You know how some people make things look so easy? Dancing? Painting? Snowboarding? Playing the piano? Cheryl Muhr is the model for this in the world of photography. Her work is so incredibly stunning, modern and simple in all the right ways that it leaves you thinking “I can do that!” Then you try to do it and realize that there’s a whole lot of talent swirling around this woman. She creates the type of art that leaves you feeling light and fresh and grateful. She has that “X” factor.
So, of course sorting through the names of the people who have inspired me in so many ways in my photography endeavors, Cheryl quickly came to mind. And, yet again, I was floored with a quick, super-kind email saying “yes!” So, without further upheaval, meet Cheryl …
Hi Cheryl … Thank you so very much for your kind response and your enthusiastic willingness to chat with me! It’s people like you that encourage me to be a more kind and giving person.
Tell us a little bit about who Cheryl Muhr is …
I am a mother, a wife, a chiropractor, an ice cream lover, a people watcher, a forgiver, a sunbather, a homebirther, a teacher, an attachment parent. And I am a photographer.
Where do you reside?
I currently live in downtown Austin, TX.
And, right now … where are you? What’s around (for all of us visual people)?
I am on my tummy on my bed…the duvet cover is white and orange, which is the only bit of color in the room. The rest is white….the walls, the ceiling, the pillows, the linen drapes which dust the floor. Oh how I love it when the drapes dust the floor. The sunlight is softly dancing off my baby’s face as she sleeps right ← there. I am particularly fond of the highlights in her hair, made fiercely bright by the summer sun. Her lips are squished and now that I examine her, it appears as if she is dreaming of nursing.
Did you always love photography or was it something that grew on you later in life?
I can remember my mom guarding her photos of my sister and I as children with a passion that I could never understand until I had my own baby. It wasn’t until I became a mother myself and then suffered unimaginable loss that I could ever estimate how important photography would ever be to me. Now I recognize that too many times in life, our memories fade, and photos are all that remain of some of the greatest and most defining moments of our lives.
When you first started what scared you the most?
Oh dear. I remember it like it was yesterday. The thing that scared me the most was that someone would find out that I really was just a mom with a camera.
How did you overcome it?
I just did it scared. Sometimes in life, I have learned that there is no way around fear. You just do things afraid.
How did you learn and get so insanely good at all the boring, but so important technical stuff?
I forced myself to shoot on manual from the day that I got my first real camera. That taught me very quickly how all of the factors work together to produce a respectable image straight out of the box. I read incessantly. I asked questions. I studied the work of others who I loved to analyze what and why I loved their images. Oh, and I pushed down my flash. HA!
And, your editing … it’s so dreamy. How did you learn all the complexities of Photoshop?
When I was just starting out I would play in Photoshop for hours on one image, trying different things and seeing how all of the different steps worked together to improve the look of my images. I frequented online forums dedicated to editing and devoured any tutorials I could find on the subject. I pushed things too far and then reeled it back in. I overprocessed, underprocessed and then found balance. Now, I find Photoshop to be an amazing tool that I could not be a photographer without.
I am new to the business and new to the city I now live in … if we were sitting over coffee what would you say to me?
I would tell you what a wonderful thing this is….starting over. It means you can let go of all of the things that you did before that did not bring you joy and did not work for you and now you can reinvent yourself and begin your business anew. I would tell you that above all else, please never never EVER underestimate the value of what you do. And call me if you ever forget how important it is. And thank you for it.
How did you become such a well-known name amongst children’s photography?
Oh gosh, I would hardly say that I am well known. I think that because the workshop that I teach became sort of an overnight sensation (at the time, it was one of the first workshops for people just starting out in the business) that it seems like I’m more well known than I am.
Have you always only photographed children and families?
I started out shooting for the children’s division of a modeling agency, but I have since transitioned out of that. I now I am shooting commercially and maternity/newborn/child/family portraiture. I do shoot seniors occasionally and adults from time-to-time. I’ve even been known to shoot a wedding once in a blue moon.
How many shoots do you average a year?
I average1-2 sessions per week.
What is your go-to lens?
My two favorite lenses are the 24-70 f/2.8 and the 85mm f/1.4
What inspires you?
I am inspired by my own children, who find joy in the simplest of things. I am inspired by magazines and advertisements and the photographers in my google reader.
If you could shoot a family session with another photographer by your side who would that be?
Tara Whitney. Amy Smith. Patti Schmidt. Laura Siebert. Granted I know and love and am friends with all of them, which reminds me how lucky I am to keep the company of those I admire so much.
When you enter the home of a family you are shooting what do you do before the session “officially” begins?
Honestly, I usually play with the kids while mom finishes getting ready. Then I usually ogle their beauty for a while, chit chat, find the light, and then go!
How do you get kids to look so natural and relaxed?
I never TRY to get kids to look natural and relaxed, which probably plays a huge part. We run, play, laugh. During sessions, I am really just the idiot that I am….talk incessantly…do dumb things…act a fool….and it’s easy.
What is your favorite and least favorite thing about running your own business?
My favorite thing is the freedom I have to work when I wish. I do most of my work when my children are asleep and that allows me to truly live a dream, one in which I am my children’s mother full time, but I also run a lucrative business. My least favorite thing is the struggle to constantly maintain balance in my life.
Have you ever had a “that did not just happen!” moment involving a session? If so, what happened and how did you handle it?
I have had homeless people pop out from behind walls. I have had random people on the street try to pose with my clients. I have dropped my camera and broken a lens. I have fallen down. I just laugh it off and move on. Hakuna matata, I say.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently during your photography career?
Everything that has happened up until this point has led me to today, and today is a beautiful, beautiful thing. So I never wish for things to be different than are because then today would be different. I have learned and grown and cried and it’s all been part of the wonderful story of my life and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am indebted!
To see more of Cheryl’s fabulous work visit one of her fabulous sites: