Documenting who you are. Not just what you look like.

I focus on lifestyle sessions that capture families, couples, and high school seniors. My first love will always be engagements, bridals, and weddings. I've previously spent time photographing in Dallas and Chicago, and currently call the San Francisco Bay Area my home.

January 10, 2012 in Aspirations

Please email me using the contact form above if you are interested in participating!

In December of 2007 my mom gave me a digital camera that had the ability to use manual settings. It wasn’t a dSLR fancy camera with interchangeable lenses, but it was overwhelming for me at the time. In the beginning, I mostly used auto mode. Over time, I became curious and started putting everyday items in a plastic box with a lamp shining through it to try to understand what aperture, shutter speed, and ISO mean. I fell in love with taking pictures, and pretty soon I was using manual mode on my point-and-shoot all the time and wanted a better camera. I bought a Canon 50D and a few lenses, and within the span of two months photographed over 40 free sessions, most of those being engagement sessions. I wasn’t employed elsewhere and I didn’t have a child, so I was living and breathing photography.

I started charging people for my photos, and bit by bit I got better. Would you like to see the difference 3 years made for me? Below you can see examples of my work labeled then and now. The “Then” pictures” are from some of my first sessions, and are actual photos I delivered to my clients (and felt very excited about at the time). When taking them I was nervous and fumbling. Now, my clients not only have a better experience during our time photographing, they receive an end product that I can be proud of.

dSLR cameras are becoming very common, and I’d like to teach you how to better use yours. Whether it’s to photograph your own kids, or for your blog, or your next fabulous vacation, your camera is powerful and wonderful and I want to show you the kind of beauty you can produce when you know how to use it!

This is not something I’m doing for other photographers currently charging for their work,this is a workshop for dSLR owners who want to move from Auto to AWESOME.

We’ll spend time learning the basics of Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO, talk about composition and different types of light, and spent time actually photographing a person so you can utilize the knowledge you soaked in that day. The  workshop will also have a delicious lunch, as well as plenty of time to ask questions and even a bit of time to play with off camera flash at sunset!

I’ve done some teaching like this in the past, and I thought I’d share what some past attendees have said about their experience with me.

Lisa, had owned a Canon Rebel XSi, 18-55mm lens, and 50mm 1.8 lens for 18 months at the time of her Aspirations experience:

If you’re going to spend $500+ on a camera, it’s a good idea to invest a little more to know how to use it. You can spend months and months figuring things out on your own by reading and trial and error, or you can spend 2 hours with someone showing you, and not only will you probably know just as much as you would have otherwise, but you’ll get some great extra tips as well. I could have spent the last 18 months focusing on editing techniques and other advanced areas if I had just done a session like this in the first place!

Brittney, had owned a Canon Rebel XSi  and 50mm 1.8 lens for 4 months at the time of her Aspirations experience:

The session is incredible! Jenna really knows what she’s talking about and has the eye for it all. You’ll learn how to create the scene you want for a great picture. Depending how/where/what you are photographing, you’ll learn the best settings to use. Being out an about with your camera and a professional is so much more effective than reading the manual. I was able to put into action what I has been reading about. Jenna stands right there ready to answer your questions. And she doesn’t just answer them, she really teaches you. I would do it!

Sara, had owned a Canon 7D and 28-135mm lens, a 50mm 1.4 lens and a telephoto EF 70-200mm 4.0 lens for 6 months at the time of her Aspirations experience:

I would recommend the Aspiration lesson in a heartbeat!  Some photographers I’ve met have seemed a bit stingy and condescending when it comes to sharing tips and tricks of their craft with those of us that aren’t professional photographers.  However, Jenna seemed genuinely happy to share what she knew with me and I really felt comfortable asking questions and trying new things.  I was a little nervous that I’d feel put on the spot or just given direction, but that wasn’t the case at all.  She talked me through the whole process and let me shadow her and watch and learn.  I loved this technique.  I didn’t feel any pressure, but I was challenged.  I could ask all the questions I wanted and she volunteered great information that wasn’t superficial or condescending.  I learned more in a few hours of what felt like “hanging out with a friend” than I have in 6 months of internet research.

