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Jenny Siegwart: 5 Things Anyone Can Do To Take Stunning Photos

Envision Your Ultimate Results: The more specific, the better. Are these images for social media? For a brochure? Where are the images going and how are you going to use them? Knowing your ultimate goals from the project allows you to approach it in a more targeted way, which will keep you on track during the shoot. Most professional shoots have a shot list, and probably an inspo mood board as well! Taking the time to do that will keep your shoot cohesive and directed.

As a part of our series about “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Take Stunning Photos” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jenny Siegwart.

Jenny Siegwart is a So-Cal based photographer dedicated to making shoots the most fun and energetic as possible. Currently collaborating with clients to capture the personality of spaces and people. Believer in open communication, teamwork, loads of creativity and fun with level 10 positive vibes. Published in Dwell, Domino, Elle Decor Spain, Sunset, San Diego Magazine, CA Interiors, Modern Luxury, Apartment Therapy, & The Spruce.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Well thanks for the opportunity to chat with you! I always like to tell people that I grew up loving fine art, but wasn’t all that great at it. My parents gave me a camera when I was in the second or third grade to play with, and I was obsessed with it. So I ditched the sad attempts at drawing and painting for photography, and carried a camera around with me for the majority of my teen years. I still have all my old photos, all organized and cataloged, in shoe boxes at my parents house!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

How about I tell you about one of the most intense shoot experiences I’ve had? I was hired to photograph some pro football players for a magazine called Stack, and it was one of the first shoots I had with athletes of that caliber. The subjects were Drew Brees, Brandin Cooks, and Darren Sproles. I had 30 minutes for portraits, which needed to include cover shots with Drew alone, plus all three guys, and then all three guys with their head trainer. Well, Drew was running a bit late, so by the time he got there we were nearly out of my allotted shoot time. I ended up with five minutes of shoot time to cover all the portraits, and the head trainer put me on a stopwatch, which he then counted down every 30 seconds directly next to me as I shot. Definitely high stress, but we got it done and the photos turned out great!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Oh I sure can! I’ll go with embarrassment on this one! So, I’m not very good with names. Iit takes me a long time to register a face to a name, and I have to repeat names in my head often in order to remember them. Anyways, I had a studio with a friend of mine for about 7 years, and at a shoot we were having I was adjusting the models necklace. The necklace had a name on it, “Hayley”. I commented on how pretty it was, and followed it up with a “Who’s Hayley?”, to which the model replied, “That’s me, I’m Hayley”. I was MORTIFIED! She, of course, was wonderful and didn’t make me feel bad, but I will never forget it! Now, I always remember to repeat people’s names to them when I meet them, then repeat it in my head a few more times. I also simply ask people to repeat their name to me if I can’t remember on a shoot. It’s much better than what I did!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I strive to be as easy as possible to work with. At the end of the day, I’m taking photos not saving lives. It doesn’t need to be a huge stressful production. We can still accomplish the shoot goals while enjoying the process and having fun! It honestly makes the photos that much better when everyone is hyped on not just the images we created together, but the overall experience. I also genuinely want to get to know my clients, and forge relationships with them. I have clients that are now really good friends, we go on trips together, meet for drinks, and chat about everything else besides work. I’m actually going to visit a client-turned-friend at their new home in Montana in a few months!

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I think the biggest issue in any industry where you are your own boss is work/life balance. You have to take time to yourself to feed your soul — see friends, go workout, take trips without your laptop, don’t answer emails on weekends. Whatever boundaries you have to draw to have time for yourself and the people around you who need you. Outsourcing is also a great way to make time for yourself! I’m on the hunt for a fab interior retoucher if ya know anyone!

For the photo industry specifically, I’d say shoot personal projects. I need to practice what I preach there, but every time I take the time for a personal creative project, I feel rejuvenated. That energy then gets put back into my client work, and everyone's a winner. Plus, having absolutely zero pressure to produce something to someone else’s expectations is a feeling of great, magical freedom. Lastly, mix it up! My portfolio is a mash up of people and interiors, and that’s how I like it. I love shooting an editorial portrait of a Scientist in their lab one day and a gorgeous kitchen the next day. Having the ability to do more than one type of photography allows me to stay creative, think on my toes, and not get bored. Also, mixing it up will naturally show you what you are good at shooting, and what you enjoy shooting most.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

