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Tampa Photography Blog

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Jul 2, 2012
Category:Out and About Events General 
Posted by: Jessica

The Downtown Tampa’s Solstice Bash was a smashing success and I’m honored to have been a part of it! This special event offered great music, food and cocktails. And if you’re looking for a great night out, why not help a charity in the process?

The Rotary Club of Tampa and The Tampa Bay History Center hosted this fabulous event that benefits multiple charities including Wheels of Success. One of the best moments of the evening was when Executive Director Susan Jacobs gave a United States Veteran keys to his car! This organization is vital in giving veterans and struggling families a fighting chance to work and live in our community.

The night was complete with live and silent auctions, complimentary tastings and entertainment courtesy of PRP Wines, Cold Storage Craft Brewery, Channelkatz, Diamond Crown Cigars.

To see all the photos from, the evening and/or order reprints, please contact Jessica Leigh at for online gallery information. Thank you!

Jun 27, 2012
Category:Out and About General 
Posted by: Jessica

It's not often I photograph someone in very little clothing (except for my boudoir clients) but that changed when I went to fitness trainer Kim Simpson's house.

BEFORE you look at the photos, know this woman is 40 years old and a mother of two boys.

Now, take a look at the photos I took of her and ask yourself what body part you would give up to look like this at any age??? And the best part? Kim is such a sweetheart and was wonderful to photograph. She's the entire package.

Since our session, she has been featured in Fitness Life Magazine online, Status Fitness Magazine and she met her original goal of being chosen for the "Future of Fitness" piece in Oxygen Magazine (see below).

I'm so proud of Kim and happy that my photos may have played a small part in getting her noticed by these magazine editors. When I met Kim, she was very upset because after going to the mall to get the fitness photos shot, she ended up with one very unflattering 8x10 of herself to show for it.

And after our shoot, she seemed very pleased, which is all I can ask for in a session! Thanks again to Kim for making the right move to get better photos and I look forward to seeing where her and my photos show up in the future!  

Apr 29, 2012
Category:Giving Back Out and About Events General 
Posted by: Jessica

Want to help others in the fight against cancer? Want to support survivors like Vicki Odioso Peters? Want to impress fitness trainer Carrie Kukuda?

Well, if none of those questions light your fire, you can at least get some free photos of yourself competing in this year’s Miles for Moffitt! Jessica Leigh Photography is teaming up with Get A Grip Total Fitness (GAG) to provide free  photos on the day of the race to anyone who signs up for the 1-mile, 5K, 5-mile or kids races under the “Odioso/Peters/Get A Grip Total Fitness” team. Photos will be shot before the race at the GAG tent, at the finish line to the 5K race (and possibly the 1-mile) and after the race. Please wear your blue Get A Grip shirt so Jessica can identify you as the cross the finish line.

Photos will be available the week of May 14th on the JLP blog and on the JLP Facebook page. Please check both pages that week to find your photos.

Although Jessica would rather do anything but run, she did participate in the 2011 Miles for Moffitt as a runner and it was a wonderful experience. “There’s a level of camaraderie and passion that you don’t expect to encounter when you first show up for the race," said Jessica. "Seeing thousands of people coming together for one cause is a moving moment. Representing survivors we love and those who had their life cut short too soon makes it worth it to donate, race, volunteer or sponsor.”  

Jessica Leigh Photography is proud to call Vicki Peters and Carrie Kukuda clients and friends. We hope you will join us on May 12th to celebrate survivors and raise money to finally find a cure.

To register, please visit and sign up under the team name "Odioso/Peters/Get A Grip Total Fitness". If you have any questions, you can contact Jessica Leigh at

*Photos from 2011 Miles for Moffitt courtesy of Get A Grip Total Fitness.*

Feb 6, 2012
Category:Out and About General 
Posted by: Jessica

As I was getting into bed late last night (after flying back from a weekend getaway), my husband came upstairs and said he had to show me something outside. Delirious and skeptical, I walked outside in my PJs and what I saw was spectacular. I've heard a little bit about the “Halo Moon” effect but have never seen it in person.

Technically, the ghostly circle around the moon is called a lunar halo. According to Earth Sky, “Halos are a sign of high thin cirrus clouds drifting 20,000 feet or more above our heads. These clouds contain millions of tiny ice crystals. The halos you see are glints of light from these ice crystals, which have to be oriented and positioned just so with respect to your eye, in order for the halo to appear. That’s why, like rainbows, halos around the moon – or sun – are personal. Everyone sees their own particular halo, made by their own particular ice crystals, which are different from the ice crystals making the halo of the person standing next to you.”

Most photographers will agree that you don’t necessarily have to travel across the globe and spend thousands of dollars to see something wonderful like this…just step out your backdoor.

Photo info: 2000 ISO at 1 second at F/2.8.


Aug 7, 2011
Category:Out and About General 
Posted by: Jessica

Selomeh is one of the happiest children I have ever met. I think every child has a personality, even at a young age. Selomeh is no exception.

Selomeh's parents are not your average couple--Maaza is Ethiopian and Anthony is British. Not something a matchmaker would formulate but it works. And God bless their genes because this child is precious. She will never have to wear a stitch of make up or do a thing with her hair. She has beautiful skin and crazy, curly hair that is a sight to see.

I have known this wonderful family for years. I photographed their wedding and I was overjoyed to hear they were having a child! And I was, of course, honored to be asked to photograph their daughter. She is a photographer's dream come true!

I met them at their New Port Richey home for the family portrait session. They have a really cute house and back patio, which Selomeh had no problem performing on.

Maaza is an amazing woman--I tell her she's Mother Nature all wrapped up in one person. She's a phenomenal mom and seeing her with her child is about the best day I can have as a photographer.

Thank you for allowing me into your lives...

Aug 1, 2011
Category:Out and About Events General 
Posted by: Jessica

If you don't invest in your business, why should anyone else?

