Introducing our MARCH Photographer of the Month… Jessica Gwozdz!
Jess is actually a local, and good friend, of mine! I could actually call her one of my mentors, and 100% an inspiration!
Jes helped me fall in love with props… by use of her “blue lil monster hat” I saw when JSO…
So prop junkies.. I introduce you!
1) My dear friend Jes… lets introduce YOU to the rest of the prop junkies, and get “rollin'” on your work! What is your photography site, blog, and any other sites you own that you’d like to share with us?
2) Your portfolio is amazing, and so well rounded! How did YOU get started in the photography business, and when?
Thank you! I have had a camera of some sort in my hand since I was 6 years old. I was always “the one with the camera” documenting friends, family, parties, vacations, etc. I got my first SLR in 1984 when I was in junior high school. I went to a small private all-girls high school and even though I was the photo editor of the yearbook for 3 years, we did not have a darkroom at school so we sent our film out for processing. I really think that if my little private high school had a darkroom like the big public high school in the area, I would have headed that direction for a career. Although I was winning local photojournalism awards in high school, it just never really occurred to me to consider photography as a career. Photography at that point just seemed like something fun to do as a hobby. I excelled in science and math and therefore went on to engineering school. I have a bachelors degree in biomedical engineering, a masters in mechanical engineering, and I worked as a engineer for 7 years before changing careers and becoming a photographer. Even while working as an engineer, I couldn’t shake the photography bug! I was taking photography classes at community college, attending photography workshops and seminars, and photographing friends’ children. It was the birth of my first child in 2002 that was the catalyst for me to quit my corporate job and pursue my photographic passion as a business.
3) And we have to ask… WHAT DO YOU SHOT WITH, and what is your favorite lens?
I am a Nikon girl. I shot Nikon when I was shooting film (“Film, what’s that?” as my kids say) so I had a bunch of Nikon lenses, accessories, and speedlights. When I decided to go digital, it seemed like most Nikon pros I knew were gravitating toward the Fuji digital SLRs. For those who don’t know, Fuji bought bodies from Nikon and put Fuji “guts” inside so a Fuji dSLR accepts Nikon lenses. I have owned a series of Fuji’s (a couple of S2’s, S3, S5), and then in 2008 I bought a Nikon D700 and mostly recently a Nikon D7000 as a backup camera. If I could marry a camera, I would marry my D700 because I love it so much. LOL! The D7000 is still a newbie to me so I am learning to work with that one but so far my results have been fantastic. I think Nikon really under priced that D7000, but shhhhh…. don’t tell them!
As far as lenses, I have the Nikon 50 1.8, 85 1.8, 105 2.8, 24-70 2.8, and Tamron 28-75 2.8. I have my eye on the new Nikon 24-120 f4 and would love to hear comments from anyone who has that lens. I used to own the old variable aperture Nikon 24-120, but it was more of a consumer-grade lens, not very sharp, and so I sold it. I really miss that focal range and was excited to hear about the brand new 24-120 f4. Studio work is usually done in the f 5.8-8 range, so mostly likely I would be working right in the sweet spot of that lens for the bulk of its use. So right now I would have to say my favorite lenses are my 85 and 105, but I am hoping that soon I will be able to tell you it’s the 24-120 f4.
4) Through your blog and website, we can see a variety of clients and ages… what is your favorite subject, and why?
I have two favorite ages to shoot. First is 6 months old. I love a big chubby baby who just learned to sit up but can’t yet crawl. They are so cute and are also a totally captive audience. They easily stay in one place, unassisted by posing devices, while I just interact with them and make a fool out of myself to get them to smile.
My second favorite age is a child who just lost a tooth (or teeth). I call those smiles “jack-o-lantern grins”. Parents will actually call to cancel a session if the child just lost a tooth, but then I explain to them what a great time it is to create a portrait. That child will never look that way again, so it’s such a perfect documentation of their specific age.
5) Your knowledge and use of studio lighting makes me swoon… it’s always perfect for any subject! For instance, this gorgeous maternity shot.
What was your lighting for capturing this image? And HEY, where did that gorgeous purple wrap come from?!?
Thanks for the compliment. I love studio lighting because I love always being in control of the light. That image was shot with a Larson 4×6 softbox and a Photoflex Half Dome strip light. I metered the strip light about 1/3 stop below my main for that effect. As far as the purple wrap, I am actually sort of embarrassed to tell you that I found that in the scrap bin at Joann Fabrics.
6) Do you have a favorite “PROP SHOP” that you regularly work with? Please share…
I tend to have props on my radar anywhere I go. My husband laughs at me because I will frequently stop in a random store to look at something and then exclaim “I can put a baby in this!” I buy a lot of little stools and baskets at garage sales. I also sometimes do a “prop swap” with local photographers. I have two favorite knitwear vendors on etsy, Charbridge Knits and Pink Toad.
7) I personally know of your home studio… it’s an inspiration to us photogs to see someone so successful all while running a family and biz out of their own home.
Tell us a lil about your home studio and why it works so well for you?
