Over the next few months, please join us for a fun, behind-the-scenes look at some of MCP’s favorite photographers through a special “Featured Photographer” series. Learn their secrets, their favorite photography items, how they got their start, and much more!
This Month? We’re focusing on Jenna Schwartz’ business out near sunny Las Vegas. She is the owner of Photo Studio Vegas and is currently running her business part-time. But let’s face it… those of us who do part-time photography know that it’s always spinning in our head!
The following is the Interview MCP did with Jenna relating to any and all facets of her business.
Photography Business-Related Questions:
1) How long have you been in business? Full-time or part-time?
I have been in business since 2008, when I took on my first senior client. Back then, I was much more focused on learning and did only a few sessions a month as practice. Now, I shoot part-time, as a choice, to also help my husband run his internet marketing business. I’d guess to say I do 4-5 sessions a month.
The top two photographs below are shots Jenna did when first starting out all those years ago. This is her sister, who was also her model in the below shots! Look how far Jenna has come!
2) What type of photography do you specialize in?
I specialize in portraiture that goes through the stages of life – maternity, newborn, baby, child, senior, couple, and engagement. However, I think I’ve shot more seniors and children than anything else. My goal is to eventually specialize in either seniors or newborns. I haven’t quite decided which one I like more yet.
3) What made you want to be a photographer?
This is a hard question I get asked often. I have always been a creative person, and throughout my early years I was involved in writing, reading and music, things of which I excelled past my age in experience. However, in 2006 I had my senior portraits taken by a woman who had left the red eye from the flash (a darker, subtle red and not the harsh red we normally see) in a set of wallets she ordered for me to pass out. I felt as though I could do better, but it wasn’t until a year later in 2007 that I actually went out and bought a camera with the intent of learning to take photos. Something about photography interested me, but I didn’t know just how much it would envelope my field of passion until I got my first DSLR in 2008.
4) When did you know you wanted to be a photographer?
When I first started taking photos, I knew I liked it but I didn’t know it was what I wanted to do for a career until 2009. I did a senior session and an engagement session, and although I was proud of the work, it wasn’t until a few weeks after those sessions when my camera was stolen that I realized… That was what I wanted to do. I enjoyed taking photos. I wanted it to be a part of my everyday life.
5) What is your favorite part of being a photographer?
My favorite part of being a photographer is the words clients say to me after I show them their gallery. I think the most beautiful thing someone said to me was, “ Oh Jenna….I am crying happy tears, every picture is beautiful.” It really made me realize that the work I put into these photographs is appreciated by my clients.
Here is another example of Jenna’s work, Straight out of the Camera, with the edited version on the bottom.
6) How do you juggle your personal life with photography business demands? i.e. weekend shoots, night events, editing marathons, etc.
I juggle personal and business life very carefully! Because my husband and I already work from home offices, we have created a system for juggling work and play. Everything work related stays in the office, and the home life doesn’t seep into the office. When it comes to weekend and evening shoots, family comes first. Unless there is an emergency (like a birth session) or a really high paying client who needs weekend help, I will look at my personal schedule to make sure a work event doesn’t get in the way. Even when I know there is “nothing” scheduled, I will still ask my husband if a shoot will interfere with his schedule with me.
7) What is your yearly income from your photography business?
Jenna picked this range: $1-$25,000
8) How many hours a week do you put into your business?
I try to put about ten hours a week into my business. A lot of it is marketing, but it is also sessions, editing, and learning. I will put at least one hour a day into learning, watching others, and finding inspiration for my next shoot. It helps keep the photography side of my mind refreshed and rejuvenated, so I am never feeling dull. I only take a break when I am on vacation with the family, or sick.
9) What makes you feel “successful” in your business? If you’re not quite there yet, what are you striving for and when will you feel like you’ve “made it”?
I feel successful when a client loves their photos, and sends me happy words. I feel like I have “made it” when I win an award for my work. I think the biggest achievement (and what put the permanent, “you made it” thought in my head) was when I got my yearly roundup report from a network I am in, and I ranked in the top 100 of 6,500 national professional photographers for portraits in their network. I also have 49 awards and counting with that network, which is all judged by other professional photographers. This makes me feel great because I know that these kinds of people are looking at the important things like exposure, white balance, color, contrast, composition, and other “technical” aspects that a client just can’t see. I’ll always get the nice words from clients on how they love the emotional parts, but the technical knowledge shows I truly know “what I am doing” with a camera.
