We had the good fortune of connecting with Ren Fuller and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ren, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
When I started pursuing photography, first as a hobby and then as a career, all I wanted to do was shoot. I was living in New York at the time and everything was inspiring – every moment was a still I wanted to capture. It was like my eyes couldn’t stop seeing in frames. I’m glad that I took every opportunity to shoot when I was first starting out, because I think that is the only way to develop your eye and your craft, as well as build up your portfolio. I strongly believe in Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule. That being said, I’m no longer in a place where all I do and all I want to do is shoot. I first began balancing shooting time and personal time merely because I wanted to be more present with the people I was spending time with. Whenever I traveled with my husband for example, I could tell that I wasn’t giving our experiences together my entire attention. I started by being intentional with when I would bring my camera along and when I would leave it behind. Taking it further, once I started making my entire living from photography and shooting and running my business full time, I realized I took less photos during my personal and down time. This bummed me out at first because I felt like something was wrong with me, that I was no longer being inspired by my surroundings. But the truth is, as much as I absolutely love shooting projects, and I feel so lucky to get so much joy from the work that I do – it’s work and it gets exhausting and draining. I now give myself permission to rest and recover in between shoots and not pressure myself to constantly be creating. Taking these breaks not only allows me to be present, but it gives time for my soul to find that spark again, whether it’s for a client project or a personal project.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a Food & Lifestyle and Adventure photographer. I’d like to think that my lighting and ability to capture natural and genuine moments sets me apart. I’m proud that most people can’t tell whether I’ve artificially lit something or used natural light. I really love lighting, especially when things can be bold and playful, but I always strive for things to look rooted in reality and not strobey. It was certainly not easy to get to where I am today, and I still have so far to go to where I want to be. I got here by working my butt off, learning as much as I can, and never settling for good enough. Also not letting fear and uncertainty (which there is a lot of) stand in the way. I went to school for Film & TV and worked in post production for a few years, so when I decided to switch to photography, I had no idea what the business of photography looked like. I dove in head first, opting to learn as I go instead of taking the assistant route. I said yes to everything. I learned to “fake it till you make it.” But the biggest realization for me was that it’s okay to make mistakes and that nothing can be perfect. These were really valuable things for me to come to terms with. It feels horrible to mess up or wish you had done something better or differently, but I am a firm believer in that you can not grow without making mistakes. As hard as the tough lessons are, they are part of the process. What I think is the biggest challenge though, aside from learning the technical craft of photography, is establishing and running your own business. Shooting on set and collaborating with a team is the most fun and very few things make me happier. But honestly, I think that it’s about 25% of the job. The rest is bidding on projects, getting clients, getting rejected by potential clients, editing, managing expectations, pre production, bookkeeping, continuing to shoot personal work, marketing, the list is really endless. Maybe someday I’ll have a studio team that deals with all that stuff, but until then, it’s a huge part of my day to day. I think the biggest way to overcome challenges, whatever they may be, is to just keep showing up. Keep shooting. Or keep getting to your desk to do the million little tasks on your to do list. When I feel my lowest, my main mantra is one foot in front of the other, day by day. Just keep putting in the work. I’m not sure that I have a “brand.” But I would like people to know that nothing comes easy – especially if it’s worthwhile – and you are not entitled to anything. Putting in hard work will pay off.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’m going to assume that traffic is not a factor here 🙂 I would go on an early morning hike either in Griffith Park or the Beaudry Loop in Glendale. Afterwards, we’d get breakfast at one of the hundreds of delicious eats in LA. I love the breakfast burritos at Tacos Villa Corona in Atwater Village. Maybe get a second breakfast across the street at Proof. Afterwards, I’d probably make some sandwiches and load up the car and drive out to Leo Carrillo Beach for the afternoon and sunset. It’s a dog friendly beach and where I spend a good chunk of my summer. We’d hang there until sunset, then head back to the east side, grab a pizza to go at Triple Beam, and eat and drink wine in my yard (because COVID). Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Oh my gosh, there are literally too many people that contributed to my being here. My biggest supporter and encourager has always been my husband. He is constantly challenging me to do better, step outside my comfort zone, and to not follow trends. He’s always there to encourage me when I’ve lost faith in myself. I feel very lucky to have him by my side in my never ending quest to keep growing within this career. There are also a few people that are always at the front of mind when I think who I am grateful to have learned from. Photographers Gentl & Hyers who I feel very lucky to have gotten to know and who are so generous with their knowledge and encouragement. I not only admire their photography but their ability to produce images that are so uniquely them. Also my good friend, Photographer Arion Doerr, who is also a tech and lighting wizard and who I learned a lot from. It’s fun to have someone to nerd out with. And another good friend, Photographer Jennifer Chong who I basically talk to every day about everything and anything photo business related.
Portrait of Ren Fuller by Arion Doerr. All other photos by Ren Fuller.