We had the good fortune of connecting with Brenda Valdes and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Brenda, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Balancing running a small photography business and being a mom is something I am still trying to learn to do. I found out I was pregnant in May of 2019 and two months later I quit my full-time job. Shocking, right? Who makes that kind of a decision after finding out they’re pregnant? Well I did, and it was the best one I’ve done in my life – next to marrying my husband, of course. I wanted to stay home and take care of our son and my husband agreed. So we moved out of our apartment, my husband got offered another job, my sister and her family took us in, and I birthed my son in January of 2020.

Now that’s a whole new type of balance to learn: how to take care of a newborn. And where was my photography business in all of this? Under the pile of diapers, probably.

Going from working full-time to no work at all was something that I needed adjusting to. But it did give me time to think about myself, what I wanted to be, and where I wanted to take my business. When my son was 6 months old, I decided I was ready to go back into photography and fully invest in my business. The clients started pouring in and I was more than ready to start creating beautiful portraits for people. But then new feelings about this new balance in my life started pouring in as well; the mom guilt.

I was constantly thinking about my son back home being watched over, if he was still on the schedule I created for him, if he would be crying nonstop because I left, if he had enough food… if, if, and more if. But with reassurances from friends and family that I was a great mom, that my son was being taken care of, and that I needed to continue with my work, the mom guilt became easier to manage.

Having the ability to create my own schedule lets me balance spending time with my family and working with clients at my own pace. I get to create memories with my son, watch him grow, watch TV shows with my husband, go on a walk as a family, all while I can work from my phone/laptop and promote my business.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
After I had my son and transitioned out of my full time job, I felt the need to also transition what my photography business looked like. I had neglected it for so long that I felt it was only fair to give it a proper rebranding. And so I set out to do it myself. Using my limited knowledge of photoshop and graphic design, I wanted to design my new logo, color scheme, social media posts… the works. After all these years, I felt like I had finally found my editing style and my business look. I wanted to embrace my hispanic culture; the rich and vibrant colors, much like my editing style, and apply it to the look of my business.

I believe that’s what sets me apart from the others; that I like to embrace who I am. And I show it in my work and how I treat my clients. In my photographs, I love to bring out the vibrancy that sometimes a camera may hide. I love to show my client’s true personality, their bond as a family, and their authenticity. My goal every time is to make the awkward beginning phase of portrait-taking to fade away and let them be comfortable around me. Growing up in a Mexican household, you always had family over, your neighbors, friends, etc. You had to learn to be comfortable around others quickly and shake the shyness away. I don’t want to say I am an extrovert, but around clients I try to be as open, fun, and energetic as possible. I want to create a homely environment like I learned as a kid growing up.

I am proud of where I am professionally in my photography business. I wouldn’t say I am 100% there; I still have so much to learn. But keeping it as a side business all these years never pushed the ball forward compared to the stride I made in a few months. When I started in 2011, I didn’t even own a camera. My brother-in-law had to let me borrow his camera to take portraits. I didn’t even have a proper editing program! I used a color correcting website that allowed me to alter my photographs. When people started seeing my work, they started asking me if they could hire me, and I was dumbfounded. So I started charging for my sessions, and slowly I began saving up to buy my first camera ever. I was going to college too, so this wasn’t an easy thing to do because I had to prioritize my education as well. So I kept my small business on the side for years and years.

After graduating college in 2015, I got accepted to do an internship for a Christian non-profit organization as a photojournalist in England. I felt like my life was at a halt and this was a fresh start for me. Little did I know I was preparing myself for something that was brewing in the future. Four months passed by and I had to come back to Texas since my internship was over, and two months later I found myself working for a church that was in need of a photographer. It was the perfect job for that season in my life. I was still running my photography business on the side but I knew this job needed to teach me many more things. After a few months of working as a volunteer, I got hired full-time as a social media manager, graphic designer, and photographer/videographer. I worked there for four years and it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. Unknowingly, it helped me push the ball forward in my photography business. I got to know people whom later became clients; they saw something in me and my work that made them feel comfortable, like if we were family and we’ve known each other for years. And fast-forward to now. It warms my heart when old clients come back to ask me to photograph them, because I get to catch up with them, because it makes me feel like I am a part of their life and they believe in what I do.

