We had the good fortune of connecting with Maggie Cheatham and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Maggie, is there a quote or affirmation that’s meaningful to you?
My guiding philosophy in my work and personal life, which is often one in the same, is “It’s chaos, be kind.” I even have it tattooed on the back of my arm. It is my reminder to remain sympathetic and empathetic in everything I do with anyone I cross paths with throughout my pursuit to provide a creative relationship with people. It also serves as a reminder to me that providing my services as a creative professional is the bare minimum of what I can do for someone. I am a service provider to clients, but I am a person that enjoys connecting with other people first. From the moment I accept a client request to work together, it is very important to me to initiate the project with the compassion and empathy. If I put forth the effort to find something in my client and their request that I can appreciate, I give myself the opportunity to invest further into the gratifying experience I have been trusted to create. I’ve also found through this practice that it leads to a more open line of communication about the client’s wishes for the photo shoot experience and results that they trust me to provide, and in return, I am better able to perform well for others. Now, as primarily a wedding photographer, “it’s chaos, be kind” is my mantra to keeping a calm mind and a confident demeanor in the midst of the most chaotic wedding days. What I love most about this saying is that it doesn’t identify whose chaos is being acknowledge, yet kindness is what’s prescribed. This idea has opened up my mind to considering the time and energy that is wasted when I search for the source of the problem instead of the solution to the problem.
What should our readers know about your business?
One year ago I chose a side and jumped off a tight rope I’d been straddling since 2012: I picked the side that held the version of myself that would to be a full-time creative. The other side was the old, familiar version of me that always put my creative career at the end of the list of things that I was putting effort towards. With the overwhelming and beautiful support of friends, family, and the greatest clients, I am able to lead a life where my work doesn’t feel like a job. I living my dream in reality by owning and operating my photography business, Red Shot Photography.
Traversing the path to personal fulfillment was harder in different ways that I didn’t expect when I initially thought about going full-time for myself. For the past 2 years, I’ve gained and navigated through the struggles of panic disorder and chronic anxiety, and I felt foreign to myself so much that I lost confidence in my skills and talents. What if I had a panic attack while out on a photoshoot? What if I make my clients uncomfortable when they notice I’m shaking from nervousness? What if I get so bad I have to cancel on someone? Worst of all, what if people end up not trusting me anymore?… All of that worrying for nothing, because everyone I’ve crossed paths with have been so kind and compassionate. When I couldn’t trust myself, I was given hands to help me up and shoulders to lean on. Because of the people around me who support me in so many different ways, I was able to jump off the tight rope and land firmly with confidence. The coolest part is that so many cool people were waiting there the whole time with open arms, ready to collaborate on beautiful photos and awesome designs. I can’t say enough about how thankful, grateful, I am indebted to those who have gotten me to this point. I’m living in the best era of my life so far because of the kind clients I work with, a better relationship with my mental health, and an all-consuming excitement to create great work.
If there is one thing I will never change about how I operate my business and provide services to others, it is this: Red Shot Photography is an inclusive photography business. This means regardless of your abilities, disabilities, sexuality, socio-economic background, ethnicities, races, gender identity, or health care needs, I will happily and respectfully serve you as your photographer should you choose to hire me.
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.
