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This week, I talk with Jennifer Tonetti Spellman. Jenn is a family photographer and mother. She documents her own family’s life as well as her clients’ lives. Her tagline: “Real is Awesome.” She documents family life honestly. What does that mean? For starters, kids aren’t wearing their Sunday best. Jumping on the bed is welcome, as is bed head.
Before Jenn’s daughter was born, she had a career in advertising and marketing in New York city. She worked with big names like O Magazine, Seventeen and Teen People. Photography had been an interest of Jenn’s in the background for years. After her daughter was born, she didn’t want to go back to corporate America. A friend suggested she start a photography business. Her husband gave her six months to see if she could make it work. It did.
Now, Jenn photographs all of her clients in their homes. When she started out, she did about half of her sessions in homes and half at outdoor locations. She gradually did more and more sessions in homes in a documentary style. Now, that’s the only kind of session she does.
Jenn also documents her own family. In 2013, she did a 365 Project. (Posting a photo from each day of the year.) That project included prompts for each day of the year. She did it to challenge herself as a documentary photographer. Now, she’s doing an iPhone 365, which she calls a “snoozefest” because it’s all about her daily life and pregnancy. (I love seeing her daily photos on Instagram.) Jenn talks about how much she learned from her 365 Projects, but will she do another one? Absolutely not. Jenn is in a place with her photography where she wants to photograph less not more.
What does Jenn do with the many photos she takes of her family? She prints photos every three months and puts them into albums – just old fashioned photo albums with sleeves.
Jenn is expecting a new baby. She has one of her students coming to the hospital to photograph the moment when her daughter, Emma, meets the new baby. A few days after she brings the baby home, Jen has Molly Flanagan coming to her home to document her family’s first days with the new baby. (A fabulous idea.)
Jenn’s Simple Tip for Parents
You have to give yourself some grace. At the end of the day, you will get there. I didn’t start my photography business until I was in my late 30’s. Learn it right. Don’t cut corners. It’s more of a marathon than a sprint. There’s no finish line. Be inspired by things like music and what you see while walking on the street.
Don’t try to shoot like anyone else. You can’t. Everything that we take a photo of is shaped by who we are.
Everyday camera – Fuji X100T
For clients – Nikon D3S, and Nikon 750. Lenses – 35mm, 24 mm, 24-70mm.
As always, send your questions, comments, and suggestions to me – firstname.lastname@example.org