how, you know, you get all the context, you’ve got everything kind of … you set the tone for what’s going on with the background and what’s showing, but then also like I’m not a person that’s going to go and take a Coke bottle out in the background.
Nathan: Great. Again, a little bit of balance there. As far as the move from Canon to Nikon though, at the end of the day, of course we all know it doesn’t really matter that much, but I’m curious as to why you made that move. Was it further ergos or was it something else?
Laurken: It was something else that’s not even that cool. I actually shot, I have an idol we all have an idol in our, you know, in whatever we do. My idol’s name is Brooke Johnson, she’s a photographer, her business name as Blush By B, if you want to look her up online. I fell in love … She’s the one that got me into couples photography, I wasn’t even on Instagram, this was 2015, oh I’m sorry, late 2014. I saw some of her couples work come on in Pinterest and that was the first time that I had seen couples shot in a way that made me cry.
And I was like, I just like hit me like, “This is what I want, this is what I want to.” So I went to her workshop, that was the first workshop I ever went to. I paid $1500 that I didn’t have. I made it happen, I went over there and I shot her Nikon and I loved it. And so it was like in a way how you emulate and you’re going to emulate the things that you respect and the things you look up to. So that’s kind of what started it for me. I love the coloring straight out of camera as well. I love everything about it.
Nathan: Oh, that totally makes sense. So I’m curious then because as you’re talking, I’m looking for Brooke, is she on Instagram?
Laurken: She’s on Instagram. Her Instagram is @Brille like B-R-I-L-L-E, and Gold, G-O-L-D.
Nathan: Oh perfect. Oh, and she was the one that did the portrait of you there on your property, right?
Laurken: All my family photos, that was our first family photos on the farm. I haven’t gotten them back yet. I’m going to blow up the Internet with them when I do, but she came and told our story in the way that I wanted it to be told and I am so excited to get all those photos back, those are coming soon.
Nathan: Wow. Okay. I’m so following her and of course for those of you listening and again it’s B-R-A-I-L-L-E Gold, real gold for Brooke Davis and we’ll link to her in the show notes as well but I appreciate you sharing that. Let’s move into a different direction though. You’ve talked about your family quite a bit and it’s obviously a priority, but I wanted to get into today this idea of balancing family life and business life. And this is something that, I mean you’ve got quite the interesting and unique life as it is and I’m curious how you’re making that happen, but on your site it says above all things. I am mom, I have birthed three boys in the last nine years and the other reason my heartbeats.
I think it’s fascinating how we define ourselves as individuals through our profession, a personal mission through art, through relationships. And so I’m curious, what is it that makes motherhood, your life, your energy? Why does it drive you the way that it does?
Laurken: Well, first of all, I would never even be truly in love with photography, it wasn’t for my children. They made things feel more important after they gave him into existence. So that’s just the basic. I really think that they make me want to be a better version of myself. So they created this drive, I didn’t have this drive to be do something significant with my life or feel accomplished or feel successful until I had them.
And that’s the truth of it. I want to be successful, I do everything that I do for them and because of them, because I want to give them a better life than I had growing up. Again, it goes back to things that happen in early childhood. The scars of that, the experience of that, so we always tend to do … somehow we tend to do the opposite of our parents while also like ending up like them in a way.
So it’s like you can’t control it, it’s very primal. So that’s how I do my motherhood, I just don’t think that I could feel as deeply for other people, and really recognize and have that intuition and bring that emotion out of other without understanding it in myself and what drives it out of myself and they gave me that.
Nathan: If I’m not digging too deep here, I’m curious what made that shift, what was the shift in perspective? What did it look like before they came along? And then how did that shift after?
