About - Stephen Jennings Photography

Hi. My name is Steve. I'm a photographer.

I figure it's best to get the obvious out of the way. I photograph ... well, I mean, technically I photograph everything. I carry my camera just about everywhere. The two things I shoot professionally however are two very different genres - weddings, and ballet. I'm married to my high school sweetheart Jessica, we have a 3 year old monster, I mean son, named Harry. I've only been living in Oregon since '09, I grew up in Dayton Ohio where we lack cool things like gorges, mountains, oceans, awesome hiking, you get the idea. I picked up photography creating assets while study for my B.S. in Graphic Design, discovered not only was I pretty good at taking photos but also pretty darn good at editing my photos. Truly editing is a huge part of the process.

See? He is a monster!

I specialize in Portraiture; this is the "art of creating portraits." I try to take this word by it's double meaning, in that you can make a portrait of someone visually and descriptively - a detailed and graphic description of an individual, the very essence of their being. Through my art I try to go beyond simply "taking your portrait" and instead "create your portrait." How I do this varies from person to person, I often need to talk to someone before I decide how I take their photograph. There are things to consider; distance, angle, location, lighting, clothing; all tools I can use to bring out your personality and create a detailed intimate portrait of my subjects.

My "Style"...

I don't know. Steve Style! You could technically put me in the "lifestyle" category of photography, as well as "Documentary." But these things mean different things to different people, and someone might say I'm neither, or both, or one of the two. I try my best to keep my photos as "real" as possible, I use natural light sources wherever available, and I will try to minimize my editing when I can. My favorite form of documenting people, especially weddings and family portraits, is melting into the scenery and capturing events as they unfold. I hate studios. I'd rather photograph a child chasing ducks at the park, or climbing trees than sitting on a crate in a studio. Or photograph a couple on the banks of a river with a grand scene behind them than posed in an awkwardly forced setting. Gimmicky photos, props, "that cool thing I saw on Pinterest," themes, stuff like that... that's not really my thing.

For weddings I will have my set portrait list that needs to be covered - family, bridal party, bride, groom etc.. the rest of the time I aim to be invisible sneaking about the reception or while you get ready capturing candid moments.

Shot in BW - converted to color

I love Black and White...

You'll notice I post a lot of black and white images, in fact nearly all of my personal work that I do for myself is done in monochrome. Why? I just like the feel of it, the lack of distraction, the drama and so on. I actually shoot in black and white, so don't be alarmed if I show you the back of the camera and there's no color. There is, you just can't see it! But it is important to know that I will sometimes frame, light and execute a frame specifically intending for it to be black and white. Really hate monochrome? I'll change it for you, but it'll lose some of it's awesomeness. Sometimes this confuses people, both clients, professionals, those I employ to shoot weddings with me.

No, I'm not crazy, I really do photograph better in black and white - I've had going on 6 years to figure this out. It totally depends on the situation and the lighting of the scene, but for the most part I know my camera well enough and my shooting style well enough to know shooting in black and white I'm more likely to perfectly underexpose my images. Most photographers aim for "perfectly exposed" or a tad over-exposed. The reason, without totally nerding out on you (I'm prone to accidental nerding..) is that the more accurate and brightly exposed a scene is, the more detail and color value there is. Except.. you blow out the highlights. Ever seen wedding photos with blown out white skies? Sometimes it's unavoidable.. or sometimes in the PNW the sky literally looks like that. But I don't normally blow out skies, and this is because I know the sweet spot for underexposing to get the absolute best dynamic range. You'll see the photos on this page, the skies all have clouds, even the very bright ones (like the beach, when I was shooting into the setting sun.) There, I didn't nerd out too excessively. 

Shot in BW, edited in BW

Where I Shoot...

For weddings, everywhere. Everything else, outside at a park or the like. I'm not big on studios. There's a difference between not liking something and not being able to do something .. I'm perfectly proficient when it comes to shooting in a studio, with any subject matter. One of the reasons I fell in love with photography was being able to get outside, see new places, not have to see a computer for miles around. And really, no matter how awesome a studio is.. how much money I pour into lights, nothing beats a unique sunset or sunrise. 

Outside... That's where I like to be!

In a studio.. See? I know what I'm doin!

In a field?

Taken with a Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Otus

What Kind of Gear I Use...

"Gear doesn't make the photographer"... While gear won't help my creativity much, gear does matter, and I shoot with only the best 35mm DSLR equipment, and the best lighting equipment. I shoot professional grade Nikon equipment; A d800 + a d750 are what I primarily shoot with.

Everyone says things like "oh that's a nice camera.." "I bet that thing takes great photos!"

Well, I've had many encouraging conversations with my cameras, and they have thus far refused to photograph on their own. I shoot in manual - I control all aspects of my camera at all times in every scene. Most professional photographers shoot with the same gear, and as you can see the difference in photography produced can be astonishing. Look up a $15k wedding photographer.. we have the same camera, same lenses, same lights.

Lenses are where the magic happens anyways. I use large aperture "bright" glass for the most part, along with the staple professional grade stock like the 70-200. I absolutely LOVE Zeiss lenses .. these are manual focus, highly perfected, very difficult to shoot with lenses. My favorite lens of all is the Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO - just about the most perfect lens ever made. Insanely difficult to use, but it has magic, and magic is hard to come by. I use a 105mm 1.4 for portraits and ballet.  My favorite general lens is a Sigma Art 35mm f/1.4 - a classic documentary lens, which I use to photograph a significant portion of weddings with. I'm always experimenting with lenses, as they do allow for different types of shots, different styles, different feel between scenes. Sometimes I bring stupidly expensive lenses that I'd never buy to weddings for unique photos - like a 200 f/2 or 85mm Otus ($6k and $4k respectively) or sometimes ultra-wide for environmental portraits like the 14-24; I'll even occasionally do stints where I shoot with only one lens like a 50mm or 35mm.

And yes.. I absolutely shoot weddings with manual lenses. I even shoot ballet with manual lenses, because I can, and it's fun. 

Oh look, I'm nerding out again.  

Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO

Ultra-wide with a 14mm f/2.8

Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO

OK ... so ... about that Ballet thing...

A project I call "Cascadia Ballet Project"

How does one, who's never so much as done the funky chicken, become a ballet photographer?

I have NO idea. I wish people would stop asking me so I could stop making up excuses, or having to try and  remember where the notion creeped into my brain one day. The story goes like this, from what I can remember... One day, on instagram, I asked someone (Ainsley) to model as a ballerina in a tulip field. Why? Because I get bored and make up new projects all the time. This was different because 1. I enjoyed the photoshoot enormously. 2. I'm a friggin awesome ballet photographer. I've gone on to photograph for a few studios, shoot productions, more portraits, became insta-famous (ok, maybe not, but I say so just to make my wife roll her eyes.) It's fun, creative, and I actually really do enjoy watching Ballet and working with the dancers. 

You can check out some of my dance photography here: Cascadia Ballet Project

Want to know more??

I'll leave you with an adorable Harry photo!

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