Photographers Who Inspire | Jenny Watts Photography

by Liz LaBianca
Wow!   This intimate and enlightening interview with Jenny Watts is a great addition to our Photographers Who Inspire series as she reveals what many of us feel and aspire to as professionals. Thanks to Jenny for sharing her ideas, inspirations, successes and humility. The images included with this interview are simply amazing and showcase some unique poses, compositions and presentation possibilities. Please enjoy, share and leave your feedback below!

Jenny Watts: family portrait

baby portrait by Jenny Watts

newborn photography Jenny Watts


Who was your original inspiration when you started your business? Who inspires you now?
I guess I’d have to say Beth Jansen. I was extremely drawn to her use of color, texture etc.  Although my style is nothing like hers now – there was something that intensely drew my eye to her work.  I’ve also always been a fan of the clean look of Andie Hamilton – an amazing local photog in dallas that i’ve had the opportunity to work with and more importantly become friends with.  She’s tremendous and has a great eye for portraits and a great mind for business.

Currently, I’d have to say that I’m inspired by some of the following artists most are polar opposite from what I do but that’s why I can appreciate them – Stephanie Piscitelli with Bellini Portraits (love her clean playful imagery); Deb Schwedhelm (adore her raw honest view from behind the lens) ; Ann He (a young artist in Dallas – simply amazing); Brooke Shaden (wow – her vision for each shot blows me away everytime.  her ability to create something in her mind and then excecute it flawlessly is amazing – on top of that they are self portraits!  i genuinely appreciate her process); Stephanie Rausser – really does that need any explanation??  I could keep going as there are bits and pieces of so many artists that i love.

What was the hardest part of starting your own business? What do you wish you would have known?
Time management for sure!  Balancing it all is still difficult for me – i’m in awe of those people that can do this and have a family.  Secondly I had a hard time being ME – it’s so easy in the beginning to want to be like all the people you admire.  What do I wish I would have known -??  Well that it’s a lot harder than it looks.  Owning your own business, being an artist and a business person, having the backbone to know who you are and not apologize for it, stick to your guns, price without apology, really LOOK at life through the camera – don’t just take a photo. so so so much – but you simply learn that as you go along.

Tell us about your favorite lens and why it is #1 in your camera bag over your other lenses
Well I only have 3 – so I allow myself to love them all.  (All Nikkor: 35mm 1.4, 50mm 1.4, 85mm 1.4 )  Right now – I’m LOVING my 35mm.  I really enjoy being super close to my subject – especially smaller kids so it allows me that luxury with still a bit of room and shooting at 1.4 with it is amazing when i nail it.

siblings by Jenny Watts

portrait photography by Jenny Watts

senior portrait photographer

senior pose by Jenny Watts

child photography posing on fence

Photoshop or Lightrooom – or both. How long does it take for you to get your proofs to your clients?
Both.  It use to take alot longer but I’ve gotten into a consistent processing workflow that is speeding things up a bit.  Basic edits (white balance, exposure correction, recovery, etc) in LR – then all complete final edits in PS.  Probably 30% LR and 70% PS.

With the demand for digital images on the rise – Do you sell your Jpegs?
I do – but I don’t push it.  I’m a control freak and I’d rather print everything – but it’s a necessary evil and I’m ok with it.

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?
I shoot in all RAW and only with 4GB cards – so I only allow myself to max out at what the card will hold (roughly 170 images i believe).  I do that on purpose, because otherwise I’ll overshoot like crazy!!  Generally – I shoot about 125 images from a typical child / family session.  I end up putting between 30-40 in their slideshow.  ONLY in busy season (oct – dec) do I allow myself to show un-edited images to clients in the slideshow.  I justify that by telling them that they are getting their slideshow sooner due to the holiday rush and they are fine with it.  I might eventually head that direction for all shoots simply because they end up buying what I edit anyways – BUT I still have the mentality that you should SHOW what you SELL.  I’m not a fan of showing a basic edit but sometimes time forces you to do that.

