When Faythe (editor of Beauty and Lifestyle Mommy) e-mailed me to ask if I’d be interested in being the featured photographer for the February issue of the magazine’s newsletter I was honored, excited and a little nervous! After all, the issue goes out to 250, 000 people! Then I read the questions and I was REALLY nervous…how would I answer all of the questions without sounding like every other photographer (started with friends, love babies, etc.)? But, after talking to a few clients and friends, apparently inquiring minds want to know! Check out the beautifully laid out version in the link above or read on for answers to all of your burning questions about me.
JENN: As an on-location maternity and newborn lifestyle photographer I am honored to join families throughout San Antonio, Texas in creating artistic portraits that reveal their unique personalities and style. During the past ten years, I have been privileged to photograph over 1,200 newborns in their homes. My style is clean, natural and interaction focused. By combining items from around my client’s homes with my pint-sized accessories I work together with them to create distinctive images that tell their story. I love finding the light in new places, snuggling with days-old newborns and turning clients into friends.
I have tried many things over the years to “perfect” my craft…using assorted lighting techniques, shooting at different times of day, coming up with new “recipes” to get unwilling tiny subjects to sleep. But my favorite images are always the ones taken with natural light, focusing on a new parent marveling at their little creation.
I will throw open the curtains, sit under the kitchen table and stand in the window sill…I will do whatever I need to do to get the “perfect angle” and find the right light. I might ask silly or thoughtful questions, encourage my subjects to kiss or whisper in each other’s ear while I search for the in-between moments when they let their emotions peek through.
But most of all, I will look through my lens and see a family and all of its pieces…from happy to silly to sometimes messy. And then I will give them a gift…the gift of stopping time. The gift that right now, they may not truly appreciate because they are in the moment being busy and tired. A gift they will treasure above all others and may even use later during their child’s toddler (or teenage!) years to remind them of how sweet their baby once was. And that gift is portraits. Real, printed portraits that tell a story, a family’s story.
BLMOMMY: How did you become a photographer?
JENN: With the birth of my oldest son in 1996, I fell in love with the art of scrapbooking (this is one of the books I was part of), at the time I was working as a sales and marketing representative so every minute that I was not working, I spent detailing his existence in photos and stories. But, my pictures were not very good and I set out to find out why. I had a friend that was a professional photographer (she only used film!). One day we were talking about my issues (more like I was crying and she was listening), she handed me her camera, pushed my face to the viewfinder and said: “keep your eye on the little dashes below the image” as she led me to turn the dials. It hit me then what “shooting manual” meant and I never looked back.
From there I went on to have three more boys, take thousands ofmore photos and create many more scrapbook pages. I began designing for a few magazines and online sites (including Memory Makers, where I was selected as one of their top ten Master Artists for 2005). I still use many of the design skills that I learned then to create cards, collages, and albums for my photography clients.
BLMOMMY: When did you establish your photography business?
JENN: As my boys got bigger and began going to Mother’s Day Out and I began to miss the adult interaction and sales consultant parts of my life. So, I decided to merge my art with my business knowledge and Jenn Brookover Photography was born. Like most photographers, I started with friends and the referrals grew from there.
At the time that I started my business, there were very few “at home” photographers (and even fewer newborn AND at home photographers) in San Antonio. I used this unique selling point to differentiate myself and convince clients that their home could be the backdrop even if it wasn’t “perfect”. I believe that incorporating a client’s home as well as their personal items helps me to create one-of-a-kind portraits for each family.
While I love at home photography sessions and they remain the backbone of my business, I have found that holding minisessions a few times a year allows me to see my clients more often and gives new people a chance to try me out without as large of an investment. So, for the past six years, I have partnered with a fabulous upscale baby boutique in town called Nursery Couture. We set up a “studio” in the store and invite all of our clients and friends to join us for specialty sessions a few times a year (we just finished Santa, where we saw 200 families over a six day period!).
BLMOMMY: How would you describe your style?
JENN: “Lifestyle portraits at home”. My goal is to present a range of images that will remind my clients not only what they looked like at the time of their portraits but also how they felt on that day. I want them to get that little knot in their throat as they fall in love every time they turn a page of their album.
