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Jennifer (Zivolich) Emery ( is an award winning photographer, educator, and published author. She specializes in Commercial, Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Photography and is an Adjunct Photography Professor. She conducts various photography workshops and speaking engagements across the nation and is also an Actor and Indi-Producer/Director. Find her new instructional photography book, Lighting Design for Commercial Portrait Photography, on Amazon.


LACP Interviews Jennifer Emery

LACP asks Jennifer Emery ten questions about her background, career in and beliefs about photography.

Los Angeles Center of Photography: What kind of photographer are you?

Jennifer Emery: I am primarily a Commercial Portrait photographer. This can include anything from Fashion, Editorial and Advertising Work to Lifestyle and Environmental Portraits. I also do events from time to time.

LACP: How long have you been shooting?

JE: Over 20 years, I stopped counting after 20. Yikes.

LACP: Where did you get your training?

JE: I started out assisting commercial and advertising photographers while modeling and acting. I took some classes in high school and college, but most of my training was on the job doing event and portrait photography for various companies.

LACP: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?

JE: Well I remember it well. I was about 25 years old and I had been out of college for about a year where I studied Communication, performance and creative writing. I was waiting tables, going on auditions and shooting part time doing my actor and model friend’s headshots and zed cards, among other things like little league and school photography; anything I could get paid for, [that] and I was going to kill all the customers at the restaurant, and I was not getting much work acting, and I made a decision one day to do something as a living that I loved, and that was photography.

LACP: Did you ever come close to giving up?

JE: Yes and no. When I went full-time freelance, I quit a consistent yet horrible photography job, but I found standing on my own two feet and taking a plunge, even with no work in sight, was the best decision because I never looked back. I have almost taken some full-time positions that would have been more managerial, that seemed like giving up photography. And there have been some lean times when I looked for other non-photography jobs and even got a notary license as a singing agent to make some cash at one point. But no, I don’t ever really give up on anything, I even still do some acting and voice-over work. Sometimes there are things that do need to take the back burner, and you have to take a different road for a while, but that does not mean you have given up, you are just on a detour.

LACP: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?

JE: This question made me take a big breath and think. I don’t know, there are a lot of things I wish I had done or still wish to do, but I can’t say I have sacrificed much except for my body. I did weddings and events for a long time, and it is very physical carrying multiple camera bodies for long hours on your feet. My joints and back are a mess and my shoulders are shot, but I hate sitting at a desk so I’ll take it.

LACP: What have you gained by being a photographer?

JE: Wow, although many of my years just felt like doing photography work, and not really art, I have to say it’s amazing to make a living as an artist. I always say that you can learn something from every kind of photography job you can get your hands on, and I feel I have gained so much knowledge just doing so many different kinds of photography, as well as teaching.

LACP: What classes do you teach at LACP?

JE: I teach: Fashion Location Photography, Basic Photography, and After Basics Photography.

LACP: What do you love most about teaching?

JE: I really love those moments when you can see someone get a concept or take a fantastic photo, when that light bulb goes off. I trained photographers on the job for several companies for a number of years, and it was fun, but teaching in a classroom setting and location workshops is just the most fun and gratifying because the students want to be there to learn.

LACP: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?

JE: 1) Take any kind of photography job you are offered even if it something you never want to do for a living. If you pay attention there is something to learn in every type of photography job, whether that be technique, marketing or business skills.
2) Don?t take independent freelanced jobs doing things you know nothing about when you are starting out, unless it?s a for free or trade, and you are honest with your abilities. Don?t set yourself up to fail.
3) Assist every photographer you can.
4) Don’t pigeonhole yourself. Just because right now you think you only want to shoot product, doesn’t mean you will not one day love shooting people. Its hard to make a living as a “fine artist.” It does not mean that your other photography work is not art!
5) Charge enough that it covers all the hours of editing and computer time. Clients think you just go out and shoot, but you know you have lots of time on the computer to spend. Charge enough for your overhead; equipment, computer programs, insurance, gas. Think about the bigger picture, about what it cost to be a photographer.
6) Get photography specific business insurance. Act like a pro.