How do you handle Family and close friends who want to hire you? Do you offer any discounts?
Honestly – I hate that part, because I’m a bit of a pushover.  For my BEST FRIENDS (which are only about 3 girls) and direct family (which is not many because I come from a small family) I will generally waive the session fee and just give them 15% off of what they order.  I also highly encourage them to each continually refer me out – and they do a great job at that!   They helped me get this whole thing started so I don’t mind helping out a bit where I can with them.

How do you break the ice in the beginning of the session and get families to loosen up?
Typically, I just start by having a casual conversation with the family.  I look at it like a first date.  You want to know a bit about them already so that you have touch point  topics you can reach to if needed.  I always want to start with connecting to and calming the parents so that they don’t feel rushed or surprisingly directed then quickly focus most of my attention and energy on the child.  I get on their level – literally.  I play, I goof off, do awkward things that make them laugh – but sometimes just simple play works the best – they can see the gimmicks.  Sometimes I’ll just simply engage with basic questions.  Things like – Tell me about what you had for breakfast this morning or what’s the best dream you’ve ever had?  It’s in those moments that I get the wide-eyed thoughtful look or the belly laugh that I was wanting.  Beyond anything else – I don’t push.  I’m really working on letting the session evolve and not push it.  “Wait for it” – that’s my new motto.

Do you have any tricks or tips that you want to share with us?
I have a habit of watching what they naturally fall into.  Although I’m all about posing guides, I tend to see that parents won’t buy something super posed that’s not representative of their child.  Don’t get me wrong, I have about 3 posing guides – but I tend to store the images in my head (or my iPhone) and reach to them if needed.  I may get them in a general pose and let them fall into something more ‘them’.  For little kids,  I run alot!  I also sit down and whisper to them … (that’s generally at the end of the session after the running).

We have all had the hard clients – Can you share a story of a difficult shoot and how you handled it?
Luckily I don’t have too many crazy stories or hard clients (KNOCK ON WOOD).  I’d probably say a difficult session that I had was a multigenerational session with ages 2-70.  About 12 people.  The kids were all 4 and under.  This is NOT my strong suit at all.  I had extremely high expectations of myself going in and of course I didn’t deliver according to what I wanted to do.  I was frustrated and disappointed and then I did the worst thing.  I allowed my disappoint to show, teared up and offered to give the clients their session fee back!  That’s totally unlike me and I’ve never done that before.  They ended up loving all the images and bought the entire session of files. (largest package).  What did I learn from that?  To relax and not put so much pressure on myself…and NEVER let them see you sweat!  Generally you are getting what you need to if you are trying your best.

patriotic baby

unique child portrait with toys

child portrait with lantern

little boy portrait

Who helps you out behind the scenes? Do you have an assistant or a special family member?
No one really – although this year I might look into bitting the bullet and hire someone to help.  Rarely do I go on a shoot and need assistance – but if I should I’ll grab one of 2 or 3 reliable friends that have an eye for style.

Have you ever taken a Workshop? Which one and was it worth it?
Yes – a few actually – but so far my favorite has been JINKY.

Name one person who you would love to photograph.
Gillian Vanderslice – she was on an episode of Scouted on E and she’s a local girl who’s an amazing model.

Seeing so many photographers burn out and quit their business – how do you avoid falling into that trap?
I force myself to take a break, allow myself to breathe a bit and do shoots just for ME every once in a while.

What has been your proudest moment in your business?
Increasing my income each year – I’m a chart nerd and I love looking at the bar chart rising year to year.

What would we be surprised to find out about you?
I was in media sales for 10 years prior to being a photographer.

sibling portrait by Jenny Watts

sibling composition idea

group portrait idea


Jenny Watts is a photographer in the Dallas-Ft Worth area,  specializing in custom photography with a fun, casual and unique style.  Jenny works in 100% natural light and loves photographing children of all ages.  Check out her website at

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