If you don't have a professional head shot of yourself yet, this event is a great way to purchase one at a discounted price. For group sessions, the cost is only $75 per person and you receive FIVE final high-resolution images to keep and use for your marketing or social networking purposes.

I am teaming up again with "Paul Mitchell: the school" and ladies can have a complimentary make up application and hair styling before their session. The stylists from Paul Mitchell worked my last head shot sesison and did a tremendous job. Thank you for your hard work!

NEW REFERRAL PROGRAM: Bring a guest or two and receive a discount on your head shot!

One new head shot client=$10 off your session

Two new head shot clients=$25 off your session

Three new head shot clients=Your session is FREE!

Just a reminder...A professional head shot is one that is taken by a photographer with studio lighting and preferably a clean backdrop. With all the money we invest in our business, a $75 head shot should be an easy decision. If you don't need a head shot for your business, maybe you know someone who does. I appreciate clients who spread the word of my business so I try to reward them as often as possible!

If you'd like to compare prices with other companies offering head shots, please read this blog. I hope this information helps!

What: Professional head shots

When: Friday, August 19, 2011, 12-3 p.m.

Where: Get a Grip Total Fitness, 1914 Oak Grove Blvd., Lutz, FL

How much: $75 with FREE makeup and hair styling

Payment: Payment is due in full at the time of the session in cash or check (made out to Jessica Leigh). If you'd like to use Paypal, please do so before the day of the session. Thanks!


What the head shot session includes:

*Five final images to keep & use with unlimited rights

*Minor digital retouching (ex: blemishes, skin tones, scar removal)

*Editing/toning/cropping of images

*Option to review raw images at a later date (or photographer can choose)

*High-resolution images are emailed to you or burned to CD within one week of the session

*Makeup and hair styling, courtesy of Paul Mitchell

Booking/RSVP: Jessica Leigh  813.468.0075

Jul 29, 2011
Category:Out and About General 
Posted by: Jessica

Like many other small-business owners, I was searching for something more than a “leads group” to invest my time and energy into. I have attended countless networking meetings in the Tampa Bay area and I found one called BLAB (Business Ladies Advancing Business) in 2008. I loved it! The women were all fabulous and so very different in their professions and personalities. They all seemed to know how to have fun but still get business done!

Unfortunately in 2010 the founders decided to disband BLAB and I, along with about 12 other women in my chapter, didn’t want the networking and friendships to end.

So, Dr. Carrie Oleston approached me about starting our own group and I loved the idea. Dr. Carrie and I believe in the “give to get” philosophy when it comes to networking. We don’t expect leads to be handed to us when we walk into a meeting but we’d rather get to know a group of select women and build life-long relationships.

We launched Tampa Women of Worth in January of 2011 and it has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception. What started with 14 members has grown to 30 members in just a few short months. We are capping the membership at 40 women so we don’t lose the intimate feeling of really getting to know one another.

Our meetings are held on the first and third Mondays (except holidays) at Mimi’s Café on North Dale Mabry in Carrollwood from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. We get everyone situated from 11:30 am to noon with ordering lunch, seating and chatting. Each meeting we have a “Member Talk” and a “Mastermind Discussion”. The Talk is a 10-minute presentation on a member’s business. It’s just another way for us to get to know our members, what they do and how we can help. The Discussion is presented by Dr. Carrie, myself or a willing member and the goal is to educate our group and find ways to improve our businesses. One discussion might be about incorporating social media into your marketing while another may be about balancing life, family, and work. And we hope our members walk away with some new information each time they visit.

We only allow one member per profession so please check the industry exclusives here before attending as a guest. All of our info is on our Facebook page but you can also find us on Meetup and Twitter! Please RSVP on Facebook under Events if you'd like to join us.

We hope to meet you soon!

*Logo design by WOW member Tami Kowalkowsky with Sky Web Works Website Design.

Jul 26, 2011
Category:General Out and About 
Posted by: Jessica

The Noones contacted me when they realized that their whole family may not be in the same country together for quite a while.

Their son, Joey, is engaged and planned to move to Manila to be with his fiance in late July. So, the pressure was on to get everyone together for family portraits before he left. The matriarch of the family lives in St. Pete (and shouldn't be subjected to this Florida heat on a beach) and the Noones live in Land O Lakes. So, we all decided it was best to shoot the portraits at the Noone's home in Land O Lakes and do a few photos in their backyard under the beautiful cypress trees and the rest of the portraits inside so everyone would stay dry and happy!

The session went great with the exception of things we all expected--mosquitoes, heat, humidity and almost a downpour of rain!

The Noone family is another client that just makes my job easy. They have fun together and it shows. So, after gathering mom and dad, brother and sister, an aunt and a grandmother, we made it a success!

Thanks to the Noones for being so cooperative and going with the flow--you all are a blessing to work with!

Jul 25, 2011
Category:General Out and About 
Posted by: Jessica

The McCloy sisters are a force to be reckoned with...and they are some of the funniest clients I've ever photographed.

God bless the fabulous couple who raised these girls--having children is a challenge but having FIVE GIRLS must have been an adventure. I’m guessing this experience is where they got their sense of humor!

The best part about photographing family portraits for folks like the McCloys is that they know how to make the best of a situation. Shooting portraits outside in July in Florida can be miserable. It’s not the best month to do this but when sisters from five states can be in one place at one time, you make it work.

We traveled to Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park in New Port Richey, Florida for the session. It’s a great place to shoot with different options depending on what clients want out of their portraits. It’s definitely packed with “wilderness” so I wouldn’t recommend tuxes and prom dresses!

I’m finding out every day that this is a small world we live in. Mrs. McCloy was born in Shreveport, Louisiana—where I lived for four years working at the local newspaper. And the family decided to vacation in Odessa, Florida, five minutes from my home!

Moral of the story—shooting family portraits in 95 degree heat and nearly 100% humidity is totally worth it when you have clients like the McCloys!

