Today I’m kicking off a new series for The Girl Brand: the Creative Inspiration Series. The posts in this series will all feature awesome people, places, and things that inspire creative freedom, expression, and living. It’s going to be a wild ride, and I’m so excited to start it off with you!
For the first installment of this series, I’m over the moon to introduce you to Jenna, of Jenna Parr Photography. This girl is hilarious, a bottomless pit when it comes to pizza, donuts, and coffee, and a creative genius with a camera. She takes pictures of anything she finds interesting, but supports her biz on portrait, lifestyle, and wedding photography.
Read on (and obsess over the pictures she was willing to share—I can’t stop looking at them) to hear about her start, her process, and her plans for the future. She’s a #girlboss I’m totally obsessed with in an Instagram-stalker kind of way, and a personal inspiration to get my camera out on a more regular basis. I just know you’re going to agree!
Expert Interview with Jenna Parr Photography
Meet Jenna, of Jenna Parr Photography. As you can clearly tell, she likes pizza.
Jenna and I did our interview sitting at Starbucks, coffee and cameras in hand. We’ve known each other awhile now, and have, in fact, sat at that same Starbucks together before, joking, laughing, and talking girlboss strategies. She’s a native Wisconsinite, and shoots in Southeastern Wisconsin (as well as at destination weddings—can you say jealous?). If you fall in love with her style, reach out to her through Facebook or Instagram.
Now, onto the skinny on Jenna & her creative photog biz!
Before we get into the biz stuff, I have to ask about your Instagram account. You have almost 4,000 posts, many from long before you ever bought a professional camera. When did your shutterbug fascination start?
Well honestly, it all started with my smartphone. Obviously smartphones have nice cameras, and I’ve always loved them, so it made it easy to get into taking pictures.
I would see garbage on floor and think it was art, or I’d be drinking my coffee and want to take pictures of it. Sometimes I’d notice the views from the top of where I was standing, and I’d be like, ‘Ooo, my shoes look cute with where I’m walking, and everything looks super cohesive.’ So I’d take a picture.
I’d literally see things everywhere I went, and be snapping away. It was just something I did.
When did you first think you might like to turn it into a career?
When I got a real camera to replace my phone. One of my friends asked if I wanted to practice using it, and she loved the pictures so much, she asked me to shoot her wedding. And I did.
It blew up from there. It’s kind of amazing to think about it now, because I wasn’t thinking business, I was thinking practice. But a lot of people saw my ‘practice’ shots and started messaging me, asking if I could take family or engagement photos for them.
Everyone was complimenting my shots, and I was like, ‘Ok, maybe I can do something with this. If people like my photos, maybe I can get paid for it.’
That’s when I decided to make a Facebook page for my photography. Just to see what would happen.
I came up with some prices, and people started saying yes.
It actually happened really fast. In my first three months, I did 40 sessions. Still blows my mind.
What’s your background in? Did you go to school for photography or do you have another area of expertise?
I didn’t go to school for photography; I actually got my degree in graphic design, and currently pursue that to live on while I grow my biz. But the photography has helped a lot in finding graphic design jobs, because it sets me apart from the other candidates.
As far as photography, I only took one studio photog class, and it was for fun. Funny enough, if you threw me in a studio now, I wouldn’t remember how to do some of it, because I mainly focus on shooting outside in natural light.
My goal is to eventually have my photography biz be my main career, but for now I rely on my 9–5 while it grows.
What are your favorite sessions to shoot?
I love engagement shoots. Working with a couple is more like interacting with friends than clients, and I love witnessing their love story unfold with me.
I like families, too; getting to have fun with the kids and getting the parents to interact with the kids. I love seeing them live out their day-to-day lives in front of my camera. And you don’t even need to ask if the dog can come along—that’s a given.
Newborns are so challenging, but they’re amazing. The twin shoot was really hard because there were two babies. That meant two babies to feed, burp, change, wrap, and get to sleep. By the time I got both babies situated, I was exhausted.
