On February 9, 2005, I started Jessica’s Photography! I can’t believe it has been 15 years since I started my business! I still love every shoot that I do! Over the last few weeks, I have been sharing stories on my Instagram about how I got into photography and the early years of my business! If you missed them here they are!
Part 1. When I was around the age of ten, I started setting up little photoshoots all over our house. My mom comes from a big family, I have so many cousins, and we were all really close when we were growing up. I had several aunts that had babies around the time that I started getting into photography. When I would babysit, I would pose them with stuffed animals on my bed and take tons of photos of my baby cousins. I eventually graduated to stealing the comforter off of my mom’s bed, I found ways to prop it up as a background. I had a few of my cousins pose for me all of the time. It would be funny to post some of the photos from my awkward adolescent stages, I had some awesome glasses and loved a tight ponytail, but my cousin may kill me! I had an Olympus Stylus Point and Shoot Film Camera, I always had it with me, and I took photos at every family event. My closet is full of scrapbooks of other people’s children because I took so many photos!
Part 2. When I was young, I was always taking photos of things around me and people that were closest to me. I am always looking at the world through a rectangle or a square. My parents got divorced when I was 11, I always had a picture of what I wanted my family to be, and when it didn’t turn out that way, I had a hard time adjusting. When I was going through their divorce, I turned to photography even more; it made me so happy. I wanted to capture the times that were happy and good because there were still so many great times with my family. I am sure I would have still pursued photography if they hadn’t gotten divorced, but I remember so clearly choosing to use my camera to get through it. A lot of my talents came from that time in my life. Right after they were divorced we started traveling a lot to California. On one of the first trips we went to San Francisco and Yosemite. I was in heaven in Yosemite! I took so many photos, I love going back to look at that trip. My mom helped my photography by instilling in me her love of travel. She wanted to explore the world and it rubbed off on me, I love seeing how my photography grows when I travel.
Part 3. I first started taking family photos for people when I was about 15, with having a large extended family I had lots of families to practice on! And neighbors were so kind to let me photograph them and their kids too! I took them all on my Canon Rebel film camera that I got when I was about 14. I am sure that I shot them all in automatic, but I loved it! I would take 2-3 rolls of film during the shoot and rush into Inkleys to get them developed as soon as I could! Inkley’s had the option to print them with the lovely white border. I thought it looked so professional. I would get $20 or so from the shoot, and I would turn around and buy more film. I loved Kodak Gold! I would buy it at Sam’s Club, if only they still sold film in bulk there! I love that I have 20+ years of photos to look back on with some of the families!
Part 4. When I was younger, I was always finding ways to bring in money; I loved making money and spending money…. I had to fund my photography obsession and my other hobbies. I babysat so many families in our neighborhood, a lot of the times I would double up on families and watch them all together and make twice the money. Another way that I would make money was cleaning apartments for my grandpa, he owned lots of student housing, so in the summer me and my cousin would go and clean college apartments, we thought we were so cool being on campus. My grandpa would have to drive us around and drop us off because we were too young to drive, we giggled the entire time at all of the funny things that he would tell us. I learned so many lessons from my grandpa on hard work! He worked until the day he passed away, and he was always finding something to do. He taught me so many great lessons on business. I started as a young entrepreneur, then focused on building my photography skills, and now I am back to refining and building on my business skills. I love being an entrepreneur and talking business. I get so excited about PDFs and learning something new!
Part 5. Right after I graduated high school, my cousin got married. I was so excited to go to their wedding. I had my film Canon Rebel camera with me the entire day ready to go. I took some photos from a distance while the photographer was taking their photos. I was so eager to take some pictures of their big day. After the photographer finished with them, I asked him if I could take a few. He told me that they won’t turn out as good as his, and was really hot-headed about it! This was before it was the popular thing to be a photographer. I only took a roll or two of film at their wedding and my cousin and their family ended up liking a lot of the photos that I took and ordered several of them. I wanted to prove him wrong, and I loved those images that I took of my cousin and his wife! Their pictures were plastered all over my first tri-fold brochure, with an awesome logo I designed in Word. …That photographer is no longer in business, and I don’t think he lasted much longer, even though he was one of the leading photographers in the valley. This lesson has always taught me there is room to support all levels of photographers, even when it seems like everyone is a photographer. I always tell myself, I am supposed to shoot what I am supposed to shoot. If I don’t get a job that I really wanted, I tell myself that the other photographer needed it more than I did.