Jun 8, 2011
Category:Out and About General 
Posted by: Jessica

Jenee and Alex are like most engaged couples. They're giddy, silly and don't mind kissing for photos.

I'm running this blog now in honor of their wedding this Saturday in Richmond, Virginia. Alex is my younger brother and we have teased him for years about not getting married, settling down, finding the right woman, etc. We know now why he waited so long--Jenee is fantastic!

We chose Ybor City for their engagement portraits while they were visiting us in Tampa. This is a place of endless textures, colors and architecture. I LOVE shooting there and find a new corner that’s perfect for portraits every time I go.

Photographing family can be tricky. For many photographers like me, there’s a work persona and a non-work persona I have when shooting. I’m not a completely different person but I do try to maintain some sort of professionalism on assignment while still having a really good time doing what I love. (As opposed to sitting around in my “PJs” on Christmas morning taking photos of my family opening gifts.)

The tricky part is that I ask clients to do all kinds of strange things when shooting their portraits. So, when I’m shooting portraits of my own brother, asking him to “make out” with his fiancé in a dark elevator is a bit bizarre.

However, I take great pride in photographing my own family—I’ve shot many family portraits, engagement portraits, business head shots and will possibly shoot boudoir portraits in the near future. (That’s about as close as a family can be!)

I am honored to be a bridesmaid in their wedding and have said on numerous occasions how blessed we are to add someone like Jenee to our family tree. Best wishes to the happy couple!

(And be sure to check out their wedding photos in a few months shot by an old friend and fabulous photographer Craig Mitchelldyer from Portland, Oregon.)

May 23, 2011
Category:Out and About General 
Posted by: Jessica

Back 9 Dips began with a great recipe, a little fate and a couple with a passion for good food.

Nique and David Mealey have taken what was once just a great party dip and built a very successful business from it. I tried their original Buffalo Chicken Dip in 2007 and LOVED it. It truly does taste like a chicken wing on a chip. I’ve served it at many a party and it’s always the hit of my tailgate!

I met the Mealeys when I joined a networking group with Nique and was honored to shoot their engagement portraits when they decided to tie the knot. Now as they move forward in life with their business, I’m thrilled to be a part of the Back 9 family, even if it’s just as “the woman who shoots photos of the dip!”

What is now known as Bubba’s Buffalo Chicken Dip, thanks to their partnership with Tampa legend Bubba the love sponge, is spreading like wildfire! You can find this delicious dip in restaurants, grocery stores and truck stops all over Florida.

The best part about this venture is that they are already launching a new dip—“Southern Sweet Heat”. If you’d like to taste it before all others, stop by the launch party at Hot Rod’s BBQ in Lutz on Thursday, May 26. There will be live music, great BBQ, chicken dip, beer and wine. I hope to see you there!

May 17, 2011
Category:Out and About Events General 
Posted by: Jessica

Simplicity is a beautiful thing.

Kelli and Michael know this is key when planning a wedding. Their April wedding consisted of a beautiful sunset beach ceremony at Honeymoon Island, Florida with their closest family and friends followed by a relaxing reception with good music and good food. That’s really all you need, right?

I applaud their efforts to make their big day special but not complicated.

The bridesmaids wore tangerine dresses and carried a single Calla Lily. The best man wore a cream shirt and khakis. And no shoes allowed!

The ceremony and reception had the traditional outdoor Florida vibe—easy going and full of fun! The only unwanted guests were the mosquitoes but that’s the risk brides and grooms take when planning a Florida beach wedding!

This wedding was a referral from a wonderful couple, the Downings, which I met when Mr. Downing trained my dog two years ago at American Family Dog Training. I then shot their family portraits (including their three German Shepherds) and when Mrs. Downing asked me to shoot her daughter’s wedding, I was so honored. Truly the greatest compliment I receive is a referral from a family member or dear friend of a client. Thank you!



Planning and venue: Honeymoon Pavilion

Music/DJ: Grant Hemond and Associates

Apr 27, 2011
Category:Out and About General 
Posted by: Jessica

While housesitting for my parents in Odessa, I opened the garage door and a tiny brown bird flew past my head in a hurry, like she was on a mission.

The next time I came back, I opened the garage door again and before my car could pull inside, she flew back in and headed for the Christmas decorations.

My parents have a lift hanging from their ceiling that holds two huge Christmas trees.

Apparently, this is a very cozy and quiet place to build a nest. I got up on a ladder and looked a little closer at the pocket of pine needles sticking out from the bright green storage bags. Sure enough, this little bird has flown in pine needles, leaves, sticks, feathers and a bit of trash to make a great little home.

Today when I walked into the garage, I heard adorable, faint chirps and I realized she needed a home for her babies!

While mama was away, I snapped a few photos of these (what seem to be) very young birds. They are obviously hungry in these photos and probably wished I was their mother bringing them some food!

So, keep your eyes open--you never know who might be in your garage!

Apr 26, 2011
Category:Out and About General 
Posted by: Jessica

Senior portraits have come a long way, even since I was in high school.

You don't have to go to Olan Mills or Bryn Alan any more if you want something a little more unique and a little less traditional. It seems that every 17 and 18-year-old wants to be viewed as a unique, special individual so why not make their senior portraits personal to them?

Corey is an artsy, creative, smart guy. He wants to continue his higher education in animation, which I know he'll succeed in! So, when thinking of a place in Tampa to shoot his senior portrait session, Ybor City of course came to mind.

Another characteristic that makes Corey unique is that his whole family owns Mini Coopers. So, it only seemed appropriate to have a few shots of him with his car. We drove to the top of a parking garage to get a clean background and luckily, no one was up there. I know his parents personally and they are both artsy, wonderful people so this was a true honor to photograph him. (They took photos together with all their Mini Coopers for their holiday cards. How adorable is that?)

