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.

My photography peers are getting honest in the blogosphere and I like it. Somehow we had all been convinced that unless we pretended to be perfect, always busy and desired, our inboxes flooding with inquiries, clients would not be interested in working with us. In 2012, two fabulous ladies decided to lay it bare. Yan is new to her area, and is tired of pretending like her business has exploded right away. Tara feels overwhelmed trying to manage family life and work life.

If I could, I would reach out and give these ladies a big hug and thank them for showing us that we can get real. Since I moved to Chicago (17 months ago), I’ve only photographed six paid portrait sessions and five weddings. Three of those weddings were back in Dallas, one was in the northeast because I offered free travel, and the last one was a lucky break with an awesome Chicago couple. Most of the portrait sessions were discounted for friends. It feels so nice to say that this photography stuff is hard work. Moving to a new place and trying to establish a new client base is awful, and a large part of the reason I didn’t seek to grow in Chicago was I knew I’d only be here for two years. I have a darling son, I enjoy writing on my personal blog, I’m trying to graduate from college and I have a husband who is often gone 12 hours a day while he tries to graduate. If I’m not careful, I become like Tara and I don’t like myself when that happens.

The best thing that I learned from my Francypants Academy course was that every minute spent on photography was a minute spent NOT doing something else, like spending time with my family or cleaning my house or holding hands with my husband. I cost more than your friend putting up her pictures on Facebook because I’ve learned that staying up until 3 am editing, knowing the baby will be up in a few hours, with your husband asking why you can’t just watch the newest episode of 30 Rock already is just not worth $75. Because when I do something, I do it all the way, and I do it right. Thanks mom, you taught me that lesson via your instructions that I would clean that bathroom mirror yet again, and I would keep cleaning it until the streaks were completely gone.

And I think my work is good. I’m not Jonas Peterson, but I am Jenna Cole, and I know that means something to the people who have hired me in the past. Working with me you’re going to get color and laughter and lame attempts at jokes that fall flat. You’re going to have clear, sharp portraits that you want to hang up on your wall. If I photograph your wedding, you’ll look beautiful and simultaneously be able to remember the reality of the day, in all its multi-faceted glory (that isn’t something everyone can do you know).

My last session with Paige? I asked her to let me photograph her so I could try some new things. The same thing goes for this couple as well. I wanted to work with snow, reflected light, direct light, diffused light, shadows, rim light, sunflares, freelensing, and the sunset. I wanted to grow creatively, and I’m so happy that Yan helped me realize that I don’t have to feel ashamed for admitting that I did this (shot an unpaid session) because I did grow, and I plan to keep doing this unpaid session thing over and over with different people and lighting and backgrounds so that when those paying clients come my way, I can give them something that makes them say, “That’s me. I see myself in this, and I love it. Thank you.

What Facebook Friends Think:

comments (4)
  • These are gorgeous photos, Jenna! I love that B&W one! And what a great post! You are right–it really isn’t all sunshine and roses in the photography world! Thank you for your honesty! xoxo

    (January 23, 2012 at 3:40 pm)
  • Jenna, these photos are amazing. The first photo is so crisp I feel like I could reach through my monitor and touch them. The close-up photos are truly breathtaking.

    (January 23, 2012 at 5:11 pm)
  • Lovely! I love doing free sessions. You don’t want to use too many new things on paid clients until you’re comfortable with them. I mean, they’re paying to get photos – not potentially get messed up photos because you were practicing. :)

    I love the close ups and, well, literally gasped at the black and white one. The lighting and framing is perfection!

    (January 27, 2012 at 8:52 pm)
  • Ami says:

    jenna, i know first-hand how hard taking pictures in the snow is – these are amazing! i love how true the colors are. you are so talented!

    (April 11, 2012 at 3:46 pm)
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