Instead of an engagement ring, Jen Bilodeau was proposed to with a camera. This life-changing gift set her on a path to creative fulfillment as a full-time photographer, wife, mother, and storyteller.
ShootProof Talks with Jen Bilodeau
“Describe your journey to becoming a photographer.”
It’s hard to know when exactly my story began. For as long as I can remember, I have always been a girl with a camera – as a young child, taking pictures of my sisters and my dolls, in middle school with an old 35mm that I bought from a yard sale, in high school with my first SLR: a refurbished Canon that my parents bought me for my 16th birthday; then with my first digital camera documenting my post-college days.
However, it wasn’t until my amazing husband got me my first DSLR in lieu of an engagement ring that my journey as a photographer really got exciting. My Nikon has been my near-constant companion ever since.
Before taking my passionate hobby and turning it into my dream job, I worked for many years as a manager in accounting and corporate finance. I logged long hours writing corporate filings, financial budgets, and annual reports. All the while photography was whispering in my ear, although I didn’t fully hear it yet. I had gallery walls throughout my home, albums piling up on bookshelves, and my camera came with me everywhere, but I never thought to go any further with it.
Then one day, something within me shifted, and I began pouring myself into photography, learning everything I possibly could. I started shooting daily and worked tirelessly to perfect my processing and find my unique artistic voice. It wasn’t long before I decided to leave my corporate job to start my own business.
Today I own and manage Jen Bilodeau Photography, and I mentor and teach other photographers through both my own offerings and as a teacher for the online photography school, Click Photo School. I am still a CPA, and I love combining my two skill sets to help fellow photographers further their own unique journey.
With my work, I always strive to capture honest photos – photos that tell a story, that transport you.
This is my true passion. I yearn to freeze the precious moments of today so that they can be aged and savored over time.
“What’s one challenge you faced while building your business, and how did you overcome it?”
In the first few years of being in business, my work evolved from what I thought my clients expected to what I knew I had to shoot to keep my heart and soul passionate about this job.
The major turning point for me was five years ago when I began my first 365-day photography project. In shooting every single day, I started to get to know myself better as an artist. I started seeing things differently. Details I may have missed in the past now jumped out at me as critical components of the story.
Capturing connection – between my clients, my children, myself – took on a new definition. As I started working these practices into my client sessions, I reached a new level of satisfaction with my work. I was shooting better, my clients were happier, and most importantly, I became much more deeply-connected with my own work.
In the beginning, I battled most with confidence. When I began taking clients, I often felt pressured and conflicted by what I thought they wanted verses what I wanted to create. I knew in my soul that I wanted to shoot a certain way, but I worried that my clients would not want that.
I had a preconceived notion of what I thought they wanted, and I worried they would not be satisfied with their investment if I didn’t deliver that. It took truly trusting in myself and my vision – and being brave in my shooting – to break free of these fears and start capturing moments from the heart: the connection and details that truly speak to the moments of today that we long to preserve.
Now, I shoot with one goal in mind: to capture pure and honest human connection.
Today, my business has evolved to what I had always envisioned it would be when I began. While I may not be the photographer for everyone, my clients are with me because they, too, seek images that capture honest human connection and authentic moments. Together we create something beautiful.
So my advice to photographers just starting out is to always stay true to your vision. Trust in yourself and your craft. It’s okay to be nervous and a bit scared, but don’t lose your confidence. It is critical that you build a brand and a client base around work that fulfills the vision that got you started. Write out your mission statement. Print it out. Read it daily. Let this be your compass, and the rest will all fall into place with time and hard work.
“What’s one trait that helps you succeed and makes you stand out to clients? How have you developed that trait?”
I’m a very detail-oriented person. This comes through in my shooting, in the moments both big and small that I see and capture; and it comes through in my editing, in the way I will work an image until I truly feel I’ve enhanced the best of what lies within that moment. I’m also detail-oriented in the way I run my business. I’m organized, and have created an efficient and streamlined process for my clients, ensuring they not only enjoy the art we create together, but also the entire client experience all along the way.
“Which ShootProof feature helps you give your clients an incredible experience and/or saves you tons of time?”
I absolutely LOVE the labeling feature! Because I follow an online sales model, it’s essential that the ordering process is as simple and streamlined as possible. I offer a variety of products within my collections that I self-fulfill, and the labeling feature makes it quick and easy for my clients to let me know what images they want for their products. This saves so much back-and-forth over email! So not only do they go through and “favorite” the images that they want for their collection, but just as easily they can tell me which six images they want for their 10×10 framed gallery grid wall!
Time is my greatest resource, so anything that can put time back into my day is worth gold. ShootProof does just that for me through their amazing sharing and selling tools.
“If you weren’t a photographer, what would you do instead?”
Right now it’s hard for me to imagine my life without photography in it. Aside for my innate passion for photography, I’m so thankful for the flexibility this job affords. I currently run a full-time business all while maintaining stay-at-home-mom availability for my three kids. My days are crazy, and we are so in-the-thick of everything that goes with having school-aged children, that I really can’t imagine what lies ahead or how life could be any different from the beautiful chaos that I live day-to-day.
What I know for sure is that photography has given me the opportunity to create a flexible schedule that allows me to be present for my family, all while doing a job that I love. Can’t get much better than that!
“Outside of photography, what inspires and motivates you creatively?”
We all have that place where we feel as though we are in equilibrium with our environment. For me, that is the mountains. Well, it doesn’t even have to be mountains; woods, trails, hilltops… they all soothe my soul in such a beautiful way. I love to hike with my family, all of us out there together taking in the fresh air. It’s so restorative for me to step away from it all and simply be in the mountains. I’m a New England girl through-and-through, so I’m also inspired by the changing seasons.
With each change in the season a different side of my artistic soul is stirred.
From the hot, humid, golden summer evenings, to quiet, dark winter nights; colorful falls and wet springs; each phase of our seasons speaks to me in its own way, forcing me to grow and adapt in my art – which can be at times uncomfortable, but overall inspiring and exciting!
“If you could only photograph in one location for the rest of your life, where would that be?”
A hilltop. As much as I would love to have the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, or even in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, I’m just as happy on a beautiful hilltop.
All I need is some trees, a beautiful view to the west, a sunset, and a breeze, and I become flooded with inspiration.
While I absolutely love my corner of the world, Massachusetts is not known for it’s stunning landscapes! But with photography, you can do so much with something small! A simple field, a quiet hilltop… All I need is light, contrast, movement, and connection, and I have all the variables I need to feel inspired to create beautiful, emotive images.
“Which photographer would you like to see recognized, and why?”
I am continually inspired by Jennifer Carr of Jennifer Carr Photography. Not only is she a stunning landscape photographer, but she is one of those people who is always giving to others in ways both big and small. She truly embodies the concept that when we lift each other up, we all win. Jennifer is such an asset to the photography community as a whole. It’s a combination of both Jennifer’s art and her heart that continue to inspire me.
“What does it mean to you to Focus On What Matters Most™ ?”
Focusing on what matters most means never losing touch with what grounds me. With a full-time business and three school-aged children, life is crazy. This means making sure I leave space to simply be with my family. And it means finding balance. Certainly balance doesn’t always exist within moments, but I try my best to find an aggregated balance. Having solid systems and workflows in place really helps me to find and maintain this balance.
Of all the photography I do, what fuels me the most is my 365 project. I have been working on this project for a consecutive 5 and a half years, and this project is almost like meditation for me. It allows me to slow down, to notice the small things, to feel how fleeting time is.
My 365 project is all centered around unscripted moments of me and my family simply living life, in balance, together. This is what matters most.