With some sweet sunset light and a fantastic high school senior, we made some great photos. Thanks Corey!

Feb 15, 2011
Category:Out and About JLP News General 
Posted by: Jessica

Jan 30, 2011
Category:Out and About Events General 
Posted by: Jessica

The University of Tampa is known for recognizing its staff, faculty, boards and donors for the time and dedication they offer to the university. The holidays are no different and I had the pleasure of covering the annual holiday party held at historic Plant Hall for the Board of Trustees, Board of Fellows and Board of Counselors.

As always the university is generous in its hospitality and it shows in every detail. I hope to cover this joyous occasion again in 2011!

Jan 13, 2011
Category:Out and About Events JLP News General 
Posted by: Jessica

Start off the new year right with a new look for your business! If you don't invest in your business, why should anyone else?

If you don't have a professional head shot of yourself, this event is a great way to purchase one at a discounted price. For group sessions, the cost is only $75 per person and you receive FIVE final high-resolution images to keep and use for your marketing or social networking purposes. Now, for an additional $35, ladies can have a full make up application and hair styling before their session! Introducing my stylist partner Andie Sleeman--please take a moment to look at her work and once you do, you'll see why $35 is an affordable price to pay when you want to look your best. Click here for Andie's portfolio.

A professional head shot is one that is taken by a photographer with studio lighting and preferably a clean backdrop. With all the money we invest in our business, a $75 head shot should be an easy decision. If you don't need a head shot for your business, maybe you know someone who does. I appreciate clients who spread the word of my business so I try to reward them as often as possible!

If you'd like to compare prices with other companies offering head shots, please read this blog. I hope this information helps!

What: Professional head shots

When: January 24, 2011 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Where: Get a Grip Total Fitness, 1914 Oak Grove Blvd., Lutz, FL

How much: $75 (head shots alone) or $110 (head shots plus make up application and hair styling)

Payment: Payment is due in full at the time of the session in cash or check (made out to Jessica Leigh). If you'd like to use Paypal, please do so before the day of the session. Thanks! 


What the head shot session includes:
*Five final images to keep & use with unlimited rights
*Minor digital retouching (ex: blemishes, skin tones, scar removal)
*Editing/toning/cropping of images
*Option to review raw images at a later date (or photographer can choose)
*High-resolution images are emailed to you or burned to CD within one week of the session

Booking/RSVP: Jessica Leigh 813.468.0075

Dec 23, 2010
Category:Out and About Events General 
Posted by: Jessica

Each year the University of Tampa hosts a fabulous dinner for those members of the Minaret Society to honor their biggest supporters. Director of Community Relations Alexandra Ellison is the ringleader of the event and does an amazing job every time with the decor, food and ambiance.

My job as the event photographer is to first photograph each person or couple that attends. They receive a print later as a keepsake from the event. Everyone looks their best so it's nice to be able to frame a professional photo from their evening.

After those portraits are done, I pack up all my backdrops and lighting and head into the main event--dinner. There are always musicians and singers there to entertain and a gorgeous meal follows. So, I document guests enjoying the evening and all the decor that shows how much planning goes into this one night. Enjoy!

Dec 21, 2010
Category:Out and About General 
Posted by: Jessica

For the Mackin family portraits, they suggested heading down to Hyde Park because of the festive decorations and versatility of the area. I loved it! I would really like to shoot portraits in Hyde Park again in the Spring maybe with some cute, colorful umbrellas and rain boots for the kids.

The Mackin's daughter is Fiona and she is a pistol! She loved all the decorations including the sleigh and gigantic presents in the center of Hyde Park. She was fun to chase around and once she got used to me, the session was a breeze!

I also love the attire this family chose--red, black and gray are very popular for holiday family portraits this year and it looks stunning in photos. Enjoy!

Dec 18, 2010
Category:Out and About General 
Posted by: Jessica
The Tran family is colorful...and I mean that very literally. Every year they bring gorgeous Vietnamese outfits to our family portrait session and I'm so touched they feel so connected to their culture. They also change clothes several times and each time they have new and vibrant colors for the family. I’m impressed with seven adults and four kids, they can organize this for a photo session and it seems flawless!

We shot the portraits at Philippe Park in Safety Harbor, FL—one of my favorite areas. I say this because they have stone steps, Spanish moss that looks beautiful at sunset, a beach, playgrounds, an Indian Mound and so much more! If you can’t find a spot to take a family portrait there, you aren’t looking hard enough.

Thanks to the Tran family for their continued loyalty to Jessica Leigh Photography. I value my clients a great deal and love seeing their kids change each year they ask me to photograph them. Happy Holidays!

Nov 24, 2010
Category:Out and About General 
Posted by: Jessica

The Clemmer family is always a joy to photograph. Their daughter, Kaylyn, is the only child I know that has a smile on her face from start to finish whether the session is 30 minutes or two hours. She's a blessing to family portrait photographers like myself!

The Clemmers took advantage of our special: "Holiday Family Portraits in a Snap!" For the first time, we offered smaller sessions for less money so clients can still get professional holiday portraits at an affordable price.

The session took place at Philippe Park in Safety Harbor. It's one of my favorite places to shoot because there are so many options and I discover a new location each time I'm there.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Nov 23, 2010
Category:Out and About General 
Posted by: Jessica

The Voges family is a unique one.

When someone says they'd like to go to Ybor City and the dad will bring the cigars, I know I'm in for a fun family portrait session!

What's great about this family is that the parents understand their three gorgeous daughters are all very different from one another. They did not want to dress them all the same, because they are not all the same! I love it!

Madeline is the youngest and wants to be an actress - and I have no doubt she will succeed. Noelle is the middle sister and the quiet one (but quite the funny girl); I met her in a fitness boot camp she attended with her mom. Liesl is the oldest and seems to be the caretaker of the three. All of them were such a pleasure to work with – fun, cooperative and best of all, they think outside the box!