Part 6. When I went to college at Utah State University, I had it all planned out the day that I started. I knew I wanted to get done quick because I just wanted to start working. Now that I look back, I don’t understand why I wanted to finish so fast; I should have enjoyed college life a bit longer! Being an adult is hard! I started my business in my second semester and knew that I wanted to be a photographer, but didn’t know if I could do it full time. I loved high school and especially history, and I thought it would be fun to be a teacher, I planned to teach during the week and take photos on the weekend and in the summer. I majored in history and minored in photography because I could get done quicker that way and take the photography classes that I was interested in and not all of the other art courses. As I went through school, I ran my business and did lots of weddings for my friends from high school and friends that I met in college. I was charging $75 at first for an event!! I was a steal! :). I usually had shoots on the weekends and in the evenings while I went to school. My photography paid for most of my school; it was so great to be able to do what I loved to be able to get out of school with only a few thousand dollars to pay off. By the time I graduated, I had gotten permission from a lot of my professors to miss my classes so I could be available to photograph weddings. When I graduated, I was shooting 40-50 weddings a year, so I never looked back on my teaching career. I have a lot of aunts that are teachers, and I would sub for them the first few years to fill in for the slow times, and it was perfect! I would have probably done things a little differently if I were to do it again, but it worked for me, and I worked hard to get what I wanted!
Part 7. I photographed my first wedding in November 2004. One of my good friends from high school was getting married, and she was kind enough to trust me with taking her photos! She got married in the Logan Temple, it was a beautiful day in November, and they were soooo excited to get married!! They didn’t stop smiling all day! At this point, I only had my Film Canon Rebel and a digital point and shoot. I begged my aunt to let me borrow her Canon 20D so that I could shoot digital for this wedding. It was so fun using this nice new digital camera. I knew a bit of photoshop because, during high school, my brother and his friends always found a way to get bootlegged versions of photoshop, and one of his friends was good at it and kind enough to teach me a few tricks! I finally purchased my digital camera at the end of December 2004. I don’t know how many times I went to Inkley’s to look at it before I was finally able to purchase it! My mom had to loan me some of the amount so I could buy it. It is crazy how the prices have changed in the camera world, my first digital camera was an 8.2-megapixel camera, and it was $1800! My iPhone XS has a 12-megapixel camera, and my current Canon 5D Mark IV has 30.4 megapixels. I started out buying 512 Mb cards, and they were sooo expensive! I now buy 64 GB cards, and they are much cheaper! It is so fun to look back on those first wedding images that I took. I am so grateful for my friend for letting me take them and grateful to my aunt for trusting me to use her new camera!
Part 8. After a year or so of doing weddings, I started to put money into advertising. Can you guys what it was?? I put ads in the PHONEBOOK!! Half of you probably don’t know what that is, and you have probably never seen one!! I can vividly see my first color add that I put in, I was so proud!! The bride was so beautiful, and she had her bouquet right up to her face! Do you remember that pose? The wedding was on campus at the Alumni House, and her colors were brown and orange, with beautiful orchids and cool monkey tail ferns in it, those were super popular additions to bouquets at the time. Advertising in the phone book was not cheap!! For the first 2-3 years, I paid around $1500 for a tiny ad. I still have my first ads and business cards that I designed, they are pretty awesome! I eventually got some design help; one of the guys that I dated had a talented uncle that traded photos for design. I loved what he did for me! Eventually, my Blogspot turned into an actual website, my first brand colors we’re teal and brown! Once I graduated from college, I was able to get into some of my first bridal shows. The first show I hung some frames with some ribbon and called it good! Eventually, I had furniture and walls to haul all over Northern Utah. I stopped doing bridal shows in 2016, and I have been successful booking with my Website and SEO and social media since then. I have loved seeing how the marketing and wedding world has changed over the years!
Part 9. When I was in Photo One during my first semester of college, I was working in a retirement home, a lot of the residents became subjects for a lot of my photo projects. I loved working there, and I developed a lot of close relationships with many of the residents. They were so wonderful; they would let me take photos of them all of the time. Some of my favorite portraits that I took were of Wilford and Virginia; they were the cutest couple! When I was taking photos of them, they were so sweet with each other. They were so in love, even in their 90s! After I took their photos, he passed away soon after. She hung up the pictures in her apartment, and every time I saw her, she told me that she would kiss the photo every day! They were the sweetest! I love that I was able to create something that she could cherish after he was gone.
