This is a guest post courtesy of Jodie Jolley of Aven Willow Portraits
Who is Jodie Jolley?
I am a luxury portrait photographer and the owner of Aven Willow Portraits, located in McKinney, Texas. I am also a mother to three beautiful daughters that I adore. I work with my husband, who is a videographer and does all our behind-the-scenes videos at the studio. We have an incredibly talented team of assistants and hair and makeup artists. My full-service studio specializes in creating luxurious self-love and empowering portrait experiences for women and girls to find their inner goddess and then create beautiful Legacy artwork that will change the way they see themselves. I am an international, award-winning and published photographer who has been working with women and telling their stories for over 10 years.
How did your story telling journey begin?
When I first started my photography journey, I was taking all kinds of sessions, such as newborns, family outdoor sessions, really just whatever it is that came my way. When I started to dive more into beautiful studio portraits and working closely with the women who came to see me, I completely fell in love with it and how our experience impacted the lives of our client; but, as an entrepreneur, you are afraid at first to turn away any of the other things that would bring in money. When I had my third daughter, she kind of forced me into a turning point in my life and in my business because she was an extremely difficult baby and I had a completely filled fall photoshoot schedule. I pushed through that season and decided that I would never again do or shoot anything that I wasn’t absolutely in love with. I felt like there was a balance in that for myself and my family, and for all of those that I worked with and was able to serve. So it was at that moment that I actually went through a complete rebrand of my business and decided it was all or nothing when it came to only shooting beautiful studio and magazine style portraits and nothing else! With the rebrand and the whole new feeling of the business that I love, we had to choose a new name. So it only seemed appropriate that we named our new studio after my youngest daughter, Aven Willow. At Aven Willow Portraits, we believe beauty is more than just an outside focus. We believe that a true portrait is a matter of introducing a little magic to a woman’s imagination mixed with her own authentic self that brings out all the beautiful soul light inside of her and then, from there, creating it into something physical that you can view, show it back to her and see her believe. Their strength, wisdom and hope shining out of them is what makes those portraits so stunning.
What inspires you to create?
Beauty inspires me. Taking a woman and bringing her inner beauty and light to bear on this world through a masterfully crafted portrait is extremely rewarding to me. Some of the most rewarding experiences of my life have been a result of talking to, hearing the stories from and working with women who have always hated being in front of the camera, then being able to immortalize them in an art form that displays the true nature of their being, like a single, beautiful flower, living, breathing, shining ever brighter on the surface of a canvas. When her work of art is complete, printed and matted, she returns to the studio for a portrait reveal. I get to watch her see herself again, but for the first time. I have seen light return to the eyes of women who see themselves again, who have lost it along the way. Their beauty, this self-love journey and the joy it brings to others is what inspires me to create.
If you could give new artists advice about photography, editing or even just the business side of the industry, what would it be?
My advice to any artist interested in photography, editing or in the industry in general would be the following: Don’t ever believe that you are held back in any way or because you don’t believe you can. You will always have a reason why you cannot do something, or be something, or love yourself. Don’t let any reason get in your way, and do not let your dreams pass you by because you couldn’t get out of your own mind, your own feelings, or your own thoughts in believing in yourself. It’s all a mindset. You must ask from life exactly what you want and it will give it to you. It’s that simple. After you have asked, then you must bear the task. The task is not to just work, but also to recognize that there is a balance between the art side and the business side. You have to feed both sides. Artists starve because they didn’t obtain the business savvy. They also lose the joy and passion for their art because they are consumed by the management and numbers. Feed both!
Tell us what’s inside your camera bag.
