Jessica Rieke is a on a path. Her 5'3" petite frame explodes with energy, enthusiasm, drive and passion. I find myself stretching to prepare for the day we have ahead: 3 amazing photoshoots, networking, emails, phone calls, The Rise Tide Society event ( way fun + full of great speakers) and then somewhere along the way we did eat (in the car)...it was In and Out burger...yah, so worth it :) That's just a little snippet of one day in my several day visit with Jessica Rieke of J.Lee photos. Jessica is a wedding and lifestyle photographer that brings beautiful images to life for our most precious moments. My crush comes in two folds: her passion to inject something more than point and click within photography, it's art and her willingness to always include others to learn, cultivate and grow. Jessica has a talent that drives me to feel as if I am capable to be and do whatever I dream of. How can you not crush on that!
I had the chance to sit down with Jessica and get a dose of what fuels this very awesome engine. Get comfy friends, grab a little drinky and let's learn together.
When did you realize you loved photography?
"For as long as I remember, I have always been obsessed with capturing memories. As early as high school, I always had a disposable camera in hand, asking my friends to smile yet again for another photo. It was much later though that photography transformed into a passion, and that was when I was living abroad in South Korea and it was so important for me to document my travels and capture life as I knew it so I could easily share it with everyone. There was a moment in time prior to my time in South Korea, when I visited Uganda, that I had the thought 'Wow, wouldn't it be amazing if I knew how to use a really great camera', because there was just so much beauty in not only the scenery around me, but the incredible people I met for the first time."
What made you decide that yes, I'm ready to do photography full time?
"I officially started my business about six years ago and during that time, I had a career in marketing/advertising and had always thought doing my photography business full-time was somewhat of a pie in the sky goal, however, there was a turning point early in 2015, when my job required so much more of me than I was able to continuously give and my incredible husband offered a massive amount of support and encouragement to quit my career job and pursue my photography. It was at that point that I really felt equipped to do so and though I knew I had so much to grow in and learn, I knew I could do it and felt 110% ready."
How did you learn all the overwhelming details that can come with running your own business? budgeting, filing taxes, marketing
"Thankfully, because of my college degree and experience with a professional career prior to working for myself full-time, I have a lot of background with running a business and so a lot of it comes to me somewhat naturally through that background (I'm forever grateful for it!). I'm always a huge proponent of reading books, attending webinars and being involved with communities of like-minded business owners to help provide perspective and advice when you need it, though. I've found a great deal of support from the great folks who make up The Rising Tide Society. Alternately, there's tons of resources available online and I'm never shy to seek those out if I'm looking to brush up on a certain topic or learn something new."
How do you refine your craft as a photographer?
"I like to think that I will never stop learning about my craft as a photographer. My creative voice has changed somewhat over the years as I continue to hone and shape my final product to be what I see in my mind or the story I want to tell. The biggest way I did that somewhat recently (this past year), has been to start shooting film alongside my digital cameras. I've also spent time watching classes on Creative Live and listening to photography colleagues to hear about their approach, what they've learned and of course... good 'ol trial and error. The beauty of photography, is that it is subjective. There are definitely guidelines and even certain 'rules', but it doesn't have to be the same every same time and I've learned to shoot in a way that gives me joy vs. shoot in a way that pleases others. Of course I always love it when people see my work and appreciate it or want to see more of it, but I don't expect everyone to get excited about the same things I get excited about :)"
My girl Jessica loves to dance as much as I do, so I had to put on her favorite jam of the moment. IT WOULDN'T BE A "CRUSH' SERIES WITHOUT SOME TUNES AND GETTING OUR GROOVE ON. LET'S DO THIS PEEPS!!!
Woo!! That song is so fun!! I could totally feel you guys getting your jam on. Well done peeps (insert high fives here ;) Let's get back to business!
What advice would you give to those who love photography and want to make the leap but aren't sure where to start?
"Don't be intimidated by it and if you love any type of photography, definitely get out there and start shooting! Use the camera you have and buy a new lens that has a low aperture and start playing around with it. If you don't have a camera, buy a new (or used!) camera and just start exploring. There's so much great information online if you want to teach yourself, or start searching for photography groups on Facebook to get in touch with a photo community. I bought my first camera and it was a kit camera - a Canon Rebel and it was nothing special in terms of gear, but to me... It was a way to transform the way I see something into something tangible. I have some amazing photos from that camera I will treasure forever! You really just can't go wrong by just getting out there and playing around with whatever camera you're using so you can better understand the settings, light and how to compose photos."
What makes J.Lee photos different from the rest of the wedding and bridal photographers out there?
"The biggest difference about J. Lee Photos is me, personally. There's a lot of really talented photographers out there and I'll be honest when I say I don't think it's THAT hard to pick up a camera and shoot a few photos. There's so much that goes into it. However, I firmly believe that as a person, I have so much to offer my couples because of how much I care. I am there to support and highlight their day and I take great care and concern to do so and I never for a moment forget what an honor it is to do so. Overall, I'm a people person and I care about people and the story we're trying to tell together. I always want it to be a collaboration."
What was the best advice you received in launching your photography business?
"The best advice I received wasn't when I first started by business, but it's one that I think it's so important: "Just hit go. Figure out a way to just keep hitting go."
You photograph such beautiful weddings, what's the most important thing you work to capture for your clients on their special day?
"Though I just love details at a wedding and they are often times very meaningful to my clients, what I work the hardest to capture (and what is important to me) is that I bring out my clients true selves in front of the camera and together. I aim to capture a really authentic and beautiful moment between people that they can enjoy forever, I feel like I can capture the true joy and connection between two people and that is powerful!"
If you could photograph anyone who would it be and why?
"Tough question. I'm not sure it would be any one person. I live in the land of celebrities and so I'm not sure I would really be dying to shoot someone well-known, but rather, someone who is just a wonderful human being with stories to tell and I would be the one to come alongside them to help tell a visual story of them and who they are. I love connecting with people and when you are willing to open up and share the real stuff inside you, I think that's when a really beautiful connection happens and those are the moments magical images are able to be created."
A "fun fact" we would be surprised to know about Jessica Rieke?
"I'm completely deaf in my left ear! From birth. The cochlea (snail-like portion of the inner ear) isn't all the way formed. Usually people would have a speaking disability or be somewhat developmentally delayed, but I haven't had any issues they thought I would, praise the Lord! Though I can't tell which direction sounds come from, can't listen in stereo and I always have to walk on the left side of friends in order to hear everything :) Most of the time, people don't believe me when I tell them I'm deaf!"
Can you share a quote that keeps you motivated and inspired?
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault
“Either I will find a way, or I will make one” – Philip Sidney
I know!! She's pretty awesome! To get even more Jessica love and see her amazing work, follow on IG @jleephotos and J.Lee photos.
What makes the difference in my life is allowing every opportunity to be just that, an opportunity. Opportunities to make mistakes, learn, grow, shine and surprise yourself in the best way possible. Comment, share and show me your awesome!