Kari, had owned her Canon Rebel T1i; and 18-55mm EF-S Kit Lens, 50mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.4 for 14 months at the time of her Aspirations experience:

Going into the Aspirations Session, I had a good understanding of the basics of photography, but there were some things, that no matter how much I read or watched online, I just could grasp. There’s nothing like talking to a pro in person and watching them in action. In my few hours with Jenna, I took away quite a few things, things that I could immediately apply to my next shoot. Just two days later, I had a shoot, and Jenna’s voice was in my head reminding me of things: don’t cut of limbs, do the funny laugh, look for good light not good background…It was undoubtedly a worthwhile investment. I still have a long ways to go, but I’m definitely closer to where I want to be after the Aspirations Session

Kristen, had owned a Canon 40D and 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS for 2 years at the time of her Aspirations experience:

I was very much on the fence about my photography. I went into this almost completely blind. Almost meaning, I did a few sessions with my father-in-law’s camera (Canon XT), was satisfied with the results of the pictures I took, but in no way used the camera to maximize its capacity. After that (and after getting lots of “ooo, great pictures!”, “nice work”, “oh you’re doing these for FREE? i’m in!”), I did my research, got the best camera I could get for my budget (Canon 40D with the kit lense, which I very much regret getting that lense to this day), started up a photo blog, and went on my way. I skimmed the camera manual for some guidance, had absolutely NO idea what they were talking about, and was completely frustrated with how my husband was trying to teach me. So being completely blind still, I did lots of sessions with the little knowledge I had of what my camera was actually doing, and was decently satisfied with the results of my pictures. I mean, I did have Lightroom and Photoshop anyways to fall back on.

Which brings me to my editing. I HHHHHAAAATTTTTEEEEEDDDDD it with a passion. Yes, all caps, and super exaggerated. If you don’t say it like that, then you won’t get the full effect. I spent hours upon hours editing EVERY SINGLE good and decent picture. It was so overwhelming, so tedious, so not exciting. From what I read, this was supposed to be one of the best parts about photography. Effects, actions, presets, the whole shabang was supposed to be fun! Eh wrong.

Now I know I was completely going at it from the wrong angle. Here’s what Jenna Cole taught me:

First we started out with Composition. I went into this knowing a few photo techniques, i.e. placing the subject(s) on a grassy hill with hands placed just right and saying, “don’t move”, or as my husband chimes in “try to look natural, but don’t move too much”. HA. Jenna taught us how to make the subject look flattering, how to make them look and feel natural, how to not take awkward ‘up the nose’ shots. All around, I learned the right angles to take and not take photos. For example, Jenna stood up on the bench above our model and took an above picture. Why I didn’t think of that angle before I do not know!

We moved on to ISO, aperture, shutter speed, white balance, using our histogram, and a few other techniques. She explained them in ways that make absolute sense! I won’t get into every single detail of each one, but if you had absolutely no idea what those words/acronyms meant going into the session, you would walk away completely knowing AND understanding what to do with them and how to get every shot at its best.

Jenna gave us plenty of time to photograph our model, helping us in each step to process the information she gave us and use it! She was there to guide me through what buttons to press and what settings to be on. She even let us use her lenses she had on hand (and even let us play with the precious 5D Mark II, which I did not want to let go of) and gain a visual on the difference between what we own and what we could have.

I’m now completely on the other side of the fence. And will not go back on again. Jenna Cole’s Aspirations session was completely unexpected in a very good way. I learned more than I thought I would, and can USE what I’ve learned, which I think is the most important aspect of workshops/mentoring sessions.

Sound like something that would work for you? Contact me using the contact form above to learn more.

categories: Aspirations

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comments (2)
  • Rebekah says:

    Let me know if you do one in March. Frank and I will be there dogsitting for Ami. The 21st thru April 1st. :)

    (January 12, 2012 at 2:02 pm)
  • BILL AVERY says:


    (January 26, 2012 at 11:11 am)
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