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Today we learn from the fabulous, Jean Smith, of Jean Smith Photography. Jean is an on location photographer living in New Hudson, Michigan with her husband and four little boys. She loves all “genres” of people and therefore photographs them all…babies, kids, high school seniors, and couples. She likes to consider herself a natural light photographer, but madly loves incorporating off camera flash into her work as well. Jean is incredibly passionate about photography and teaching others. She, along with her rad husband, Travis, teach photography workshops in Michigan and around the country.

What camera do you use? Favorite lens?
I photograph with two cameras at all shoots and weddings…mainly because I like to switch lenses often and this makes it easier for me. I shoot with a Nikon D3s, Nikon D700, and my favorite lenses are my 24-70mm 2.8 and my 85mm 1.8. I also love my 14-24mm 2.8 and my 70-200mm 2.8 lenses.

What has been the most helpful critique you ever got on an image?
A few years ago, I received some accidental critique that altered my entire shooting style and way of thinking. As a compliment, someone mentioned to me that my images are “very nice and flatly lit.” Gasp! I didn’t want flat. At least not all of the time. I wanted depth, emotion, and drama in my images. So, I became…hmmmm…let’s say OBSESSED with light…both natural and artificial. I forced myself out of my comfort zone and studied and practiced (times ten) shooting in all types of lighting situations.

What 3 words would you use to describe your style?
Emotional, Happy, Unique

Where do you pull your inspiration from?
Three main things…Pinterest, movies, and editorial magazines or even catalogs. I mean seriously, have you seen the Anthropologie catalogs?

What is one specific way that you balance work and family?
I had a few years of severe unbalance (too much work) and it resulted in guilt, lack of sleep, time lost with my kids and husband, and a resentment toward photography. I have learned several ways to regain my balance, but my number one rule is to decide how much work I can take on while still being able to be a rock star mom and wife and BEING ABLE TO SAY NO AND STICKING TO IT.

Best biz/photo advice?
Don’t start your business until you know you can produce an entire session of quality images, and when you are at that point, DO NOT underprice yourself. You want make it worth your time, effort, and talent.

What have you learned the hard way?
That you can’t “fix” bad light in Photoshop. Get it right in camera :)

How does your business deal with the rise in photographers. What have you done to standout and compete?
I am a true believer that you need to find your strength in photography and deliver that to your clients. It will not only make you a master at what you do, but will set you apart from the many others out there. I have found that my strength is capturing emotion…through light and relationships. Maybe you are a newborn whisperer. Maybe you are amazing at styling themed shoots. Maybe you only do black and white images. Maybe you love photojournalism and bring that element to family sessions. Find your strength and embrace it. It will become your style and people will come to you specifically for it.

Where have most of your 2011 clients come from (besides WOM)?
I actually don’t do any formal advertising. All of my business comes from word of mouth and social media (thanks Facebook).

What is your most popular product?
Session disc of images


Want Jean Smith of Jean Smith Photography to critique your images? Sign up for her 4-week Critique HERE




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