The Mom Behind the Brand: Jennifer of JTC Photography
By: Melissa Harper | Date: July 10 2017
1. Introduce yourself and your business.
My name is Jeniffer, a full time mom, wife, and family photographer.
2. I love that your photography business started as a hobby for you. Can you describe that journey—turning your hobby into a business?
It’s been a fun and sometimes challenging journey. I was a really shy person when I started my photography journey; I did not have the courage to approach people and offer them my services. At the beginning of my photography journey my portfolio primarily consisted of landscapes, flowers, animals and of course my daughter. After many nights of practicing in front of the mirror and laughing at how silly I was being, I finally gathered the courage to ask some of friends if they would like to be my models so I could build my portfolio and gain experience. My first client was the sister of an old elementary friend. My friend’s sister was expecting a baby and they offered me the opportunity to provide them with photography coverage for her baby shower. As you can imagine I was terrified! I practiced as much as I could before the event and read countless articles on photography. I wanted to make sure that I had all the knowledge that my brain could retain in that time frame to ensure that I delivered to this expecting mother the memories that she was hoping for. This entire journey has been like my first real photography gig, me having to step out of comfort zone and constantly learning new skills to make my business everything that I want it to be.
3. You mostly photograph couples, maternity, children, and family. Do you have a favorite category? Or do you like each category for different reasons?
Every category offers a different experience for me and requires different skill sets. I am always upbeat and energetic during my photo sessions but when I’m working with children I have to double my energy and silliness and I love the challenge for the reward. I feel like children’s laughs and smiles are possibly one of the purest and most honest emotions that we get to see in life, making this category my favorite. I also enjoy capturing the glow of an expecting mother or the passion between a couple madly in love with each other or the joy of a mother and father playing with their kids, but those little baby laughs are truly what make my day. Of course child sessions aren’t always laughs and unicorns but I’ve been blessed with endless patience and I have a little one of my own, so I understand that sometimes little ones just don’t want to do what grownups want them to do. You just have to give them space, time and something of interest.
4. I love your tag line: “The moment is short. Capture a memory.” What’s your favorite memory of your daughter you’ve captured so far?
Thank you! Oh goodness, I don’t even know if I can pick one. All the pictures that I take of her are so so so special to me, because I know that tomorrow when she wakes up, she’ll be a day older, a couple of centimeters taller, a little wiser and less of my baby girl. Those moments that I freeze in time, I will never get back. If I absolutely had to pick one thought, I think that it would be a picture of her and I, taken last year at a local festival. I am always behind the lens taking the pictures which means that there aren’t many pictures of her and I together. To have a moment that we shared together captured on camera is a rare event, making those images extra special.
5. Describe the moment when you decided to dive in headfirst and launch JTC Photography? What was the final factor that motivated you to take that leap of faith?
JTC Photography was launched in 2014 by a mom with a dream but it wasn’t really pushed and developed until 2016. The company that I work for was purchased by a corporate company in 2016. The inevitable changes that are bound to happen with a new owner started happening and one of those changes was moving the office 38.5 miles away from my house. Along with this move came an early wake up call for myself and my daughter, a long commute twice a day and time being taken away from my family as a result of the long commute. One evening after picking up my daughter from her nanny’s house I started falling asleep while driving. I had to pull to the side of the road and call a friend to talk to me until we made it home so I wouldn’t fall asleep. That is when I decided that I needed to move forward with my photography because I was not going to put my daughter at risk for a job. Thankfully my parents offered a lending hand and they take care of my daughter at home, allowing me to still work at my corporate job certain hours of the week and working on my photography business when I’m home.
6. What has been the hardest thing about running your own business with a young child?
Oh goodness, time! There just isn’t enough time in a day! I’ve chosen to live a life with two of the most time consuming goals in life; build a well known and well developed business and raise my daughter to be a respectable, educated and humble young lady. I have to skillfully manage my schedule to make sure that I am dedicating enough time to my business, my family and myself. I try to complete as many tasks as possible during her nap time and after she goes to bed for the day. Now that she’s older she understands things a little better, which I am so thankful for. At times, when I’m running tight on a dead line to deliver a gallery to a family, I will have to tell her that I can’t play at the moment because I have to work, she’ll silently sit on the couch next to my desk drawing or playing a game on her tablet until I’m done with my work.
7. What’s one piece of advice you would give to other moms who want to launch their own business?
Don’t give up on your dream. There will be moments when you might feel so defeated that it doesn’t seem to be worth it, but just remember that if it were easy then everyone would do it. Something that helps me and reminds me to keep pushing is keeping my reason why always visible at my desk.
8. As moms and entrepreneurs, we’re always trying to find balance. How do you practice or keep balance in your own life?
It took me a little while but I finally figured out that I have to know what my limits are and be honest with myself when I’ve reached them. When I first started I often had nights that I would stay up until 2am working on my business. I kept the mentality that I had before I was a business owner and I thought that I still had to clean the house every day, cook dinner every night, be the super mom who does everything in the house leaving the managing of my business for late evening hours after everything in the house had been completed. After burning myself out a couple of times and almost quitting after one of my burn outs I realized that I don’t have to do everything, I have a wonderful fiancé at home who is always willing to help. As difficult as it was, I started accepting his offers of help. I started telling myself, It’s ok if my child’s toys don’t get put away every night and it’s ok if we order take out every now and then. I learned my limits and I learned to let go of some things in order to achieve bigger goals.
