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Meet Lucy Schaeffer

Mother of One, New York City

What made you decide you wanted to become a photographer?

I was a photo editor at Food & Wine magazine for five years before launching my own full-time freelance photography career about three years ago. My interest in being behind the camera developed while I was at the magazine: I remember I was producing a pie road trip story when it really clicked that I would rather be shooting it myself instead of sending someone else! Being a photographer is a lot of work but it really is a fun job.

How did you take your interest in photography and turn it into a career?

A fine art background and editing skills from Food & Wine gave me a strong sense of the pictures I wanted to make. I took some continuing education photography classes to brush up on technical things like lighting and retouching. I was lucky to be able to build my portfolio up with editorial assignments on a part-time basis before I was depending on photography for a living. To turn it into a full career, I spent a lot of time marketing my portfolio to primarily magazine clients - book publishers and some advertising came later. In the beginning I never turned down a job, but now I can afford to be a little more picky and concentrate on shooting what I really want to.

What subjects most interest you and why?

Kids, lifestyle, travel & food. I enjoy a mix of studio and location assignments, and I like shooting scenes that are considered and styled just as much as action shoots that unfold as you go. I think doing both helps me be more flexible and keeps me sharp. I shoot people but also a lot of food (over 20 cookbooks in 3 years!) so even my non-food stories often have some food element involved.

Which of your projects best represents your personality and your work?

I produced and shot a fun story with kids where I collaborated with some prop/fashion/makeup stylists. I painted a giant background set of a whimsical bird and had the kids bring a ladder over and climb up to pretend to feed it. We created a second set as well that was an enchanted garden scape. I'd like to do more of this sort of thing, playing with drawing and painting mixed in with my photography. In general, for my professional work, I just love telling a good story.

Balancing any kind of career with parenthood can be a challenge: how do you manage your work and the rest of your life, with children and family obligations?

The million dollar question: I can't say that I actually have that all figured out! The nice thing about being a freelancer is that, in theory, you make your own schedule. If you want to spend a weekday afternoon with your daughter you can, so I take advantage of that as much as I am able. The flip side is that as a freelancer you are also constantly thinking about work even on your "off" days (or late at night). Also I tend to take way too many pictures at photogenic personal events, which is great for the photo albums but sometimes it's also good to just live in the moment and not worry about recording it. I have to remind myself not to make everything into a photo shoot.

How has becoming a parent influenced your photography?

Having Georgia opened up a new world for me. I made new friends and gained access to this mommy world I wasn't really conscious of before. It's definitely easier to find children and baby models now when I need them, and I've got a few good tricks to get smiles. I'm sure this is just the beginning of the parenthood influence on my work.

Where are you from, how many children do you have?

I'm originally from upstate NY and now live in Brooklyn, NY with my husband and 16-month-old daughter Georgia. She's amazing and likes doggies, balloons and belly buttons especially.

What's the best way to contact you for photo work?

My website www.lucyschaeffer.com has my work and contact info. Email me at lucy@lucyschaeffer.com.

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