2014 Family Pictures with Samantha Kelly Photography

September 25, 2014 By: Jenna Category: family, Photography

We haven’t had an official family photography session since Kelli Nicole (Houston) photographed us in our Chicago apartment before T2 arrived on the scene, and since that time my ideas about photography and my dream family session have changed a lot. It’s less about the perfect posed portrait with everyone looking into the camera, and more about trying to capture who we are and what we are like at this stage in our lives. The kind of thing I want to provide for my own clients.

I tried to fly Samantha Kelly (Utah) to the Bay Area by recruiting one of you to hire her as well, which I didn’t make much progress on. But then I lucked out and she was able to squeeze us in for a session during a romantic getaway with her husband. We talked about a few different settings, but I kept coming back to the beach. I wanted something that documented the glorious beauty of the California coast, and would capture how much we love living in an area that looks and feels like this. We don’t make it to the beach very often, but when we do T1 can chase the waves for hours. It took a lot of tricky maneuvering to keep him dry as long as we did!

After I decided on Cowell Ranch Beach for our location (crossing my fingers that it would be one of those rare sunny days in Half Moon Bay) I poured far too much time into putting together our outfits. I actually put together two separate combinations for each person because I wasn’t sure if it would be warm or cold, and it was a top priority for me that everyone be comfortable and relaxed. I didn’t want “props” to pose with, but I did want to bring a few things that would keep the kids engaged and distracted (before we turned our oldest loose in the waves). I packed a quilt from the thrift store, a few different headbands for both kids to play with, a cupcake sand set for pretend snack time, white and dry snacks that the kids could snack on without dirtying their outfits (tip: clear gummi candies allowed TH and I to get a few photos alone while the kids took a little snack break), and a dozen mini beach balls from Amazon.

One really important thing to note: We told her that we didn’t care if there was a single photo of all of us looking directly into the camera and smiling. That’s not what this is about for us (and it probably won’t be what any of our photography sessions are about from now on.) If you’ll allow me a moment to get on my soapbox – in the age of Instagram and Facebook, our nearest and dearest know what we look like. They see our selfies and snapshots all throughout the year. The best photo, in my opinion, is the one you look back on 50 years from now and smile on because it shows what you were really like at that stage in your life. A slightly happy polished version, but still, reality.

Samantha shot the entire session on film, and returned so many amazing photos that I had a hard time narrowing them down for this post! I can’t believe how spot on her exposures and focus were as we dashed all around the beach. We picked up the film photography bug around the same time and I’m in awe of how fast her skills are developing. I can’t recommend her enough if you’re looking for someone to photograph your family. She’s based in Utah but I know she’s interested in traveling sessions as well!

We don’t just love the result, we loved the process. Even That Husband said he is looking forward to doing this again next year. (I promise you guys, he said it and meant it.) Taking these was as enjoyable as they seem. There’s something about the bond between the people you feel the most passionate about that is hard to capture, but I think the images below come as close as I dreamed they would.
The family of That Wife Blog, photographed by Samantha Kelly Photography (Utah) at Cowell Ranch Beach in Half Moon Bay, CA. The family of That Wife Blog, photographed by Samantha Kelly Photography (Utah) at Cowell Ranch Beach in Half Moon Bay, CA. The family of That Wife Blog, photographed by Samantha Kelly Photography (Utah) at Cowell Ranch Beach in Half Moon Bay, CA. The family of That Wife Blog, photographed by Samantha Kelly Photography (Utah) at Cowell Ranch Beach in Half Moon Bay, CA. Read more →

Portfolio Sessions (One Last Call for Free Photos)

August 14, 2014 By: Jenna Category: Photography

My Jenna Cole Photography website makeover is nearing completion, and as I look through the images for the site I can see some gaps in my image selection. I did a call for portfolio subjects in May, and as I prepare for family portrait sessions this fall I’d like to have diversify my image base a little bit more.

I’m looking for either a family with older children (pre-teen and above) or a couple (you don’t have to be married, or even thinking about getting married, and if you’ve been together awhile why not do a session without the kids for once?) If you (or someone you know!) live in the San Francisco Bay Area and would be interested in working with me you can fill out my form and I’ll be in touch if it’s a good fit. Sessions need to happen before the 27th of August and I’m only planning to do 2-3 total. After that I think I won’t be offering any more free opportunities like this for awhile.

These sessions will be done entirely on film. Wondering what that will look like? Here’s a sampling of my favorite film shots from the last few months.

