Interview: Meet Wedding Photographer Jenifer Greer Beggren

Jenifer Greer Beggren is successful wedding photographer in Los Angeles, California who runs her own photography company. She describes her unique job, her experience in photography school, and offers advice to future photographers.

What sparked your interest in photography?

"My first memory of photography was when my brother built a darkroom in his closet when we were kids. I thought it was the coolest thing, but being the little sister I was not allowed to go anywhere near it! I was young, and being denied access only piqued my interest more. It wasn’t until years later, when I took my first photo class in high school that I linked the two events and I realized how creative and how much fun shooting and playing in a darkroom could be. I took a few more classes, but went on my own at that point and just shot for myself. It was too personal for me to share it with others. I was 16 when I finally built my own darkroom in our laundry room. I was in heaven."

You attended photography school. How did that experience impact you?

"Attending photography school changed my life. Santa Monica College’s program was heavily commercial based, and that scared me in the beginning. My idea of photography was “art.” I had no interest in shooting cereal boxes and stemware. I’m glad I got over that. What school taught me is that photography is about light --- and more specifically how to manipulate and control that light. Once you master the techniques, you can translate that knowledge to whatever you want to shoot. Gaining that knowledge gave me the confidence to actually go out and shoot and share my work with others. It was one of the best - and most liberating - decisions of my life."

What is the biggest lesson you took away from your experience in photography school?

"Don’t be afraid to experiment; don’t be afraid to fail; and always be open to new things. Before school I had fixed views on photography. For instance, I never shot people, only places and objects, I loved film and never could stand the idea of digital; Photoshop felt taboo compared to the creativity of the darkroom. My list could go on.

Now, my career is primarily based on shooting people. More than half of what I shoot is digital. I do 60% of my editing and “darkroom” work in Photoshop and my work is constantly changing and improving. This is probably more of a life lesson than something specifically about photography. Experiment, you might find something new you like by playing."

How do you market yourself?

"Advertising has been a big part of my marketing this past year. I have built a good web site to showcase my work. I have print ads in a few of the big wedding magazines, as well as web presence on their sites. I post our site link to various other websites. The one thing that has really worked is the postcard. I get a mailing list monthly of new brides and mail out postcards. I get over 80% of my calls, meetings and bookings from this source. The ultimate goal is to sustain the majority of the business by referrals and word of mouth."

Tell me about B and G Photography.

B & G Photography is an event photography company I started with my husband about a year and a half ago. Both Nate & I had been shooting for other wedding photographers and were feeling a little stifled in their idea of how to capture a wedding day. Most photographers, or wedding photography companies churn out a laundry list of specific shots you have a capture. As the shooters, we never got to meet who we were going to capture that day until we showed up for the event. It felt very cookie cutter and contrived. We got married ourselves in October of 2003, looked at each other and said “Why don’t we create the company we think should be out there and go into business for ourselves??” So we did."

Your company specializes in wedding photography. What is it like to capture such special moments for others?

"It’s pretty amazing actually. I never thought I’d be shooting people when I first got into photography, and here I am capturing one of the most important days in a person’s life! Thank god for auto-focus because I still get a little teary during ceremonies. It’s an awesome responsibility to be there to help them remember this day. I like the responsibility and enjoy the relationships I’m building."

Why choose to specialize in wedding photography?

"Weddings are such an emotionally filled day, and photography to me is a very emotional process. Putting the two together for my career seemed to make sense, which is funny. Never in a million years did I think I’d be a wedding photographer. I had assigned a certain stigma to those words because of the stereotype of an annoying bossy guy barking out orders to the bride, groom and wedding party for the traditional poses.

The way I have become a “wedding photographer” was by breaking all those rules. Both Nate & I shoot in a photojournalistic style. I tell my brides we shoot as if we are flies on the wall for the day. We are there to capture and not interfere with what is really happening. This style has allowed us to fulfill our creative impulses and please our clients."

Tell me about a unique, funny, or interesting experience you have had while photographing a wedding.

"One couple we shot decided to do everything a little different – they wanted a “Western” theme.  Their guests were asked to dress down, including wearing flip-flops and cowboy hats; they had several wedding pies instead of a cake; there was square dancing with a western caller….you get the picture?

It took all the tension (of a typical formal wedding) out of the day for the Bride and Groom and their guests. Everyone had a blast and it really came across in the images.  It was a relaxed, inspiring and fun day for us and resulted in one of our best weddings shoots."

Describe your typical day at work.

"I’m typically glued to my computer, mostly editing and working on the jobs we shot the past weekend. Interspersed with all my Photoshop work, I field phone calls and emails from prospective brides to set up meetings. About 10% of my time is meeting with clients and getting to know them. Only about 20% of my work is actually shooting, the rest is running the business."

What advice do you have for individuals interested in pursuing a career in photography?

"Shoot, shoot, shoot. The more you shoot, the more you grow. Experiment. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Nate & I dare each other to do something different at every job. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but we always learn from it, and it keeps us fresh. Besides, once you start running a business, you don’t always get to shoot quite as much as you’d like, so do as much as you can now!"

What do you love the most about your job?

"I really like being my own boss. I love that I am scared and proud to make all my own career choices. It feels so much more personal and fulfilling to create and work on your own ideas from start to finish without someone else trying to put their own spin on it. Maybe I’m a control freak, or have authority issues? Whatever it is I like being my own boss and being involved in a job that allows me to be creative."