I’m currently based out of Plano and some of my favorite outdoor spots can be found around the area. Any other photographer would roll their eyes at me reading this, but Arbor Hills Nature Preserve is gorgeous around September/October because the greenery growing there changes to bold reds, yellows, and oranges. It’s the perfect place for a fall photo shoot, and golden hour is amazing from the top of the hills by the parking lot. My other spot around DFW that I love to take clients to is Adriatica Village in McKinney, especially if they want a European look to their albums. It has the perfect intersection where the waters of the harbor meets rolling green hills and stone buildings that were inspired by a small Croatian village. Definitely provides an easily accessible departure from the go-to Texas vibes. A wonderful part of living and working out of Plano is the cultural diversity in the city, which directly influences the variety of delicious places to dine. My go-to spot is Thai Jasmine off of Spring Creek when I want something that will give me that good “comfort food” feeling after eating my meal. The owners are also the sweetest people in all of Plano. I highly recommend the Panang curry (medium level spice) with tofu. Beyond the borders of this big state, I adore shooting in the beautiful, nature-filled areas of Northwest Arkansas. I’ve spent a lot of time in Bentonville and Eureka Springs. One of the best outdoor experiences I had was canoeing the Kings River through the company Kings River Outfitters. The rental was so inexpensive, and they escorted you down to the river’s edge from their shop at the top of the tree line. They even accommodated us with a puppy life jacket for our Amstaff Terrior, Lou! While this next location is more central to the state, the most stunning wedding venue I’ve ever had the fortune to shoot at is Moss Mountain Farm in Roland, AR. It is owned by P. Allen Smith, one of the world’s most talented garden designers which is apparent as soon as you step foot on the property.
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?
I started taking photos and getting paid for it when I was 15 years old. I didn’t know much at the time, but I quickly caught on to the fact that I would not be able to do what I loved without the support of others. The “support” that has given me the foundation to build my current standing on came from my parents first. I was a really independent kid with many interests and essentially no fear of trying new things. I am extremely fortunate that I have parents that nourished these characteristics of my personality by providing me the tools to exercise my curiosities. When I was a freshmen in high school, I was forced to quit sports because of an injury which left me searching for something new to do with my time and energy. I wanted to do something that still gave me the opportunity to hang out with friends. This desire led me to asking my parents if they could help me get a DSLR camera so that I could have photoshoots with my friends. From that moment forward, they have supported what turned into my career in every way they could.
Another person I can’t thank enough is Randi Slusher of Randi Michelle Photo + Cinema. When I graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio and moved to Fort Worth, Texas, I had shot pretty much every style or type of photography except for weddings. I was extremely hesitant to try shooting a wedding because I couldn’t get past the thought that if I tried and failed, it wasn’t a photo shoot that I could redo for the client and I would have ruined a part of many people’s precious day. Then, as if the photo godmother herself heard my fears and reservations, Randi messaged me on Instagram asking if I was interested in learning how to shoot weddings. Since that day, she has taken me under her wing and given me the teachings and support that made me feel confident enough to try flying solo as a wedding photographer. Now, weddings are the bulk of my photo jobs and provided the financial security I needed to make photography my full-time job 1 year ago. All because a kind woman made the decision to give her time, energy, and expertise to someone she had only seen on social media. She really is my photo godmother, she made my wishes to break into the wedding photography industry come true.
Lastly, I have to shoutout my partner of 10 years: Michael. We started dating when we were in high school and he’s been by my side in every way ever since then. He has unconditionally supported me in my pursuits of becoming a photographer since we were small town kids with dreams of doing more in bigger places. When I couldn’t drive yet and needed a way to get to photo shoots, he would drive me wherever I needed to go. Later in college, when I needed a subject for my photo projects, he was down for whatever off-the-wall ideas I wanted to try creatively (like wrapping his entire body in tin foil) and modeled for me. When the pandemic hit the US, I was laid off from my main job and I took it as a sign that I should do what I wanted to do: be a creative full time and work for myself. It is no secret that photography equipment and all of the tools necessary for editing and storing photos is expensive. I had an old DSLR and a kit lens at the time that I decided I wanted to start my small business- not a great starting point into my new career. As soon as I shared my thoughts with Michael about being a full-time photographer, he immediately offered any assistance to get me closer to my longtime dream. I understand that to many, a partner’s support isn’t anything special because support is the most basic of things a couple can offer each other in a relationship, but I think it is all too taken for granted. Michael has never given me the experience of what it would feel like to have him not support my personal and professional goals. That is so incredibly meaningful. He has unconditionally offered up everything he’s had consistently for over 10 years and has never asked for anything in return. I cherish that kindness he has shown me and continues to show me beyond what words can describe. He is my day-to-day foundation that gives me to sturdiness to build the ever-evolving versions of myself at the beginning of each day.
Other: Google Business: Red Shot Photography, Plano TX