My favorite portrait from the session is one I shot in an alley with graffiti all over the walls. The word “Sinful” was written in huge red letters above a door so I asked all of them to pose. The mom, Leslie, is one of the funniest people I know so it seemed fitting to have a family portrait taken there. And the dad, Kent, just sits back and watches the show with all his girls. Lucky man!

We ended our session with breakfast crepes at La Creperia on 7th Avenue. Perfect!

I hope to work with these wonderful people in the years to come. It’s clients like these that make my job worthwhile!

Nov 20, 2010
Category:Out and About General 
Posted by: Jessica

When dog trainer Jeff Downing asked me to photograph his family (aka his wife, Vickie, and their three German Shepherds), I was honored. But I also didn’t expect the story that came with this family.

Jeff’s pride and joy is a beautiful dog named Seigo. He is everything a man could want in a best friend—loyal, obedient and sweet. But Seigo is sick. He has squamous cell carcinoma at the age of nine.

So Jeff and Vickie made the tough decision to do chemotherapy treatment. He beat it once and he’s going through another round again after they found an additional tumor. They all hope for the best, as always, but the part that I think keeps them going is that Seigo is not ready to quit. I could sense that after only spending two hours with him during our photo session.

The session itself was entertaining because Seigo’s siblings, Oly and Tia, are not quite as friendly and laid back as he is. So, we got a few photos with the furry family at their house (no harm was done to the dogs or photographer) before taking Seigo to a local park in Palm Harbor. I kept asking if Seigo was ok to play and walk around the park. Jeff said he’ll go until Jeff tells him it’s time to go home.

But we didn’t push Seigo. We did some photos of Jeff and Seigo doing tricks, fetching and playing together. Then we did some quiet portraits in the grass so Seigo could rest and just “be”.

I’m a dog person and I never thought I’d fall in love with an animal that wasn’t mine so quickly. Seigo is such a sweet soul, I can see why the Downings will do everything they can to make sure he’s happy and healthy.

Nov 6, 2010
Category:Out and About JLP News General 
Posted by: Jessica

Waking up before sunrise is not my favorite way to start a day. Some people are “morning people” but I am not one of them.

But if you ask me to get up early, put on a wetsuit and tell me I get to take pictures first thing, that’s a totally different story. Waking up at any hour is worth it if the end product is cool photos.

I work for the University of Tampa often and one of their most popular publications is The Journal. It’s a wonderful magazine highlighting UT alumni and where their lives have taken them.

For the third time in the last year, I shot the cover of The Journal—this makes no difference to most people but I like the challenge. You have to shoot for a certain size photo as well as make sure one story-telling photo can draw people into the magazine as well as keep the cover aesthetically appealing.

This assignment had my husband and I up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday to meet UT marine biology students and their professors at the Tampa Bayside Marina. (My husband occasionally works as a freelance writer for UT as well—it’s rare we get to work together any more so this was a treat!) We were told that we might be in knee-deep water so wear something that could get wet. Little did we know, it was really waist-deep water—thank God for extra wetsuits!

The purpose of the morning for the researchers was to find and collect seahorses and pipefish. This is a lot harder than it might sound. Dwarf seahorses (to be specific) are about the size of a fingertip.  And there are so many amazing creatures in the sea; it’s sometimes hard to sift through the seaweed to find the tiny seahorse.

But with huge nets, these students scraped the ocean floor and found what they needed to complete the mission. They then photographed each creature (and measure it’s length) plus recorded all the data.

It was a really fun day and it made me thankful for my career, once again. How many people can say they got paid to throw on a wetsuit, spend time with their husband and shoot photos of seahorses on a Saturday morning?

Nov 4, 2010
Category:Out and About Events JLP News General 
Posted by: Jessica

Nothing can brighten my day better than an adorable child on picture day. Some kids come in a ballerina outfit, some in a dress shirt and tie but almost all are excited about the new adventure for the day!

I recently traveled to the East Coast to shoot pictures of students at First Step Learning Center in Port St. Lucie, Florida. A friend of the family owns the center and she is an amazing woman. Kathy juggles teachers, parents, children and contractors like me who work for her on occasion.

It was a wonderful experience to meet all the kids, between three and five years old, and I plan to go back in the spring of 2011 for graduation photos and class photos.

The "school photos" were definitely a new project for me and a new way of doing business. In this economy, I am trying to open all the doors I can and offer professional photography to those who value my services. Thank you Kathy! 

Oct 28, 2010
Category:Out and About General 
Posted by: Jessica

One of the highlights of being a professional photographer is that I have the honor of photographing my own family and their major life milestones.

My brother, Jason, and his wife, Melissa, had their first child, Evelyn Jeannine, on August 6th in Fredericksburg, Virginia. (I am very excited to officially be “Aunt Jessica!”) Luckily, we had a family trip planned for mid-September to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee so it was the perfect time to photograph “Evie”.

We plan our vacations around Florida Gator games so we planned this one around the FL vs. TN game in Knoxville. We rented a cabin in the mountains for a few days to relax. And on Sunday when it came time to do the photo session, everyone explored the mountains while the four of us turned the cabin into a photography studio. (After one minor diaper incident, Evie was ready to begin!)

For being only six weeks old, Evie was remarkably expressive. She has a great smile and thinks her Dad is hilarious! And Melissa has a natural maternal instinct that makes me so proud. They are both wonderful parents and I can’t wait to see them develop as a family. I’m blessed that I’ll be able to document Evie throughout her life.

It was a unique experience to photograph and witness the birth of a new family inside our own and I’m so happy my brother has a great start to his new life.

Oct 19, 2010
Category:Out and About General 
Posted by: Jessica
Flashes of Hope never disappoints.

Even though I can't disclose the identities of the kids, I know their names. I know their smiles. And I've seen their joy.

