my photography journey | jessica phillipo

Jessica Philippo

My Photography Journey by Jessica Philippo


I’m Jessica from One July Photography and One July Living.

I’m so excited to share my photography journey with Clickin Moms.  This amazing community gave me my start and has taught me nearly everything I know about photography – from the technical art, to embracing your own style, and taking the leap into this crazy thing called a business.

My story begins like so many others – with a miracle.

the photography journey of Jessica Philippo of One July Photography

The birth of my daughter Penelope was the start of my journey.  July 1, 2010. One day on July 1, 2010 life started to really make sense for the first time (hint, hint – take a look at my business name!).

I wanted to remember what it felt like to be a mom.  What it felt like to see that gummy smile grin at me when the morning light shined perfectly through her nursery window.  I immediately felt limited by my silly human brain.  When she was a month old I already felt like I could barely make out a memory of what her tiny body looked like the first time we placed her in the crib.  The Solution?  Photography.

Photography is about more than clicking a button and playing in Photoshop.  Photography became my solution for bottling emotion and documenting a well-lived life.  I picture myself old and gray, looking at a wall of collected images and being able to remember…everything.

The thing about journeys is that they are never easy!  Thankfully, Clickin Moms was 110% supportive, otherwise I may have never progressed from here – hello eerily yellow baby Penelope with crazy eyeballs (I of course probably thought I was a photography genius)!

the photography journey of Jessica Philippo of One July Photography

I couldn’t learn enough, fast enough.  Once I’d get my head around something I just read on the forum I would go and practice, practice, practice.  Half the battle is UNDERSTANDING the concept, but then you have to execute!  The things I learned (in order) that progressed me over 8 months from these images from July 1, 2010 to March 2011 were:

  • Switching to Manual mode and NEVER looking back.  I didn’t allow myself to move the dial.  I read dozens of photography tutorials on CM as well as purchased the book Understanding Exposure.
  • Back button focus.  Ahh…how I love BBF.  It took me a REALLY long time to wrap my head around it.  I still remember the 3 or 4 CM members that were so patient with me and answered every question I had but the day it clicked was as if the stars had aligned.  For those of you wondering, I’m a focus and recompose gal.  I tried toggling for a while but ended up going back.
  • White balance.  No more yellow baby = a happy mama.

the photography journey of Jessica Philippo of One July Photography

the photography journey of Jessica Philippo of One July Photography

the photography journey of Jessica Philippo of One July Photography

the photography journey of Jessica Philippo of One July Photography

Not long after, I opened the doors of One July Photography – a business based on photographing newborns, young children, and their families.  My business started slow but began building momentum that made me proud. But about a year into my business I hit the wall.  You know THAT wall.  Where you wonder if you’re good enough. If you really have what it takes to keep going.  There wasn’t as much joy in my work and I worried it was beginning to show. Fortunately CM was there to help me get past that intimidating and often defeating hurdle.

I had carefully studied the “rules” of photography, I really knew how to work my camera and I felt fairly comfortable with my developing style. But something was missing.  I wasn’t consistently producing the results that I wanted.  And this is what I consider to be “phase 2” of my journey… when I realized it was time to make my OWN rules.  It didn’t happen overnight and involved lots of soul searching, education, trial, and error.

  1. Narrowing my niche.  Most photographers aren’t good at EVERYTHING they try to shoot.  I am absolutely not an exception to the rule.  I had always thought I wanted to be a newborn photographer but the photography gods had something totally different in mind for me.  During my newborn sessions I found that the images I loved the most were the ones I took of mom or dad with their little one.  Or the connections between family members.  Ultimately, I made the scary decision to leave behind the newborn business I had worked so hard to build and made the change to shooting maternity, families, seniors, and older children.  I am still working to rebuild my business in this new niche, but I don’t regret it for one minute.  I firmly believe that choosing to shoot what I really love is one of the best decisions I’ve made for my business.
  2. Choosing my light. I bow down to the photographers that can work natural light indoors with expert artistry.  I learned that my vision is best fulfilled when I’m shooting outside…I LOVE sun-filled images in the great outdoors. Again, it showed in my work and I took the leap.  From now on, nearly all of my sessions take place in mother nature, with very few exceptions.
  3. Having a vision. I can always “see” an image in my head before I take it.  The setting, the wardrobe, the connections.  Clients hire you not only for your technical photography skills, but also for your vision! I really started taking more control of the session long before the session starts.  Explaining what time I shoot and why, putting together wardrobe suggestions, discussing the client’s “vision” to make sure that it goes hand in hand with mine, etc. The time spent in setting the stage for your session will show fourfold in the outcome.

