Meet Jenn Gaudreau.
Badass business owner. (Jennifer Kathryn Photography was established in 2009 and shows no signs of slowing down.)
Sweetheart. (Yep, she’s quite possibly one of THEE most down-to-earth and approachable women I’ve met in a while.)
Despite her insane career and even more insane talent, there isn’t one iota of attitude within her. (Don’t you just love women like that?) And, when it comes to how to get the best bang for your buck with your head shots, what it takes to build a thriving career in the arts and how to “be your brand” (something she and I totally align on) – she’s an open book.
She and I recently sat down to discuss how to perfect your Instagram shots, why looking a little glam is necessary on a photo shoot and why authenticity is always your best and most beautiful accessory.
Before we talk about your craft, let’s talk about your business. How long have you been working for yourself and what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?
I’ve been my own boss since 2009, and while it’s been the most challenging undertaking of my life, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I never set out to be a business owner. I started for the love of photography, and along the way discovered it was a vehicle to meet amazing people. It was a way to build genuine relationships and to make my clients feel cared for, confident and beautiful. After working for another studio for several years, I realized I had a bigger vision inside of me than what I was doing there. I wanted to create an experience for my clients that went beyond the images themselves. Having become friends with many of them in the process has been great feedback that I’m on the right course. I feel so fortunate to work with some truly beautiful souls!
It can be really intimidating to take headshots! What is your best advice on becoming more comfortable and confident in front of the camera?
I’m with you! I’m the worst in front of the camera. But I’ve discovered a few things that really help in feeling more comfortable.
- The most important factor is finding someone you trust to take your photos. It doesn’t have to be a friend, but you do want to work with a photographer who affirms you and makes you feel amazing for who you are. The more comfortable you are, the more you’ll be able to let down your guard and truly be YOU. After all, that’s who we are interested in seeing.
- Pay attention to the wardrobe and makeup tips we’re going to talk about below. When you FEEL fabulous, it will infuse you with a sense of confidence that will come out in each frame.
Let’s talk basics of a photo shoot. What are the do’s and don’ts of wardrobe, makeup and hair? What’s the right lighting/time of day to shoot? What should one bring and how to prepare? Any other massive yay’s and nay’s?
Wardrobe, hair and makeup, and lighting are a HUGE part of making your photo shoot amazing! Put some thought into each aspect of these things, and plan ahead so you have a cohesive look.
- Wear something just a step more glam than your everyday look. You know how they say dress for the job you want, not the job you have? This is even more important in a photo that is going to represent your image across multiple platforms. Even if you have the job you want, wear something to your shoot that you know will command respect, admiration and make you feel absolutely fabulous. Be aware of where fabric pulls or wrinkles, and if it’s something you feel the compulsion to keep fidgeting with, put it back in the closet! Wear something that fits you well and shows your figure without being too tight. And unless you are very petite, wearing oversized clothing usually doesn’t translate well in images.
- Hire a professional hair and makeup artist! Nothing will make you feel more fabulous than glowing skin, eyes bright with color and your locks gorgeously styled. As with your attire, step it up only a notch. You still want to look like yourself with just a hint of extra pop and drama.
- Bright window light, diffused light outdoors or shade are the best options for shooting. Typically this means the best light depends on which direction your windows face. (East facing window light will be best in the morning, while west facing window light is best in the evening.) If shooting outside, a slightly overcast day can be your best friend. Otherwise, shoot during the “golden hour” right before sunset. These will all give your head shots a fresh, dreamy look. Of course, your photographer should know how to use photographic lights, and this can be a great option any time of day for a more crisp, polished look. Chat with your photographer about the feel you’re going for and let him/her help you plan the best time of day.
- Bring some props that are part of your signature style- a handbag, your phone, a fun scarf, even a pet! While you will be coached during your shoot, giving your hands something to do will make you look more natural. Plus these fun additions really infuse your personality into the session!
- If you are still feeling really nervous about being in front of the camera, bring a friend that will help loosen you up and make you feel like you’re the most amazing person in the world. Someone you really trust can help get you into that zone of just being you.
- Don’t be afraid to pop some bubbly! A few sips can give you that lighthearted feeling you need. However, DON’T overdo it or else your eyes will look too tired.
If you had to define your personal aesthetic in a couple sentences, how would you explain it?
I’d say I’m casual chic. At home, you’ll find me with my hair down and makeup done simply in my favorite ripped jeans, cute top and sandals. I tend to wear classic gold jewelry that goes with everything. When I go out, I like to glam it up a bit more with pink lips, a Kate Spade style dress, and if I’m feeling brave, some killer heels!
I am obsessed with Instagram, along with 10 million other people and love learning how to perfect my shots. You have been hired specifically to style and shoot Instagram photos. Any tips for the novice?
This is such a fun one! In a visually driven world, it’s important for those of us who are in creative fields to represent our brand well, and social media is a huge part of that.
- My first piece of advice is to find good light. No Instagram filter or editing app can make up for a poorly lit shot. So what is good light? If you’re shooting outside, the shade is your best friend. If you’re shooting inside, find a window with bright but softly diffused light and no shadows.
- Choose a consistent background for all your Insta posts. Buy some white foam board, use your coffee table, or find some neutral textured background that fits the style you’re going for. Shoot overhead to make that your stage. Make sure the colors in your images are consistent from post to post and represent your brand. This can be neutrals with pops of various colors, one or two color schemes, all black and white, all vibrant color. Whatever it is, stick to it with everything you put out there.
- Find a few props to elevate the style of each post, but also keep it simple. A cutting board, paper straws, gold paper clips, and small bowls are all things you can reuse over and over again to add depth, texture and interest.
- Keep it real. Use flatware, a manicured hand, or even some spills to convey the authenticity of your Instagram story.
I encourage my clients all the time to “be their brand.” As a photographer, you have a unique gift in bringing people’s essences to life. What does “being your brand” mean to you and how do you work with your clients on extracting it?
I could talk about this for days! When you think about it, wherever you go, you’re making a statement. Your personal brand is the story you’re telling about who you are and what you are doing in life. I happen to think the most powerful story you can tell is the most authentic one. It’s your ethos, mission, values, philosophy and your voice all rolled into a consistent and compelling way of being. Your language, your attire and aesthetic, your tone and energy, and your daily practices all speak to your brand. And if that personal brand is influential in your business, your colors, logo, website and marketing materials will ideally reflect this narrative, too. Your brand is what sets you apart and what makes you uniquely you. It’s what draws people to you and what causes them to be loyal friends or customers.
I truly believe every individual is beautiful and full of dignity. My goal is always to create an atmosphere that affirms, celebrates and draws out their “essence,” as you called it. I also ask my clients to think about what their core values are – in life or in business – that they’d like to embody and express. We then work together to choose hair + makeup, wardrobe, locations, and additional visual touch points that will tell that story in tangible images. During the shoot, I coach each individual differently to make sure your body language and expressions are true to what’s inside. We are very intentional in tying all of these elements together to portray you and, ultimately, your brand!
A huge thank you goes out to Jenn for her generosity. Both in insight and heart. The world needs more Entrepreneurial Babes like you.