Laurken: Oh, I was horribly selfish before my children came along, which is kind of ironic because people tend to think, I noticed this trend right now, not a trend, but like this kind of pattern in my life with my husband. He takes care of my children when I’m gone. It’s so important to have, I don’t know how I would do it without him, but he gets these comments a lot and it’s mostly from other women who are like, “Oh, I can’t believe that you let her do that,” and it’s kind of like judgements coming off of them toward me for what I do as being, you know, it’s perceived that I’m being selfish, but what I’m doing is creating a business, creating a safety net for my family, finding identity for myself so that I can be a better mother so that I’m not at home resenting my children because on some level I feel that women are humans too, we’re mothers yes.
And that is first and foremost what I am. But if I’m not self-fulfilled then I am not happy, how can I raise my children and be there for them to the fullest extent of my potential if I’m unhappy with myself. So I travel, yes. People think it’s glamorous. It’s not, it’s exhausting. I travel, I’m away from my kids all the time, but I bring them with me, I FaceTime them if I’m on a beach, I FaceTime them if I’m in Iceland, I FaceTime them from my hotel room when I cry and I missed them. So I mean, mom is not a word that means I need to be standing in the kitchen or I need to be doing laundry or I need to be home when the kids get home from school and sacrifice, doing all the things I want in life. Mom does not have to be martyred, it can be everything. And I’m a better mom because of the things that I do.
Nathan: I like that you’re speaking to the significance of independence. And this plays a really important role I think at least this is what I’ve learned in the last few years in romantic relationships too, but even when it comes to our relationships with our kids. If you are able to exhibit and actually live an independent life to the extent that is healthy when you have a family then I think that can also even encourage that in them. So they don’t become simply codependent, that they learn the significance of independence. And yet, I love the fact that you also balance that with sharing with them actively, proactively as you travel and including them in that. And I’m sure that that’s exciting for them and that they get to connect with you that way and you can tell them the stories and the experiences, the adventures that you had. I think that’s really wonderful balance too.
But you know, that the idea that we have to follow it, what ultimately as a construct, you know, this is how life should be or this is what motherhood or fatherhood should look like is hilarious. With my former partner, the comment that I always got, because I was, and still am obviously an active parent, I have a 16 and 13-year-old, but particularly when they were younger, if my ex was on the road shooting or doing a workshop or otherwise, the comments that I got of total surprise that I would be, “At home with my kids or babysitting the kids,” I’ve even heard that word being used were just hilarious. It was amazing. So this idea that we have to follow the typical construct of wherever our culture is that the time is very short sighted, narrow-minded I think.
And I love that you’re exploring a different avenue here, but doing so in a healthy what seems like a balanced way. I’m curious, well, I know that you’re traveling a lot and we’re going to talk a little bit about how you manage that travel simultaneously. Have a home life here in just a second, but what is the day-to-day look like? How do you fit it all into one day? I mean that you have the parenting and you have the photography business and the farm as well. What does the day in the life look like for you?
Laurken: Truly, Nathan, I just do it. I know that like the things that I need to get done from day to day, I usually have two or three things that if I don’t get them done, I just feel deflated at the end of the day. I feel like I wasn’t successful. I get up in the morning around 6:00 AM, I go. We have an old shed in the back that we turned into a home gym. So I go back there and that’s my self-care. That’s me setting the time for the day, that’s me knowing that as the hours drag on, I’m not going to want to do it because I’m going to get wrapped up in work or who knows what can happen when you have three kids, your day doesn’t ever go as it’s supposed to go. So I like to control the things I can control, I like to say, “Hey, I’m going to try to. I’m gonna get my workout done at this time in the morning because that’s my self-care that makes me feel sane and that makes me want to not set my house on fire if I sweat for a little bit each day.”
And then I say, “Okay, and then between the hours of 10:00 and 4:00 I’m working, I’m available to my clients. I’m getting my website. I’m currently redoing my website, so I’m going to get all the copy done for my new website or I’m going to edit this wedding, edit this wedding.” It’s also part of my life is outsourcing, I outsource my editing, I edit, you know, 100, 200 images of each wedding and then I send them all out and I had to do that this year because it just with the volume of weddings that I was taking, it was eating my life alive.