My style changes a little with each client as I try to stay true to the feeling of their home. Prior to the session, I have them describe their style, their colors and their home to me. This way I can coordinate my little props with their home (for newborns – for big kid family sessions, I only use items from their home). Once I arrive, I scout out the light and come up with a plan for their portraits. I have a knack for finding items that are special to them. This could be anything from a wall hanging, a toy from when they were little or even a special touch that they chose together for baby’s room. The best ideas come from the clients themselves (amazingly, it’s usually the dads!). It could be an heirloom guitar, a favorite lovey or a hammock they’ve recently hung in their yard, anything that is special to them.
BLMOMMY: What is your favorite age to photograph?
JENN: That’s a toss up between newborns and 6-9-month-olds! There is a point in every newborn session where mom and I are looking at the baby and I turn to her and say “this is what a miracle looks like, she was in your only a week ago…you guys made her!” I love being one of the first people to hold a newborn and to use my “baby whispering” skills to bring out their personalities in pictures (yes, they do already have personalities!).
With that said, the 6-9-month-olds are the most fun (if they’ve napped and had a full tummy!). They are happy to just sit and smile at you (and they can’t get away).
BLMOMMY: One thing you’d advise someone just starting in the art?
JENN: Be yourself! Find your “view” and don’t fall prey to the latest action, filter or Photoshop trick…clear, emotive images will always be in style!
On the technical side, I would say to learn to shoot in manual. It makes a huge difference to be able to actually control the camera, especially in low light and backlit situations.
On starting a business, don’t undersell yourself and be strong in what you are willing to sell. I have probably lost some business because I will not sell “just the disk” but I feel it is very important to have some kind of print to look back on. Trust me, not one client has ever complained that they wish they hadn’t ordered prints. In fact, most clients thank me for encouraging them to print their images and wish they had thought bigger! (sorry, that was three things!)
BLMOMMY: Favorite camera and lens?
JENN: Canon 5D Mark III. My go-to lens is my 24-70mm for indoor shoots and newborns (although I also have the 50 1.2). My 24- 70 is covered with stickers from all of my little friends that have helped me decorate it (when I had it cleaned I made the service center promise not to take them off). When I am shooting outside I love the 85 1.2 and the 200 1.2.
BLMOMMY: Tell us about you, what are some of your favorite things?
JENN: As I mentioned earlier, I am the mom of four boys, four teenagers to be exact (for the next few months anyway). They are all very close together – I was basically pregnant or nursing for eight years! Now that they are older, my husband and I spend most of our time driving to and watching their sporting events (football and baseball). Our oldest is playing college baseball at the University of Texas in San Antonio which has been very exciting. We both run our own businesses (he’s an attorney) so we are lucky to have flexible schedules that allow us to volunteer to help with the fundraising and organizing of their teams. When I’m not hanging out with them, I love to shop, chat on the phone and work out (have to keep up with the toddlers!)
BLMOMMY: Favorite or dream vacation?
JENN: Hawaii or anywhere with a beach!
BLMOMMY: Is there a Mr. Brookover? what does he think about your passion for photography?
JENN: Yes, there is a Mr. Brookover! He is very supportive and actually bought me the camera that started my business. He listens (or at least acts like he’s listening) when I chatter on about a new idea or randomly shout out “look at that light!” He keeps my finances organized for me. The only time he is not the most helpful is when I make our boys do a photo shoot, then he magically disappears!
BLMOMMY: Where do yourself as a photographer in 5 years?
JENN: I’d love to have a little studio where I could do milestone sessions and newborn families who aren’t comfortable doing a session in their home (even though I tell them they don’t have to clean up!!). I’d also like to add some helpers to run the back end of the business so that I could take on more sessions.
BLMOMMY: What would you advise new moms and seasoned mom’s of kids to look for before hiring a photographer?
JENN: Talk to them on the phone, see if you click. Make sure you ask lots of questions so you can understand how they work. Of course, you want to make sure you like their style as well. Once you choose your photographer, trust them to do their job! Then, relax and allow your emotions to show.
BLMOMMY: Favorite photography moment?
JENN: There have been many over the years! I love every newborn as if they are my own. But my most “miraculous” session was photographing a micro-premie little girl born at 1 pound, 8 ounces on her actual due date four months later. I’ve gone on to photography several of her cousins since that time.
BLMOMMY: 3 things you can’t live without?
JENN: My step stool (I’m short!), my phone (of course!), and Diet Coke
BLMOMMY: Favorite quote?
JENN: Enjoy the little things in life for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things – Kurt Vonnegut