10) Where would you like to see your business go within the next 3-5 years?
I would like to see my business go into a commercial studio. I don’t do “a lot” of commercial work, but to have somewhere that I can edit, do studio work, show off client galleries and do sales is something I dream of.
11) Do you have help with your business (not including accountants/lawyers/etc)? If you do have help, how long was it in your business timeline was it before you hired on additional staff? (multi-photographer studio, business manager, 2nd shooter for specific events, assistant during shoots, etc)
I do have some help in my business. It’s mostly marketing and the business side – my husband helps me to learn how to effectively run my business, marketing and SEO techniques, and how to gain exposure and do lead gens. It was two years before I got any help like this, and it really has improved my clientele base significantly.
SOOC image on the left, with the MCP edited version on the right.
Social Media-Related Questions:
1) Do you regularly blog? Daily? Weekly?
I try to blog at least once a week. Right now I am so busy blogging for my own marketing clients I barely have time for myself! Optimally, I’d like to blog every other day.
2) How would you rate your writing skills? Is blogging fun for you or is it something you really wish would just go away!
My writing skills are fantastic! I was writing at a 9th grade level in the fourth grade, and I only exceled from there. If it weren’t for “accidentally” discovering photography, I would most definitely be a writer. I enjoy it, and it is something fun for me.
3) Do you regularly update your Facebook page, Twitter, Google+, etc., and interact with your clients and potential clients after updating something? How many times per week? Per day?
Right now I am slow to update social media. I tend to use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram the most and I think business-wise I update these several times a week, but I’d like to do it every day. Again, one of those things where I am so busy doing it for clients, I don’t carve out time to do it for myself.
4) What social media site do you enjoy the most?
Definitely Facebook, with Instagram coming in as a close second!
5) What social media site seriously makes you want to throw your camera out the window? Why (be specific)?
Google+. Google has worked hard to compete with Facebook, and I feel that as a result, they have spent more time trying to “compare” themselves to Facebook rather than create a unique network of their own. This is one of the reasons I don’t even bother to update it much or create a page for my business.
6) Do you use Pinterest a lot to showcase your work or share interesting items in the photography field?
I do! And I love it. Pinterest is such a great area of inspiration and so much fun. I love when I see my work pinned by others for their inspiration boards.
7) What items do you tend to pin?
Business wise, I tend to pin collages of all my sessions. Personally, I like to pin inspiration boards (I make one for almost every session or niche), and I like to pin crafty DIY project ideas. I am one of those people with about a hundred idea pins and only two of them implemented.
8) How many boards on Pinterest do you have focused for your business? What types of boards are they?
I have 22 boards pinned to focus on my business. One is a board of my work, two are boards for design and logo inspiration (which I do on the side with the photography and mostly for photographers), one is a social media marketing board, and the other 18 are posing ideas and inspiration.
9) Do you use Instagram for business-related purposes or is it used more for personal use? i.e. Behind the Scenes during shoots, features, etc.
I use Instagram for both business and personal. I don’t share things that could show me as unprofessional or a bad business person when I share personal things, and I don’t use foul language or sexual things on my feed, but I do share personal photos (like my stepson and my cats) alongside photos of work. I don’t have a whole lot of behind the scenes photos to share, though.
10) How many followers do you have on your social media sites? (as of this initial interview)
- Facebook – 514
- Twitter – 35
- Pinterest – 119
- Google+ – 29
- Instagram – 154
SOOC image on the top, with the MCP edited version on the bottom.
Photography Equipment & Services Offered-Related Questions:
1) What is your favorite professional printing lab service?
Artsy Couture. I like their small business feel and professionalism. Their items are almost always gift wrapped for free and are so cute. My second favorite for convenience is Mpix and MpixPro.
2) Do you offer packages for your prints and custom services? If so, what?
I just started offering a package service for seniors, which includes some wallets and prints. I do create custom box designs, and announcements and invitations.
3) What is your favorite lens to use? Do you have a “fun” go to lens?
I use my 50mm lens the most! I don’t have a fun lens, but more like fun techniques to use with my lenses. I want to upgrade to the 24-70, I feel it would become my favorite lens.
4) What professional printing lab would you stay away from with a 10 foot poll?
