Thanks to the advances in smartphone technology, everyone has a pretty good camera in their pocket. And while no one could begrudge a big uptick in the quality of holiday snaps and bathroom selfies, when it comes to capturing ‘lifetime’ moments, only a trained and experienced professional photographer will do.
We interviewed Jenn Basset-Grachow of JnK Imagery to talk about life as an event photographer as well as the struggles – and rewards – of being in business for yourself.
Tell us about your business. What do you do and who are your customers?
J ‘n’ K Imagery stands for Jenn and Keith. We are a full service boutique photography and illustration studio that specializes in weddings, boudoir and personalized art. We capture the important moments in peoples lives in a fun and stress free manner! Our clients are professional women and couples that value a quality experience! We design beautiful custom storybook albums, wall art portraits on fine art papers and canvas gallery wraps and personalized illustrations. We create unique personal pieces of art that clients can cherish for a lifetime.
How did you get into the field? Is it a family legacy or are you a pioneer?
I (Jenn) studied photography at Ryerson University but it took me a long time before I ventured into it as a business, and Keith studied art and graphic design at Florida Atlantic University. We both had to learn a lot of things that we were never taught in school!
When I was ready to approach photography as a business I kind of fell into wedding photography! I was in Florida building my portfolio when I was approached by a groom to photograph his wedding happening within the hour. Their photographer had bailed on them early that morning. Luckily everything turned out great! I then started working with other photographers to learn more about weddings and the business. We started JnK Imagery in 2007 photographing weddings and family portraiture, then in 2012 we branched into boudoir and personal branding. We are very much about the client experience because we spend so much time with our clients we want it to be a positive experience on both sides! Our boudoir sessions are about building up a woman’s confidence and self-esteem and challenging her to get out of her comfort zone! The byproduct of this experience is great artistic images that they have to remember this time in their lives!
Why do you love what you do? What it is that drives you every day?
We’re truly driven by our wonderful clients and the images we create together! I love getting to try something new and bring out the best about the person or people in front of my camera! I get to capture relationships between couples that are fun and intimate, between families that show a slice of their family dynamic, I get to see a woman gain confidence and her find her ability to be brave, strong and sexy! As much as people are photographed almost on a daily basis these days, most people are not comfortable in front of a camera and they’re afraid of looking silly! That’s where I come in! I make people comfortable in front of the camera!
Was it all smooth sailing or have you had to overcome adversity to get where you are?
We had some early successes but we’ve had a few bumps to overcome in the past few years! Like any business you start to discover what you love and don’t love about what you do and for us we were in a business model that left us cold. Our work is truly about the relationships we develop with our clients. We moved from a multiple weddings in a day model to a boutique model in 2012, this allowed us to give the quality of service and spend the time needed with each client! We work with wonderful couples that trust us to create memories that they’ll cherish for a lifetime. Having more time to focus on each individual wedding allows us the ability to create memories that will last and be handed down to the children and grandchildren. It also give us time to spend doing creative work with our boudoir and portrait clients.
We all know that crazy happens. What’s the wildest thing that’s happened on the job?
I’m pretty laid back so there’s not much that fazes me but occasionally the paparazzi (wedding guests) can get a bit overwhelming. One time I had a groomsman follow around behind me and take every single picture I took, another time I got this great shot of the mother of the groom crying during the vows and the father has a camera to his face! For these and many other reasons I encourage my clients and their families to stay unplugged on the wedding day! They hired me to capture the memories, their job is to participate in the creating the memories.
How are you involved in your local community?
I have donated my time to an organization called Helping Hearts, which gave photography sessions to families with children that are either terminally ill or have survived a serious illness. I have also worked in partnership with a local hairstylist and make-up artist to give back to women who may not be able to afford our services otherwise! Boosting these women’s self-esteem and transforming them from the outside in is amazing to watch! Keith volunteers his talents to help raise funds for other artists and the comic book community!
Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?
Start small, keep good track of your books and have fun! It’s a roller coaster ride of emotions but very well worth it!