This interview isn’t long enough to list the people that have shown me support and helped me grow my business! My first full time job in the photo world was doing client management for a wedding studio in San Diego. John and Tamsin owned a wedding and portrait studio, and brought me on to help with their workload. I can’t even list the amount of knowledge I gained working there, that I still apply to my own business model. About six months into working with them, we hired Becca to help with our processing and retouching workload. She and I became fast friends, and when Tamsin decided to close the doors at their studio, Becca and I opened up our own wedding and portrait studio. She taught me how to direct people better, how to handle pressure better, and how to let go of control. Becca was the best business partner I could have asked for, and I gained so much shooting confidence with her by my side. We decided to close the studio after about 7 years so we could focus on our personal businesses, but she’s still one of my dearest friends. I can safely say that I wouldn’t be where I am now without the love and support of Tamsin and Becca.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

I have a few projects that will hopefully get shot here in the next month or so, everything this year has been taking longer than expected because of manufacturing and material delays. I’m heading down to the Valle de Guadalupe next week for a shoot at a winery which will be loads of fun, I’m really looking forward to that! I’ve been tossing around some personal project ideas for next year, I try to accomplish two a year if I can. I have a friend who owns a carnival, so I’m brainstorming some ideas with that!

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I try to be an open book to aspiring photographers, and even other professionals. I’m always happy to answer questions about business, photo techniques, tips and tricks, even pricing. Every now and again I’ll get an email from an aspiring student or photographer just starting out that has questions, and I’m always down for coffee or a phone call. I always had people around me to help guide me, so it’s important that I give back in that same way. In the end, I want people to enjoy the time they spend with me, and walk away with a smile on their face and maybe a funny story or two!

Can you share “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Take Stunning Photos”. Please share an example for each.

Here are the five most important strategies for stand-out photos:

Envision Your Ultimate Results: The more specific, the better. Are these images for social media? For a brochure? Where are the images going and how are you going to use them? Knowing your ultimate goals from the project allows you to approach it in a more targeted way, which will keep you on track during the shoot. Most professional shoots have a shot list, and probably an inspo mood board as well! Taking the time to do that will keep your shoot cohesive and directed.

Be Strategic With Light: Do you want a more natural and organic feel to your photos? Or are you looking for a more commercial look? You want to light your images in a way that fits your overall brand. If you’re tackling a project alone, make that mood board on pinterest and see what kinds of lighting you’re gravitating towards. It’s easier to emulate lighting when you have an example in front of you. If you’re hiring a photographer, make sure their style of shooting is on brand with your brand. If you’re looking for more editorial or commercial style images that are lit with artificial light, don’t hire the person who only has experience with natural outdoor lighting situations. Chances are, you won’t receive the results you’re looking for!

Photoshop Can’t Fix Everything: Unless, of course, you’re paying top dollar for the world’s best retouchers. Do your best to expose your images properly in camera, with a variety of compositions to choose from. Move around, back up and zoom in, or stand on a box for extra height. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to move out of your frame for a second, or adjust where you’re standing to avoid the pole coming out of your subject’s head. Shoot in RAW, that way your properly exposed image also has the most information possible to edit from.

Respect the Limits of an iPhone: No matter how many cameras it may have, an iPhone will not (yet at least) generate images that are high-resolution enough for print. If you can’t afford to purchase a camera, consider renting gear for your project! It’s a great way to test out the different camera options to see what you like best for when you’re ready to purchase. Make sure you give yourself enough time to learn the system before your shoot!

Go Pro: Whether it’s a food stylist or professional makeup, investing in production value will take your photos from amateur to pro. If the production you’re finding yourself in is more than you can handle, hire a professional photographer that has work that reflects the style you’re seeking. And don’t forget retouching, the absolute critical last step to amazing photos! If you’re planning on retouching your own work, make sure you understand how digital processing works! There are a million great tutorials out there to help you get a grasp on Lightroom and Photoshop, and your final photos will thank you.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I don’t know if I’m a person of “great” influence, but I’ll share something I try to do as much as I can. I truly do value the people in my life, and I try to show up for them. My advice would be to show up for the people around you — call them, don’t just text or send a DM. Reach out to others, let them know you’re available to them. We are so connected and so disconnected all at the same time, especially in the world of social media. People need human interaction, and no one likes feeling lonely. Say hello to people when you walk by, ask the check out person at the grocery store how their day has been and actually listen to their response. Be open to communication not through a device, unless it’s to phone a friend! I think the world would be less anxious, less lonely, and more hopeful if people reached out to one another to check in and say hi.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@jennysiegwart on Instagram is about all I can handle these days :)

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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