Lenka Jones: Masterclass Profile
“Last week, together with six other wonderful US photographers Saray Taylor-Roman, Michelle Taylor Jones, Ashleigh Taylor Henning, Cat Ford-Coates, Rosaura Sandoval and Marcus Hoffman, I’ve had the greatest honor and privilege to be part of Sue ‘s Masterclass. Designing and styling my dream photo shoot in Sue’s fabulous LA studio was a dream come true – photographing dancer Kayla, with the assistance of amazing Caitlin and a fabulous hair stylist Bri Orozco – using Sue’s beautiful gowns, absorbing the magical creative energy in Sue’s studio and capturing these beautiful images was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve been totally mesmerised with Sue’s portraits of dancers and capturing motion and movement, hoping that one day I’ll be able to do just that – so i knew from the start that my whole creative being would absolutely love photographing a ballet dancer. Looking at these images that we’ve created last week makes my heart sing. I’ve received a few message from members of the group asking about my beginnings, so I thought I might share my little story. I was born in Slovakia, former Czechoslovakia and I never felt terribly creative, therefore I went on studying political science and marketing and spent most of my 20’s working as a casting director and model scout. After moving to the UK and arrival of my baby boy in 2008, I was looking for a career that I could follow, that would allow me to be flexible enough to work around my baby. I’ve created a simple wedding portfolio featuring friends, who owned wedding dresses and got my first wedding bookings from that. Within 2 years i’ve been booking 20 – 25 weddings a year. I liked my job , but wasn’t in love with the genre. At the time, I felt like apart from technical basics, there was not much information available online so the only way to learn was by trial and error . It felt like sharing a know-how of running a successful photography business, or getting tips on getting better photographs was a top secret – certainly not something to be shared. So when I stumbled upon one of Sue Bryce’s CreativeLive classes in 2013, I just couldn’t believe that there is actually a famous photographer out there, willing to share her secrets. I couldn’t get my head around the fact, that she actually wants people to get better at taking photographs and genuinely wants to make this industry better. I thought that photographers are supposed to compete and seeing someone suggesting that we need to create rather than compete, felt really odd. I instantly fell in love with Sue and her teachings – her genuine nature, how strong yet sensitive and vulnerable she appeared, her posing and of course the beautiful craft – making everyday women look and feel beautiful. It was there and then when I’ve decided that one day…one day…. I would love to be doing what Sue does. I’ve been watching couple more Sue’s classes, however, it took me nearly two years before I’ve joined the main FB group – September 2014 to be precise, short after turning 40. Like many others, I’ve been “stalking” the group for a few months 🙂 before I took an action, bought 28 days and actually started shooting. I’ve posted my first shoot in this group in April 2014, spent most of the 2015 building my portfolio while shooting weddings. As weddings and newborn photography were my main focus and quite frankly my main source of income, I didn’t feel ready to take the leap. Due to my blocks I just couldn’t imagine anyone would pay that much money for their portraits – certainly not me. I kept thinking, how can you expect other people to value your work enough to pay for it, when you keep saying “I’m not my client, I wouldn’t pay that much for my portraits”. I would look for validation and was expecting my portfolio building models – that I didn’t educate on price – that they would love their photos so much, they they will not want to be without them and would pay for them. Of course, that didn’t happen and I felt bit down. Every now and then a thread would pop up, where UK photographer would say that this genre just doesn’t work in the UK, because its different mentality, different culture, different values, etc. I really wanted to prove them wrong and decided that one day, I’ll be a living proof that you can run a successful contemporary portrait studio in UK or in Europe in general. I found out that hight street chain studios like Venture are clearly doing it here and people are paying even more for their family photos in those places. When Sue launched her education site, I was thrilled and the continuous source of amazing content became my main “entertainment” while retouching, constantly learning new things and educating myself . When the opportunity came to attend a workshop with Sue in Versailles in April 2016, I was over the moon – and then I found out that our mentors will be taking bookings while we’re in Paris. I’ve never been one of those girls who were dreaming about having a photoshoot done – certainly didn’t feel like i wanna get dressed up, get in front of the camera and to have a portrait photo shoot. After having my boy, I didn’t feel like my old self and I kind of lost little bit of myself on the way. But at the same time I thought – hang on a minute – you don’t know what it feels like to be photographed and you don’t know what it feels like to pay for a box full of your own portraits and yet you’re trying to sell this experience to others – what if this is the missing piece? So I’ve booked a shoot with Heike, did a thing that terrified me – and now I’m a proud owner of a folio box that is full of portraits of ME. Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t feel vain, I didn’t feel silly, I treated myself and I loved them all! And I know that in 20 years time i will love them even more than now….and then I’ll give them to my boy, who will treasure them forever. With my current £1,500 average sale and a new price list in making, I stand here feeling rather excited and empowered, realising how far I’ve come – how far we’ve all come. We’re all at different stages in our little businesses, but with this amazing education platform Sue has created for us – that is quite frankly priceless – the best education for photographers out there for as little as $35 a month – the only way is up. This group has always been the most supportive, helpful and inspirational source from the beginning of my portrait photography journey. And yet again, I want to thank you Sue from the bottom of my heart for your generosity, kindness and endless support and of course our amazing Mentors dream team… because without your help and support I wouldn’t be here. I thought I would share my story with you, as I’ve always been inspired by other people’s success stories in this group. Follow your dreams and never give up.
I’m starting to fully own the fact that I am Lenka Jones – a successful slovak self employed portrait photographer who – with my big girl pants finally on – found its business legs. I feel that year 2015 has been a practice, year 2016 has been a warm up and this year – with conviction, certainty and consistency – I’m finally owning my space and claiming my ownership and setting up some serious business goals . Lots of love. 🙂 xx”
~ Lenka Jones