I really want to try boudoir sessions, but haven’t had the chance yet. It doesn’t help that I don’t have a studio. But I’d love to try that at some point.
And of course I adore weddings. It’s an awesome experience to be a part of someone’s special day and get to capture it for them.
Do you have any fun stories from your sessions?
Yeah, it seems like I’m always doing something weird to get the perfect shot. I have no issue getting down and dirty to get them.
I’ve gotten burrs in my hair standing in a tree to get the perfect shot, and I stood in the middle of a river to get an awesome angle onto a rock outcropping. I had brought my rain boots to that shoot so I wouldn’t get muddy, and ended up in a river I didn’t even know was there. So now I try to always be prepared for crazy opportunities.
How has social media helped grow your business? Do you have a posting strategy?
Well since I’m still working on setting up my website, all I use currently is social media. I have a Facebook page and my Instagram account. Facebook is strictly my biz, but Instagram is both my biz & personal. I already had so many followers on my Instagram, it seemed a waste to start over, so I just started posting my photo shoots on the same one.
As for a strategy, now I do. At least I try to.
I feel like my strategy behind IG is finding a good time to post, which I learned about from one of my 9-5 jobs, and I use FB insights to help figure it out.
I used to get caught up in the captions for a picture. Now I try to share a story in the caption that people will relate to and interact with. That might not have anything to do with the photo, but the photo will catch their eye, then they read, then they engage.
I’ve realized my captions have started getting longer too, because it either tells a story about the photo, or something special that happened during that session. I realized that when you post a caption that has meaning to it, people are touched by it or relate to it. That creates engagement.
My Facebook page doesn’t have as much strategy behind it as I’d like it to, especially now, while things are slow with the Wisconsin February weather. I mostly post old photos I haven’t previously, because even if it’s old, it’s better than going a week without posting.
What would you offer in advice to anyone who wants to become a better photographer, or maybe start their own photography business?
- Don’t be afraid of manual. I was so afraid to shoot in manual when I first started, but once I practiced, I fell in love. You have so much more control: control of what’s in focus, control of the mood, the lighting…everything.
- For composition, you don’t have to follow the rules of third. It’s so in to do out of the box photos. It gives you a different story to tell.
- Have a brand, and make something professional, not something you created in Word. Get a real one, from a designer. Invest in it, because it’s important. You need a professional watermark, maybe even a couple. Think of it as being just as important as your lens.
- Don’t make a website or page until you have something to show in your portfolio. Otherwise it just looks empty, like no one will hire you.
- Reach out to photogs you aspire to be like and ask them questions. Do their workshops, attend their Q+As, and don’t be afraid to email them; you never know, they might answer you.
- Set goals. My goal is to be featured on Junebug Weddings or The Knot. I’ve been featured on Wisconsin Bride’s Instagram, but I’d love to get a national feature or a photo with a byline in a magazine.
What are your plans for growing Jenna Parr Photography in the near future? Any big developments you’re working on?
I’m working on my website, and would love to build my lens collection.
For my 5 year timeline, I want to have a studio for newborns and minis that I can’t do outside.
What are your favorite Instagram accounts to follow?
JennaKutcher – Because she always posts things that inspire me, and we have the same first name.
Rennen29 – They’re a husband & wife team for Studio 29 Photography.
What’s your favorite chocolate item?
Oh geez. Puppy Chow—I make a mean one. Robert’s Frozen Custard Ultimate Cookie Dough. A really really really thick chocolate malt. And brownie batter—not the brownie itself, but the batter. #batteroverbrownie
That wraps up the first in my Creative Inspiration Series! I hope you love love LOVED learning about Jenna and her overnight photography biz! I also hope it got some creative juices flowing in you.
Stay tuned for the next of this series; I’ll send out a note when it’s ready, so sign up for my email updates below. Plus, you’ll get access to my fabulous free biz & branding resources! Until next time!