In 1992 I began my education in Graphic Design at Saddleback Community College and then headed to Cal State Fullerton to finish my degree. In 1996 I took an upper term elective in photography and it changed the way I saw the world, literally. I was hooked. I had found my passion and all I could do was stop and move forward. What I mean by stop, is change majors. I was one semester away from graduating but since I was essentially paying for my own education if I graduated I would not be eligible for certain grants that I knew I would need if I was going to start over. That is exactly what I had to do: start over. I built up a portfolio over the next semester taking only photography classes. I put together a portfolio of my best work and headed over to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California to apply. To give you some back history, my entire family went to Art Center. Mom, Dad, sister, even my now brother-in-law. It was in the cards from the beginning of my Graphic Design career that I was to go there too, however I, being the black sheep of the family, was determined to NOT go to Art Center. The irony was that now that I found what I really wanted to do with my life and after researching every possible school out there for photography, Art Center was the clear choice for top photography schools in the nation. While Cal State Fullerton was great at giving me a foundation, I was having a hard time with the “happy accidents” of photography. You know, when you get a REALLY great shot, and you think you are all cool because you are like soooo good at photography now and then you go to recreate it and you are totally stumped. I hated that! I HAD to know how to do what I knew I wanted to do but couldn’t. Super frustrating! I knew Art Center would give me the absolute best education hands down. Blah! I was mad, but again determined and I figured that my education was more important than my pride. Needless to say my entire family was thrilled! So, when I got accepted with my first portfolio, I hunkered down for the next 4 years and studied my ass off. I was pretty much one of the least popular people in school because I never partied and always worked. I was, however, the first person anyone went to when they needed class notes or wanted help with the assignment instructions. Those were some of the most intense years of my life. I actually had a nervous break down and cried once a week like clock work. But coming out the other end and having the knowledge under my belt that I do now, I would never trade a second!
In 1998 I did freelance photography part time while working my way through school and in 2001 when I graduated from Art Center and opened Jen Queener Photography full time (Queener is my maiden name.) I worked mainly in the advertising world shooting annual reports, marketing materials, and benefits for Huntington Memorial Hospital, Nokia Mobile Phones, Vertu, the YMCA, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, and the Mayfield Schools to name a few. I became a full time wedding photographer in 2004 after getting married to Tim O’Sullivan, my High School sweetheart and Junior High crush. (Yes, we went to prom together.) I quickly left the commercial business behind after having such a hard time finding just the right photographer for my own wedding and knowing I could do a better job. Talk about crazy confidence with something I knew hardly anything at all about. (Art Center is adamant about NOT teaching 35mm on camera flash private sector photography.) There was no understanding anyone’s pricing structure and everything looked the same. There was no one who was shooting in the style I wanted because it seemed like everyone was doing photo journalism. Coming from the advertising world it was all a bit too sloppy. I say that with utter respect for photo journalists, but there was just something missing. I decided to try to change the way Wedding Photography is offered to brides and grooms. Now it is called Portrait Journalism or basically a mix between traditional and journalism with an editorial flair. My work has always been clean, clear, crisp, and unadulterated. I am not into crazy post production with filters and textures. I like my work to have a timeless feel to it but to be vivid and colorful. As for pricing, I have an open door, open book policy which no other photographer offers to my knowledge. Everyone I met with before my wedding only confused me more. There was no apples to apples comparisons. There was no easy to understand pricing structures. It was all way too illusive for me. So, because of this, I make sure my clients know exactly what they are paying for. They can take things out, add things in, move things around, and it is all the same to me. Everything is in plain English and black and white. I think that is the teacher in me, but so far it works for my business and my clients seem to appreciate it.
An interesting side note about my Art Center education: I was told by several instructors that I could not be a successful female photographer AND be a mom. Okay, I agree with them in terms of being a commercial photographer, however because of those “warnings” from well-meaning instructors I was stubbornly determined to have my cake and eat it too. (sorry for the pun.) And that is exactly what I am able to do as a wedding photographer. I have the best life I could ever have even dreamed of asking for. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my husband, am enamored with my son, am inspired by my students, and am filled with a sense of awe when I see one of my brides walk down the isle. My life is pretty great, so forgive me for bragging but we go to Disneyland once a week, the Zoo once a week, I have a date day with both of my men on separate days, and I own 1 successful photography business (Jen O’Sullivan Photography), 1 successful network organization (Wedding And Event Specialists), and 2 successful schools (ASAP Mentoring & Little Book Bindery.) I honestly do not know how I do it all sometimes however I do know that what keeps me going is my pure love for every part of my life. God had given me so much and I thank Him every morning when I wake up and every evening when I go to sleep (evening meaning 2am and morning meaning 10am.) okay, so I have a jacked up schedule, but it works for me. And by the way, my commercial photography education and experience give me a wonderful edge when shooting weddings. I get to use ALL my skills: product shooting, food, architecture, portraiture, fashion, automotive, table top. You name it, and I get to cover it in weddings. That is what I love about weddings; they are so eclectic. There is never a lack of inspiration and diversity.
So, here is me in under 30 seconds:
I am a wedding photographer. I absolutely LOVE what I do for a living. I am blessed beyond what I could have ever imagined. Think about it: I go to work and end up at a party; my clients are the most insanely happy people on the planet; AND I get to eat cake! Can you think of a better job? 😀
Some of my first weddings from 2002 to 2004 along with some of my earliest photography work from 1998 to 2001 under Jen Queener Photography.
Copyright © by Jen O’Sullivan http://www.jenosullivan.com
Southern California Wedding Photographer, Jen O’Sullivan is a boutique wedding photographer who specializes in portrait journalism.