For my final project, I went and documented several of them in their rooms. They all had similar apartments, and I loved seeing how they all made the spaces their own. I didn’t have them pose for me, I captured them in their natural state, and I loved how they turned out. Photos have a way to bring you back in time, and to remember certain times in your life.
Part 10. I photographed my first out of state wedding in 2006. The bride grew up down the street from me, and her groom was from California. They got married in the Oakland Temple and then held their reception in Sacramento. I was so excited to be going to California! The Temple grounds in Oakland are so beautiful in the summer!! They had the most beautiful hydrangeas, and Bird of Paradise flowers. I was only 20 at the time, so my mom came with so she could drive! 😂. Thanks, mom! I hadn’t traveled by myself before this trip. After the temple, we didn’t have a ton of time, and they wanted some photos with the ocean on the way to Sacramento. I didn’t know the area well, so we stopped basically on the side of the road, it was ridiculously windy, so it didn’t last long. Their reception took place in his parent’s back yard, and it was so beautiful!! My out of state trips always came in waves; I was never able to book them until the last few years consistently. I get so inspired by traveling and having the challenge of shooting somewhere new. I love photographing in California sunsets; the light is so dreamy!
Part 11. Right before I graduated, I bought myself one good lens, my friend Emily in the photo program had an excellent lens that she traveled with, so I got what she had! I bought the Canon L series 24-105, F4. I loved it; I never took it off. I loved that you could go wide and zoom in close. It was all I thought that I needed! I photographed a wedding with a videographer, and he asked if I was ever going to switch lenses… nope, it worked great! Haha! I shot with this lens for several years after. I never started looking into different lenses until I married Cole. I didn’t see the need for it, I got good results, I liked shooting with it, and I didn’t know any different!
Cole loves to research all things gear related!! I soon added several lenses to my collection, and now I recognize the difference between an f/1.2 lens and an f/4 lens. For a lot of my shoots, I stick to one or two lenses, usually my Canon 50 f/1.2 and my Canon 24-70 f/2.8. I always carry all of my lenses with me because you never know what situations you will be in, or if you want to try something different. My 70-200 f/2.8 is my favorite for weddings! If you can’t upgrade your equipment, learn to be an expert in what you have. When you can invest in better glass, and more versatile focal lengths, you can increase your quality of work. Cole’s favorite camera is the Hasselblad 2000FC.
Part 12. I have been pretty lucky in my career, not to have anything too terrible to happen! I make mistakes, and I do things wrong all of the time! But this one is probably one of the worst! And I still have flashbacks of this moment! My stomach is even queasy writing about it! I had a beautiful wedding booked for July 4th, 2009. The ceremony took place at Wolf Creek Resort in the beautiful Ogden Valley. Their ceremony overlooked the breathtaking views of the mountains. The night ended with a dinner with views of Pineview Reservoir, and great views of the local firework show. The next day I was flying out to Italy for two weeks, I always stress out right before I leave on trips because I don’t like going with shoots to edit. I had been working like crazy to get everything caught up before their wedding. I magically got everything packed and prepped for my vacation and the wedding. I was super proud of myself for being done earlier than planned, so I left an hour and a half earlier than I needed to. I had been to the area before, so I thought I knew where to go, remember I only had my blackberry at the time, and GPS wasn’t on every phone. I couldn’t believe that I was going to arrive so early and be ready to fly out when I finished! As I was driving, I knew I needed to turn left when I got to Pineview. I kept driving, and I never got to the reservoir, and I was getting a bit concerned, time was ticking and the wedding time was getting closer and closer. I frantically called my mom to have her look up directions, I explained where I was, and she figured it out, and I went up the wrong Ogden Canyon! I hadn’t driven to the area a lot by myself, so I didn’t realize there were two Ogden Canyons!! At this point, my stomach was in a knot. I flipped around as soon as I could to head the other direction. I also forgot to mention that I was driving an awesome convertible PT Cruiser because I had rear-ended someone earlier in the week, and it was a perfect time while I was gone to get my car fixed. If you have ever driven a PT Cruiser, you would know that they are the worst!! The thing had no guts, I had my foot down on the pedal, and I was going as fast as I could through the hilly, canyon passes. I called the resort in a panic, and they were okay waiting for me, I arrived 5 minutes late, and the ceremony started as soon as I got there. I felt so embarrassed the rest of the night; I don’t think my stomach ever calmed down! Thankfully the bride and groom were so kind and understanding. Eleven years later, I still get knots in my stomach when I go through Weber canyon to get to Park City!
