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

Hi Shay, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
Photography has been a constant factor for me throughout many life changes. Within the past 2 years, I have changed careers, graduated with my Masters, and have since begun teaching in a middle school full time. While there is a lot of work that goes into owning a photography business, it has more so been a way for me to unwind, recenter, and refocus myself regardless of how stressful life has been. I love how photography gives me the opportunity to connect with nature and other people- usually in some of the most joyous moments of their life! Initially, I really struggled with “trying to do it all”, especially while in my Graduate Program. I felt that if I wasn’t booking a session for every free day that I had (while also working and going to school) I wasn’t being a successful business owner. It took some time for me to realize that one of the wonderful aspects of owning a photography business was its flexibility. To me, success more so looked like the joy that came from both myself and my clients after carefully planning and executing fewer, higher quality sessions while still teaching full time as opposed to cramming in as many, often rushed, sessions as possible. I feel that the beauty of photography is that it looks a little different for every business owner- and that’s okay! It’s all about identifying your core values as well as what methods and schedules work and don’t work for you. I’ve also come to realize that it is absolutely okay to have more than one passion! There are so many wonderous professions and hobbies in this world to try, and no one says that you ever have to stick to just one of them.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I truly believe that the United States has some of the most beautiful landscapes and scenery that one could ask for, and I am beyond thankful that I get the opportunity to capture them! However, what I love most is showing people that there is beauty to be found practically everywhere- even in their own backyards. My primary focus (when photographing landscapes or people) is to try to capture the feeling at that moment. I think that developing my own style was one of the most difficult aspects of creating my brand. There are thousands of different ways that you can go about editing pictures and styling sessions- it can be overwhelming deciding what accurately reflects you as an artist. I knew that I wanted my photos to realistically reflect the subject being captured while also portraying the magic of the moment. It took several years for me to refine my editing in style in regards to coloration and light as well as to define the type of photography that I most enjoyed taking. I feel that I still have work to do in regards to making my style more cohesive. Photography- and life in general- is all about a balance of light and dark; and it’s always changing. What I want most for people to think of when they interact with me or my brand is “authenticity”. My work, much like myself, is far from perfect- as is life. But a moment or scene doesn’t have to be perfect to be worth capturing. Though I adore making my clients feel fantastic during our sessions, people don’t have to be perfectly styled or posed to worthy of being photographed. Life, in all of it’s imperfections, is truly amazing- and thats what I love capturing most. I truly hope that people can experience that through my work.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Honestly, Arkansas has so much beauty to behold that it would be difficult to capture all in a week, but hitting its highlights would most certainly make for an unforgettable road trip! I would suggest kicking off your trip in North-Central Arkansas at Blanchard Springs Caverns in the Ozark-St, Francis National forest. The beautiful little gem near Mountain View offers cave tours as well as walking and hiking trails to a stunning spring and lush forested regions. Following the spring will take you to a trout pond and man-made falls where you can see the remnants of an old mill that used to be powered by the water. Heading into Mountain View you can spend a day at Ozark Folk Center State Park. This State Park features a craft village with roughly 2 dozen artisans, music shows, and Loco Ropes- a treetop adventure park! Once you’ve had your fill of North Central Arkansas you can take the scenic drive down to Little Rock and take on the newly opened Rattlesnake Ridge Natural Area. Whether you prefer to bike or hike, this natural area is the place for you. With stunning views of Pinnacle Mountain and the surrounding area, you’ll want to come back again and again. After your outdoor adventure, you can head to Little Rock’s River Market for a casual stroll through their parks, fine dining, a farmers market, and live music. Heading west into Arkansas’ River Valley will offer you a multitude of ways to wrap up your week-long adventure. If you want to see a little bit of everything, Petit Jean State Park is sure to please. With its stunning views, beautiful falls, and multitude of trails and unique geological features it is truly a crown jewel among Arkansas’ State Parks. Following I-40 towards Fort Smith will place you directly between the Ozark National forest to the North, and the Ouachita National forest to the South. Each one offers numerous stunning drives, views, and hikes. My personal favorites in regards to short hikes with stunning views are Flatside Pinnacle in the Ouachitas and Sam’s Throne in the Ozarks. If you decide to swing into the Ouachita’s, make sure you take the Talimena Scenic Byway on the way out. If you decide to check out the Ozarks, check out the Arkansas Pig Trail!

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?
It would be silly to say that I got to where I am (where ever that may be) without the help of others. If I have one suggestion for other aspiring or already established photographers, it would be to connect with other artisans in your area! I have learned so much information from other local photographers and videographers, even those who specialize in different areas than I do. Some of my biggest moments of growth have come from getting out of my comfort zone and attending styled sessions or local meetups! Though much of what I have learned has come from research and practice, I wouldn’t be nearly the photographer or business owner I am without the support of an entire community of artists who have offered a helping hand along the way!

Website: https://westphotography.squarespace.com/
Instagram: @n_e_s_west
Facebook: West Photography

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.