Photographers Who Inspire | Jenny Cruger Photography

by Liz LaBianca
Please welcome middle Tennessee photographer, Jenny Cruger.  In addition to her photography business, Jenny is also a member of the Clickin Moms Pro team. She is hosting a breakout session about finding your style this March and her own in person workshops in the Spring and Fall. Be sure to check out these workshops if you’re interested and leave your feedback below!

Who was your original inspiration when you started your business? Who inspires you now?

Would it be cliché to say my son? On a deeper personal note, it was probably the need to be creative and be a business owner, something I have always loved and has the passion to do.  My husband really encouraged me to find myself and begin my business.  Now my inspiration comes from all sorts of things, still my son and husband of course, but everything from soft, neutral colors, pretty textures, vintage/antique shops, emotional moments between people, new babies, etc.

What was the hardest part of starting your own business? What do you wish you would have known?
I think the hardest part is the stigma behind being a new mom and starting a photography business.  I think at the time it wasn’t quite as heavy as it is now, but it can be pretty uninviting and I think if I were a little more confident in who I was as an artist I would have had a lot more confidence all around.

Tell us about your favorite lens and why it is #1 in your camera bag over your other lenses
Oh, this is so hard! I’m a total glass junkie and have a variety of prime lenses that I love for different reasons.  I know I couldn’t use this lens 24/7, but I think my favorite is the 135L lens.  I love the longer focal length, stepping away from my subjects, and that gorgeous compression that it provides.

Manual Focus or Auto Focus
Auto Focus, except for sometimes for macro work.

Photoshop or Lightroom – or both. How long does it take for you to get your proofs to your clients?
I use both.  I import all of my RAW files into Lightroom to cull them and do some basic global edits like exposure and white balance if I need to. I set a Kelvin temperature white balance when I shoot which usually leaves me with little, if any, adjustment needed there. 99.9% of the time that is all I am doing in Lightroom. Then I export my master jpegs from there and work on them in Photoshop. I tell clients up to 3 weeks, but my goal is to always have them done in under a week. Under promise, over deliver.

With the demand for digital images on the rise – Do you sell your Jpegs?
I do. I have played around with a variety of pricing structures to find what is best for me and was flat rate for a while which asked for a large fee up front to cover my session time and time editing the files, which included their digital negatives. I’ve recently changed from that only because I want to sell more products now that I have gotten my product line exactly where I want it. I will offer digital files both as gifts at certain price points spent or if a client wants to purchase only digital files. As an artist I can completely understand not wanting to let them go, but as a client I would want to use a photographer who offered them. I want to be happy with my sessions and I want my clients to be happy, so offering that does that for me.

How many photos do you typically take in a full session? How many do you edit and do you ever show your un-edits to clients?
It often depends on the type of session, but I probably import around 150-200 RAW files per session at the most. I star around 60-80 “keepers” in Lightroom, editing and showing the client a minimum of 25, but generally around 30-40 of the best of the best. I NEVER show unprocessed images to a client. What they do not see is automatically deemed not a good representation of my work and not something I will show. I do sometimes show “before and afters” for fun on my blog, but it’s always an image that is included in the client’s gallery and that’s the only way they would ever see a SOOC file.

How do you handle family and close friends who want to hire you? Do you offer any discounts?
If I had any close family (besides my parents) near me ( I don’t have siblings) I would happily gift them sessions. Most of my friends are photographers or other creatives and we often trade. I am getting away from offering what little discounts I do because I feel it devalues my work and it’s not fair to those who do pay full price. That said, I am always happy to include gifts that I want to give to clients, friends, etc.

How do you break the ice in the beginning of the session and get families to loosen up?
Oh, families are tough! Dads never want to be there and my husband is the same way. Most of the time the dad just doesn’t know how to act in front of the camera and I just joke with them about what mom had to bribe him with to get him there, ask about their children, etc. I always, always, always try to make sure that families are close and connecting in some way. In the very beginning I will often tell them that I am going put a longer lens on my camera so I can back up and just ‘test the light a bit’. I will put them in a good spot and position and then tell them to just hang out with each other and chat while I back up and ‘test’. Those images I am snapping are usually some of my favorites.