My husband was starting to get upset because I was a slave to my computer. I was on it all night, all day. It wasn’t a practical or sustainable lifestyle for the health of my family and for the health of my business. So I really learned this year boundaries for myself, so I have that schedule that I do, so I work on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. And I can do, I can change it if I need to, as I have to be flexible because I am a mother. And I stopped for an hour for lunch, play with my kids and they also like sit around me. My children are all around me all day. I don’t shut them out of my life, they know what I’m doing, they asked questions about my photos. My little one Bowie, he’s two. He often sits on my lap and colors while I edit.
I don’t think that it has to be two separate things, I like to include … I’ll even sometimes bring my kids on shoots with me. I shot an engagement, a couple engagement sessions last year with Bowie on my back in a baby backpack. My couples loved it. It’s just shows that I’m the living human being and I can do more than one thing at a time. But I do have to set myself that schedule, I do have to say these are the things and for me it’s not necessarily hourly. I do like to say between 10:00 and 5:00, I’m going to work for 10:00 and 4:00. But I do like to have those three things that I want to do every day and I want to … I have the Swipes app which I’m addicted to because it’s just the satisfaction of swiping and hearing the little ping, which means I’ve completed a task.
I’m an instinct gratification person apparently. So I like to have just those three things set and then I also like to feel at the end of the day, like I was available to my children too because that was something that for a few months there I lost and I was crying myself to sleep at night because I have … Mom guilt is a thing, parents, parental guilt is a thing. And I feel it’s not only because of, you know, how much I’m gone, I don’t want to be stuck to my computer when I’m home.
My husband once said to me, “It feels like you’re not even home when you’re home right now,” and that was a wake-up call for me because I was like, “I’m not, I’m not even present for them.” And so I try to be present for my business and present for my children and find a good balance, but I think I’ve really hit a stride right now with that.
Nathan: Well, first of all, I have a lot of respect for you guys being willing to have that conversation too, because those kinds of conversations can lead to a lot of conflict between romantic partners at times and the fact that he was able to come to you be that direct and you’re like, “You know what? Yeah, actually you’re right,” and you made a change. I just have a lot of respect for that. So props to you for that.
Laurken: Thank you.
Nathan: You talked about Monday, Tuesday, Thursday. Is there a particular reason why you chose those days?
Laurken: Yes, because Wednesday is a half day and Friday is the only day that I have of the weekend with my children, because Saturday I’m typically shooting a wedding.
Nathan: Okay, that makes sense, and then I like the idea of three MITs, and by the way, Swipes is a task management app for those of you listening in and we’ll make sure to link to that in the show notes as well. But focusing on three big things that ideally move your business forward in some form or fashion in a day I think is an absolutely wonderful way to go about running a business and this is something that we’ve talked about before in the podcast. I love that you’re living that out.
And also the idea of having a schedule but you’re not simultaneously micromanaging your day, breaking it down hour by hour. If you have a segment of time that you’re working, it still gives you a sense of freedom and flexibility as a business owner, but you also have some structure there innate to the way that you’re running your business and I think that’s really great choose.
Laurken: Absolutely. And like I said, I have severe ADD so it’s very hard for, I have to … my friend Catalina taught me this trick where you take a big rubber band and you stretch it across the center of your phone, and I’ll do that while I’m working. So it’s a little psychological trick a mind game that you play with yourself if you will. So when you reach for your phone, you feel that rubber band and you’re supposed to be working and you’re like, “Oh nope,” because otherwise I would find myself just like wake-up and I’m suddenly scrolling hand dress for Keto recipes.
So that’s another, like, just little thing that I do. I’m not a person that does well with a strict schedule. So it just works better for someone like me to have, I’m going to get these things done instead of saying, I’m going to do this at this time and this at this time.”
Nathan: I like that. It’s simple and it’s manageable. And again, you’re not micromanaging your life where you feel just absolutely crushed your freedom crushed in the process. So I think that’s a great balance.