Looking back at all the pivotal decisions I’ve taken for my life, small and large, I’m thankful I made them. One of my favorite photographers, Jeremy Cowart, once said (and I am paraphrasing) “it doesn’t matter how much expensive equipment you own, it’s how you work with what you got”. And that has stuck with me forever. I think about how with the little equipment that I owned starting out, it made people feel drawn to me and my work and it proves that quote to be true! It’s a wonderful feeling to have the trust from friends and family (and sometimes complete strangers) to create permanent memories from moments in their life. And I get the honor of calling it a job.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’d like to start out our activities on Monday by having a picnic at Eleanor Tinsley Park where we can get a nice view of the Houston skyline while enjoying some to-go food from Barnaby’s Cafe. We would walk around for a bit and explore the city and admire the artwork painted on the walls. Ending the evening at Tout Suite with some coffee and delicious pastries.

Tuesday we could enjoy some North Houston spots like Vintage Park and Tomball for delicious food, walk around modern and quaint stores to go antiquing, possibly find some treasures.

Wednesday we could drive around in The Woodlands and pass by Hughes Landing, relax by the water and take in the sun. Shop a little at the Woodlands Mall and stop by Barnes & Noble and pick up a book to read for the afternoon.

Thursday I’d stop by the museum district and head first to the Museum of Fine Arts since admission is free on Thursdays. Grab a bite to eat at Ramen Tatsu-Ya and go back to the Menil Collection and Rothko Chapel.

End the weekend strong by staying down at Galveston, book an Air BnB and walk by the beach. Enjoy the Galveston Pier, Kemah Boardwalk, maybe do a fun and spontaneous photoshoot of each other for a memorable trip!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My family has been my biggest support system since I started my small business.

My parents have always encouraged me to try my hardest at everything I put my mind to. I always tried my best to excel in school, with my grades, and with my talents. In Mexico, they both worked hard to get ahead, made sure there was always food on the table, a roof over our heads, and that we had the best education. I want to thank my dad for always working so hard to let us have the nice things he didn’t get to have when he was a kid. For always making sure I was being taken care of, that I didn’t need anything, that my car had gas and always offered me some of his late night snacks. I want to thank my mom for gifting me her creative side and her attention to detail that I now apply to my business when I take photographs. For fighting for me when I couldn’t defend myself. For always embracing all my awkward teenage phases, no matter how embarrassing. I am thankful for two parents who loved me and showed me what it means to work hard.

My sister, Delia, and her husband, Luis, have been true supporters since day 1. They took me into their home when I moved to Houston, TX, as I was just starting college. They were the ones that put a camera in my hands for the very first time and I was smitten with photography. I did my very first photoshoot with them as I photographed my sister with her first baby. Until this day, they still keep supporting and championing me and my family by taking us into their home again as we try to save up for a home and take care of my son while I go and do photoshoots with clients. I am forever grateful for their kindness and grace over us. And the mere fact that they believe in my work gives me such a boost of confidence that I’m going in the right direction. A “thank you” could never encompass everything they’ve done for me but I hope I can pay them back in such a way that will.

My dear husband, Ramiro has believed in me more than I have believed in myself and my work. He is my biggest encourager and cheerleader. When we first met, we bonded over him showing me how to handle a camera and editing programs. I knew he was “the one” right then and there. Who knew we were going to work at the same job, share an office, get married, live together, and somehow still not get annoyed of each other! He has gifted me the last two cameras I own, helped me build my website for my photography business, and taken care of our son so I can go out and work with clients. If that doesn’t say how much he loves and believes in me, then I don’t know what does. He is the most caring, smart, loving, hard-working, self-less, devoted (and did I say smart?) human I’ve ever known and he happens to be my husband and the father of my child. I’m so honored to be spending the rest of my days thanking him for all the love and support he shows me every day.

Website: https://brendalozanophoto.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brendalozanophoto/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brendalozanophoto

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutHTX is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.