Ha! I don’t think I have a professional lab that has been “bad”, honestly. But I haven’t tried very many! Why fix what isn’t broken? I stay with what works for me.
5) Do you rent lenses, camera, or other equipment to try things out? If yes, what is your favorite rental place?
I have yet to rent equipment.
6) What brand of equipment do you primarily shoot with?
I shoot with Nikon equipment and Cowboy Studio lenses. I shot for a year with my husband’s Canon, but I felt like it wasn’t as sharp as my Nikon. On the subject, I am a firm believer in that Nikon and Canon are not that different – and preference really stems from your knowledge of the equipment and ease of use, not because one is “better” than the other. They are very much similar in every way.
7) What piece of your equipment could you not live without?
My 50mm 1.8 lens. It really saves the day with creamy bokeh and great light.
8) What piece of equipment do you wish you never would have spent money on?
Converter ring for my film Minolta lenses to use on my Nikon. It was very soft with every photo, and it was manual focus, which I sometimes struggle with. I really should have saved the 8 bucks and put it towards getting the 50mm sooner.
Photography Marketing-Related Questions:
1) Have you done any community or charity events to get your name out in your community? Did it work?
I donated sessions for several years to the local elementary school’s science fair event. I have yet to get any business from it – and this past year, the person who won the session never even called!
2) How do you promote your business and do you see success with this?
I promote several ways – handing out cards, keeping cards at local businesses, and Facebook/internet marketing. I have found that the internet and Facebook marketing has worked the best, although occasionally the people I hand the cards out to have come to the studio.
3) How do you go about getting new clients? If you work on a lot of referrals, do you do anything special for those who have referred you?
Mostly I do marketing online, but word of mouth works GREAT, too. I love hearing that someone was referred to me. For those who refer me, often I will give them a free mini session.
Photography Editing-Related Questions:
1) Do you use Photoshop or Lightroom for post-production? If both, do you focus more of your time in one or the other?
I am strictly a Photoshop girl, CS5.
2) Do you use actions and presets as part of your post-production work or do you primarily use hand-editing functions?
I use MCP actions for editing – although occasionally, I will break down actions to learn how they work and know how to hand edit, in case I am away from my actions. But for ease of use and the speed, I use actions.
3) How do you primarily use actions and presets? More for simple finishing touches or to really enhance and change a photo?
I use actions to bring vibrancy, clarity, sharpness and exposure to images. I like that, for instance, a fall photo really pops with warm, soft matte color when I am done editing.
4) How long have you known about MCP Products and where did you first hear of us? How long have you been following MCP on social media?
I think I may have heard about you guys in 2010 or 2011. I don’t remember how I came across the page, but I followed for several years and used the actions for a long time before I joined the MCP group.
5) What would you say is your “style” in photography? How do MCP products help you achieve this? I.e. color pop, antique-feel, B&W’s, etc
Matte, vibrancy, clean studio edits and fun location edits.
6) Do you use MCP products? If so, which ones?
I altered the Facebook fix so that it applies a specific size I like, and I have created a separate “Portrait Quick Find” group with Fusion edits I use the most, altered to remove the messages in them, and “Newborn Quick Find”, saved like the Fusion group. It has all my favorite actions copied into it. (FYI – There are online videos on the MCP Actions website to help you group things that you use often)
All of the edited images that you see within this blog post have been edited with the MCP Products above, or through hand-edits.
7) Do you believe in the ease-of-use and comfort that actions and presets can bring to a photographer’s post-production process?
In film, photographers would alter photos in the lab by changing how they process it with light and chemicals. Photoshop is the digital version of that, but on steroids. I am a firm believer in “enhancing” photos, using actions to help ease the editing process to give images a boost, or occasionally save an image gone wrong.
1) How do you get inspired? Do you ever feel like you’re just creatively tapped? How do you get your mojo back after feeling that you’re in a creative slump?
I get inspired by looking up things on Pinterest. It really gets me going. Sometimes though, I feel like I can’t create something on my own and all I can do is copy, at which point, I give the camera little rest to get my mind focused on something else. It helps refuel the ideas.
2) What was your first experience like as a photographer? Cringe-worthy or superhero?
