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Behind The Lens With Jenn Ellenburg

September 12, 2020 0 Comments

Behind The Lens With Jenn Ellenburg

Growing up on an island, you can't help but be enamored with the iconic coconut trees scattered haphazardly around you. And as I've grown Coco Moon, adding a beautiful palm print to our line up has always been in the back of my mind. But creating that perfect palm design proved rather elusive, that is, until I met Jenn and her gorgeous photography.
Read on to hear about Jenn's journey into photography and her tips for getting better pictures of your own family, just with you iPhone! And check back here on September 15th when we release our collaboration print: Palm Party.

1. When did your passion for photography first start? And how did it transition from pass time to profession? 

Photography began as a hobby in high school. I was always the one taking pictures of my friends. And selfies were happening in the mid to late 90s!
The switch from hobby to profession was a very gradual one. My husband and I started a men's clothing line and we were operating on a shoestring budget. That meant creating our own content. We were shooting all the time to meet the content demands of the business. But the business being my own allowed me to experiment, make mistakes, and study what worked and what didn’t. 
I began shooting for friends’ businesses, where I really started honing my technical skills. I’m still not the most technical photographer and rely a lot on instincts, but all the practice honed my instincts and demanded plenty of technical learning. People started seeing and acknowledging my photos and offers for paid work started coming my way. 
That was 5 years ago. It’s so satisfying to get to do something I love so much and make a living!

2. What drew you to photography? 

I’ve always been social, but a bit of an introverted observer. I’m drawn to the stories an image tells wordlessly. I’ve always loved magazines: fashion, architecture, nature. I rarely stop to read the articles. Instead, I dive into the photographs and let them tell the story. 

3. What are your favorite things to photograph and why? 

People. Travel. Palm Trees.
My kids are well-documented, ha! But really, I love shooting candid portraiture of all people. Children are unique subjects, though. They can look deadpan into a camera with the most beautiful uncontrived expressions and I LOVE that. When a person ignores the camera is often when they photograph most beautifully.
I’ve been fortunate to travel, both with my family, and for work.  When traveling everything turns into the perfect backdrop - ocean, mountains, textured walls, indifferent or energetic crowds, a simple crosswalk and, of course, palm trees. Each is an elegant and strong storyteller.

4. What are three tips you can share to help us take better pictures of our children? 

Composition. Lighting. Editing.
If you’re taking a close up photo, treat it as a portrait. Shoot in portrait mode - the newer phones really do a good job of adding some depth to the photos. You know your kid best, shoot them in their happy place. And don’t force them to sit still or smile or anything. Just let them ‘be’ whatever they’re being, and be ready for anything. Notice when the light seems extra beautiful to you. Try putting your subject somewhere other than the middle of the photo. Sometimes the middle is the best place for the subject. But I love photos with a ton of negative space and putting the subject in other parts of the frame is a good way to create that space.
Lighting will always be best during the morning and late afternoon. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a good shot at high-noon. Play with shadows. Kids are always playing with something: sticks, blankets, a cutdown palm frond (!). These can make for super cool shadows so embrace them.
Don’t underestimate the power of editing. Practice creating different effects with editing software and filters. Whether you’re drawn to a bright, washed-out look or a darker, moodier feel, or black and white, almost every photo looks better when edited; but don’t be heavy handed. Editing looks best when it's subtle. 
And DON’T USE INSTAGRAM PRESETS! You’re much better off getting an app like VSCO with better, but still user-friendly presets. After all that, the best tip is to play around with it and have fun. Let the moment of the photo drive the edit. 

5. Did your photography and/or your creativity change at all after you became a mother? 

Absolutely. My kids are, hands down, my favorite muses! From a creative standpoint they helped me understand the power of waiting for that moment - the right light, the right mood (sometimes even their bad mood makes beautiful photographs). When you have kids, the photogenic moments can be fleeting. Most photographers are good at seeing a photo opportunity developing and being ready. You have to know when they’re going to turn back to look at you, or when they’re going to tilt their head back and laugh. Getting good at this with my own kids has definitely helped me in capturing those magic moments with other subjects.

6. These days are filled with all kinds of challenges - do you have any tips for staying sane, productive, and/or creative during times like these where we're being pulled in a million different directions? 

Holy moly. 
I should probably be the one asking others for tips! Not sure I’ve been excelling at staying sane, productive, or creative throughout all of this, but there have been moments when everything is flowing. My creativity happens in quiet moments - which are fewer and further between with a 1.5 and 6 year old ALWAYS with me. If I’ve been able to carve out some me-time (a workout, a surf session, or even just a nice long shower!) I’m in a much better headspace to take on the multi-tasking of a work from home mom.
That said, I am a huge list person. I have lists everywhere. Notebooks, laptop, cell phone. When I’m feeling overwhelmed I sit down and brain dump everything onto paper: personal to dos, work to dos, family to dos. Not all of it gets done all the time but the point is it gets out of my head. It helps with the sanity part anyway ;)

Our collaboration print, Palm Party, features Jenn's capture of beautiful coconut trees in Hawaii in classic black and white. It will be available on swaddle blankets, muslin baby quilts, crib sheets, and mama blankets. Hope you love this unique print as much as we do!

To see more of this talented mama's work, head over to  http://www.jennellenburg.com/