Nathan: Are there certain principles that are driving some of those choices about how you’re structuring your day to day that you can share with our listeners? Because I think you had mentioned to me via email a little while back that you travel four weekends a month. I mean you’ve got a heavy travel schedule and again, busy schedule at home just running the business and of course wanting to be present for your family as well. What are the principles that drive your ability to kind of balance both of those things?
Laurken: First of all, self-care is the most important. The term self-care is such a kid cheek pad kind of thing right now, but it is so true. You have to find the things that are going to make you feel like a human so that you can push yourself, your body, your mind to the limit because I have to be everything for everyone. It’s kind of the thing is when you’re a parent, you have to be everything for your children and everything for your business and the clients that need you as well.
At all hours of the day somebody needs something from me. So having that self-care and taking that time to do the things that I need to do to be a functioning, you know, present and not angry, resentful adult is very important. And that goes along with the next thing which is this knowing when enough is enough, knowing what my limits are. I learned that I took nine weddings in August and I was gone, I was home for I think eight days of the entire month.
That was a big learning experience for me because while I loved every single couple, I’m kind of this thing that’s happened with how I branded myself, which is just branding who I am has brought these amazing people to me. So I don’t have any people that I don’t feel like I shouldn’t be working with, which is perfect. But I took too many of those wonderful people in August, and I just drove myself crazy and it was like, you know, I was crying, I wasn’t sleeping. So making sure that I know, knowing what your limit is and how far you can push yourself before you break.
Nathan: Is there a particular like for you in a year, for example, do you at this point, are you able to clearly establish like, “I only need to take on X amount of weddings.” Is that kind of what that limit would look like?
Laurken: I don’t put myself in a box but I’m not going to shoot. The thing I have learned is I’m not going to shoot more than five weddings a month. I just cannot do that and still be, still be the mom that I want to be.
Nathan: Sure, that totally makes sense. Okay. So self-care and by the way, I actually have a follow-up question on the self-care point too. You were talking about working out early in the morning, 6:00 AM. A lot of people kind of cringe at that idea. I’m definitely in agreement with you, the idea of starting the day with a workout because there’s a high likelihood it doesn’t get done otherwise. But do you find like … for example this morning, and I’m adjusting my workouts this week just a little bit and actually extending them, I usually do a 20 minute high intensity interval session on an elliptical machine and then doing a combination of calisthenics and dead lifts and so forth.
I’m extending my workouts this week knowing that I tend to get a bit of a … or what I’ve experienced today anyway in particular was this buzz that I get from going for an extended period of time. This is something that’s talked about in the running and probably cycling world and so forth as well. This so-called runner’s high. But do you find that you actually gain energy? Because a lot of people probably the idea of working out, exhaust them to begin with and they’re just going to jump to the coffee for energy, but do you actually find that it gives you not only physical energy but a mental clarity as well?
Laurken: Oh, absolutely. It gets me high. That’s exactly what workout is for me. I need to have it. It’s my drug, I’m addicted to the feeling of it. Like the growth in your body and the changes in being faster and all that stuff, that’s all great. But I’m addicted to the way that it makes me feel throughout the entire day. I get more done on a weekday that I do my self-care than I do If I were to skip my workout, I would be lethargic by 2:00 PM, I would be feeling like shit, I would not be focused when I’m working. The workout sets the tone for the entire day for me.
Nathan: I love that and I mean, it’s a tough hump to get over for people who aren’t used to working out, especially early in the morning. I know that everyone kinda has their own preferred schedule. I would encourage those of you listening in if just know that on the other end of maybe a little hard work upfront is not only potentially looking better but also feeling better and more specifically having an energy in it. And I mean even a mental clarity, my mind was just kind of firing like crazy this morning I’m sitting on …
Nathan: It was actually a stationary bike at the time and an idea pops in and I jumped to that thing and deal with this and answer this client and it was kind of fun. I don’t normally work during a workout session, but my mind was just going to town and it was a cool experience to have and a good reminder too. So I love that you share that, but you started with self-care and then you said knowing when enough is enough, creating some boundaries. That’s important. What’s another principle?