The main body I shoot with is a Canon 5 D Mark IV. I have and only shoot with prime lenses. My Canon L 50 hardly ever leaves my body. Once in a blue moon, when I am shooting someone on the floor, I will use a Canon L 35. I also can’t live without my Spider Holster, which allows me to quickly clip my camera to my belt when working and draw when I am ready to shoot. On occasion, when I have to take the holster off, I instantly lose my camera and can’t function. Because I only use studio lights, I have my wireless Neewer, flash trigger. I also carry with me an Amazon Dot because I can’t shoot without music. It brings the right atmosphere to help the client loosen up, and it brings a powerful energy that keeps me, my team and the client on a high vibe throughout so that the first minute and the last minute of our 4 hours shoot are just as special. I always keep a stash of my amazing accordion cards as my business cards that showcase my work. With one look, my potential clients have seen my incredible portraits and, at the same time, it includes exactly what I want to say to them. In addition, I always have copies of my current luxury portraits magazine. This is a magazine that is published by our studio each quarter and features not only incredible sessions or special projects, but also highlights a walkthrough of our luxury portrait experience that our potential clients can fantasize about. It includes what the photoshoot is like, why you need a photoshoot and what it will be like at your reveal appointment when you see your beautifully printed and matted portraits for the first time up on our wall. These magazines have been priceless to me and my business.
If you had an unlimited budget and you could go anywhere in the world, what would your dream session look like?
My dream photoshoot would take place in Paris, France with me and my team. We would begin the day with the clients hair and makeup before sunrise in the lavish Shangri-La Paris Hotel, then arrive at the spectacular Trocodero just in time to dance and shoot in front of the Eiffel Tower at dawn. We would stroll over to the iconic Pont Alexandre III bridge, and walk along the river Seine to capture the golden morning light. We would light upon the quaint Kozy Bosquet for a petite breakfast. From there my camera and my client would explore luxurious landscapes, buildings, shops and corners of Paris taking in the natural, historic and architectural beauty that has always made this special place famous for love and romance, reminding us of the indispensable value and love we give back to ourselves. And, finally, dinner at the opulent Restaurant Le Meurice before we wrap the shoot in our super glamorous Parisienne apartment – a glorious finale to complete this unforgettable day.
What’s the hardest thing you had to overcome that made you the photographer you are today?
The hardest thing I had to overcome that made me who I am today was my own mindset. We all have limiting beliefs. Especially when we are new at something and are unsure of our potential and greatness. As I worked harder and harder to perfect my craft, I found myself in a position where I had to transcend my current level of thinking at the time. I had to love and accept myself, the journey I was on, and ask for more. This was not natural and it was definitely not easy. I had to accept in myself that I had greater value and that I was worth every penny I asked for. I had to take my self-love mindset to the next level if I was ever to help other women on their self-love journey with my craft.
How do you prepare for a session?
Because we want our clients to have a flawless experience, my team and I meet at the studio an hour and a half before our client arrives. There, we prepare the studio by adding fresh flowers, re-stocking beauty supplies, and doing some pre-shoot planning. We also create a gorgeous charcuterie board for our clients to graze on throughout the photoshoot. With our equipment double checked, lenses on, batteries charged and chandeliers gleaming, we are ready to welcome each client with a custom luxury photoshoot experience. With all the pieces in place, I take some time to review the notes I have compiled for this client, take a couple deep breaths, and get myself into a creative mindset so that I can be inspired and perform at the highest level throughout the photoshoot. I also ask each client to journal about the woman they want to see in their portraits. This is one of the most important ways in which we prepare so that my clients are always getting the most out of their experience.
If you could have dinner with one artist that has impacted your photography today, who would it be and why?
Hands down, I would pick Sue Bryce. Sue has been an incredible mentor to me, especially as I grew into the portrait photographer that I am today. Her style, work, story, grit, determination, business knowledge and mindset resonate with me deeply. She has greatly influenced me and all the work I do. I am so grateful for her and all she has inspired in me.
Tell us some wise words you live by.
As an entrepreneur, wife, and mother of 3, over the years I have tried to find a balance where all parts of my life can exist together. One of the things that is the hardest for a woman in business is to be able to ask for what you want and believe you can have it. When it comes to sharing some words of wisdom, the following poem written by Jessie B. Rittenhouse encapsulates the truth of what I have learned from my entrepreneurial journey.
“I bargained with Life for a penny,
and Life would pay no more,
However I begged at evening
When I counted my scanty store;
Life is a just employer.
He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages,
Why, you must bear the task.
I worked for a menial’s hire,
Only to learn, dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life,
Life would have willingly paid”
― Jessie B. Rittenhouse
Not asking is asking for nothing and that is what you will get. So, never be afraid to ask for what you really desire and then get out of your own way!