Do you have any tricks or tips that you want to share with us?
I find that if I go with a list or a bunch of images I get overwhelmed (as much as I WANT that to work for me!) and panic, so I stopped doing that, but instead I will usually browse my inspiration boards on Pinterest and choose just ONE image or pose I’d like to accomplish. It gives me one thing to keep me grounded and I know I will walk away with something special I wanted, but then gives me the freedom to just fly on my own.

We have all had the hard clients – Can you share a story of a difficult shoot and how you handled it?
I had a couple awhile back who wanted very “outdoorsy” photos, but dressed up a ton and then were afraid to ruin their clothes. It was just awkward and they weren’t big into showing their emotions. One of them was definitely trying to direct me more so than any other client I had while the other was visibly embarrassed by that. That was probably my hardest session but I just rolled with it and realized that any issues behind the scenes were because of them and not me.

If you weren’t a photographer – What would be your dream profession?
Professional shopper? No, probably something in design/décor. I almost went to school for interior design. I did go to school for Music Business and if the industry wasn’t the way it is, I think I would still like to go into that area if I had the choice.

Who helps you out behind the scenes? Do you have an assistant or a special family member?
I am usually on my own, but my parents or husband are always with my son while I am shooting.

You just won the jackpot ..what is in your dream camera bag?
I would keep all of my current lineup:

5d Mark ii, 35L, 50 1.4, 85.1.8, 100L, 135L and add the 5d Mark iii, upgrade to the 85L & 50L , 24L tiltshift, 70-200L, and 14L

Have you ever taken a Workshop? Which one and was it worth it?
Yes, I have done various online workshops (Clickin Moms, Undone Workshops), Wildflowers Photography workshop, Fershop, and Ashley Skajaveland’s Newborn. I love to continually learn and I love that I came away with something new from each one.

Name one person who you would love to photograph.
Hands down, Jewel (and her family). It would be a dream come true and I feel like our styles would work so well together.

What was your original gear and when did you start upgrading your equipment.
I started (digitally) with a Rebel xsi and the 50 1.8. I started upgrading when I began my business.

Seeing so many photographers burn out and quit their business – how do you avoid falling into that trap?
I think it’s all about respect. Respecting the industry, your clients, and yourself is insanely important. Charging enough for your time and talent makes a huge difference and if you don’t, the life is easily sucked out of your photography.

What has been your proudest moment in your business?
Probably being asked to create a breakout session with Clickin Moms which is basically like a mini workshop in a 2 week long forum with a pdf, discussion, and Q&A session. I am so honored they would ask me to create something like that.

What would we be surprised to find out about you?
This is hard because I’m pretty predictable and an open book… hmmm that I am terrified of needles (wouldn’t even get an IV during child birth & pass out at blood draws) but finally got a long awaited tattoo (photography related) last year, and while it did not feel good, was totally okay with me.

What is on your Bucket list?
There are a ton of places I would love to visit all over the US (preferably driving and stopping along the way to take photos in great places!)

Name 2 Photographers that you would like Inspire Me Baby To Interview.
Jinky Art & Meg Borders
BIO: Jenny is a portrait and wedding photographer based out of middle Tennessee who describes her style as simple, pure, and organic. She approaches her art, business, and work with a little bit of modern & a little bit of hippie to combine the perfect elements that speak to her. Beginning her photography journey on film in high school, she traded art for Business School in college, and eventually, Music Business School in Nashville. Owning a photography business for the past few years, she happily combines art and business knowledge and enjoys all aspects of being a photographer.  Jenny currently lives South of Nashville with her husband, son, 3 rescue dogs, and 1 horse & craves iced tea, antique stores, yummy vegan food, and good old fashion girl time with friends.

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