2020 Community Connections - Joyful Heart Photography: Absolute bucket list location would be Indonesia, photo style favorites are families, children and maternity

Jess Bengtson
Crookston High School 2018 Pirates Baseball seniors

How long have you been a photographer? Also, if different, how long have you been "getting paid" for photography?

    I suppose since I was in middle school. I remember bringing my little 110 camera to school and taking photos of my friends during lunch and recess. :)  I then was a yearbook and school newspaper photographer in 11th and 12th grade. I started being paid for photography when I was working for LeMar Photography here in town in 1999 (when I moved here) and then later at a chain studio in Grand Forks in 2004. But I started Joyful Heart Photography in the spring of 2007, so that's when I started working for myself.

What kind of equipment do you use for photo shoots - both indoors and outdoors?

    Depends on the shoot!!! LOL Minus the obvious answer of my camera, I use a variety of lights and modifiers. Indoor sessions will use anywhere from 2 to 4 lights, depending on the look I'm going for. Outdoor shoots are sometimes shot with the natural light available, but I always bring at least one light with me. It allows me to control the exposure and the light to get what I'm wanting. Sometimes I'll go simple and use a reflector. I almost always use a light meter and a color balance card. The light meter so I know exactly how much light I'm working with and the color balance card to give more control over the final image.

Do you have a studio? If so, where is it located and what are your hours of operation?

    Yes! I am at 424 N. Broadway, Suite A.  The building used to be the North Country Food Bank. Hours of operation tend to vary depending on the season (and day of the week), but I am typically in the studio from 10am - 5pm. I do offer evening and weekend appointments as I know that not every is able to come in during those hours due to work or school.

Do you like to take photos indoors or outdoors better, and why?

    I love both, actually. They each offer something different and have their own challenges. I do more indoor work, though, as Minnesota weather can be challenging to work around and no one likes to reschedule appointments due to rain/wind/cold/etc. I also tend towards a classic style, which is usually done inside a studio.

What is your favorite style of photography? - family, senior, wedding, nature, etc.

    That's a tough question! I have several favorites. :) I love families, because I like to see the interaction between the family members, and to try to capture their connections. Children's photos are so much fun, their personalities are definitely what makes a memorable photo. Maternity and newborn photography are favorites because there is nothing like the joy with expecting - and holding - a new baby. And seniors are just a blast to photograph, especially when they're really into the photo session.

Sometimes with Seniors I completely loose track of time because we're having so much fun and coming up with the next great idea to photograph. LOL

How did you get into photography?

    Mainly because of my dad. He used to be a Yearbook adviser when I was young, and one of my earliest memories is going with him to school where he would work on developing photos in the darkroom. And then when I was older, I enjoyed taking photos of my friends. They were just candid photos, but still fun and I have some of them still today. The final decision was when I took an "Intro to Photography" class in high school. I had needed a filler class and I knew it would be easy. Little did I know that I would fall in love with it and completely rearrange the rest of my high school classes to include yearbook and newspaper. I then went on to major in photography in college. Since I graduated from college I've only had two non-photography related jobs.

Are you certified or do you have a license in photography?

    It is not required to have a certification or a license to be a photographer, but I was honored to be a Certified Professional Photographer for many years. I loved how the certification process really helped me to hone my skills to meet their requirements and how you had to maintain education to keep the certification. Unfortunately, my certification lapsed and I am currently pursuing the steps to have it reinstated. I feel that it is something that is a little extra to set me apart.

Where is your favorite spot in Crookston to take photos?

    Shh.... It's a secret. LOL  It actually depends on what I'm looking for. If I want an urban look, I love the area by the theater. There are some fun things you can do right within that block. For a natural look, the town parks all have different options. For flowers, it's gotta be UMC. Their grounds crew does an amazing job with landscaping. For a more "wild" look, I have a couple of places on the edge of town that work great.

Name a memorable photo shoot - best and worst

    There are lots to choose from! Best photo shoot is a toss up between a senior session that went way beyond the typical two hour limit because there were so many things we wanted to photograph and we both kept getting more and more ideas. Or the session I had with a little girl, probably about 2 years old. She was so shy, she wouldn't hardly let go of her mom. But I just took some time with her, we played together (her, her mom, and I) and by the end of the session she was laughing and giggling. Then when they left, completely unprompted by her mom, she walked over to give me the biggest of hugs. Her mom couldn't hardly believe it because her daughter just never did that with people. It melted my heart a bit. :)

    My worst session was probably an engagement couple who drove from out of town for photos. They wanted outdoor photos, but ended up getting delayed leaving and despite my caution about losing the daylight (we were originally scheduled for near sunset as it was) they insisted on trying anyway. They showed up even later than their estimated late time because they decided they needed to stop to get dinner, and the sun was long down. I attempted to talk them into a studio session, but they insisted on the outdoor photos. I did the best I could, and even got some interesting images, but the couple was not happy with anything I showed them. Seems they really had their hearts set on sunset photos and didn't seem to understand why I couldn't just magically create the same look. I ended up refunding the session to them.

What location is on your "bucket list" to take photos? (i.e. Hawaii, Caribbean, mountains, etc.)

    All of the above. ;-)  I love to travel and would be thrilled to take photos anywhere. The absolute bucket list item would be to travel to Indonesia and take photos of the martial artists there in their traditional uniforms. Then I would get to combine my two biggest passions. Between the jungles, the volcanoes, beaches, and different temples, I think I could photograph there for months and not be bored.