Day In The Life: Jenni Kupelian Photography

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We are excited to continue an ongoing series of Day in the Life Features from some of our fabulous contributors. These blog posts will take you through an average day of some of the top photographers in the industry.

Today we are pleased to feature Jenni of Jenni Kupelian Photography. Enjoy ~

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7:00 am:  As a wedding and portrait photographer, weekends tend to be very busy with on location shooting. On this particular Saturday, I woke up early to prepare for a morning family session in the rain. I never really need an alarm on shoot days as I always seem to wake up about 30 seconds before it goes off. Following a routine is a bit of a paradox for me. In some ways I fight against checklists and scheduling...while some things fall naturally into a routine without me realizing it. My morning coffee is an example of a natural habit that I look forward to every morning. I love watching the cream swirl with the darkness of the coffee, so I never skip this ritual with my french press. Mornings before shoots can be hectic so it’s usually a quick bowl of cereal for breakfast before I prep my equipment.

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8:00 am:  Before a shoot, I give myself ample time to set out my equipment, format and test memory cards, charge back up batteries and pre-load film backs. My house could be (and often is) a total mess but I never skip this step, or risk equipment issues on client time. I’ve been shooting professionally for 3 years now and I still get a little nervous before sessions. I’ve found that organizing my gear helps reduce those jitters and helps clear my mind. I used to believe nervousness was just a “beginners issue” that I would soon grow out of. It turns out that it’s just how I’m built as a person, and instead of make war against myself for feeling nervous I’ve learned to embrace it. It’s a feeling that indicates I care about my clients and the product I offer them...and as soon as I start shooting, the nerves disappear. So I’ve learned to push through those uncomfortable feelings and use them to my advantage.

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For family sessions I make sure I have the following with me:

Canon 5d Mark III with an 85 mm F/1.8 Lens and a 50mm F/1.8 Lens : I shoot predominately with the 50 mm because I like the range it gives me for portraiture with beautiful bokeh and the ability to jump back for wider long shots.

Mamiya 645 AF with 80mm F/2.8 Lens + Kodak Portra 220 Film: I consider myself a hybrid photographer moving towards adding more and more film to my process. I like to shoot Kodak Portra 220 during family sessions because it allows me more exposures before having to reload another roll of film.

Sekonic L-358 Light Meter: I love this light meter when shooting medium format film. It’s lightweight, gives accurate readings and is no-nonsense. I wear it around my neck during every session I shoot.

Instax Mini: When time allows, I try to take a few instant photos with this fun camera. Kids love to watch the photos pop up and it’s a great way to make them smile if they are losing interest in getting their photo taken. Sometimes I’ll even let them take a picture of their parents with it.

Batteries, Bandaids, Stickers, Wrist Watch: I carry battery back ups for my film and digital cameras, bandaids for skinned knees or “new shoes” blisters, stickers for the kiddos as rewards and a digital wrist watch. Why the watch? I don’t like pulling out my phone during sessions to check the time. It kills time digging for it and I also don’t have to worry that my clients may think I’m texting or playing candy crush when the phone comes out.

Reflector: I’m a big fan of using reflectors to bounce light. Even in over-cast Portland skies, I feel that using them helps add twinkle to my clients eyes and reduce under-eye or chin shadow. I use them on the white side to keep the light neutral and natural.

Stepping Stool, Neutral Blanket, Umbrella : I have a lightweight folding stepping stool that has a handle on it, that has absolutely saved me with tall clients. The umbrella is white to match with all outfits and helps keep my clients dry. Neutral blankets are great for families to sit on without clashing with their wardrobe or the scenery.

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10:00 am:  I usually arrive to shoot locations about 30 minutes before my clients to re-scout the area and situate my thoughts. I’m lucky enough to have my husband assisting me on most weekend shoots. I often shoot alone on over-cast days or even in a little drizzle. However this day was a real downpour and having him there to help keep my clients dry was life-saving for my sanity (and my client’s too!). My clients on this particular Saturday were amazing, patient and up for using the rain to our advantage to create photographs authentic to the Pacific Northwest.

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11:00 am:  Family sessions are fun, but also very physically demanding. I often find myself sitting in puddles, mud, and pine needles. On this particular day I arrived home covered in mud from accidentally sliding down the hill into some mud. In addition to being covered in mud I’m usually famished by this time. While breakfast is always quick on Saturday mornings, I really enjoy slowing down to make a nice lunch. My favorite is pasta with parmesan, parsley, lemon, olive oil, pepper flakes and radishes.

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12:00 pm:  We don’t have children yet, but even so I’m amazed at the dishes that can compile during the busy week from just two people. Not to mention the pile of laundry that collects on our bed. I really can’t stand folding laundry and usually put it off as long as possible. After lunch...it’s time to finally tackle the household chores.

Our Corgi Walter loves to lay next to the laundry on the bed, especially when it’s nice and warm straight out of the dryer. When he falls asleep on top of it, that’s even better because then I can hold off folding it even longer!

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3:00 pm:  After I do a swoop of the house, I go out to check on our chickens and gather eggs. They (Left to right: Lara Croft, Little Allison + Modi) are always very excited to see my feet coming towards them as they know they’ll get a treat (usually chicken scratch or corn kernels). I put fresh bedding in the coop and check to see what new items they’ve destroyed in my garden (I love them anyway).

I also walk our Corgi named Walter...he loves to trot through the neighborhood saying hello to neighbors and chasing squirrels.

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5:00 pm: After finishing taking care of the animals, I usually start in on workflow and triple backing up files from the earlier shoot. I’ve learned to be very particular about making sure my raw files are safe and sound on my server before importing anything to Lightroom. I’ve also developed a naming code system for folders and recently started using 17 Hats to help keep contracts and client invoices archived and organized (it’s a life saver!).

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I usually try to edit two sneak peek photos from the session to send to my client the following day along with a thank you and a “completion schedule” reminder. I’ve found that parents are often worried that there will be no good photos after watching me chase their kids around in the rain. With that in mind, I like to set clients as ease as soon as I can. This also helps tide them over until final image delivery 2-4 weeks later.

7:00 pm - midnight:

My husband and I are natural night owls. He uses the weekend to study and catch up on personal projects where as I tend to spend Saturdays editing, packing and prepping packaging that will ship out to clients on Monday, as well as invoicing, emailing and planning my social and blog posts for the week (if I’m lucky). As the night progresses we like to light candles (especially in the fall) and find great movie soundtracks to listen to on spotify. Lately it’s been Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Interstellar (ya, we are nerds). It creates a great ambiance for being productive but trying to embrace the weekend at the same time.

I often have trouble settling my mind down before bed. My hopes and dreams will often fill my mind, which can be a good and bad thing! Sometimes I struggle with feeling insecure about my lack of a studio or large social following. However, I’m learning that I can use the tools I have now and keep building my vision stone by stone. There is an amazing quote by Arthur Ashe that says, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can”. This has been the mantra of my whole year launching a re-brand and simplifying my business life. I can’t do it all and I can’t be perfect...but I can do the best that I can with the tools in front of me and walk forward in that confidence. I try to remember that as I close my eyes each night...that makes for a good night’s sleep.

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Thanks, Jenni!

~ Stay tuned for more Q&A posts from our wonderful contributing photographers.

Are you a contributor (or interested in becoming one) and would love a feature? Contact us here!




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