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Rising Stars: Meet Tristan Schmoldt of Arcadia / Scottsdale

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tristan Schmoldt.

Hi Tristan, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
From July 2019 – March 2020, I was on a backpacking trip after saving up and quitting my corporate job. The intention was to travel for an entire year worldwide – starting in Lisbon, Portugal ending in Tokyo, Japan. Unfortunately, the journey was cut short by a few months due to COVID. However, during those 9 incredible months, I had the chance to be a guest in 25 different countries, creating some truly wonderful memories and meeting some of the most amazing people.

Along this journey, I began vlogging, creating videos for Youtube so friends & family could follow along the journey, share travel tips, showcase destinations, and pass along what I’d learned about certain cultures/countries since I was aware I was in a fortunate position to travel so extensively. I quickly fell in love with the process of filming and editing. I spent my free time learning more about it and how to create better videos. Keep in mind that all the video editing is on an iPad with no keyboard, mouse, or pen. Anyone who has edited a video knows what a nightmare that sounds like.

Fast forward to March 2020, we thought we had a few more months left to figure out what we wanted to do with our lives. Enter COVID: we abruptly canceled all our travel plans and headed home, getting the very last commercial flight out of Delhi, India, before the country closed its borders indefinitely. This trip was partially a ‘soul searching’ trip, trying to find out what I wanted to do with my life and where my passions lay. Leaving for the trip in July 2019, I vowed I never wanted to work in an office again. Now with COVID looming, no one was working in an office.

With the suggestion of my girlfriend and family, they thought I could use my new video editing skill and try to make some money as an editor. After some research and the purchase of entry-level camera equipment, I began my journey as a freelancer.

I spent roughly the first 6-10 months learning about photography/videography/editing in the morning, picking up any editing or photography project available, and driving for food delivery services in my free time. All while living at my mom’s place (big shoutout to her, I would never have been able to make this possible without her. Her support and willingness to let me turn her spare room into my bedroom/home office helped me tremendously when I started).

In the beginning, friends, acquaintances, and local businesses hired me and helped buffer my portfolio. Again so grateful for them and their trust.

Two and a half years later, I have grown my business into a full-time job working with companies like CBRE & Procter & Gamble and many more incredible clients/companies.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Photography is a challenging career to do full-time. Fortunately, my experience has been overall very positive. I have a great support system and many friends who have businesses and always need a photographer or videographer. Phoenix is also a fantastic market for someone seeking a creative career – specifically in photography.

However, getting started was tough. Everything I have learned thus far, I had to teach myself either online or just through trial and error. I spent countless hours reading online and watching youtube videos in the beginning. It’s tough learning a brand new skill or working by yourself. You don’t have someone to double-check your work or turn to when you have questions (besides Google, which became my best friend) so building up the confidence in my ability took a very long time. Until recently, I would feel very unsure of myself since I didn’t have another set of eyes to critique or make suggestions. This is a struggle I believe any creative experiences

I had to learn photo/video and everything else that goes along with being a solopreneur. Business bank accounts, invoicing, estimates/quoting, tracking expenses, insurance, contracts, the list goes on and on.

One of the most challenging situations is overdue invoices or clients that don’t pay on time. What happens when you don’t receive payment on time? No more consistent checks every two weeks and the safety net. No matter how far I am in the business 5, 10 years down the road, this will always be a challenge that a business owner must overcome.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?
I have had the opportunity to do a vast array of different projects. I typically do real estate photography and corporate work – training videos, headshots, etc. You name it, and I have probably done it once.

Going back to why I started in the first place, I was looking for a job I could combine with my passion for travel. My main goal currently is to position myself as a travel photographer. Travel is the #1 priority over anything I do. Autonomy over my schedule is something I don’t ever intend to give up so that I can leave for trips at a moment’s notice and take on projects flexibly.

Client-wise, I am extremely proud to call P&G a valued client; however, I am most proud of the photographs I’ve taken while traveling. Photography has connected me with people from all around the world. Those connections and experiences make me the happiest & fulfilled. I love sharing my portrait and landscape images with people who may never have the chance to travel to some of these places. I love showing how different cultures may be, but we are all the same at the end of the day. We all want to smile, laugh, and make the most out of our’s and our family’s lives.

So my passion for travel, flexible schedule, and willingness to go anywhere in the world may set me apart from other photographers.

What characteristic of yours would you give the most credit if you had to?
the overarching characteristic is professionalism. However some of my other core values are transparency, communication, and flexibility.

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