These children are an inspiration--for just one hour, maybe less, they act like kids. They aren't concerned with tubes, treatments, needles and pain. It's truly amazing to watch the transformation from timid patient to silly kid in a matter of minutes.

One boy winked at me, one girl growled like a lion and another giggled so hard, she almost made me cry.

But unfortunately, not all the kids are ok. Not all of them can let loose. Some either feel too sick or are just too scared to enjoy the photo shoot. And that's ok too.

The goal of this organization is to raise money (of course) and photograph kids with life-threatening illnesses like cancer and give those photos to their families as a gift.

The structure of the photo shoot changed a bit allowing us to photograph outpatients, which means more families! I photographed 17 families in one afternoon at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, with the day organized by Tampa Bay Chapter Directors Dana Hudepohl and Marc Silbiger. (Aveda provides make up and styling services and local photographers rotate monthly.)

All of the people involved are volunteers and the families don't pay a dime for any of it. They receive a print package and a CD with the high-resolution photos after the photographer edits the images.

So far, 215 children have been photographed in Tampa Bay.

If this charity interests you, I urge you to donate your services or money to keep it going. It means a great deal to me and I hope after seeing some of the photos, you’ll feel touched too. For more photos, please visit my Facebook page.

Oct 12, 2010
Category:Out and About Events General 
Posted by: Jessica

One of my favorite commercial photography clients to work for is Moffitt Cancer Center. All of their events have a common purpose--to raise money and continue research to find a cure for cancer. It's hard to be unhappy with clients like Moffitt!

I recently covered the APCC Luncheon (Advanced Prostate Cancer Collaboration) where the Bay Area Advisors handed over a handsome check to Moffitt with money they raised from charity events. It's nice to know there are still organizations in the Tampa Bay area that are focused on giving back to the community!

Oct 1, 2010
Category:Behind the Scenes Out and About Events General 
Posted by: Jessica

Geekfest is a gathering of professional photojournalists from around the country who come together once a year to drink, share work and mainly kick each other in the butt.

Everyone needs encouragement and inspiration and sometimes the best place to get it is from others in your profession.

I have to admit, at first I felt a little disconnected this year. I no longer work for newspapers and in my freelance career, I don’t shoot much editorial work. My clients want commercial photography, family portraits, business head shots and boudoir portraits.

Many of the photographers at Geekfest are still working in journalism and focused their presentations on photo stories, which I rarely shoot any more. But what’s great is that whenever I leave this conference, I feel like I too can shoot whatever I want, whether a client wants it or not. I sometimes forget this is for me, not them. It feels selfish to say that but I didn’t choose photojournalism as a way to please others. I chose it (or it chose me) because I’m good at it and it’s the artform I’ve been most passionate about for the last 15 years.

St. Pete Times Director of Photography Boyzell Hosey started off the weekend by updating us on the “Eye of the Storm”. He created this tagline by comparing the newspaper industry today to a Category 5 Hurricane. Boyzell said people suffering in the industry ask, “Why me? Why on my watch?” To which Boyzell replies, “God says ‘Why not you?’” His talk comforted me even though the industry doesn’t affect me directly. But many of my friends still work in the business and I can’t hear about any more furloughs, layoffs, buyouts or just plain sadness about their jobs. It breaks my heart.

One of the most shocking and moving photo stories was the “Resurrection of Amalia Mendoza” by Greg Kahn of the Naples Daily News. Amalia was in a horrible car accident in 2001 that took her eyes, nose and part of her skull from her. She put all her hopes and prayers into a doctor name David Trainer. Kahn followed her through this journey and the video and stills are incredible.

The story that I was most impressed with was “Michael’s Story” by Los Angeles Times photographer Liz O. Baylen. She covered a story about a 6-year-old boy who was molested by a L.A. Unified School District special education aide. Liz could not reveal the identity of the victim or his parents so she said she used audio to recreate the story. And somehow she pulled it off.

The person I think I connected with most during the presentations was Atlanta photographer Zack Arias. He’s humble, honest and tells it like it is. He touched on a few key elements with lighting that I had simply forgotten. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with bills, deadlines and clients that I forget how simple creating a great photograph can be. Zack reminded me that after I pay the bills, it is for me. Shoot for the client and please them, but shoot some frames for myself too. He said (and he may have been quoting someone else), “Commercial work is your life but photojournalism is your mistress.” Love it.

When I heard humanitarian photographer Ben Rusnak talk about what working for a non-profit entails, I was impressed because it seems the first thing you have to do is let go of your ego. He said you need to give up control over your photos and the design in which they are used, don’t expect to receive any photo credits and understand that fundraising comes first, and changing lives is second. Ben is a rare shooter—most of us have egos (it comes with the profession) and it warms my heart to see that he has risen above it all.

As New York Times photographer Todd Heisler came to the podium and looked around the room, he said, “Is photojournalism dead? Well, apparently not.” He wowed us with his “One in 8 Million” project, showing how everyone, even in NYC, has a story. Lawyer/teacher Alexis Lambert reminded us that photography is a business whether we like it or not. She’s a genius when it comes to contracts, copyright law and anything related to the University of Florida. And that’s not the only reason I adore her—she’s also one of the funniest people on the planet. Designer Deb Pang Davis broke down the rules of marketing yourself and described branding in a whole new way for me. She stressed that we should speak about our passions and focus on our personalities, not our work. Brilliant.

San Antonio Express News photographer Lisa Krantz has passion about everything. From her daily assignments to her big projects, like covering Sam Houston High School, she loves what she does. It is wonderful to listen to someone who simply can’t say enough great things about their career. Picture Editor Mike Davis showed me a new side of editing—how he sees our raw images. Wow! I was not ready for that. Editors do have a different eye and it was fun to see that. He said, “There are people who respond well to visuals and those who don’t—most of them work at newspapers.”