I felt almost like a superhero! I knew very little about the camera but I created some really great images that I could even use in my portfolio now. I don’t have much beginner work I am afraid of. I think the difference between how I grew and how a lot of “shoot and burn” photographers grow is, I spent a LOT of time shooting inanimate objects to learn techniques, and only using them on people once I mastered them. In the beginning, it was all about mastering the techniques and having consistency in my work; being able to create things over and over, and not just on pure luck. I was VERY lucky to be blessed as a creative person, and have the ability to create a lot of things on accident before I learned how to do them on purpose.
3) Guilty photography pleasure? Let us hear it!
Photographing my food! I have sometimes even set up lights just to take a shot of a good grilled steak. I think if I had the extra time, I would do a food blog. There is not a lot I can cook, but what I can do, I can always make it look prettier than it tastes. Whenever I cook a good dinner, I grab my camera, take a shot, and boast on Facebook. No one is convinced I am a terrible cook, only because I make it look good, but honestly, I set fire to spaghetti that was still boiling in water (true story)!
4) What’s the craziest question you’ve been asked as a photographer? Who can relate?
What kind of camera do you use, I want to be a photographer too and I like your photos so much! I am ALWAYS using the “stoves don’t cook your meal” analogy. People are so convinced it is the equipment, but I have award winning shots taken with a camera that has less power and MP than most smartphones these days. I get a lot of alteration requests, but none that are out of the ordinary. I am a firm believer that it is my job to help make a person feel beautiful, and while I do a lot of that in camera with posing and lighting, I also do alterations when a client feels they don’t look beautiful.
- “How much was your camera? It’s awesome!” – I almost always recommend these people to a point and shoot alternative, as they can’t handle learning a DSLR most of the time.
- “How do you get everything in the background blurry?” – This is more ignorance of photography than anything.
- “Just photograph me from the waist up!” – I got this request from a mom once who felt she looked too fat to photograph with her one year old, and her favorite images ended up being the full body ones.
- “Can I see all the pictures before you edit them?” – Lots of photographers feel they need to “explain” why they don’t do this. If a client is being nice in a session, I’ll show them back of camera. But if they aren’t, I just let them know that I don’t show unaltered images. Simple as that!
- “Can you just change the color of my shirt/hair/hat/earrings/etc. You can just photoshop it, so it shouldn’t be a big deal, right?!” – Sometimes, it isn’t! And sometimes, it is. I let clients know in session if I think I can change something, and if I don’t think I can, I tell them we can always turn it black and white and still get a great shot.
5) Do you travel a lot and if so, do you tend to photograph a lot when on vacation and blog about it, too?
I travel a lot just for photography! I go 2,700 miles to do a week’s of clients in my hometown. It is a lot of fun and people love it. I am always booked up when I do this.
6) What has been your best experience/biggest accomplishment since you’ve become a photographer? Critical acclaim, that awesome gift one of your clients got you, being a part of a special family moment – don’t be embarrassed!
Honestly, it’s Blue! Baby Blue, whose real name is Kingston, was called Blueberry in the womb and now is known as Blue. His momma loves me and comes every other month, sometimes more, for a session. Photography is a passion of hers, but she likes seeing them, not taking them. I go out of my way to create unique scenes and themes for Blue. Everyone loves seeing him on my Facebook, too! He’s my little mini-star. Seeing him in his photos and hearing the words from his momma (the earlier quote I shared) are what make this job worth every ounce of sweat and late nights.
7) What has been your worst experience since you’ve become a photographer? Peed on, not paid, client tantrums… let’s hear it!
One newborn client didn’t realize that it was a home studio, was rude during the session, and left in the middle of it. She sent me a nasty message on Facebook asking for a refund, claiming she expected a commercial studio and hated the experience. My experience is one of the things clients rave about the most! I was a little embarrassed and upset. It completely ruined the weekend trip to the Grand Canyon. I honestly felt like I’d never take another photo again!
8) What has been your biggest regret in your photography business that you wish you could have a do-over button for?
Losing my camera in the beginning is my biggest regret. I had a 50mm lens, and I left my camera and lens in my car one night after coming home late from a shoot and someone broke in and stole it. I was so upset – I didn’t realize at the time how much that lens really meant to me, and it was three years before I got another one. I wish I could have it back, and put the money I spent on this new camera and lens towards a 24-70!
9) What is your least favorite part of being a photographer? Come on… we all have them!
Wow… Hard to think about what is my least favorite part. I think sales and marketing. Having to walk up to people and introduce myself, or network or do sales with clients. It is probably what will keep me from becoming really successful, until I can better handle it.