Thursday, August 2, 2012

Jenny Januszewski: Actress turned Headshot Specialist...and More!

I have known Jenny Januszewski—and her parents—for over 20 years. Jenny has been in films and performed on the stage as an actor, and has been a model.

It seems all people blessed with creative talent possess a kind of “wanderlust” when it comes to creativity. Jenny branched out into film and photography. I thought her story may be relevant to many of my readers, so I asked her if I could interview her via email, and she agreed. The content of that interview follows:

Tell us a little bit about your background (when/where born, school, family, education, career, interests, etc.):
I was born in Vietnam and raised on a farm in Michigan by my awesome parents, Nick and Jane Januszewski. Eventually, I attended high school at Lumen Christi in Jackson, MI, where I took my first formal photography and darkroom classes. After that, I went on to Chicago to work on the stage and in front of the camera---I worked as a model and actress. Now, I’ve combined all of my experiences to pursue the career track I’m currently on. I direct films. My current feature film is in post production and is called The Boogeyman. It’s based upon a short story by Stephen King. Website is . I also am working as a headshot photographer, taking photos of actors. My website for that is .

When did you develop an interest in photography?
I’ve always been into visual arts and expressing myself through them. But photography came into play when I realized the darkroom was a really fun place to escape during lunchtime. I was a shy geek without friends in school. [Ha! I have a hard time believing that!] So, the option was to either sit in the lunchroom alone or to play in the darkroom. Photography was the obvious winner.

What gave you the idea to get started in what you are doing currently?
Every photographer has their own “gift.” Mine is to make people comfortable and help them bring out the emotion they wish to share in the photograph. I don’t think of my headshot sessions simply as photography sessions. Its very much “headshot therapy.” Film and TV actors are often fearful of a still camera because they can’t move out of an unflattering look or a state of vulnerability that they may find uncomfortable. I’m good at easing that and so, I decided to focus on working with actors doing headshots.

Do you have partners, assistants, etc. or are you strictly a woman show?
Sometimes I have an assistant. But usually, it’s just the actor and me. I find people are more their true selves when they don’t have a ton of people staring at them. However, in June, I have 15 clients scheduled in two days. I’ll need to bring my assistant for that one.

What kind of investment did it take for you to get started?
I started with a Canon 5D (not the Mark II) and an 85mm 1.2 USM lens. If you include that along with the software to edit and store photos as well as blank DVDs, etc. you’re looking at a startup cost of around $9-$11k. You can EASILY start for much less. If you’re not competing in LA, Chicago or NYC, you can get away with something like a refurbished Canon Rebel or even a refurbished Canon 7D.

What do you use in the way of equipment?
Camera Body/bodies (brand/model): Canon 5D. I chose the 5D rather than the 7D because of the format. It was about $3k. However, this one is now discontinued. Now, it would be the Mark II that people would get.

Lens/Lenses: Canon 85mm f1.2 USM (About $2,049 plus tax and insurance)

Electronic Flash Make/Model - how many (if used): Sunshine is my flashbulb

Background(s) used (were these purchased or made yourself?): I like to just shoot people out and about in alleys, doorways, etc.

Other Items: Bags, various filters, extra memory cards, extra battery and battery charger, card readers, reflectors, clips, DVDs, marketing materials, etc.

What equipment would you like to have that you do not currently own?
I would absolutely love a big lighting package that I could use for both photography and filming. I’d also like more lenses.

How do you package and sell your service?
I offer actors a headshot session for about $400-$500. It includes 4-5 looks (e.g. changes of clothing); a DVD of their images un-retouched; and an online link to their session so they can mark their favorites and forward the lists to their agents or manager. If they’re a student, I often do packages at a lower cost if they can get a few friends to shoot the same day. For the LA/NYC market, my price is on the very low end.

Who owns the Copyright?
If I take their photo, they can do what they want with it after they pay for the session. We equally own the rights to use the photos. I’ve even gone online to read an article about an actor and saw that they used a photo I took. That was pretty cool.

How do you develop new poses, lighting, etc.?
Honestly, I just play it by ear and see how each person works best.

How do you market and advertise your service?
I used to list in photography books and make fliers to leave at various audition houses. But now, I just go by word of mouth. Most of my clients are friends of friends or friends of past clients. I do have a website: for my photography and for my film directing.

Do you do any photography OTHER than headshots?
Yes, I am a film director

Do you use any companies to help market your business (web design, Constant Contact email marketing, etc.)?

Do you have a goal or target ($$ earned, multiple locations, etc.)?
My monetary goal is just to pay my bills and make enough to help support my film directing. It’s always nice to have about 5 clients a month. But the market is driven by what’s going on in the film/TV world and what part of the season it is. So, some months are dry and others, it’s pouring actors and actresses.

What problems or challenges—if any--have you encountered along the way (difficulties; equipment problems; discrimination based on gender, race, occupation, body type; finances; etc.)?
The economy really hit the actors hard. A lot of them lost their day jobs and just don’t have the funds for new photos. Plus, everyone with a digital camera thinks they’re a professional photographer now. The market gets saturated. But it’s not that easy. I own a pair of ballet shoes----I suck at dancing. Photography is for everyone but not everyone is a professional photographer.

Is this something others could do with a little effort, or do you feel you were uniquely positioned to do?
If you work hard at anything, you can make goals and reach them. However, to really stand out and give your client something in a way very few can, it’s something you are born with. Some people are born with an ability to play baseball like no other; for some, it’s math; for others, it’s areas of the arts. I don’t think this should ever discourage someone from pursing it if they are interested. However, the average person isn’t going to go out there, buy a camera, and have their work mistaken for Ansel Adams’.

What advice would you give to people who wish to pursue a similar endeavor?
I’d tell them to be patient and realize that working for yourself is harder than working for someone else; that they need to be realistic as to their goals and abilities---is this meant to be a profession or a hobby?; and to try shadowing another photographer or assist them for a few days. I handed my camera to an assistant once and they couldn’t deal with taking photos for more than 10 minutes. Just the physical stamina of staring at details through one eye in the sunlight is something some people have to work up to.

Could readers contact you for further information and/or advice?
Sure. My work email is

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