Okay, first a disclaimer:
I am a real professional business owner. I am successful. I have built this photography business from blood, sweat and tears for the last 11 years. My kids have my business ingrained in their souls because once upon a time, we were forced to live in my commercial office building studio for a year and pretend we didn’t really live there. My son, Hudson, thought my real name was “Jennings Paige Photography” until he was 4! I am dedicated, fierce and intelligent about my business. This one you’re reading this blog about. I have a college degree from UCLA, and a Masters in business. Oh and I’m a good photographer! This has been my passion since I was a little kid. My mom used to trade me 2 packs of Polaroid film cartridges for every time I let her cut my hair into a little bob. Even when bob haircuts weren’t cool in the 80’s and 90’s, I got used to whoring myself out to my mom for film from a very young age. I’ve tried and failed so many times in the last 11 years running this business, but I have also succeeded and grown and gotten better at it over the years. JPP is a pretty serious business now. People know me. Thousand Oaks is kinda decorated with wall art of my work. That’s awesome. Anyway, I swear on my life, I am a real professional. You can trust doing business with me. I’m a good person, I use professional packaging and equipment (that’s proof!) and everyone unanimously loves their family photos. That’s really cool. My job is pretty damn rewarding nowadays. It seems almost too easy, compared to where I was just six years ago.
Now that the disclaimer about being professional is out of the way, let the real fun begin! Let’s focus on the personality of the person behind the camera, because that is more important than you realize. I can see it. I know exactly why my new clients are afraid to do family photos. Usually, the mom forces the rest of the family to dress up for some lame photographer who directs you about, puts you in weird awkward stiff poses and then asks you, professionally, to smile. This actually works with 1 out of 100 clients. The other 99 though? They fucking hate it. They do it, but after the shoot, the whole family is usually irritated with the photographer and with Mom for making them do that boring shit again, just for the annual Christmas card or embarrassing formal portrait on the wall by the front door. That’s a pretty accurate description of what most people expect with a professional family portrait session. Am I right? Expensive, awkward, not fun, lame thing to do just to appease Mom? That’s how most of my clients show up to my shoots. They’re fun for me, because I can take those people with extremely low expectations of how it’s supposed to go, and then I wow them with really funny antics. I tickle their kids, I make fun of their dads, I threaten to spank the parents if they don’t do what I say. I sing and dance and shake my booty at my clients. If you are one, you already know this. And you may already know that it’s the SOLE reason you like me and want me to take your pictures again with me next year. Well, also because the results are natural and real with real smiles and genuine affection for each other, which is the key to magical family photos with real depth and emotion.
You’re probably here hoping to see some new pictures, examples of my recent work, etc etc. I don’t think blogs should be about that. You can look at three pics on my site and decide if you like my style or not. For most photographers, blogs are simple marketing tools to keep people coming back to look at more beautiful photography. That’s cool, and my hat is off to those who are able to pull this off and blog on a regular basis. I just can’t. Whenever I think about blogging, I end up skipping it, because it bores ME. Here’s family number 1,623 for you to look at and know nothing about. *Snore.* Or here’s a post about my life or a story about this family that’s boring because it’s not funny. Sorry about all my previous boring blog posts (the ones that are related to the business).
See, I’m not one of those real professional photographers. Every time I try to be all professional and polite, my soul gets crushed just a little more. I worked in a corporate environment for years as a college intern. Before that, I watched my single mom and my aunt work in the same corporation – one of the huge Fortune top 50 corporations. I’m quite familiar with the bullshit it takes to act like a professional, especially in a corporate professional sense. It’s just that to me, though – bullshit. Because…..once you work in a big corporation for awhile, you learn the behind-the-scenes truth. The head of HR is having an affair with the Marketing Director’s wife and such nonsense. The new graphic designer got hired because the new accountant got her friend a job he isn’t qualified for. The factory workers’ criminal records and immigration status are overlooked at a professional corporation because the corporation doesn’t pay factory workers fair wages, etc. Bullshit bullshit bullshit. That’s pretty much my view of Corporate America. The individuals that make up a company create the work culture. That’s why some companies are awesome and respectable, while most companies are at least a little shady to very criminally shady. Right?
I’ve been trying to act professional since I started my business back in 2006. Like ohhhh, you better tone that personality, Jennings, if you expect people to respect you and pay for your photos. Maybe someone said that stuff to me once upon a time, but most likely, I just made it up in my own insecure brain and told it to myself on repeat for a decade.
2017 has brought me a completely new perspective. A lot of things I’ve been confused about are suddenly clear. I can’t go into all of them, but this one is about this business. I changed my mind about being “professional” in that sense. I think my clients like me and return to me every year because I’m actually funny and inappropriate and seemingly quite unprofessional! This was like a serious revelation. OMG maybe, just maybe, if I stop trying to be “professional” and just let loose my real personality, my business will actually grow and prosper? I guess I’m feeling confident enough to find out. I’m gonna try it. Prepare yourself. Some of you will be offended and will never do business with me ever again. Sorry, not sorry. This is an excellent way to find out if you prefer the funny inappropriate photographer, or the quiet and serious artistic type, or just the professional and courteous type. I can only relate to the first one – funny and inappropriate.
My real friends, the ones I really love to be with, think I am hilarious and I think they’re hilarious, too. Just SOME of these funny people include my besties: Nicole, Sabrina, Emily, Julie, Gracie and Ryan. Plus a ton of others who come and go in my life. The funny ones are the ones you remember and love. Just a simple self-test: would you rather watch a Ted talk or a stand-up comedian? Hopefully, if you’ve had a good life, you don’t even know what a Ted talk is. They’re about as thrilling as visiting the DMV. Whereas one line from a good comedian can stick in your brain and make you feel fondness for the comedian forever!
Now I’m not pretending to be a stand-up comedian, but my inner circle thinks I’m really funny, and I think I’m really funny, mostly. Sometimes I just amuse myself all damn day, just for the sake of comedy. In fact, Emily have been on like a week-long bender of comedy. It started with her buying a car for her and has progressed into something ridiculous. We keep laughing so hard with each other, after about 12 hours I force her to go home so my abdomen muscles can relax. Yesterday it was Korean BBQ in downtown LA, with jokes to my kids that we were actually visiting Skid Row, and then we ate five delicious slices of pie at House of Pies in L.A. Oh and we toured the GINORMOUS Scientology building, which I didn’t even know existed! It was TERRIFYING! If you’re a Scientologist, just know that you’re certifiably insane and it isn’t funny anymore.
Yesterday’s adventures with Emily and I…..completely unrelated to anything about photography or business:
Right about here is when Hudson called me from my husband’s phone and said “Mom? I miss you….Can you please come home?” To which I said, “Emily and I are finishing up eating pie, but don’t worry, we’ll bring you pie.” And then he says in a very small voice, “Mom? Can you pwease take me with you to Skid Row next time?” (HAHAHA!) “Sure, Baby. Mama will take you to visit Skid Row sometime. See you soon!”
And then Gracie texted me, asking where we were. My response and hers is shown below. Try not to laugh at the picture she sent me.