Everyone has their own journey.  Mine is still being told.  And I can’t wait to see where it takes me.  It’s already shown me so much about the beauty of light and the unique beauty of people.

the photography journey of Jessica Philippo of One July Photography

the photography journey of Jessica Philippo of One July Photography

the photography journey of Jessica Philippo of One July Photography

the photography journey of Jessica Philippo of One July Photography

Thanks so much for reading! I’ll leave you with a few final thoughts…

  • You can ROCK any camera you have if you know how to use it.  I know that doesn’t change your DESIRE to have the best camera on the market, ha!  I’m on my third camera… the Canon Rebel XS served me well.  Then I upgraded to the Canon 7D which was my partner in crime until I recently made the switch to camp Nikon with the D700.  All of these cameras hold a special place in my heart and you should NEVER feel bad about what camera you are rocking in your own journey.
  • 90% of my time is focused on the business while 10% is actually out with clients.  I LOVE the client part and I’m still trying to love the business part. Business is HARD work.  Incredibly rewarding, but a continuous challenge.  One July Photography is still a work in progress.
  • You are NEVER done learning and growing when it comes to photography! I learn something new every time I pick up my camera.  Whether it be a better understanding of managing light, working with clients, or how I see the world.   There’s always something to learn.
  • Photography matters.  Don’t ever doubt it.

Thank you Clickin Moms for all of your support since September 2010!

the photography journey of Jessica Philippo of One July Photography

Jessica PhilippoJessica Philippo, Illinois
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Jessica Philippo, owner of One July Photography, offers a boutique portrait experience to seniors and families in the Chicagoland area.  She is passionate about helping clients look and feel their best, while embracing their own unique beauty.  She lives in Glen Ellyn with her sassy two year old and husband of five years.  These are a few of her favorite things…family, summer evenings, sprinkled donuts, a new hairdo, the sea, all things lace, and adventures.
my photography journey series on the Clickin Moms blog


  • Kimberley says:

    Thanks for sharing your story……it is so similar to my own so it is nice to see I am not alone going down this path!

  • Carolyn says:

    what an awesome journey!!

  • Melissa says:

    Fabulous, fabulous, Jessica! I love how you studied the rules and then made your OWN rules. Lovely work!

  • Heather Lee says:

    I know this was not the purpose of the article, but I also have a Penelope and she was born August 10, 2010!! :) Thanks for sharing.

  • Sarah Best says:

    Thank you, thank you for such a needed, wonderful write-up!! I am where you were and so very excited but scared for the journey. Congrats to you for all you’ve done, your work is beautiful!

  • Ruth says:

    Hey Jessica, I love your story. There are days I KNOW I want to do this, but the momentum can get so hard when you’re starting out. It’s definitely made me think I need to find some sort of support network. I try and do it all on my own and sometimes you just need that little boost from someone else to keep you going when you’re wavering. Thanks for sharing :)

  • Anne says:

    Oh my goodness, you have such a fantastic journey, Jessica! And I love your writing as much as your photography. It was such a pleasure to read this article. Thank you!!

  • I loved checking out your journey, Jessica! You are right that our little miracles are such a jump starter for photography <3

  • Trenity says:

    Thank you for sharing. Both your journey and your photography are beautiful!

  • Jessica! I am so happy to see this article pop up in my feed this morning. Your work is so lovely and, as you know, I am a huge fan! It’s inspiring to see your journey… You are amazing!

  • Candy says:

    Have loved your photos from the start….and I am anxious to watch you continue to follow your heart and passion. You also did a great job on your journal entry…such a creative mind. Thanks for sharing! And continued success!

  • Marissa says:

    I needed this article. I have recently hit my insecurity wall. I thought these thoughts about maybe not being good enough, or thinking to myself there are just some things I don’t think I shoot as well was an indication that I was not good. I keep telling myself keep shooting what you love. You love this, keep at it. But I thought this “wall” as you put it was a sign from the universe that maybe I should rethink things. You work is beautiful and I am walking away today with a new found determination to get passed this wall. Sometimes its hard when the momentum of business has it up’s and down’s. Thank you for your article!! Your work is beautiful!

  • Pam says:

    Great article, I love your Living blog, I just spend 30 minutes reading it :)

  • Dana says:

    I loved reading about your journey. I am to just beginning and am trying to learn as much as I can. I can’t get enough. Would you mind telling me what classes you took from CM. I’m wanting to take some and struggling to decide which ones.

  • Rebecca says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey! It was wonderful to read!

  • Jessica, I absolutely loved your article, learning more about you and enjoying your beautiful images. Thank you so much!! :)

  • Deepshikha says:

    Can you tell us what all classes did you take and what would you recommend for a new Beginners?

  • You are so encouraging! Thank you for this!

  • Emily says:

    Your photos are just beautiful! Thanks for sharing your journey with all of us! :)

  • Lori says:

    Just want to let you know your article was very inspirational and uplifting. The part of self doubt really rang true for me. But you have given me hope! Keep up the amazing work you are doing. And thank you!

  • Lauren says:

    I love your daughters name :) we had our little Penelope this past August :) and she’s so full of personality! I love how you were true to yourself and found your niche. Thanks for sharing your journey!

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