Laurken: I’m just making sure that you have built a good support system around yourself. If it’s, I, for instance, I don’t have, you know, I am lucky enough to have a partner that I live my life with. I know some people that are like single moms that do … which I applaud a single mother who is doing … having their own business, that is incredible. You are the strongest of among us, but having a good support system and making sure that you’re also valuing your support system is so important. Because my husband, I would never want him to feel like he’s taken for granted. I recognize all the … and he wouldn’t want the credit.
He always says I’m not, he always says the same thing that you said earlier about babysitting the children. He’s like, “These are my children.” I always tell them like, “You’re a better mom than me,” and we laugh about it because he is the best dad in the world. Those boys, the sun rises and sets by those boys to him. So it’s just time wise making it work, but just making sure that you have a good support system that you’re respecting and that you’re giving credit to them because I can’t do this on my own. I wouldn’t be able to do this volume of work on my own.
My husband, he is everything, he is the backbone of my business, he inspires a lot of my work and he also encourages me and keeps me moving forward. So I would just say making sure that you’re respecting that support that you have in your life.
Nathan: Yeah. That a big deal too. I mean just simple expression of appreciation goes a long, long way and it certainly holds true with our significant others. But then also we have friends or family. I mean, this is something that I have to take advantage of from time to time as a single dad that, you know, where I’m saying to my kids, “Hey, can you ask your friends if you can stay within this weekend while I’m traveling or doing this thing or that thing?”
And making sure that you actually take the time to show some appreciation even if it’s just a simple conversation I think is so important. I mean, it may even seem obvious, but we need to do it because I think it can be easy to overlook sometimes. Anything else that you want to add to this conversation as we finish up here?
Laurken: You need to stop and play in your life.
Nathan: I love it.
Laurken: Stop and play. Feel your heartbeats, be aware of time passing. We just are not anymore. It feels like everybody’s zombies walking around thinking that not really feeling their life, not really feeling that they’ll never get that last minute back. I feel that every day, I forced myself to be aware of the passage of time and saying, “You know what, I don’t want to work today. Forget it. I want to go play with my kids in the front yard,” and then that’s okay.
Nathan: Yeah. Do something that makes you feel alive. I’ve been reminded of this as of late and of course everybody’s gonna have their own tastes of excitement and venture and what that actually looks like to them. But I had the chance just recently to go another track day on a motorcycle and I’m getting to do 160 miles an hour down the street and then go into a turn where I’m almost leaned over and my knee touching the ground and racing around.
Laurken: Oh my God, no.
Nathan: I mean these are the kinds of, and this is just my personal exhilaration. But to your point Laurken, I think the idea that we actually engage in something consistently, not just once off every two or three months, but something that makes us feel alive, whether it’s the simple things-
Nathan: … or it’s a race track. I think that’s a great reminder.
Laurken: I don’t want your mother to know that you’re doing that.
Nathan: I don’t share too many pictures with her, so.
Laurken: Good. I’m thinking like I was just thinking if my sons do that, I don’t want to know. Don’t tell me.
Nathan: Well, really I have appreciated this conversation, I appreciate your candid just sharing of your personal experience, what you’ve learned, certainly from your photography business, but also just in life in general. And I absolutely love your work and I’m going to make sure that I recommend everybody listening in that you go check out Laurken’s work. Again, just go to Laurken Kendall, L-A-U-R-K-E-N K-E-N-D-A-L-L dot com. And then same thing on Instagram Laurken Kendall and we’ll link to those in the show notes. If you just go to Bokehpodcast.com and Hailey puts together really wonderful show notes. There you’re gonna want to check those out. But Laurken, thank you so much for making time to share with us today and this has just been really, really lovely.
Laurken: Thank you. The pleasure’s mine. I appreciate it.