I saved the best for last, as did organizer Melissa Lyttle. With a welcome only heard in sporting events, Portland photographer Sol Neelman entered the ‘arena’ wearing a Lucha Libre (wrestling) mask. I saw him hiding by the door to the auditorium (with the mask on) and he casually says hi, how are you, etc. I can’t help but laugh—he’s amazing and he doesn’t even know it. Sol is refreshingly honest (he might curse like a sailor), and he encourages others to do what it takes to be happy. He said, “If I can suck, you can suck too,” after showing us his first portfolio. In a room filled with photographers (who can sometimes be competitive), that was brave. Sol makes a living by chasing his passion—weird sports. He’s covered everything from the Redneck Games in Georgia to Hog Wrasslin’ in Wisconsin. To say he’s passionate is a gross understatement.

On the last day of speakers, a shooter walked by my friend and I and we saw what looked like spiders tattooed on both calves. When he came back, we asked what they were—he said they were apertures. Freakin’ apertures. Not the numbers (f2.8, f4, f5.6, etc.) but the diagrams of each aperture as they are seen inside a lens. Bad ass.

After seeing all the work presented, listening to the passion of other photojournalists and being in the same room with all that talent reminded me why we’re here—to leave something behind that we created or as Sol put it, “This is what I saw on this planet.”

Geekfest 2011…here I come.

Sep 22, 2010
Category:Out and About General 
Posted by: Jessica

I love it when I get a "taste" of what's to come later...

Christine and her daughter, Thea, wanted some family portraits taken since Thea turned two years old in August. We planned a trip to a Tampa park so Thea could play and be herself. Because it was a weekday morning, Thea's dad, Ted, was unable to make the photo session.

But this was a great way for me to get to know Thea because in November, her and a few other girls from China are having a reunion.

Well, they're too young to plan it but still, a reunion will occur.

The Corlesses adopted this sweet baby girl in 2009. Through this long adoption process, they bonded with other families who were going through the same thing. In November, three of these families will reunite in Tampa. I cannot wait to photograph all the girls together and shoot family portraits of each new happy family.

Thea is a darling to photograph and most of the time, she's too busy chasing bugs or dragging her stuffed animal around (appropriately named "Bunny") to pay attention to me. I LOVE it when kids are just kids and forget about the lady with the camera.

Sep 10, 2010
Category:Out and About General 
Posted by: Jessica

The Baileys may seem like a quiet, conservative family but behind closed doors they are silly as can be.

I had the pleasure of photographing the Baileys at their home in Stuart, Florida. Chris and Catherine had their first child in December--a beautiful baby girl named Allison (aka "A-Bear").

Seeing a father like Chris do anything possible to make his daughter laugh was one of the best moments I witnessed during our photo session. It's great to see men who are hard-working, normal guys turn into funny dads who imitate character voices and sing songs.

And "Tiny Catherine" (as I call her) is a wonderful mother--you'd think she had done this five times before. Everything comes so natural to this woman and it's amazing how much love can come from such a small package!

It was so much fun photographing Allison and getting to know all her faces--sad, happy, silly, playful and so many more. She is an expressive baby which makes my job that much more entertaining!

Thanks to the Baileys for allowing me into their home for their family portraits. These are my favorite kind of photo sessions for babies--shot in the family's home where everyone can be themselves and get silly!

Sep 6, 2010
Category:Out and About Events General 
Posted by: Jessica

The Tampa Bay Rays hosted a day with the University of South Florida to drive Bulls fans out to St. Petersburg. It worked like a charm!

The day included USF Coach Skip Holtz throwing out the first pitch and talking with Rays players and Manager Joe Maddon. Even though I am a Florida Gator to the core, I have to admit Coach Holtz is one of the nicest people I've ever had the pleasure of photographing!

The Rays also distributed hats with the Rays logo on the front and the Bulls logo on the back.

USF mascot "Rocky" was on hand to celebrate the new era of football at USF with Coach Skip Holtz and of course, watch the Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles 7 to 3.

It's going to be a great season for the USF Bulls!

Sep 3, 2010
Category:Out and About General 
Posted by: Jessica

Kaylyn Grace is only one year old but she has the sass and humor of a teenager.

She is the funniest baby I've ever photographed. She's got every look a photographer could want--pouty, happy, giddy, pensive, silly and more.

Ashley and Jud are fun, wonderful parents and their personalities already shine through in this tiny version of themselves.

I shot their family portrait session at their home in Land O Lakes, for the sake of convenience. We started with some photographs of three generations--Kaylyn, Ashley and Ashley's mother. Then we moved on to some fun in their guest bedroom with Kaylyn and her parents just playing together. I find that some of the best photos develop from natural situations with children. (And Kaylyn redefines how cute a ladybug outfit can be.)

Kaylyn was an angel through all of it. We played in their backyard and I got to know this funny little girl a bit more. Raisins are the bribe of choice in this family--a good fact to know when photographing a child.

Once we were done with formal photos inside and backyard photos, Ashley changed Kaylyn into her alligator bathing suit and let her play in the pool with Jud. The great thing about kids is that they seem to enjoy every situation they are a part of--whether that be swinging from a tree, eating Raisins, swimming or just wrestling with their parents on the bed.

God bless kids for finding the fun in everything.

Jun 12, 2010
Category:Out and About Events General 
Posted by: Jessica

Sierra said all she wanted for her 9th birthday was to have a glamour party.

Wish granted.

Thanks to Collective Creations, Sierra and six of her closest friends painted their fingers and toes, received professional hair styling and played “dress up” with boas, jewelry, dresses, hats and high heels.

They feasted on pizza and birthday cake and giggled until their bellies hurt.

Sierra is a wonderful, charismatic girl who has impeccable manners and a kind heart. She deserves nothing but the best on this birthday and all the ones to come! Thanks for inviting me into your home to photograph your day, Sierra!

Jun 11, 2010
Category:Out and About General 
Posted by: Jessica

When a business decides to embark on a new advertising campaign, change their image or design a new website, I believe the key is starting with great photography or visuals. This can be as simple as taking new business head shots and portraits.