Part 13. In 2010 my brother’s friends were getting married in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico! My brother and his girlfriend gave them my info, and they booked me for my first international wedding. The bride and groom were gorgeous; I was so excited! I got so many favorite images from their wedding. They had a dinner cruise the night before their wedding, and it was so much fun, all of their friends and family were so fun to photograph! Their wedding took place the next day at the RIU Palace, and their ceremony was in a beautiful gazebo overlooking the ocean. During the dinner we escaped for a half hour to do some beach photos, the blue color of the water was so picturesque! I get carried away when I pull the bride and groom away for portraits at golden hour. I wish I could have that light all-day; it is my favorite!! I had large framed photos of their wedding for years at my bridal shows! It was one of my favorite weddings that I have photographed. I stayed a few days extra after the wedding to enjoy some time in Mexico, my friend and her sister came along for the trip. One lesson that we learned is that you never turn your back on the ocean. We were sitting away from the water on a little sand cliff, and as soon as we turned away a sneaker wave crashed up on the bench and took our stuff, we had to chase after it while laughing uncontrollably and luckily we didn’t lose anything! One of my favorite parts of shooting in new locations is exploring and having an experience while I am there.
Part 14. One thing that I would change is going to conferences and workshops earlier in my career. I was always afraid that I wasn’t good enough yet. I just focused on doing shoots and doing my own thing. I went to my first WPPI in 2012 with some friends, and I learned so much! We did a masterclass before the conference on lighting, and it opened my eyes to so much! For so long, I just made things work; I feel like that is how I was in school with a lot of classes, especially English, I got good grades, but I don’t know how I got there. I just worked hard but didn’t understand everything in between or the full process. I could never fully verbalize the process; I just did it. I have enjoyed learning more about how my cameras work and how to get the results that I want. Since my first WPPI, I attended a workshop in Nepal in 2015 with Nina and Wes Photography, and with Type A Society and Brown Linen Designs as the stylists. In 2016 I was mentored by Heather Nan on off-camera flash and then attended her illume workshop a few years later. I finally have my off-camera lighting down, and it doesn’t scare me anymore! 😂 I hired D’Arcy Benincosa as a business coach and learned so much from her. I have enjoyed attending Photo Native and The Hybrid Co. I have purchased online courses from Jenna Kutcher and Dean Graziosi. In the fall, I participated in the RISE business conference. I enjoyed that conference!! Right now, I don’t have any current workshops that I am looking into, but I am always open for an excellent opportunity!
Part 15. For 15 years, I have photographed hundreds of weddings and well over a thousand family photo sessions. I have had the opportunity to capture some of the most significant times in people’s lives. I don’t take that lightly. When I am at a wedding, I am all there; I am always looking for moments to capture. I always dislike it when the wedding ends; I get so attached to the bride, groom, and their families. When I drive home from a wedding, I call Cole and tell him about all of the amazing things that happened. I don’t have any desire to stop or to cut back on doing weddings and family photos. I can’t get enough, and I still do a happy dance in my office when I book a wedding! I can’t believe in 5 years, I will have been a photographer for 20 years! That sounds so insane, and I feel like I am not old enough for that. I want to continue in the direction that I am going. My success is slow and steady, and I don’t mind that. I have some fabulous weddings and events lined up for this year, and it keeps getting better and better.
For the last few years, I have been pursuing more passive income outlets; they have also been growing slow and steady as well (I think that is how my entire life is!). My print shop is one of those. I love traveling and creating images for your home. I get so excited when I can add new pictures to my shop! I am also starting to get a few online courses created. I have been so grateful that during my 15-year career, I have never wanted to quit. I can’t imagine my life without photography. Over the years, I have seen so many lose interest in photography, and they stop. Those stories make me so sad to hear. I want to help others keep their passion alive, just as it was when they first picked up a camera.
Thank you so much for sticking around until the end of these posts! I hope they have been fun to read; it has been fun looking back and writing stories about where I started with photography. I have never been good at writing; it is one of my goals to improve on. I am so grateful to every person who has trusted me to capture a time in your life that you wanted to remember. 2020 is going to be a marvelous year, and I am excited to continue to improve and to learn more about running a better business. If you ever have any questions, I love giving advice, message me anytime.