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WCW Spotlight: Jodee Debes

Step into the mind of a photographer and learn how she captures beauty, adventure and the most breathtaking moments through her lens.

Meet Jodee, a multifaceted creative powerhouse who is capturing a world filled with color, authentic light and deeper meaning all while wearing a huge smile on her face. Jodee is a San Fransisco, CA based photographer who I had the pleasure of interviewing and am so excited to share her story. I love highlighting creative artists who have a gift to share with the world and a powerful voice to match it. When I started my business back in 2017, I knew that no matter what, I wanted to be a collaborator. I want to empower the brilliant women in my community by letting them narrate their own story. So for anyone just starting their own business, looking for inspiration, or seeking a good read, enjoy!

Questions and Answers:

Q: Are you most productive in the morning, afternoon or night? A: Morning + night, just depends on the task 😃 Q: I stay motivated by .......  A: travel, remarkable people, love, gorgeous light and new memories on the horizon. Q: My best friend would use these three adjectives to describe me….  A: Cheerful, loyal, adventurous Q: Growing up, when I envisioned my career, I saw myself....  A: Believe it or not, as an author. I actually sent in a first draft novel to a publisher at age 10. I would love to get my hands on it. Hopefully it gave the receiver a good chuckle! Q: If I could have dinner with one person (dead or alive), it would be...  A: My grandpa. I miss him dearly. Q: If I were a fruit or vegetable, I'd be....  A: A pineapple. Goes great with tropical weather! Q: Give your best elevator pitch. In at least three or four sentences tell me what you do. A: Im a wedding and travel photographer who loves capturing fleeting moments and wild adventures. Q: What were you doing before this? How did it prepare you for the entrepreneurial life? A: I was working on my cube glow as an Advertising Executive post-college, and it was such a tease working with the creative team and not being creative everyday. To fill the void, I turned to photography, an old hobby, and connected with a few serendipitous people. One of which was Brian Leahy, now a good friend, who asked if I wanted to assist a wedding he was shooting. I had never thought of wedding photography before, although I loved photographing people. Being the impulsive, "yes" person I am, I jumped at the opportunity. From that first wedding, I fell in love. I fell in love with visual story telling. My work in advertising helped prepare me for high intensity and fast-paced situations during a wedding day. I've always thrived under pressure but it's helpful to have experience with many different personality types working on projects moving way too fast! It helped me learn how to be quick on my feet and make decisions at warp speed. Q:  How do you generate new ideas to stay relevant on the market? Is it important to innovate in your space? A: I always question why we do certain things and why certain traditions exist. The origin of some are actually quite entertaining. For example, according to ancient wedding lore, women would rip pieces of the bride’s dress to obtain good luck. So in order to escape from the crowd of women, the bride would toss the bouquet and run. I love that brides are reconsidering and removing this strange custom from their day. After all, when else in our real lives would we gather all of our single friends in a clump and ask them to fight for a golden ticket toward finding love? Along the same lines, I question certain poses we have our couples stand in. Or newer engagement session traditions like wearing a long dress you would never normally wear on a beach that you've never been to with your fiancee for your photo shoot. I always want to make sure I'm authentically capturing my couples and their relationships. I love when we can collaborate to make their session more personal to them as a couple and therefore innovative to the industry rather than just doing what everyone else does. Q: Describe a challenge you've already faced in 2020 and how you handled it. A: I think we all hope to be unwavering in understanding our value. But it can be a struggle when a super great couple is wanting you to provide them a discount. Recently, I got far down the process with one of these couples. I'm always very upfront with my pricing. Yet they continued to ask for a discount claiming it would be a gorgeous wedding with unique traditions and great for my portfolio. I don't doubt this; however that doesn't mean that my services are going to be any different than normal, and therefore should not be discounted. It's a hard conversation to have with your couples especially when you feel an emotional connection to them. My response is always "I would absolutely love to work with y'all if you can find room in your budget to match the value I offer. I work hard to provide my services to all my clients so I would feel unethical offering a discount to one couple and not the next. I hope you can understand. Please let me know if you'd like for me to find an associate of mine for your date if you want to work with me at a lower rate." And if they offer, I say "cash offers are not helpful to me because in accepting them I am defrauding my taxes on behalf of y'all." It can be hard in the moment, but I find that if a couple really wants to work with you, they'll make it happen! I also think couples are encouraged from media outlets or friends to ask for discounts. And more power to them, no's are free, and I bet they get some yeses along the way that really help them because weddings are expensive. I also don't judge any business owners who do offer discounts. The luxury of running your own business is deciding how you want to handle these types of situations.

Q: How do you define your best work and what value does your best work bring? A: My best work provokes emotion. I want the viewer to be able to hear the laughter or feel the tear when they look at an image because it's a genuine capture. To me, photography is the most special when you're capturing a fleeting moment that will never exist again and saving that stamp of time forever. That's why weddings are so special for me to document. Allowing people to relive their wedding day and all the people they love through my images makes my heart happy.

Q:What is one of your goals for the new year and how have you begin implementing it into your life already? A: One of my goals is to try and build more community. I've been doing this by attending more industry events to connect with other like-minded creatives. As well as hiring out more associates/second shooters and creating a safe space for all of them to communicate and inspire one another. I hope to foster a fun culture within my team!

Q: What would you tell your 18 year old self today? A: Have so much fun!! Don't sweat the small stuff. Be selfish. Do the things you love. Foster quality relationships that matter. Make mistakes. Explore all the possibilities. Don't take this time for granted. Q: What is your best advice for someone starting their own business? A:It's so fun starting out!! For photographers, you're going to want to shoot everything and everyone! But make sure to be strategic. Only show the images you want to shoot. For anyone, make sure you know your value and price yourself accordingly so that you don't burn yourself out. You're setting the precedent now for your future career so make sure to set yourself up for success. Any business is so word of mouth and referral based, so the clients you work with now will refer you to similar clients in the future at a similar price point. It's a whole lot easier to start at a good point than to crawl out of an undesirable spot. Q: For fun... describe your guilty pleasure.  A: The bachelor!! I can't get enough of that whole franchise Q: Describe your perfect day.  A: Going any type of adventure, small or large with someone I love.

I am in so in awe of Jodee — for her willingness to share her story, her successes and all the challenges that come with running your own business. While we are focused on our craft, it can be difficult at times to wear so many hats: as a admin, a business woman, a creative head and a manager! Something she strongly emphasized a few times is to enjoy the journey — even at times when things are not going according as planned, it could be a learning opportunity. Having fun with your job is the beauty of working for yourself, you are in control of your own happiness. Remember, nothing is an accident. The world works in powerful and mysterious ways to get us to the point we are at today. I am so lucky to have met Jodee through a mutual friend and am grateful for this new-found friendship! Thank you for your detailed responses!

Want to learn more about Jodee? Keep up with her on social: Website and instagram

To read more articles from Neela, visit the blog!


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