“When you commit to making your dream come true, that is the promise you simply decide to never, ever break. It doesn’t matter how many times you get discouraged, or exhausted, or frustrated, you just remember that you have not given yourself the option to quit.” – Andrew W.K.
I took a wrong turn, a detour. I was supposed to be a newspaper photographer. But I ended up as a wedding photographer and it’s been the best surprise of my career. So, how did I get here?
A little backstory: I remember feeling like I hit a dead end just two years after I graduated college, completely lost and uncertain as to how exactly I was going to support myself full time as a photographer. I had moved to Alaska, and while the life experience was really fun, I was crushed by the weight of feeling my career was going nowhere fast. I was tired of living nomadically and barely scraping by — my constant state of being broke, coupled with the agonizing struggle of feeling creatively empty had reached a breaking point, and I knew something had to change. Then I found The Flashdance and I became obsessed. I poured over their website and drank in their colorful, magical world of weddings and camaraderie and fun and was blown away by the quality of work they shared. These weren’t your average wedding vendors, no — these were artists, and they were leading a revolution in the wedding industry. In that moment it all became clear for me: I wanted to be one of them.
I spent the next few years learning, working, and hustling among the very best in the collective. I was given a home with YEAH! weddings and allowed a unique opportunity to develop my craft and figure out what makes me tick — what truly excites me — and then how to bring that excitement to trusting, adventurous, art-minded couples who wanted more. Who shared a common artistic vision (it still blows my mind that this job constantly rewards me for my artistic vision). I was surprised to learn that everything I wanted out of a photojournalism career I could now have in photographing weddings: I get to be a storyteller, I travel for work, I’m in a community of creative professionals, and I get to share in the humorous, blissful, complex, ordinary and extraordinary nature of humanity.
It’s important to note that the wedding industry wouldn’t be what it is today without the creative visionaries who came before. I think it’s easy to lose sight of that sometimes. A wise man once reminded me that I am standing on the shoulders of giants, and to those giants (Michael, Heidi, Matt, Brian, Jesse, Whitney) I thank you for trail blazing and helping pave the way so that I could one day take this wonderful detour to become a wedding photographer.
“Great people do things before they’re ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you’re afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that — that’s what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that’s really special and if you’re not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself.” – Amy Poehler
This website is the result of years of hard work, and — as many of those closest to me know — constantly pushing myself to be better, to create images that are authentic and true to who I am and how I see the world. I was fortunate enough to work with amazing clients who trusted me with telling the story of their wedding day, resulting in a portfolio that I am very proud of.
I lucked out in getting to work with Emma of Emmadime on the design + branding. Last October, Emma asked me to photograph her wedding, which ultimately became some of my best work to date. She gave me two gifts: 1) the opportunity to have full creative freedom and make unusual, artistic portraits of her and Bubba that I had long been dreaming about creating with the right couple, and 2) she designed my website. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have been able to work with her this past year – she took every crazy idea I threw at her and translated it into something sophisticated + beautiful that showcases my personality and compliments my work better than I could have ever imagined. She was up for the challenge when I told her I did NOT want it look like a wedding website, but rather the website of an artist who happens to shoot weddings.
Since I pride myself on being a color photographer, we wanted the website to be drenched in color. The pink + teal ombre treatment Emma created instantly transformed the site into something special and made it clear that this wasn’t home to your average wedding photographer. It was a risk I wanted to take so that anyone who visited my website would know, right away, that they were meeting someone who is bold in work and in life.
The fortune teller came about as a result of me not wanting to have a traditional slideshow on the homepage. I was also adamant to not use any graphics that were indicative of photography or weddings, and thankfully my vision came together in the form of the fortune teller. I received a treatment from my dear friend Amanda (and former client!), who worked on the majority of the copywriting for this site and created my tagline. She came up with an idea to have rotating words on the homepage, and that ultimately evolved into playing with a fortune teller. I love the fortune teller because, to me, it’s a playful idea that harkens back to being a teenager and daydreaming with your friends about what your life will be like when you grow up: Who will you marry? What will your job be? Where will you live? How many kids will you have? When you’re young those possibilities are endless, and then one day you’re all grown up and committing to a life partner who loves all of you, especially because of the journey you’ve been on to get to right here, right now: your wedding day.
To add another level of interaction to the site, Emma also created this adorable fortune teller PDF that you can print out at home! We thought that would be a fun takeaway for visitors to the site and make the experience a little more memorable. Though I must admit, my favorite graphic element on the entire website are the 90’s cell phones on the contact page. I seriously thought Emma was going to roll her eyes at me when I asked her to give me her interpretation of the Zack Morris cell phone, but because she’s a professional no request was too ridiculous and she went above and beyond for me, once again.
It’s also no secret that I’m obsessed with teenage coming of age films, so with the help of my best friend (and talented artist in her own right) Aurora Lady, we extended the playfulness of the website onto my rate sheet by including a massive list of some of my all time favorite on-screen couples, followed by an entertaining FAQ littered with pop culture references. It was decided early on that everything we created for the client experience — from the homepage, to the galleries, to the contact form, to the rate sheet — would have a colorful, fun, graphic, jemerling-ness to it, if you will. Photography is one of the most personal decisions you make when putting together your wedding day, and it was always so important to me to have my personality to ring true in my branding as well as in my photos. I think we achieved everything we set out to do on this project (sans the blingee filter, which is still in development for phase 2), and I couldn’t be happier with the end result.
“Achieving the dream isn’t even as important as living the dream. And all it takes to live the dream is to live each day with as much untiring and unflinching excitement as you can. Do what you love. Pursue what you love.” – Andrew W.K.
So, this is me: Jenn Emerling, wedding photographer. When I started out, I had no idea that all this would result in the happiest surprise of my career. That I would like weddings and love love as much as I do. If you’re wondering, yes, I still do travel + editorial work, and I’m always pursuing personal projects that fulfill my soul in a different, but equally important way. There’s more coming with that in 2016 that I can’t wait to share with the world. But for now, I’m thrilled to share this website with all of you. I sincerely can’t get over what an incredible gift it is to be a working photographer considering where I was just a few years ago — it really is a dream come true for me.