We had the good fortune of connecting with Neslihan Ostrowski and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Neslihan, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Work and life balance is not easy and it is not always even. Sometimes you set aside more time for work, sometimes you set aside more time for family and when the time comes you have to set boundaries and have balance in your life. When I first started in photography in the early 2000s, I was still a student and I worked all the time to get work. This meant I was working on projects that are not related to my current focus of product photography. I worked on artistic projects, model portfolios, fashion photography, baby photography, and lifestyle photography. You name it I probably did it.
My mindset was always how I can get more work, and I did everything in my power to keep looking for work online. I created profiles everywhere online and made sure potential customers could find me if they needed a photographer. This is a lot easier nowadays than it was 18 years ago, the tools that help photographers now were not available. Social media was in its infancy and the only way to build the business was to spend a lot of time advertising my business on websites. Of course, at that time I was totally broke and work-life balance wasn’t even a question in my mind. Constantly thinking about and looking for work became a habit for me.
When I finished school, the reality of finding a paying job was always on my mind, I needed money to be able to pay my rent, bills, and student loans. I had to try harder as an artist than most of my friends, who were not, so I put a lot more effort and time into my work. So to summarize things, my work took over my life completely for a few years of my life while I was building my business and learning important skills.
Then in my late twenties, when I had my first kid I knew that I had to spend more time on my life than work. This is not true for men as for women. I don’t want to say I sacrificed my work because I know that my family is more important than anything else. But I had to put a pause on work so I could raise my kids and be there for them when they needed it most. I build my studio in my garage and my work schedule had to be based on whenever I could find free time. So nights, weekends didn’t matter. When my kids were sleeping, I worked. It was exhausting and I didn’t have many jobs but I kept my knowledge and skills up to date. I kept working on my skills while accepting not so well paid jobs. And after 4 kids and almost 8 years away from the business -but-not-so-away-, I came back stronger than ever.
Now all my kids are school age and I have to set boundaries for my schedule so my work doesn’t affect my family life. I have more work than I could ever imagine and I love what I do. But this means I am focused on my work way more than anything else so I had to say no more work in the evening and weekends. I still have my studio in my garage because I still want to be involved in my kids’ lives.
Whenever my kids are off school I put my kids first and work second. This also means taking them to park at 4 pm on some days or taking the whole afternoon off occasionally.
Of course, this was very difficult during covid when they were all at home and needed help with their school work. It was very stressful because photography demand was high for companies that wanted to go exclusively online, so my workload was much bigger. So the stress of our daily lives multiplied itself from every angle. Trying to answer a work text while your daughter is showing you her drawing or answering a work phone call while cooking dinner. Yelling at kids to be quiet and getting mad because you just burned dinner while on the phone. All the stress the work brings to our daily lives is immeasurable and it makes us emotionally and physically sick. It is something I work on every day to separate my work and my family life. I put my best efforts into not answering texts, phone calls, and emails when I am off work or during engaging with my kids. There is nothing wrong with not replying to emails and text immediately letting the phone go to voicemail. Boundaries are even more important when there is more work because work never ends. There is always more waiting for you and life just passes by while you are busy trying to finish the project you are working on.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As most artist, I am very passionate about my work. I spend a lot of time on each project I receive. First, I make sure to check out their competition to see their photos then I go in and do a variety of photos for the client to review. Once they select their favorites or give me their input. I retouch the photos or go back to do more photos. I aim for magazine quality photos every time I have a project, it could be just USB cables I am photographing or expensive jewelry. I put the same amount of effort into every project.
I know most people think they can just place a product in a lightbox and snap a photo with their phone and call the day but in today’s market, without having great photos you are not competing.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Definetly balboa park, I love all the museums and nature. You can have a picnic and go explore.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would love to thank my parents for making me believe I could achieve anything and have the life I want.
Also – shout out to Billy from https://bestudios.me/.