Setting personal boundaries in business, especially as an entrepreneur, can be the crucial difference between burning out and finding success.

Samantha Stuart says she has been running her businesses out her Kam Lake office since last year, after previously working downtown and out of her home before that. She said finding an appropriate venue for her office has been a challenge, citing the high cost of rent in Yellowknife.
Brett McGarry/NNSL photo

Samantha Stuart of Samantha Stuart Photography said it took years of working for herself to find what works and what does not.

With a one-year-old daughter, Stuart decided she was going to open a day home for young children, while pursuing photography as a hobby. After many workshops and sessions in Yellowknife, Stuart honed in on one particular area of interest before pursuing it as a business, part time at first, in 2013.

“I was doing a lot of online working and workshops with Dave Brosha and through that learned that I really don’t like taking landscape photos and really was more interested in people and their stories and how they wanted to be captured,” said Stuart.

After two years of trying to juggle running a day home and taking on a few clients for photography, Stuart decided to turn to photography full time in 2015.

Since then, Stuart said she has been taking on most jobs involving photography but her real bread and butter is portraits, family sessions and infant photography.

But even in her first few years of business, she still had troubles setting boundaries between work and personal life.

“In the last year I’ve been focusing in on setting boundaries in business,” said Stuart. “Working weekdays and leaving my weeknights and weekends free for my family and three kids.”

“Before, I was working all the time. My office was at home, so I would not really put work away when I was at home. It was quite stressful.”

In recent months, Stuart has decided to take on teaching and more real estate photography.

“In a bigger city, photographers would focus on a niche due to the needs of the market,” said Stuart. “But I like to cover the bases. It comes in ebbs and flows. In spring it’s busy for real estate photography, for example.”

In addition to the teaching she has done for adults through the City of Yellowknife, this year Stuart will be launching a new photography day camp for youth.

“They say make hay when the sun shines,” said Stuart. “So I’m going to move more of my focus into teaching this summer, so there will be five weeks of photo camps in Kam Lake.”

For this she will be hiring a summer student to help with the camp and has gained access to equipment through Western Arctic Moving Pictures to take the children on nature photo-walks while connecting with local groups and businesses, such as Arctic Farmer and the Yellowknife Guild of Arts and Crafts.

“We’ll be exploring different kinds of photography, teaching the kids the fundamentals of using the camera and always keeping how to take a good shot in mind,” said Stuart.

She said these are important opportunities for her to learn herself.

“A lot of people have different perspectives when they look through a camera of have different ideas so it’s neat to teach a few basics and see them grow through that.”

“It also means less editing for me,” she said with a laugh. “The less time I spend behind my computer would be great in the summer.”

According to Stuart, it’s not so much the editing process that is hindering, but sorting through the abundance of photos that come from any given shoot.

“With the digital age, you do take a lot of photos, and less than 10 per cent are being printed, if any at all,” said Stuart.

“Culling through the photos, especially in family sessions when there are so many expressions and angles, to cull it down to a manageable collection for the client takes a lot of work.”

Stuart said she works very closely with her clients with the goal of producing work that will be printed and put on the customers’ walls.

“I usually do the print package. It always comes with four by six print proofs,” said Stuart. “That way they can actually see what it looks like printed. It’s an important focus for my business.”

Stuart said she will continue to take on work from real estate, plus infancy and wedding photos, but is looking forward to maintaining a steady work-life balance as she prepares for a summer of teaching.

Brett McGarry

Brett McGarry came to Yellowknife in early 2019 after graduating from Humber College with an advanced diploma in journalism. After covering city council and local business as a reporter, Brett is now an...

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