A Galentine's Interview feat. Jen Menard Olano
by: anna abrahams
JEN MENARD OLANO IS A PHOTOGRAPHER IN BATON ROUGE THAT IS PASSIONATE ABOUT CAPTURING AUTHENTIC, BEAUTIFUL LOVE STORIES. JEN LOVES to shoot weddings of COUPLES who are, IN HER OWN WORDS, “crazy in love, like, can’t keep your hands off of each other-- folks who treasure each other and are more interested in being married than having a ‘Pinterest-perfect,’ looks-good-on- paper kinda wedding day. Relationships filled with warmth, sweetness, kindness.” MORE INFO AT: WWW.JENMENARD.COM
When did you realize you wanted to be a photographer?
Actually, it sort of “accidentally” happened to me! I was homeschooled in middle school, and had the freedom to spend time exploring new things I enjoyed. I started dabbling with photography while borrowing my dad’s camera at age 13… it naturally kept evolving, and I ended up shooting my first wedding (as the only shooter!) at 16...still can’t believe anyone trusted me that young or gave me money, ha! It was my first experience and from word of mouth, I eventually landed here. It’s crazy!
I love how seeds that we plant in our childhood or youth can end up being what supports us throughout the rest of our life. I never had to work another job through high-school or college, and now I have this lil baby business that has grown into a thriving adult! I feel really blessed.
What were some of the first steps you took in getting your business started?
When I first started, I just wanted to practice and get myself into as many circles as possible. So, I reached out to different folks on FB (some I knew, some I didn’t) from all different backgrounds, and offered a bunch of free portrait sessions. I knew if I could give people a meaningful, fun experience, they would naturally talk about it. It was essentially free advertising, and everything took off from there!
What have been some of your favorite venues in the Baton Rouge area for photo shoots?
I love shooting at the LSU Agcenter Botanic Gardens on Essen. It’s over 400 acres of property and stunning in every season! There are fields, tree groves, satsuma orchards, ponds, you name it. I also love shooting downtown on top of parking garages and around Spanish Town. The houses remind me of my hometown (New Orleans) and I love its quirkiness. :)
How did you arrive at your current editing style?
So, over the past 11 years (I’m 27 now) I’ve had a lot of different editing styles. For the the first half of my career, I started recognizing how embarrassed I was when I would see my old pictures from previous weddings, and I’d have to re-edit all of my old images each time I would want to update my portfolio online. I started experimenting to craft a preset that would stand the test of time (at least in my own taste preferences haha) and have been editing the same way for about 3-4 years now, and never really plan on changing.
What is the most rewarding part about being a local business owner?
Goodness, so many things! I try to never take the flexibility of owning my own schedule, for granted. It’s also really neat to meet and collaborate with other business owners; I love that I get to provide content for other local vendors in the wedding industry. We get to share each other’s successes, in a way.
How have strong female relationships (business or personal) shaped the woman you are and the woman you aspire to be?
I love the ladies in my life! Seriously, my friends are the ultimate girl crew and I feel super believed in. I also try to keep an older woman near through every season-- I’ve always had different “mentors,” tracing back from elementary school until now. Not for business, but for personal growth, which inevitably shapes me as a business owner, too.
I think some people imagine having the same mentor forever, but I love to change things up and seek new relationships, because there are so many different things that can only be learned through multiple people. I want to reflect the best parts of all the women who have so enriched my life. :)
What is your biggest piece of advice for aspiring local boss babes?
Just go for it! I receive e-mails often asking for advice on how to get started, what courses to take, what camera to buy. My philosophy’s always been, regardless of what business field you’re looking to start in-- just do what you can with what you have. And if you don’t have what you need, go out and get it or ask someone for it! There’s never a “right” time to start, ya just gotta get going. And if you fail? Press in and try again, or try something new. Failure isn’t something to be ashamed of-- its actually an amazing teacher if you can train your mind to adjust and learn from it.