Hi Jenna. I'm sure you've been asked before, but I was very curious as to how you got started in photography?
In 2007 I took a couple candids with a point and shoot of flowers, and decided I liked taking photos.
I shot candids and took lessons up until Spring 2009, when I started shooting portraits.
In 2010 I got super serious, started my business and it just took off from there.
I am very fortunate in that I was disciplined enough to want to learn the camera before I wanted to work with people,
so by the time I starting taking photos of people I was "really good" from the general eye of others.
Still to this day people have a hard time looking at my work and believing I have only been shooting for 7 years.
I also know that you have experience with designing and marketing from our conversations, but how did you come about learning so much about it?
In 2009 I met my husband, who is a very famous marketer and graphic designer.
He studied fine art in the 80s, marketing in the 90's, and then internet marketing and web design in the millenniums.
From the moment we met, he has been teaching me everything he knows.
It's sort of a "Here's something for you to be able to do if I am ever gone and can't support you" with a mix of me really wanting to learn everything.
It's really fun to take people's ideas and turn them into a design for them, and to be able to teach people who marketing works with the web.
What would you say you specialize in?
Babies and Children. Eventually, I want to specialize in newborns, but, I really love babies, children, and just capturing those big eyes and wonderful smiles.
Since picking up lighting techniques, I love working with babies in the studio and small children outdoors.
If you could do any kind of photography what would you do?
Babies - but in all different parts of the world. Like National Geographic family style.
For a long time I've had an image in my head of a book filled with all the different cultures splayed out on and around small children.
It's that "dream" thing I have that I want to do... If I ever get rich enough to travel everywhere.
Tell me a little bit about your style.
I've never, ever had someone ask me about my style. I have to think about how to explain it.
I'd probably say, intimate and emotional. I've been blessed with this little trick where I can be looking in the camera,
and all I see is the gorgeous lighting in a baby's eyes, but once I snap the camera, the photo as a whole is gorgeous.
And I plan things out, like, I don't stick a kid in a pile of garbage or have trees coming out their heads or anything like that.
But sometimes I prefer to look at the face and the emotion and get that, rather than worrying about things in the corner of a picture.
You spend too much time analyzing a photo as a whole and you miss the intimate moments because they only last milliseconds.
I just love how once I'm done taking a really great photo, you can look at it, and all you feel is what the person in that photo is portraying.
My clients call them "happy tears." Seriously, like 60% of the time the mom writes back to me telling me she's crying while looking at the gallery.
And I like that a lot.
That's awesome Jenna and very powerful.
So here's a gear question for you.
What kind of gear do you use and what are your favorites?
This is where all the pro photographers shake their heads and fingers at me and scold me.
I shoot with a prosumer camera! (Prosumer is the nice term my mentor taught me that basically means, DSLR made for the non-professional).
I have a Nikon D5100. I also have a 50mm 1.8D lens. And I love it, too.
It's not about your gear, it's how you use it, and I cannot stress enough how much that is true.
Starting out I used the kit lens and you would never know it. Everything takes a good shot if you know how to use it.
Really cool. So I know you know a ton about marketing, but what are two big marketing tips you can give a young photographer.
1. Don't use those silly names. No one cares about "Star Studded Photos". Be yourself.
You can pick a nice name for your business, but if it takes you longer than ten seconds to think about it,
or if it sounds like you are trying to be a little too cheesy, drop it. If your goal is for people to know you and to want you...
YOU. That is what you want people to know. Not your biz name. So focus the small parts on the biz name and the large parts on your name.
Just yesterday I was looking up some inspiration and I used her name to Google her. That's what's more important, whether people know you by name.
It's more personal and intimate.
2. Hire a designer. I cannot stress this enough. Design has this entire psychology behind it. Some colors sell, some don't.
Whether it is your logo, your watermark, your website, your paper marketing... Everything needs to go to a designer.
Not only will your work be more personable to you, but they know how to design to speak to the masses, and to sell.
I hate it when someone comes to me and says "I want a green website because green means go on a stoplight, so they will 'go and buy' my stuff."
