Today’s interview is with Jenny Solar!
We’re thrilled to have you on the CM blog today, Jenny! Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself and how your photography journey began?
When I was a kid, I was always the one toting around a camera, taking photos of my friends. I was never really very good, but I’ve always treasured photographs. My husband Josh found his love of photography in college. A couple years later, when we were married with a baby, I quit my awful job as a bank teller to go back to school and get my Master’s Degree. We decided that starting a wedding photography business sounded like a good idea, so we did. We got ourselves a website and a second camera and we advertised on The Knot. We booked ourselves solid for the following year (35 weddings) and before we knew it, we were wedding photographers. That was almost ten years ago! Our “baby” is ten years old and he has two little sisters. We’ve now shot over 250 weddings and hundreds of families.
You own and operate your business, Solar Photography, with your husband, Josh. What roles does each of you play? How do your individual artistic styles merge to create one cohesive brand?
Josh and I have always been really good at separating out our roles. I think it’s because our strengths are so different. Josh is the truly creative, incredibly talented at photography guy. And I’m the business-minded, kids-love-me girl. He’s the main shooter, but when we shoot together, we work more like two main shooters than a first and a second shooter. He does all the tech stuff, so if it relates to html or fixing a broken website, he handles it. He also does all of our post-processing and photography blogging. I handle most of the operations of our business like scheduling, client meetings, bookkeeping, etc.
We have no formal photography training, so we basically learned how to shoot together. Because of that, I think our styles are very similar and mesh well together. We both view ourselves most importantly as storytellers and not just photographers. And I think that we tend to create images that capture emotion.
It’s plain to see that family is your number one priority. What is the importance of photographing (and sharing with your clients) your own family’s daily life and adventures?
The reason I fell in love with photography in the first place is that it captures a moment in time forever. Our kids grow up so fast and life just flies by. I want to remember all the details for years and years. I want to be able to look at images and see the way our family loves. I think it’s so so important to document your family life because it leaves a tangible legacy for your family. I think that we all just really want to know that we are loved and that we are doing a good job of raising our little family. And I think that our clients are drawn to the way we love our family and the way we tell stories of our own family life. And I think they want that too.
It looks like you shoot for personal and collaborative projects, such as “Adventure Stories,” “The Portrait Project,” and “Childhood Unplugged.” Any others? What is the impact of these projects for you?
Childhood Unplugged is a community of mothers dedicated to celebrating intentional technology free time for our kids. I have loved being a part of this community of women that Monica Calderin has cultivated. In this day and age of technology everywhere, it’s easy to feel isolated. I love knowing that I have a great community of women with similar values surrounding me. And it’s been really fun to watch the Childhood Unplugged community grow!
The Portrait Project is something my husband started doing a couple of years ago. For me, I just love the intentionality of documenting our children as they grow.
Adventure Stories is a new site we created last year, but never officially launched. We have a passion for adventure and traveling the world with our kids. We also love using our photography to tell stories for brands and this is the direction we are headed with our photography.
You and your husband also created the Hello Happiness Card Company, as you believe in the power of encouraging words. What messages do you wish to convey to your clients through your photography? How do you communicate these messages?
Our biggest hope with our photography is to show people they are loved. And that their stories matter. And that life truly happens in the journey… all the little details that seem so insignificant but matter immensely. I think we do that by curating a group of images (from a wedding or a family session) that tell the greater story. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a carefully curated selection of images is worth a book full of words.
There is such joy, ease, and honesty in your images. How do you approach your lifestyle sessions? Any tips for how to help families relax and be themselves?
Thank you! We approach our lifestyle sessions the exact way we approach photographing our own family. We do everything we can to learn about the family ahead of time. We learn about the family culture, their favorite things to do on a Saturday morning, special talents, most treasured traditions. A lot of times, we shoot at their house. There’s really no better way to document real life than in someone’s house. We show up and we hang out like friends for 10-15 minutes before we take our cameras out. I make a special point to bond quickly with the kids, especially if they are little or shy. We do our best to set the expectation with the parents that we are simply here to document and we don’t want any “perfect smiles” or “say cheese” moments. We encourage the family to connect and play and we simply document it.
What’s in your camera bag? What are your go-to lenses for different types of sessions?
We currently shoot with Nikon D750‘s. We own a Nikon 24mm f/1.4, Nikon 35mm f/2.0, Nikon 50mm f/1.8, Nikon 85mm f/1.4, and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8. I highly prefer to shoot with the 24mm lens. We really love to get up close and personal and we love the intimacy that the 24mm provides when you get up close. We do shoot with the 35mm and occasionally the 50mm at family sessions. We use the 85mm and 70-200mm for weddings only.
What’s on the horizon for your business and your family?
We are slowly stepping away from wedding photography and family photography. We are focusing more and more on lifestyle commercial photography (through Adventure Stories) that is the dream job we never knew we wanted. We are also working really hard to grow Hello Happiness Card Company.
In the coming years, we plan on homeschooling our kids and spending a good chunk of each year traveling and exploring the world together. We are working toward creating a family lifestyle that maximizes our family time.