I wanted to say thank you again for selecting me as Photographer of the month. Here is the video they posted. I’ve also pasted the interview below. I hope that someone can benefit something from this and am happy to answers any questions you have!
1. What equipment you do you use?
I’m a loyal Nikon user all the way 🙂 I currently shoot with a D700. I also use an SB800 for my flash, when I use a flash, (usually rent a couple more for weddings) with a couple of pocket wizards. For my lenses I LOVE LOVE LOVE my 1.4D (wish they had a 1.2), a 3.5 18-200 VR, my LensBaby Composer and I’m planning to get the 2.8 70-200 before the end of the year. I do my main edits in Lightroom then I sharpen and add my finishing touches in PS4.
2. How long have you been shooting?
I’ve been shooting for 6 years total, but one year professionally.
3. Where are you located?
Joliet, IL (suburb of Chicago) but will soon be relocating back to Jacksonville, FL.
4. What type of photography do you take?
I take a photojournalistic approach, though I know it is not true photojournalism. I really don’t like “say cheese” photography though I do think some photographers are really great with it. It just isn’t my style. My focus is on wedding photography but have recently taken a big interest in fashion photography, mainly bridal glamour. When I started professionally, I was doing pet photography. I still do some pet photography, but mainly of my own pooches (I have three). I love landscape photography, though I don’t do much of it because there isn’t much to see around here (unless you like smoke stacks and run down buildings… hahaha).
5. Price range of events?
For pet and lifestyle portrait sessions it starts at $500 and includes a DVD of images. For weddings I start at $2400 and go up to $4600 (4-12 hour packages). All of our packages include an e-session, usually a second photographer (we don’t guarantee a second photographer unless it is specifically paid for), a DVD of the images, and online proofing. We also offer A La Carte items that they can add to their base package such as custom guest books, albums, extra hours, slideshows, folios, etc.
6. When did you notice that you had passion for photography?
I’ve had a passion for photography since about 6 years ago. I wanted a digital camera really bad and my husband surprised me with one (he was my boyfriend at the time) for Christmas. It was a little 3 megapixel Kodak EasyShare. When it became more than a hobby was one evening when I lived in Florida, a rain storm had come through and I noticed the blinds, which were shut, were glowing pink. I looked outside to witness the most amazing sunset. I ran outside with my camera and took a few pictures. The pictures were amazing without any adjustments. The sky was just glowing. That’s when it turned into a passion. I later upgraded to a Canon Powershot (not a DSLR) and ended up with my first DSLR a little over two years ago. I switched to Nikon when I bought the DSLR. I bought a D80. It’s been a great starter camera but I’m ready for the real deal!
7. Is there anything unique about what you do?
I think every artist has something unique about them, it’s bringing that unique side out that is difficult. You see so many people doing so much of the same that it’s hard to think of how YOU as an individual are unique. What separates me from others is my business knowledge and customer service. Many photographers don’t understand how to run a business, so they become a photographer, blow their money and end up out of business in a few years. Coming from a business background and working a corporate job helped me to get it right from the get go. Keeping straight books, yearly and monthly goals, targets, scorecards, etc has helped me to stay on track and run the business, not just be a photographer. I also think my personality goes hand in hand with my customer service skills. My focus is not to always land the job, but to make the people who do work with me remember me for how much they enjoyed working with me. This way they walk away happy and end up referring others to me.
8. Have you had to changed anything to adjust in current economic times?
Something I learned very early on is great customer service goes a long way. One of the things I love to do is make the experience my customer has with me unique so that they refer other people to me and become walking advertisements for me. Although I’ve had to keep my prices fairly conservative for my area, I’ve found people are willing to pay for quality.
To give you a few examples, for every wedding I book, my Client gets a “Thank you for booking with us” gift. You can view an example of it on my blog. They are always so thrilled with the gift. You can choose what you want to put in there but I chose a couple of things that I know every time they look at them they will remember that I purchased those as a thank you for them and they are more likely to refer other people to me. Also, for all of my wedding Clients I give them a really nice package for their DVD. It’s called a DVD folio that I order through Cypress. You can also see an example of that on that same blog link above. I have swatch samples for them to choose which colors they’d like.
Ultimately customer service is a big driver. People are willing to pay for a better experience and more people are willing to come back for other things when they had a great experience with you. One example is I have a bride who’s wedding I photographed that has booked me for her baby’s 6 month photos.