No, it doesn't work that way. Green means go on a light. On a website, it stops people. Green doesn't sell. Other colors do.
And you have to work with someone who knows how to sell. Hiring a designer will get you farther in your business than doing it yourself or hiring some amateur.
To continue on the topic of marketing, how important is blogging to a photography business?
There's two parts to this.
Part one: Potential clients. You want people to hire you as a photographer, so you need to show them your work.
Besides having a gallery, blogging every session possible lets them see your current, consistent work.
It tells them "Hey, here's something other than a stagnant gallery which I only change out every few months. Here's shots from last week. Yesterday. This morning."
And it makes people feel like you are "fresh" and they trust you.
Part two: Search engine optimization. The number ONE thing Google wants to see you do is update your site.
There is no better way to do this than to blog! Although there are other parts to the SEO thing, if you blog at least 3 times a week, you are off to a good start.
Thanks for those tips Jenna.
So let me ask you, what are some of your short term or long term goals?
Short term: I want to save up for a 24-70. All my photo friends are sick of hearing about it, but that lens really is unmatched for what I want to do with it.
I also want to enter some summer photos I have taken in some contests and see what I can win. They're just such amazing, intimate, personal and emotional photos.
Long term: I want to learn more. I'm dying to find out the best way to light in studio using 4 lights. I only use two right now.
I also want to learn how to be better at in person sales and to get more print sales. I don't care about sales right now, but eventually when I go full time, I'll need it to pay for my studio I will get.
Ok lets continue with a slightly harder question.
What would be one piece of advice that you wish you had when you got started that others can benefit from today?
An easy to understand, simple definition to shutter speed, aperture and ISO. I had a 50mm 1.4G lens for a year and never really knew how to use it.
After it got stolen, and I bought a new one two years later, I knew so much more, and I really realized how lucky I was that I was gifted that lens.
It was an amazing piece of equipment and I never knew how to use it fully.
Most of the problems I see new photographers have are all related to not knowing those settings.
They get frustrated and revert to Auto and don't know how to use the full potential of their lenses and bodies.
As you know already Jenna I'm a huge fan of prime lenses and particularly the 50mm focal length as well. Like minds!
So, we are seeing a ton more people picking up cameras nowadays and wanting to make a business of it. And I think that's great. What do you find most people struggle with nowadays when starting a photography business?
Starting a business too early. I was blessed to be able to start photography before this big boom, before everyone was in it.
And I shot for two years without shooting a person. And I learned SO much more than if I had also been trying to run a business.
Put down the business cards. Stop building the website. Delete your fan page.
Take a class, watch YouTube, attend Creative Live, and buy a book on Photoshop.
Practice how to shoot, how to edit, how to make your photos look "good" and not over-processed.
THEN start a business. You can't learn and run a business at the same time and be successful. It just doesn't happen, except if you get lucky.
Great insight Jenna. It is very easy to get caught up with the fun of photography and finding people WANT you to take their photos.
So now, after several years in photography, what was your most rewarding moment as a photographer?
I took this photo of a newborn. And being so hard on myself, I didn't feel like it was "as good" as other work I had seen online.
And I stressed about it, even though mom liked it, and even though friends and family liked it.
But then I entered it in this contest, and it beat out like 100,000 other photos for the number 10 spot for newborns.
And that appreciation from the photo community, and from strangers who were totally unbiased about my work, that helped me a lot.
I wasn't just getting this favorite comment from the client, and from family and friends - which, while good, can sometimes come because they don't know any better from the technical aspect of it.
But this award came from voting that was a result of people who understood being behind the camera, and they knew how to judge based on that.
When other photographers like you work, that's when you feel like you are "somewhere".
But, I strive to keep getting that, and that means constantly changing, making new things happen, learning more. And I like that about this career.
I'm always learning more.
Fantastic Jenna. I totally agree with you. We cross small milestones as we continue to grow in the business and at times its good to think back at where we were last year at the same time. Thanks again for answering these questions.
You can find Jenna at www.photostudiovegas.com or on Facebook.
Thanks again Jenna!!
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