In the Fall of 2005, a man broke into our home where me and my two young daughters lived. Truth-be-told, he actually just opened our unlocked front door and walked in y’all, because we lived in a very “safe” and tiny rural town and I didn’t believe in locking anything. (I do now!) Thankfully we weren’t home at the time, especially since my kids were ‘latchkey’ kids. I was a single mom at the time, we didn’t have much worth taking, but along with a few other things, the man managed to steal our video camera and pocket-sized camera that had been gifted to me by my parents.
The silver lining to that story is that when I received my insurance check, the tiniest of ideas spouted up. I considered taking some of that money and putting it towards a larger digital camera. I don’t remember if I had “photography business” in my subconscious at that point, but I had a passion for photography. At the time, I worked ridiculous hours at a corporate job that I dreaded. So after several days of research, I pulled the trigger on my first Canon DSLR. I can’t even tell you how excited I was when it arrived on my doorstep! I still remember unboxing it with great care. I began a ritual of climbing into bed at night with the instruction manual and would pour over it, taking notes and dog-earing pages. It took me a good year of practice paired with tons of reading and lessons before I could take a half-way decent picture on ‘manual’ mode. I would practice on my own kids, bribing them to sit still with candy then eventually money. Finally in 2007, when I began taking on paying clients, I realized I needed to know more about running a profitable business so I threw myself into my education and embraced my official title as a “photographer”. That was also the year Neil and I got married!
After 6 years of working both my corporate job and “doing photography on the side”, in 2012 I said good-bye to corporate America and hello to being a solo-preneur and full-time photographer. I think most people think being a photographer is snapping pretty pictures, and it is! But that’s only about 10% of it. The rest of the time, I sit in front of a desk editing photos, or in a room full of other professionals at a networking event, or on a couch with clients helping them select the best wall portrait for their family room, or with my accountant getting tax advice, or on the phone with a prospective client asking about my favorite Naples beach to shoot at, or on Instagram posting about my latest shoot, or on hold with my backup storage company while they help me migrate my data to their new server, or in my design software creating the perfect album for the sweetest high school senior, or online updating my website, or watching the latest educational video to constantly be at the top of my game. It’s a never-ending To-do list that I could work 80+ hours a week on. I think back on how I got my start, and how God-awful my photography was those first few years, and I can’t help but feel joy in all the little risks I took along the way and all the pep talks my husband and daughters gave me, an endless supply of encouragement. Being a business owner is not for the weak-spirited. Sometimes you have to pull yourself through the day, month, or year, sometimes you have to learn stuff that you have no desire whatsoever to learn, and then squeeze in time to vacuum and clean toilets and feed the dogs, because you also work from home.
But here it is… This is a glimpse into why I do what I do. Picture this… A new client comes in for her consult, she’s 14 years old, no makeup, hair pulled back into a ponytail and her mom is with her. We’ll call her Casey. Casey is quiet and nervous, I can tell. We chat about where her and mom would like her photoshoot to take place at. Mom and Casey both laugh about her latest school photos, which Casey refers to as hideous. Fast forward to her photoshoot. We’re at the beach, and I raise my camera up and I see Casey’s body language is all closed down. She’s not quite ready for me to photograph her yet but she doesn’t know that. I keep chit-chatting from behind my camera, and I can see her listening to my direction as I snap away. I know from experience that if I stop talking, she’s going to think about how self-conscious she feels, so I keep chatting away while I coach her to “pull your elbow back”, “tip towards me”, “good job, Casey, that’s perfect!” Click-click-click. I can see her start to relax and enjoy herself and that’s when I capture my first honest photo of her. She’s not smiling, she’s not even looking at the camera, but her look is authentic and real, and it took my breathe away. I step forward and show her the back of my camera and I hear a sharp inhale, along with “Oh my gosh Jenn!” and she looks at me with excited wide eyes. I know she’s ready now. I bring my camera back up and I see an entirely different girl through my viewfinder – one who is letting herself enjoy her experience in front of my lens, one who is about 100% more confident than she was 60 seconds ago. SHE finally saw the beautiful girl I saw when I first met her. SHE saw the girl her mom sees every morning when she steps out of bed.
Even though I’m using a young teen as my example, almost all of my clients are “Casey’s”. I watch this exact transformation with nearly every client who graces my lens. And THAT why I love doing what I do so.darn.much.
So today, as I reflect back on the past 11 years of my journey as a professional photographer, I celebrate the JOY of taking risks and stepping out of comfort zones, and the JOY of pursuing my dream. It hasn’t been all ‘joyful’ but when I experience moments with Casey, and all of my other clients; when I take my client’s breath away because they see their own beauty, THAT is worth celebrating, and that is enough.
I welcome you to come in for your very own consultation and look forward to taking your breath away! CLICK HERE to reach out to me through my contact page and let’s chat!
Photographer Naples & Fort Myers Florida