I am fortunate to have dedicated space inside the house for my business. This works well because I can truly set my schedule around my kids’ schedules. Plus I can ride out the ups and downs of slow times and busy times with lower stress levels because I don’t have the higher overhead associated with a retail space.
I have completely taken over the basement of my house, which means that all of my kids’ toys and clutter now resides on the main floor of the house. So as you can imagine, there are pros and cons to this setup. LOL! I live in a cape cod that was built in the 1940’s. The original basement has 6 and a half foot high ceilings (yikes!) so as you can imagine it was a challenge to photograph a standing adult there. We put an addition on the house about 5 years ago and dug a second basement under the addition. Now there are two steps down into my shooting room (the new deeper basement). The original basement is my office and showroom. I would include a photo, but the area is in sort of a state of flux at the moment as I am rearranging things in an attempt to setup a projection area. Yes, a projection area in my little basement with low ceilings. I will keep you posted on how that all ends up working out.
8) You just wrapped up a super fabulous STUDIO LIGHT Workshop over at Clickinmoms. Will you be doing any more soon?
Yes, it’s in the plans but the start date of the next workshop has not been announced yet. The workshop is a beginners studio lighting workshop. I was really floored by the amazing talent in the first group of students who took the workshop. Some of the participants were literally taking their studio gear out of the shipping boxes at the start of the workshop, and you should see the gorgeous images they were creating by the final week.
9) We are curious… who are a few fellow photographers whose work you adore?
Oh boy, this is a dangerous question because there are so many and I am sure to offend someone by not mentioning them.
I am always in awe of my friend and mentor, Karen Rodgers, who can light and pose anything and anyone to perfection. Karen also works out of her home and her studio is in her basement with even lower ceilings than mine. She creates amazing images in that little basement studio. She has taught me so much and I will always be thankful for her friendship and guidance.
Karen Rodgers Photography
Kirk Voclain’s senior work amazes me:
I love the boudoir work of Desiree Hayes:
Desiree Hayes Photography.com
My favorite wedding photographers are husband and wife teams: Pierre & Anna Stephenson, Scott & Tem Juarez, and Bob & Dawn Davis. They all have different styles but all create simply stunning work. I have been fortunate enough to hear all three of these couples teach and they are very open and sharing as well.
Pierres Portrait Art.com
Bob and Dawn Davis.com
10) Any fabulous information you can “share” with fellow photographers, just starting out?
I made a lot of mistakes starting out, and I continue to make them and learn from them. One of the biggest mistakes I made was starting out priced too low. I had a few experienced photographer friends tell me that my pricing then was “an insult to the industry.” I was at first offended but then came to realize what they meant and their comment was 100% true. If we don’t charge appropriately for our work, we devalue the entire photographic industry. Plus on a personal level, when you charge too low you attract the wrong kinds of clients. You can build up an entire client base of bargain-seekers. Then when you realize what you need to be charging to actually stay in business and end up quadrupling your prices, you lose your entire client base and are essentially starting over.
I recommend that everyone starting out look at their cost of goods sold plus their yearly overhead. Even when you work from home, you have overhead. Start tracking your spending and make sure you count everything related to your photography: camera and computer purchases, software, Photoshop actions and templates, forum memberships, professional organization memberships, backdrops and props, office supplies, website hosting, phone bills, business insurance, advertising fees, business license fees, etc. If you are not yet tracking these things, I can guarantee you are spending much more on your photography than you realize. Having a handle on these numbers will help you to run a break even analysis.
Kristin Brown from Kristin Rachelle Photography teaches a Business 101 workshop at ClickinMoms that will walk participants thru how to run a break even analysis to help set up their target sales goals. This exercise is very eye-opening. Todd Reichman from Reichman Photography started a new blog titled “A Man to Fish”. There Todd takes questions from photographers and dishes out honest advice about the business of photography.
I do not claim to be a pricing expert. I am constantly learning and adjusting things. But think that pricing too low is one of the biggest mistakes people just starting out can make.
11) Who are YOU? Other than a photographer.. are you a mother, wife, other sort of artist?
I am a mom of two kids, ages 8 and 5. I am fortunate to be married to an amazing guy, nicknamed MacGyver because the man can literally make or fix anything. MacGyver has done so much to help my photography business, from installing wood floors to coming up with creative ideas for storing props and hanging backdrops, I could never adequately thank him. Well I am sure MacGyver can think of many ways for me to show my thanks but we won’t go there because this is a family show. LOL!
12) Lastly… any fun or extraordinary talent, or obsession, that you’d like to share with us? IE: can you touch your tongue to your nose, or do you snowboard, maybe run marathons? 🙂
I am addicted to my Kindle, spinning class, chocolate flavored tea, and the Twilight saga. I would love to be able to run a marathon, but sadly I can barely run a block. I have no endurance for running but I am really strong. I was the arm wrestling champ of my junior high school. My right bicep is currently1/2 inch bigger than my left bicep. My personal trainer tells me that’s from carrying my camera.