We had the good fortune of connecting with Jenny Smiley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jenny, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
“If your dreams don’t scare you, they are too small” – Richard Branson This quote has stuck with me over the years. I worked in the architecture industry for 7 years prior to starting my business and I was feeling a sense of complacency sitting at a desk day after day dreaming of bigger, greater, things. This quote made me realize I had bigger dreams and at the time, I wasn’t doing anything to pursue them. There was more to my life than a 5ft x 5ft cubicle and endless deadlines. Once I started my photography business in 2018, I felt the fear for the first time. Instead of letting the fear hold me back, it pushed me forward. To this day, I read this quote and I continue to ask myself if my dreams are big enough and begin taking to steps to make them happen.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
It all started after I landed my first big-girl job at an architecture firm as a young 22 year old. I got comfortable in my 9-5 and spent the next 7 years daydreaming at my desk. On the weekends I was out adventuring with my first DSLR camera only to feel drained driving into the office Monday morning. I would travel internationally once a year and use all 7 days of my vacation time to feel alive again. One day a coworker asked me if I was interested in taking her engagement photos (as she knew I loved taking photos on my camera in my free time). At this point I had never taken photos of people before. Turns out I loved it! I loved the idea of having something alive in front of my lens after being so used to buildings or landscapes. She loved the photos and asked me to photograph her wedding. From there I was hooked. I spent the next couple years building my business on the side of my full-time job. I upgraded my camera to a worthy DSLR and then I reached that sweet period of my twenties where all of my friends were getting married. I was able to use this to my advantage and offer discounted or free sessions to friends to help build my portfolio. I let this momentum build and I had to learn all of the business related items at the same time including: taxes, insurance, accounting, invoices, contracts, websites, advertising, and all the other fun things that have nothing to do with photography. To be honest, I enjoyed this learning experience. It brought me so much closer to the dream of becoming a professional photographer and actually being able to say it out loud. The imposter syndrome was overwhelming and the idea of this passion for photography becoming more than a hobby was daunting and took some time to build my confidence. However, the more my photography became a business the more confident I felt. One of the biggest challenges I had to overcome was letting go of architecture. Silly right? Despite feeling unfulfilled in the industry for years, it was all I knew. I developed so many skills and it was difficult to leave the comfort of a stable paycheck, the design knowledge, and the relationships with people I had worked with for so long. Jumping from one profession to something completely different raised a lot questions. People thought I was crazy, I was too old, it was too late, it was too risky, but eventually I did it anyway. I believe every one of us has an inner voice of some kind. From the moment I stumbled into wedding photography my inner voice kept getting louder. I knew something needed to change so, after years of ignoring it, I finally listened. I’m a Colorado native and the only other place I’ve ever lived is Copenhagen, Denmark during a semester abroad in college. I felt very lucky as a child growing up in Colorado, but also because both of my parents worked for the airlines and I was able to travel internationally from a young age. My upbringing has greatly impacted me and my business and I feel like it’s a factor that sets me apart in the industry. Sure, there are other photographers in Colorado that love to travel, but if anything I love sharing my experiences with my clients. I love taking them to locations I explored as a child that happen to be amazing backdrops for photos. I love connecting with clients that wish to elope in an exotic destination and share a love for travel. Being able to spend the day with a couple out in nature and capture the natural beauty of the landscape and blend it with the personality of the couple makes every day of this profession a dream. Before I ever photographed weddings, I would bring a camera with me everywhere to capture landscapes or architecture I admired. When I finally stumbled into wedding photography, the ability to connect with clients and capture natural moments on one of the most important days of their lives was incredibly fulfilling. The real magic was when I was able to combine the love of the outdoors and my connection with couples. Capturing the best people in the best places became my new normal. This connection with clients and places has always made me feel different from other wedding vendors and more like a friend who happens to be a photographer along for the ride. To this day, I still get butterflies in my stomach before every shoot and then I’m flooded with excited jitters afterwards. I love that my work continues to improve and I continue to learn new techniques and push my creativity. This in return makes me very proud of how far I’ve come in only 3 years since transitioning from architecture. I love how photography is an ever-evolving profession that I can do anywhere. If I ever find myself in a creative rut it simply pushes me to learn something new. I like to capture the true moments and for that authenticity to show through even after my edits. I want couples to remember the day as is was so I don’t follow many trends that could quickly fade. I am a natural light photographer meaning we are out in nature and I simply follow the light. My style of photography encourages couples to be themselves and to always be moving. I never want our time together to feel like a photoshoot instead a fun morning or afternoon as friends. I want the world to know I am here for the connection and to create a memorable experience. I am a wedding and elopement photographer based in Colorado but will travel the world to capture your love story. Enjoy the moment, be yourselves, and I’ll be there to capture it.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
A Friend visiting town for the weekend Thursday through Monday Thursday – grab brunch at The Lobby -spend the afternoon wandering around RiNo for some shopping and brewery hopping -grab some tacos at Los Chingones for lunch or dinner Friday -ride bikes down the Cherry Creek Trail and have a picnic in Confluence Park next to the river. -walk across the bridge to the Highlands and wander around REI -grab dinner at the Ale House on the deck overlooking the city skyline -after dinner we could get ice cream at Little Man Ice Cream -then grab a cocktail at Forest Room 5 Saturday -take a GROOV3 hip hop dance class at Dance2B downtown for a fun workout in the morning -walk around downtown afterwards, see 16th street, the Capital, maybe the Denver Art Museum -head to Dairy Block for lunch and shopping -walk to Union Station for a drink at the Terminal Bar -spend the night at the Oxford Hotel and bar hop downtown Sunday -spend the day wandering through the Denver Botanical Gardens -head to Vine Street on 17th street for lunch -walk around City Park and catch an outdoor concert (in the summer) – head over to Congress Park Tap Room for a beer – dinner at Dae Gee Korean BBQ next door Monday -grab brunch at Snooze on Colorado Blvd. (a weekday might not have an hour wait) -head to Wash Park for a picnic or to play some volleyball -walk to Bonnie Brae for some ice cream -go to Maria Empanada for dinner on South Broadway -go next door to Adelitas for a margarita
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My family & close friends are by far my greatest support group and have been by my side every step of the way. I would also say the wedding photography community in Colorado and around the world have embraced me with open arms whether it’s chatting over Instagram or shooting side by side at a workshop. I wouldn’t be here today without the outstanding support of my mentors including Grace Gatto Photography, Taylor Jones Photography, and Cinnamon Wolfe. A few books that really helped me when I was starting out include: When To Jump by Mike Lewis You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero Capital Gaines by Chip Gaines
Jenny Smiley Photography My headshot – Jordan Voth Photography