Corless Zinober does it right.

Not only do they have a spectacular website being unveiled this month but they have also invested in new photography for their attorneys. As a consumer, I feel this creates a more personal website which helps when you’re shopping law firms that all seem to look the same.

I photographed some new attorneys and reshot others but what I like about working with them is that they are always open to new ideas. They do whatever it takes to finish a project and do it well. We decided on some tight head shots and a few portraits taken in their office on Westshore Boulevard that reflects their love for art.

Thank you to Ted Corless and the team at Corless Zinober for allowing me to be a part of their new look. Good luck!

Jun 4, 2010
Category:Out and About Events General 
Posted by: Jessica

I don’t photograph weddings every weekend. I do a few here and a few there. But when I get to do them, it makes my job so much more enjoyable to see a happy, stress-free couple that remembers what the day is all about…love.

Angela and Brad fit this description to a tee. From the time I shot their engagement portraits in December, I knew they were different. I expected there to be a little stress since the wedding was a mere four months away but they both had a calm aura about them. We walked around River Hills Park in Tampa, shot photos, played on the playground, watched ducks waddle and saw a beautiful sunset. It was one of the calmest photo shoots I’ve been on and it’s all because of Angela and Brad.

Their wedding was no different. From photographing Angela getting ready with her best friends to their peaceful ceremony to the colorful Hawaiian reception, they kept their cool and simply enjoyed the day.

Not only was their reception intimate but it was also one of the more unique events I’ve had the pleasure of photographing. It was a Hawaiian luau hosted by The Exotic Plumeria in Seffner, Florida, complete with leis for guests, dancing and traditions unlike anywhere else. Angela was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and the bride and groom both dreamed of a Hawaiian wedding here in Tampa Bay so it seemed a good fit.

The music and video was provided by the team at Celebrations of Tampa Bay and the wedding rings were designed by Spath Jewelers. The bride’s hair was styled by Synergy in Brandon, Florida and Alan Bunch at the Exotic Plumeria took care of all the catering and the performers.

Congratulations and best wishes to Angela and Brad!

Jun 3, 2010
Category:Out and About Events General 
Posted by: Jessica

The event called “Lush” at The Don Cesar in St. Petersburg is named for the feeling you get when you walk through the courtyard.

It’s an elegant and extravagant event centered around food and drinks. Once you pay for a ticket, you can sample as much as they can offer. And like all Loews Hotels events, they do everything right.

From wine to scotch (from Southern Wine and Spirits) and sushi to chocolate mousse, every guest can find something worth trying. Loews Hotels gathered some of their finest chefs from The Don Cesar and Loews Miami Beach Hotel to participate. These chefs managed to cook up culinary delights all night and I don’t think anyone left unhappy.

The Don also provided musical entertainment from ­­­Lamar Tremain and a fashion show by local designer Ivanka Ska with some outrageous and breathtaking designs.

I think I enjoyed this photo shoot so much because it gave me a chance to create food photography again. It’s been ages (it seems) that I have focused on food. I, of course, photographed the models, guests and chefs but food that is prepared by culinary masters is a visual treat for artists like myself.

May 31, 2010
Category:Out and About Events General 
Posted by: Jessica

I had the pleasure of photographing the 13th Annual Latinos Unidos Luncheon hosted by The City of Tampa’s Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Council at the Tampa Convention Center. Proceeds from the conference and the luncheon helped to fund the scholarship endowment at the University of Tampa. (There are also endowments at the University of South Florida and Hillsborough Community College.)

I love being a part of organizations that help other kids go to college. I was blessed enough (years ago) to receive a few scholarships from Tampa organizations and HCC plus my parents were kind enough to pay my tuition at the University of Florida. I understand not everyone has opportunities like these.

The keynote speaker was City of Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and prominent guests included UT president Dr. Ronald Vaughn, USF President Dr. Judy Genshaft and HCC President Dr. Gwendolyn Stephenson. More than 400 Tampa business owners and community members attended the conference and luncheon.

UT hosted a private reception the night before and as always, UT proved to be a wonderful place to host a function. Donors, business owners and guests were invited to celebrate some of the accomplishments of the Hispanic Advisory Council. Council member Maritza Roviro Forino lead the event and honored UT trustee Dr. O. Rex Damron, President of the Krewe of Sant 'Yago Education Foundation.

Thanks to all who help give kids opportunities they didn’t know they could have.

Apr 21, 2010
Category:Out and About General 
Posted by: Jessica

The Brian family is prepared for anything.

We meet annually when they arrive at St. Petersburg Beach to vacation at their condo. They need a break in March or April from the winter they've survived in Pennsylvania and they call on me for family portraits.

Not only do they manage to pack quite a bit into a few hours of photography but they are also color coordinated, ready to feed kids with snacks and juice and they always try to make it as fun as possible for their two children.

Keeping kids interested in a family portrait photo session can be a challenge. The Brians bring supplies to make sand castles, they play games, squirt water guns, swim and much more. No child wants to sit in front of a camera for hours and smile. It’s not natural.

So, every year I am amazed at how they make their photo session fresh and fun and always with a new color scheme!

We shot half of our session in their condo and half on the beach. I created a miniature studio in their condo and they invited a couple of family friends over to join in the session. Then, we took the cameras, toys, snacks and water down to the beach for some candid photos.

I've included a few of my favorites…it was a gorgeous Florida afternoon; perfect for portraits!

Feb 22, 2010
Category:Out and About General 
Posted by: Jessica
While I was out shooting family portraits in Tampa, I found this little feature photo and couldn't help myself. Sometimes we get so focused on the task at hand, we forget to observe what else is going on right under our noses. I know this isn't a 'Pulitzer' but there's a calm feeling that I get whenever I look at the photograph. This couple seemed so peaceful and content, just taking a break from their bike ride to look at the water.