Today we’d like to introduce you to Jade Elora.
Jade, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve always been obsessed with photography. When I was a kid, my parents got me a Barbie Photo Designer (which is basically like Photoshop for kids) software kit that came with this sparkly camera with a pink flower around the lens. I was instantly hooked, and I spent a lot of my childhood buying and burning through disposable cameras and waiting (quite impatiently) for film to be developed at the supermarket photo counter. Eventually, I was given my own digital camera as a gift and started photographing landscapes, weddings, friends’ portraits… If I could bring my camera, I would. In high school, I did several small jobs photographing my area (South Lake Tahoe) for tourism companies and property agencies. When I went to college, my interest shifted. At the time, I thought of photography as a hobby, not the prestigious, “serious” job that I wanted. I studied public relations and journalism at Humboldt State in Northern California and abroad at Kingston University in London, England. I was active with both university newspapers and started filling in stories here and there with my own photos.
After graduation, I was offered a job with Oprah Magazine as Content Producer for Oprah.com, where I handled a combination of writing, coding, and selecting photos for stories. A few years into working there, the team was looking for new photo sources (the ones we had were mostly standard, stock images, and they wanted something fresher). I volunteered to try my own photos, and it worked out great. Soon, though, I realized I liked doing the photos so much that I needed to focus my energy on just photography because that’s where my fulfillment was coming from. I did a test-run of an engagement session with a great local couple and I was just hooked! Their emotion, happiness, and passion for each other was beautiful—and I got to be the one to capture it! So many amazing people took a chance on me: couples trusted me to photograph their weddings even though I was still building my portfolio, expectant mothers let me take their maternity photos, experienced photographers let me tag along as their second shooter. I worked on my business day and night until I felt comfortable enough to quit my day job and make a full-time career of it. Now I truly love my job. Photographing joy is just amazing. I’m all about the smiles, laughter, goofy faces… even those happy tears. People are my favorite subjects because there is so much more to a photo of a person, a family, or a couple than you would get from a landscape shot. I focus on capturing the special connections between people and letting their personalities shine. I’m not a “stand here and pose” kind of photographer, I like to chat with my clients, let them interact and allow things to unfold naturally, so that when they look at their photos they see the emotion behind the moment.
Has it been a smooth road?
I’m pretty sure no entrepreneur has ever looked back and thought, “Wow! That was easy!” Getting really good at your craft is really hard, but starting your own business is even harder. When I first decided I wanted to work with couples and photograph weddings, I could hardly convince people to let me take their photos for free. (Talk about a blow to the ego.) Everyone wanted to see my portfolio, but I had to build one first! I had foolishly deleted and lost so many photos over the years (including nearly every wedding photo I had taken in my short high school career) so I sent some prospective clients images I had taken of wildlife, landscapes, even performers at the renaissance fair just to show them I could take a decent photo. When I finally had a portfolio and started building my business, I went to a wedding show. My very first bridal show, a fellow photographer walked up to me and said, “I’m sure YOU’RE not the photographer, ARE YOU?” She looked me up and down and looked completely baffled when I said I was. I was crushed at the time, and I took it so seriously because I was doubting myself too, but I ended up booking a wedding and making friends at that very show.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
For a while now, it’s been the trend to photograph couples and families in a posed, dramatic, “fashion”-style kind of way. I’m seeing a lot of couples coming to me because they want something different—a more genuine representation of who they are as a couple. They’re looking for something unique, not a “one size fits all couples” kind of photo. I think we’re going to see that change in the industry, where couples are looking less for far-away, sweeping photos where you can’t see the couple’s faces and more for up-close, colorful, fun photos full of personality. Those pastel, posed photos are great for magazines, but when it comes to your own photos you want something that makes you say ‘That is so US!’.
What has been the primary challenge you’ve faced?
The biggest challenge by far is getting started—I’d say that’s probably true for any entrepreneur. Getting experience without already having experience can feel like an impossible task, and desperately trying to convince people to take a chance on you can be demoralizing. The key for me was reading books and blogs from other entrepreneurs — it turns out, it wasn’t just me! I also found a few amazing networking groups who were full of extremely kind, supportive people.
What advice do you wish to give to those thinking about pursuing a path similar to yours?
If you’re just starting out, start by photographing everything you can: events, friends, shoes, flowers, whatever you have. It sounds cliché, but the practice makes a huge difference. Once you’ve got a handle on your photography style, do two things right away:
1) Contact nearby photographers whose style you like and ask them to be a second or third shooter (for free). You will learn a ton on the job with people who are already doing it and succeeding.
2) Join local professional groups in your field. For anyone in the wedding industry, I’d recommend Tuesdays Together. They’re an amazing community of people who all believe in the same motto: “A rising tide lifts all boats.”
- Couples typically spend $2500 to $3800 on their wedding coverage
- Engagement sessions start at $500
- Maternity, group, and family sessions start at $549
- Website: JadeElora.com
- Phone: 818-860-2991
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jadeeloraphoto/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JadeEloraPhotography/