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Inside The Life Of An Adventure Photographer

Autumn Schrock (@autpops) is a landscape and travel photographer, designer and yogi – and an active member of the Alpha Female community and Alpha Female Facebook group. She’s also a member of the Alpha Collective, and the epic scenes she captures puts her up there with some of the best outdoor photographers around. Simply put...Autumn’s a total pro who we can learn a lot from, so we connected with her to learn more about how she got her start, how she made the leap into freelancing full-time, and her experience as a female in the industry.

Inside The Life Of Alpha Female Autumn Schrock – see how she made the leap into freelancing full-time & why the Alpha Female community is important to her.

How She Got Her Start

“I was actually influenced at a very young age by Spiderman, believe it or not,” explains Schrock. “If you’re not super familiar, his first big job was as a photographer. I think I was in the sixth grade and it was the first time I had really seen photography as a profession. I knew you could do it for fun but this was my first taste of it as a way to make a living. I went on to pursue my bachelor’s degree in photography, and at first I was very interested in extreme weather photography and I thought that’s what I wanted to do. I quickly discovered there wasn’t really a huge market for that.”

When she was in college and realized extreme weather photography wasn’t the best route to go to make a living, she started trying out all different kinds of photography. She shot weddings, events, architecture, products – to help pay for school and also to expand her horizons and see if anything seemed like a good fit for a career. While they helped her get by in college, none of those really did it for her – the passion wasn’t quite there. 

“I graduated college and was like, 'OK what do I do?' I got a job photographing and retouching high-end jewelry and watches for Amazon in Kentucky. This wasn’t exactly what I had dreams of doing either, but I learned a ton from the more experienced photographers there and the pay was good for being right out of college. There were photographers from Seattle who came to train us and I heard so much about their city that I wanted to check it out. I visited several times and 10 months after starting at Amazon, I transferred to Seattle. Unfortunately almost immediately after I moved there, the work with Amazon had dried up and I needed to find something new.”

Making The Leap To Freelancing

Schrock started as photo editor and then transferred into graphic design with Zulily, where five years later she became senior designer. She began to miss her camera and decided to start hiking and backpacking around Washington. Through these adventures she realized that maybe it wasn’t just severe weather that she was drawn to from the beginning, but just nature in general.

“I quickly fell in love with shooting Washington and the mountains and landscapes. It led me to quit my office job to pursue freelancing both photography and design together, and that’s where I am now.”

Schrock’s decision to leave her job and move into freelancing full-time was not an easy one. There are plenty of insecurities that come with taking such a leap.

“It’s terrifying, honestly. Since I was working in design I had a pretty solid network of designers I had worked with, so I was able to land some design work before I even left my job. That helped hold me over as I built up the photography side of my freelance work. It made the transition much easier that I had a little bit of income. My story is also unique and I’m very lucky in that my partner, Nate Luebbe (@nateinthewild), is also a photographer. Most people don’t have help like this, but he was able to guide me on what things worked for him and that gave me a nice jump start on things like how to write emails and how to pitch effectively. I did a ton of Googling and watching YouTube videos to learn business tactics.”

“It’s been challenging because the travel photography space is pretty saturated. Who doesn’t want to travel the world taking photos and getting paid for it? I’ve had to learn how to stand out and how to present my work in a way that makes people want to work with me. I think my background in design has helped a lot with that because my materials are professional. When you present yourself and your work well and professionally, it’s more likely that people are going to want to work with you.”

On Life As A Sony Alpha Female 

Photography, and especially outdoor photography, has always had the reputation of being a male-dominated industry. Schrock shares her experience being a female in the field.

“The fact that I’m young and that I’m female has definitely impacted how I operate. The main challenge I find in the field is that I’m a woman and people don’t necessarily think that I’m capable. When I tell people that I’m an outdoor photographer, I feel like they’re surprised because they view it as a ‘man’ thing to do. Sometimes people just don’t seem to want to take me seriously or believe that I can deliver the same quality of work as my male counterparts.”

“It’s something that used to really bother me. Nate and I will be outside shooting together and we’ll run into other photographers in the field. Most of them will immediately talk to Nate and don’t really engage with me at all. I’ve just realized that I have to focus on doing what I do and not let those things bother me. Things have changed a lot since I first got started and I feel more empowered to be a female photographer now than I ever have, but there are definitely still challenges.”

Despite those challenges, Schrock can’t see herself doing anything else. And she wants you to know that if it’s your passion, you shouldn’t let anything or anyone get in your way.

“This has been an incredibly rewarding career for me,” explains Schrock, “but it can also be a very difficult career path. You have to go all-in and it can be very difficult to separate work life from personal life. But if it’s really, truly what you want to do, don’t let ANYONE tell you that you can’t do it. Don’t let anyone stand in your way. So many of the most successful creators I’ve seen are females. They’re out there and they’re killing it, and it should be an inspiration to us. There have been plenty of times where I’ve been knocked down and it’s hard to not fall into a mindset of thinking ‘I’m not good enough.’ When those doubts arise, I remind myself of just how far I’ve come and how hard I’ve worked. I have something to contribute to the creative community. If you have a passion for something, don’t let others' doubts become your own.” 

She credits the Alpha Female community as an excellent support system for female creators. When she needs advice or even just uplifting words, she says this community is an excellent place to turn because we can typically all relate.

“The Alpha Female community has been so incredible, especially now with the industry still being so heavily male-driven. We need a strong support system and I’m so happy that the Alpha Female Facebook group exists. It’s a community that you know will lift you up if you’re feeling low. It’s a place where you can post your work and ask questions. And the best part is 100% of the time your post will be met with helpful responses, which isn’t always the case with online communities. I’m really thankful to be a part of it and encourage you to join. There’s something there for everyone and I’ve learned so much.”


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