Freshman Maddie Shosten was on a photo shoot with a high school senior in Georgia, searching for a bamboo forest she had seen on TikTok. While exploring, she realized she had walked six miles too many. Although she got lost finding the bamboo forest, she loved the spontaneous feeling from the adventure.
Shosten enjoys going on road trips and traveling with her friends and, along the way, capturing moments through her camera lens. Her adventures have led her to discover new places and connect with people who share her same passion for photography and videography.
“My favorite thing is going to cool places with amazing people and meeting new people. I think with film, I was able to connect with a lot of like-minded people,” Shosten said.
Shosten, who immigrated to the United States from China at a young age, grew up in multicultural and socioeconomically diverse households where she met people from various upbringings. These experiences molded her worldview and sparked her passion for telling stories.
Shosten’s first experience with storytelling was in fourth grade when she started to make home movies with her neighbors using her mom’s old iPhone 3. Filming these movies brought Shosten into a different reality where she could let her creative mind flow free. In seventh grade, she received her own digital Nikon camera and began to experiment with different styles of photography before eventually crafting her own.
Having never taken a videography or photography class, Shosten has still been able to make her creative visions a reality, including her production company Mei Productions. She has done so by studying YouTube tutorials and working with creatives she has met through social media.
Prior to starting Mei Productions, Shosten moved to Atlanta, where she wanted to pursue videography and become involved in the film industry there. While in high school, she began to take photos of and to film her friends, which helped her to grow her network. She started freelancing and has worked with different organizations and individuals to help bring their stories to life.
Mei Productions specializes in senior and family portraits, along with promotional videos for personal and business use. With each product, clients can choose between three different packages — Silver, Gold, or Platinum — which vary in the quantity of photos or videos that the client will receive.
Before each session, Shosten has a consultation with her client to understand their vision. She presents them an idea board, coordinates the location and time of shooting and gives recommendations on complementary colors to wear.
Shosten gets much of her inspiration for shoots from podcasts she listens to in the mornings. Hearing podcasts helps Shosten to start her day right and energize her creative side.
“I get a lot of my inspiration through podcasts. I get inspiration through feelings and emotions, not necessarily through visuals,” Shosten said. “And that is sort of what I try to capture with what I make as well.”
After shoots are done, Shosten previews all her shots and starts her editing process. For photos, she uses software like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom to make adjustments and add her own presets. With video clips, she experiments with merging certain footage together and looking at which songs are best for background music.
When Shosten is editing, she is able to let her artistic side come out as she sits in front of her computer testing out different processes for assembling footage or adjusting photos. Editing helps bring all of her ideas together as she focuses on her mission of storytelling through the lens.
“Photography and videography are very therapeutic, so I just sort of let it all go. I can spend hours in front of the computer editing because I feel like it. It just makes me happy,” Shosten said. “It’s really fun to see it in the flow state, to be hyperfocused on something, and to look back afterwards and be like ‘Oh wow, I did that and it looks pretty cool.’”
In addition to her production company, Shosten hopes one day in her career to start a mentor program for other creatives. She said the program would be like a “Tinder for filmmakers,” where a user’s profile will show their portfolio and allow people to match with others based on their location.
Shosten wants the mentor program to help filmmakers connect easily and improve their skills, just as she has had the opportunity to do with other photographers and videographers. While filming a music video, she let one of her friends assist her in shooting a couple of B-roll scenes. Although her friend was not a part of the editing process afterward, she was able to mentor them.
Throughout Shosten’s journey with her camera, trial and error has shown her which areas she can continuously learn and become better at. She hopes to take what she learns at Elon as a communications fellow and apply it back to her production company.
Reflecting her progression over the years, Shosten said she would tell her younger self to not second guess herself.
“Like everyone, we tend to put these barriers in front of our goals,” Shosten said. “So if we just do what we think is best and do it like we are passionate about it to begin with, it makes life so much more easier.”