The Photographer Interviews: Jenni Chapman

Posted by Michele Hamparian

Jun 11th 2021

What drew you to photography?

My mom is a scrapbooker, so I was probably the most photographed child of the late 90’s/early 2000’s. I wanted to be a nat geo nature photographer when I was young (with a pink brushed metal point and shoot from Target), but once I figured out I could direct people to pose or look how I wanted them to, I was hooked.

Flowers and wild animals can't move to better lighting or pose for you! Now, seven years into running this business, I treasure opportunities to tell people’s stories - whether it’s your family, a special occasion, or simply some portraits to celebrate yourself.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I follow so many photographers on Instagram! I try not to compare myself to others, though. I take elements from other photographers that I’d like to put my own twist on, but I never want to plagiarize. Plus, I want to be building a brand for myself that differentiates me from all the other photographers out there. I also get so much inspiration from nature! I love incorporating flowers, plants, and other natural elements into both my outdoor and indoor sessions.

What type of cameras and lenses do you use?

I have a Canon 6D Mark II that’s my go-to, and I tend to use my Canon 50mm prime more than the others. It’s perfect for both headshots and individual portraits, and if you back up a bit it keeps family portraits super sharp and in focus.

Are there any projects you are especially proud of?

Yes! My senior year of college, one of my very best friends began his transition. I collaborated with him on a year-long project, where we got together every month to take photos. I’d record him talking about how he felt that month and any changes he’d noticed (this was also to show how much his voice was dropping), and we took two sets of photos.

First, a single portrait each month set up exactly the same way, to compare his changes. Then, we’d do a set of more editorial images that captured how he was feeling that month. I turned it into a multimedia project to commemorate his transition for both him and his family. It meant the world to me to be a small part of something so meaningful.

What subject draws you to take a photo of it?

I just love people! I think everyone radiates beauty out of their eyes when they feel truly seen. I want to capture photos of people that not only make them look good, but I also want them to see the photos and think, “Wow. This is me.” I love to capture people’s essences and really show their personalities through photos!

Can you share some tips on how you shoot your images?

I like to keep things super fun and chill - I love playing music, making jokes, etc. By the end of every shoot, I’ve made new friends! I always frame a bit wider than I actually want, so there’s room to crop it perfectly in post.

What's the secret! Are there specific types of equipment for taking these kinds of photos?

I like using a shallower depth of field and edit very little aside from light/color correction. I want you to feel what it was like to be there when you see my photos, not a heavily filtered image that has so much editing that it takes away from the picture itself. And honestly, people skills are the most important thing. I always say I can edit out lots of things but not misery; if you’re not having a good time the pictures won’t be good!

What has been your biggest challenge in pursuing a career in photography?

Patience. At the start, I didn’t have lights, backgrounds, or fancy editing software. It was hard to get my images to look the way I wanted them to look without the proper tools. However, during that time I learned so much about making it work on a budget and with unconventional techniques and materials!

What advice would you give to someone starting a career in photography?

In the beginning, experience is worth more than money. Ask friends, family, etc. to be your subjects for free - try out new things with them (never with paying clients!). It’s so much easier to learn new techniques when there isn’t anything on the line. Have fun messing around, you never know what you might figure out!

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