Shelby Tsika – Houston Food Photographer

Shelby of Shelby Tsika Photography is a legacy entrepreneur and the lead food photographer for Musée Studios. Her images have graced cookbooks and garnered accolades in publications such as Snippets & Ink and Voyage Houston.  An avid cook herself, you can find her often in the kitchen whipping up something delicious and developing recipes.  To learn more about our newest Musee team member, check out our Q&A below!

Houston Food Photographer

Tell me about growing up. What was young Shelby like?

My early childhood was spent in Western North Carolina in the mountains. I always joke with my mom about giving me such a magical childhood because that’s what it truly felt like. Growing up there was fun and simple; the mountains are so beautiful and we had 4 full seasons. My favorite thing to do was climb the trees in our yard. I was completely outdoorsy when I was little, which is completely different from how I am now. My grandmother, mother, aunt and I are four peas in a pod when I was growing up. They would take me to the tops of different mountains and fun things like that.


Where do you get your creative tendencies from? Are your parents creative? A grandparent?

My dad is very business minded and my grandparents have an entrepreneurial spirit. My grandparents have a ministry here in Texas and my dad works there alongside them. They have a ranch where they do marriage and family counseling. Similar to a retreat center! I definitely got my business savvy from them. On the creative side, definitely my mom. She is a painter. She never sold any of her work, but she painted the walls of our home growing up. Different scenery like trees and mountains and things. I can’t paint for the life of me but my younger sister, who is 10 years younger than me, is really awesome and talented. My brother is really outdoorsy, not so much creative.

Houston Food Photography


Did you start photographing before or during college?

I started before college. The summer in-between my freshman and sophomore year of high school I found Instagram. When Instagram first started it was very much so people taking photos and then slapping filters on it. Basically getting creative with their iPhones. I created an account really early on and that is when I said to myself, “Hey, I really love what other people are doing.” During my sophomore year, I signed up for a photo-journalism class. My teacher was amazing. There I learned the basics of working a DSLR. As high school went on I started to take my friends senior photos and then soon enough I was a senior myself. I started my business then and start really focusing on true business a year after I graduated high school.


Lets talk more about that. Did you always know it would be a career for you or was it more a hobby at first?

I truly believe that when I took that photo journalism class that I knew then that is what God had for me. I knew I was supposed to be a photographer. I also knew so clearly that photography was His plan for me but I wasn’t sure how to get there. After high school I took a semester at a junior college just majoring in business. I knew while there that it didn’t feel right. So I took a semester off and then went to Blinn College. Wasn’t for me either. I had this constant internal battle about how transition into photography full time. Then I met another photographer, Hannah Long (IG @_hannahlong), when I moved to College Station. She was a wedding photographer out of Lubbock and she really helped me. She sent me information on how to register my company as a legal business and how to fill out a DBA and those sorts of things.


Houston Food Photographer


At what point did you decide that maybe college wasn’t for you and that pursuing photography full time was the right choice? Was there a specific event?

So when I was in college I was working a couple different part time jobs. I always have hated working for someone else. That’s when I knew I wanted to do my own thing. Just to have that freedom. When I left my part-time I evaluated my finances and said to myself, “Okay I’m good for a little while. Let’s just try not working a job for a little while and just see what happens.” I took that break and from there I just never even considered another part time job. The trial period wasn’t a trial anymore. It morphed into full tim. The hardship about owning your own business is not knowing what is going to come in and things are kind of random. After a while I just said, “You know, it’s going to be okay. My name is out there. I got this.


What do you photograph most? 

It’s really hard to say. I have a great mix of weddings, seniors, food/brand photography. I have a good mix. Being in College Station, during the crazy senior season, it does overtake my life. It is a huge season in the fall and spring. Food is always sprinkled in evenly, which is nice.


Where do you draw your inspiration? Person? Company?

I’m not just saying this because I now work for Musee, but Ling Wang. She’s been one of my biggest inspirations. When I first started my business I thought about how well Ling does seniors. She works with hair and makeup and provides this incredible experience for her clients and that is exactly what I wanted to do. I told myself I only wanted to do seniors and nothing else just like Ling. I actually applied to be a senior rep! If you would have told 18-year-old me that I would be here today, signing a contract to work for THE Ling Wang, I wouldn’t come close to believing you. I’m very excited and thankful to be here!


Have you passed a milestone that has made you feel like “I’ve got this…I’ve made it”?

Probably today. This experience. Right now. I have different milestones though. For example, booking my first high budget wedding and shoot it alone for my ideal client. I told myself, “Okay, you’ve got a few of these on the calendar. I’ve got this.” This (working for Musee) for sure has been my greatest opportunity so far.”


What is your absolute favorite thing about being a photographer? Least?

I love the freedom and creativity of it. So many people do a job for 40 years and they look back and say that they needed a creative outlet. I’m so lucky to say that my job is my creative outlet. My favorite part of actually shooting and working with clients is the final gallery delivery. Getting to correspond with them after and experiencing their reactions, you know? Being able to capture memories for my clients and knowing that my work will be on walls and in albums forever is a really awesome feeling. My least favorite would be the taxes and Photoshop work. I like color correcting in Lightroom, but pulling into images into Photoshop is totally foreign for me.

Austin Food Photographer

Okay so we all have them. What is your most embarrassing client story? 

Oh my goodness. So I have stepped in dog poop during sessions on two different occasions. I always bring extra shoes in my car just in case now. It’s the worst! When you’re shooting you really aren’t looking down at all. So that has happened to me twice now. Secondly, in my very early years before I was even a business, I didn’t understand the importance for formatting your cards. I would just delete images. I was working with my cousin and his now wife, and the card was only allowing me to take one photo. I was freaking out inside and asking myself, “What is the problem? This is crazy”. I actually ended up having to send them home because I only owned one at the time. Again, that was very early on in my photography career.


Lets fast forward to years. Think of your “shoot for the stars” goal. Will you have accomplished it? What is that goal?

I just want to be shooting what I love. I hope to live a stress free lifestyle. I want to be able to be more selective with my clients and projects. I want a family at that point and I want to prioritize them. I’d like my photography to be solely food photography and brands. I’d be really happy if that was where my career was.


Last one. You had every woman on this earth’s attention right this very second. You’ve got 30 seconds to speak. Go!

You are never too young. You are never to quiet and you are always strong enough. Always.

Best Houston Food Photographer

Interview and Portraits by:  Lauren McRae

Food Photography by:  Shelby Tsika

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