9. Describe your shooting style?
As one bride wrote on her questionnaire, “Jen Style!” Ha! Love it! I think editing style also goes hand in hand with shooting style. When I shoot, I am always looking for a vantage point that most people don’t see because most people are only looking at things from eye level. I like to create an interpretation of something, someone, etc that everyone can see but that has show them from a different vantage point and something that is different and unique. I try to get up higher than everyone or lay on the ground. It also all depends on what I’m photographing. I also do whatever I can to use natural light. I don’t like shooting with a flash so most times I won’t shoot with one. If I can avoid it than I do. I think natural light has a beauty that flash doesn’t do justice to, although I do think flash can help in certain situations. So much of today’s digital photography is defined by the photographer’s editing style too. I like bright, contrasty images, which I think my work reflects, that really pop when you look at them.
10. What are your goals for the future?
Great question! Aside from the business aspect of it with meeting numbers and targets, my goal is to develop my style and focus on specializing in one type of photography. Since I really enjoy glamour and fashion I’d like to develop my eye for that type of photography and incorporate that into my wedding photography. Let’s face it. The bride is THE one to please. She feels the most beautiful and exotic that she has ever felt in her entire life and she wants photographs that will reflect that. Why not mesh that with bridal glamour so every time she sees her photos it invokes the feelings she felt on her wedding day?
11. Do you have a Facebook Fan Page or a Twitter account?
Yes! You can become a fan by going to Facebook or follow me on Twitter. My Twitter name is JenStarlight.
12. Do you have a blog, and if so, how have you found it has enhanced your business?
Yes, I do have a blog. I would love to see Photobiz come out with a blog for us to use that is incorporated into the control panel (hint hint Dave!! haha). I have found it has helped my business tremendously. Aside from being able to show my personality through my blog entries, potential clients are able to go through my blog and view photography in my daily life, view photos from jobs that don’t necessarily go into my portfolio, and it’s a great way to take the formality out of the business website and really put my personality into it so they can determine if I am a good fit for them.
I recently had a wedding Client (who booked with me) that my husband, Colby, and I met with at Starbucks to sign the contract and as soon as we walked in she said, “Happy belated birthday Colby!” He said, “Thanks. How did you know I just had my birthday?” She said, “I read it on Jen’s blog. I love her blog. I follow it all the time!” It was good to know and hear.
13. What advice would have for someone starting out?
Don’t quit your day job! At least not yet. Seriously, I’ve seen a million times where someone gets a business idea, they quit their day job to pursue it, their business goes under and before they know it, they are out of business with no job, no income, no way to pay next month’s mortgage payment, etc. A business takes time to build. You have to be willing to put in your 8 hour day job hours and then another 8 hours a day into your business. If you happen to be one of those lucky people who is supported by someone else and your income doesn’t matter, well, then you are lucky, but most of us have to have day jobs when we start out. Eventually I hope to quit my day job (corporate job) but not today!
Advice on a photography related note… I would really recommend finding a photographer that inspires you and try to practice underneath them or pick their brains to find out what worked for them. What worked for them may not work for you and vise versa. Don’t be afraid to ask questions because that’s the only way to learn and if you’re asking someone who makes you uncomfortable because you asked, then find someone else. There are great places/forums where you can excellent advice for seasoned experts in the industry. The Photobiz fan page on Facebook is an excellent resource. Also check out the Photobiz blog because they periodically post videos that are super helpful.
I’ll make this my last piece of advise… There is more to running a photography business than just taking pictures. I would recommend taking some business classes to make sure you run a successful business (success being defined as an organized business that is profitable, not necessarily achieving “rock star” photographer status). Be sure to watch the video on the Photobiz blog about creating a business plan. You NEED a business plan. Make reasonable goals for your business. Hold monthly meetings with yourself/your associate(s) and go over your numbers and make sure you are doing everything you can to improve yourself and your business. I make monthly goals for myself. I don’t beat myself up if I don’t achieve those goals but it helps me look at where I am and decide what I need to be doing to achieve those goals next time. I also keep monthly Google Analytics reports to direct my business to the appropriate geographic location/audience. Keep a running record of you inquiries (I use Quickbooks for this) and which ones result in bookings. There is so much to know and so much I could tell you but it would take a REALLY long time (aka my college degree!) to give you all the info. I hope this helps. The irs.gov website has great resources for small businesses that you should take advantage of if you haven’t already.