9. What does your average day look like?
My days start at 04:30AM. They consist of dividing my professional time to handle all aspects of my business which include marketing, sales, taking care of current clients, scheduling, editing photo shoots, accounting, product ordering, equipment maintenance etc.. My day also involves taking care of my child, my fiancé, our home and myself. Yes, my days are long! I’m thankful for Saturday mornings, that’s when I get to sleep in until 09:00AM.
10. What does your daughter think you do for a living?
She’s three years old so I don’t think that she’s at that point yet, but she does understand that mommy goes to work. I don’t know if she fully understands what the word ‘work’ means thought. Every time that I’m heading out the door and my daughter is not coming with me, I kiss and hug her good bye. When I’m heading out to a photo shoot and she sees me carrying my camera bag while I’m saying good bye to her, she will ask if mommy is going to work. It’s the cutest thing in the world!
11. What’s your favorite backdrop for your photography sessions?
Nature! I’m an all natural light photographer so I use outdoor locations for my photography sessions. Where we currently live we are surrounded by woods and beautiful parks and nature reservations that make the most beautiful backdrops. My favorite location right now is the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, NC. They have an area made to look like the desert so when you take pictures out there it seems like the subject was out in the desert by cactuses and palm trees.
12. What advice can you share with moms before they do a family/kids/maternity shoot? (colors to wear, best time of day to shoot, expectations, etc.?)
It’s very important to select a photographer that has a photography style that you like. There is a photographer for every style of photography out there; selecting the one that fits your style and vision is just as important as what to wear. The best times of the day are early morning or evening time, right before the sun sets. In the summer time, I recommend the morning time, before the day gets hot and sticky. I treat my clients how I like to be treated when I am hiring someone to perform a service for me. I like honesty, transparency, great customer service, great quality and someone that I can go back to when I’m in need for that service again, this is what all my clients can expect from me.
13. How do you organize and store all of your photos of your daughter? Any digital photo storing tools you can share with other moms who might have millions of photos of their little ones?
At the moment it’s a mix if digital storage and albums. All the images are organized in my computer by dates. I also use Flickr and Google Drive as back up. I like Flickr because they give you 1TB of storage space, for free, and since it’s an online account your images are not stored in your hard-drive so you won’t lose them if your computer crashes. With the Google drive app I can take some of the 4K images in my phone and quickly transfer them to a file in my Google drive account, so I can then delete them off my phone and use the storage space for whatever it is that I need it at that moment. I started to print them about a year ago and organizing them in an album. I quickly started realizing that I had bitten more than I could chew. Printing and organizing 2.5 years of pictures is no easy task and it is very time consuming. This is still a work in process and someday I will finish that album, for now digital storage is my friend.
14. Where do most of your clients find you? (word of mouth? Social media? Etc.)
Most of the work that I receive is through word of mouth. I have developed a faithful clientele database who are always giving out my name to friends and family. I’m very thankful for the support that my clients show me, so I always send them a little thank you extra when I receive a new referral from them.
15. You’re based in Smithfield, NC—how far will you travel for a shoot?
I am willing to travel up to 40 miles from my house. Even thought I live in Smithfield I conduct most of my photography sessions In Raleigh, NC and this is why I am willing to travel such a long distance.
16. What does success look like to you?
Success to me is when I can live a comfortable life with just the income from my photography, giving me more time to spend with my family and the flexibility to travel.
17. What’s next for you and JTC Photography?
Weddings! At the beginning of this journey I always said that I would never do a wedding, well never say never right!? I’ve completed two weddings this summer and I am in love with this side of photography. The joy and all of the beautiful emotions experienced in someone’s wedding day is truly something that I want to be part of and help freeze those memories in time for these couples to show their grandchildren. As for me personally, now that JTC Photography has a solid foundation I’ve started on a new project that was has also been inspired by my daughter. I’m currently working on opening an online children’s boutique… Stay tuned for that one!
18. How can we support you and JTC Photography? (Links to your social channels, website, etc.)
If you’re local and looking for a family photographer, give me a call. Everyone can support me by liking my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/JTCPhotographyWNY) and subscribing to my news letter (www.jtcphoto.com/mailing-list). I’m also currently collaborating with local businesses to promote local services and products, so for any Tribe reader interested in collaborating with me to promote their business, send me a note (www.jtcphoto.com)
19. Any special offers/announcements you want to share with our Tribe readers?
I am always offering specials and promotions. For people interested in my special offers they can go to my website and subscribe to my newsletter to receive all of my promotions. A $100 printing credit will be given to all of those who subscribe and to all the Tribe readers that subscribe I will waive the $150 session fee when they schedule their photography session with me.
If you’re interested in being featured as part of our “Mom Behind the Brand” series, please email Kristin@momsandstories.com