Meet Jenna, the photographer that wants you to be in photos and why.
Hey there! I am so happy that you are here on my new website. I’ve put a lot of time into this site and hope that it becomes the source of information, inspiration and of course beautiful photos for you to love.
I’m currently sitting in a coffee shop. Janet Jackson is playing in the background, people all around me are working on homework and it’s a place of “getting stuff done”. There are many days where I need this sort of energy around me in order to feel like I’m on the right path to get things marked off of my to-do list. I am a Wedding & Lifestyle Photographer. When I say it out loud or even just typing it here, I think does anyone really know what that means? I am going to attempt to tell you about what I do, why I do it and of course what makes me the right choice as your photographer. So let me thank you ahead of time for being here.
A few years back ( 12 is a few right?) I was asked by a friend to apply for a second shooter position with a local photographer. I started working in the office, organizing things, placing orders and following along on photo shoots. I didn’t really know anything about photography, but I did know how to work hard and that helped me through a lot. My work ethic has and will forever be something that drives me to push harder and go above and beyond in everything I take on. While working for this photographer, we shot over 120 weddings and I quickly learned what I wanted and did not want for my own business. The main thing I learned was that I wanted to create an experience for my clients that was more than just a transaction. I also learned that i needed a community. Other photographers are not my competition but one of my biggest assets.
I moved to St Louis, Missouri in 2009 and launched J Elizabeth Photography. I had no idea what I was doing, I just knew that I had an idea and that I could figure it out. I didn’t just want to photograph people in the area, I want to photograph people and tell their stories all over the world. I introduced myself to photographers in the STL area, a lot of which were not so sure about some random photographer entering their ranks, but it didn’t matter to me. I was here to show up and make friends in the industry, even if I was a little bit much at times. I was working as a server & bartender at a restaurant downtown St Louis. This was located near a few major businesses in the area, a bank/finance office and a marketing agency. A lot of the employees from these businesses became my regulars. See, one thing I should point out is that I only worked Monday- Friday LUNCH shifts. I had a business to run that was based on sunset and weekends so in order to pay my bills, I went and got a job that surrounded me with people during the day that could potentially become clients or at the very least help me see my business from a different perspective.
Yes, I worked lunches at a restaurant where the most money was definitely made during dinner. I knew that I needed just enough money to cover my bills and then one day, once I was established enough, I could make the jump to full time photographer. There were quite a few people, even the owners of the restaurant that would introduce me and say “oh she does photos too” or with a tone of she’s adorable introduce me as a ‘photographer on the side.” I kept these comments to myself and used them to fuel me to my goals. Every day when I left work, I went home to WORK. I photographed anything and everything I could and finally figured out that if something felt fake to me, I couldn’t just take photos to take photos. I mean, I could but not only was it not fulfilling, those types of jobs barely put food on my table.
When I decided to streamline and started cutting out things that did not bring me joy (Marie Kondo would have been really proud of my initiative) I was able to really shine in the areas that I did well. I don’t have a story about my Grandfather giving me a camera at the age of 4 and never looking back. I had no idea that I would be a photographer, until I did. I knew that I could create something for people that was real and different than what everyone else seemed to be doing. I looked through old photos and realized that there was a major person missing from most of the photos we had. My mom. What did she look like when we were growing up? What did she like to do before we started school or after? How could I make sure that parents were in the photos with their kids? I had a purpose outside of weddings to really show up for my clients. Every session we do a combination of lots of different things, but most importantly we interact and are present. When it came to weddings, I didn’t want to be on trend. I didn’t want to edit how everyone else did, I just wanted my images to feel real and when my clients looked at their photos years later, I wanted the colors to represent how they were on the day. The idea of putting a filter over images to make them look orange or for shadows to look super blue, popped in my head a few times over my career and always ended up being something I didn’t love and look back on as “not my best work.”
I have spent a lot of time focusing on what I want to photograph and the answer isn’t small. If anything it’s expanded. What I want to photograph is life. People enjoying and experiencing life. Hence the Lifestyle portion of my work. This encompasses quite a bit of milestones and activities. As I continue to evolve as a person and as a business I find that when I am creating images that are real and true to the experience of this life we live, that everyone is much more fulfilled.
One thing I try to remind anyone thinking about having photos taken is that as much as the photos are for you, right now, in this moment, they are also for those people in your life that love you and want to see the real you. Wether it’s your children or your partner or family or friends, think about how you would like to be remembered and also how you would like people to see you now. When a parent doesn’t want to participate in photos, I gently (maybe not so gently) remind them that these photos are for their kids and do they want to be remembered as a stick in the mud or do they want to go have fun with their kids. Since my photoshoots are an actual adventure and experience, everyone participates and by the end most people aren’t even sure we got “good” photos. After the photos are delivered everyone from parents to the kids are able to look at these images and share their memories and inside jokes of the experience. On wedding days when parents or wedding party people have their own expectations of how the day is ‘supposed’ to go or what photos are ‘supposed’ to be taken, I very gently remind them that this day is for the couple and that the couple and I have discussed what THEIR dream day would feel like, and that is what I document. One thing that helps in being able to have less stress during photos (and in life) is to let go of the control and idea that everything needs to be a certain “perfect” way. Instead let’s just live for a moment and see how perfectly beautiful life is.
I want people to look back at their photos and laugh or be taken back to a moment that no one else would understand. Instead of thinking, “yes we stood in a line and looked at the camera and I was so stressed that we wouldn’t get any good photos, but they turned out ok.” Instead, I want these photos to warm your heart by memories such as “my kid totally farted during this photo and we all laughed” or “my partner whispered how much they loved me and it took my breath away, right before this photo was taken.”
This world we live in is constantly changing and evolving and most days it feels like the days go by too fast. I want to be able to slow it down for just a moment. Telling people’s stories and creating images that will be cherished for a lifetime is something I am so very thankful that I get to do.