San Francisco Bay Area film photographer sessions

San Francisco Bay Area film photographer sessions

San Francisco Bay Area film photographer sessions Read more →

Womanhood Beyond Motherhood

July 14, 2014 By: Jenna Category: Photography

Six months ago I felt like I was barely keeping my head above water. T1 was in the throes of his thrust to childhood independence, T2 was moving out of her “multiple-naps-a-day immobile lump of baby goodness” stage, and TH was staffed on a new case that had him working every single day. I was trying to do all the things, per my usual modus operandi, and I needed more help as I swam through the long days of solo parenting. I went to therapy, got rid of obligations I was holding myself to that didn’t matter as much as I thought they did, and found a family to watch T2 for three days a week so I could work without one ear to the nursery room door waiting for the baby to start crying.

There are many reasons why this period of time was so difficult for me. One of them was that I was feeling entirely consumed by the act of mothering. It not only took up the majority of my mental energy and time spent at home, but when I went out with other adults we seemed to spend all of our time talking about my kids or theirs. Even if the kids weren’t around! It’s wonderful to brag, necessary to collaborate, crucial to have an outlet, but I couldn’t stop thinking “We are so much more than our kids.” I’ve often heard of people talking about older women who have Empty Nest Syndrome, but I can’t think of a time that label has ever been applied exclusively to a man (maybe to the parents as a unit, but never the man on his own.)

Womanhood Beyond Motherhood - mothers representing what fulfills them.

I wanted to explore this idea more, and so I decided to launch a portrait project called Womanhood Beyond Motherhood. I photograph mothers in the setting of their choice, aiming to capture who they are at this stage in their lives. Afterward I send them a list of questions asking things like why the location of their photo is meaningful to them, what fulfills them, and few other prompts to better get at who they are. The site has 17 portraits so far, including a selfie that I took in my office where I am sitting and typing this post.

My favorite image so far is of my grandmother, my mother’s mother. She’s 74 years old and hauled herself up on that fence like someone 40 years her junior. Last week we were in Washington for a family reunion and I watched my grandmother make breakfast for 40 people, clean it all up, and then head out back to use a chain to pull a calf out of a laboring cow. Magnificent! I am in awe of her strength and determination. Read more →

Call for Portfolio Subjects

May 15, 2014 By: Jenna Category: Photography

Jenna Cole Photography families

After my workshop with Yan I have a fishbowl’s worth of ideas swimming around in my head regarding what I can do to take the Jenna Cole ship and point it in the direction that matches my vision and desires. I’ve hired Three Fifteen Design to give my site design a revamp, and as I examine my past images looking for work to put in my portoflio I realized that I have so many pictures I love of my kids, but not many that really showcase what I can create for clients at this point in time. Little wonder, since I’ve done very little professional work since we moved to California.


To help close that gap I’m putting out a call for subjects interested in working with a photographer with the tagline “Documenting Who You Are. Not Just What You Look Like.

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area (or the Katowice area of Poland, since I’ll be there in a month) and would like to participate there are a few guidelines:

  1. I’ll have a heavy hand in selecting the location, time of day, and what you wear.
  2. No guarantee of an image with everyone smiling into the camera. We might not even attempt this at all during your session.
  3. Must write up an (honest) review of your experience. This will be shared with me and may be used on my new website. I will also have you post your review on Yelp.

Individuals, couples, and families are welcome. I’m interested in thinking outside the box, so really show me what you’ve got with your pitch.

Visit this form and tell me about the magic we’re going to make together.


Feeling stuck when it comes to dreaming up a session? Last year I was going to do a free session for a family that was going to meet me at Half Moon Bay. We were going to get chowder bowls to go and sit outside and eat them together. Then we were going to head out to the beach. The family was going to fly kites and build sand castles while I fluttered about my with camera. We were never able to sync up our schedules and make it work but I think about that session a lot and how much I would have liked to document that memory for that family. I have some friends with fantastic style who live up in San Francisco and are going to have a baby. I would love to go into their home and document their relationship as expectant parents, and one or two small ways that they are making changes to their living space to accommodate the little one they are about to welcome into their life. I have friends who like to cook together and are learning to play guitar. I want to rent out a kitchen I know of in San Jose with a huge range next to even bigger windows. I’d love to document them preparing something simple together and crooning a few songs afterward.

Jenna Cole Photography

Now, what about you? Tell me how you would like to be photographed. If you’re in the area maybe we can meet up and make it happen. If you’re not, I would still love to hear how you would like to be documented. It might give others some ideas if they are feeling stuck!

The form for those in the San Francisco Bay Area.

*I’ll be in contact with those who are a good fit for this project, but will not plan to follow-up with each submission in order to deliver rejections.

Window Light and a Pop-up Studio

May 12, 2014 By: Jenna Category: Photography

I’ve got two new posts up on Movable Media. The first aims to help you make better use of the window light in your house (what time of day should you take pictures near the different windows in your house?), and the second walks you through how to set up a quick little “studio” in your house that utilizes natural light.
Make Better Use of Your Window Light

Create An Inexpensive Natural Light Pop-Up Studio In Your Home

(Clicking over to see them is a nice thing to do for me because they’re paying me per visitor!)

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      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
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