This week on our Because I’m a Lady series, we’re talking all things Disney Weddings and career advice with photographer Jenna Henderson.
Tell us about how you got started as a photographer.
I’m a natural storyteller and I love how a good photo can tell a story about a moment in a person’s life. When I was 16, I took all of my savings and bought my first film camera. I worked at a photography studio in college and later received my degree in Anthropology and Digital Media. I wanted to study visual anthropology and tell the story of various cultural events with my camera, but eventually decided teaching was a more practical profession. The irony of that decision was that it was difficult to find a teaching job at the time.
When my son was born, I had just finished school and was staying home with him and applying for teaching positions. I started photographing engagement sessions to earn a little extra income, and one engagement session led to another. I began to meet couples that loved Disney and we always had such a great connection with each other. I worked hard to incorporate their love of Disney into their photos, and eventually it became my niche. I look back and remember how worried I was about finding a teaching job. I wish I could travel back in time and tell myself that it was all going to be okay, the universe had better plans for me!
What do you love the most about photographing weddings and engagement sessions?
There is nothing more special than photographing the happiest day of a person’s life. I love meeting and photographing families and listening to their vows and speeches. It is such a heartwarming day! I feel like it’s my small contribution to the world to be able to capture such special memories.
I also love helping my couples feel good about themselves. A lot of my clients are nervous to have their photos taken, but I’ve never met a person who wasn’t beautiful. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to bring out their personality and emphasize their best features through posing and lighting. It brings me so much joy when a nervous client ends a session feeling completely comfortable in front of my camera.
What is it like photographing for Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings and Honeymoons?
There’s nothing more magical than a Disney Wedding. It truly is a dream to capture the expressions of the guests when the bride arrives in the Cinderella Coach, or to photograph everyone’s faces when Mickey or Minnie appear at the reception. It’s a great feeling to photograph happiness! It’s also an incredible experience to work with the Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings team. Everyone from the coordinators, to the chefs, to the banquet captains are 110% committed to making sure everything goes smooth. That kind of service is something you only see with Disney. It’s really special to partner with a team who cares so much and works so hard.
When did your love of Disney begin?
I grew up on a farm in the Central Valley and every year we would take a family trip to Disneyland. I couldn’t believe such a magical place existed. My brothers and I would spend our free time reenacting the Main Street Electrical Parade and designing new attractions in our living room with whatever boxes and containers we could find. Every Sunday our family would gather around the TV and watch “The Magical World of Disney” together. All of my best family memories involved Disney in one way or another. As I got older, I started reading biographies about Walt Disney and loved learning that he grew up on a farm, too! Learning about Walt made me feel that life was full of imagination and endless possibilities, even though my world seemed small at the time.
Which Disney character are you most like and why?
I’ve always felt a strong connection to Alice in Wonderland. I love that Alice experiences the world with so much practical curiosity. No matter what life throws at her, she thinks about it, accepts it, and keeps moving forward. Her journey is a wonderful story of self-discovery and I love that she is always working on improving herself. In addition to all of that, she finds the greatest group of friends. At the Animation Academy in Disney California Adventure, I took the character test and got Alice and said, “That’s it, I’m done! I’m never taking this test again!” And I haven’t!
What’s been one of your favorite Disney details a couple has incorporated into their wedding?
That is a tough one! I’ve seen so many clever details. Everything from Mickey balloons (which are SO fun to photograph), to incorporating paper airplanes in the décor as a tribute to the “Paperman” short. I think perhaps my favorite detail was when Julietta had me photograph her with a Disney Wedding DVD she ordered when she was 16. She had saved it, because she had always dreamed of having a Disney wedding.
On her wedding day it rained more than I have ever seen it rain in California, but Julietta was so positive about everything. Her Disney coordinator and the wedding team worked hard to make sure the day special despite the rain. During the wedding, I took one of my all time favorite photos. Julietta was outside in the pouring rain with her rain boots on and her expression is priceless! The photo captures her spirit and shows that even though she’d been dreaming about this day all of her life, the rain couldn’t stop it from being the best day ever.
What advice would you give to aspiring photographers?
Use every session as an opportunity to learn a little more about your craft. Whether it’s posing, lighting, or framing, take a little time before each session to focus on a skill you’d like to improve. With weddings and engagement sessions, take the initiative and talk to couples about their vision, so you can research and tell their love story in a beautiful way. And of course, always photograph what you love! Put your heart into it and your passion will shine through in the photos you take. Last but not least, I’m a firm believer in wishing on stars. I’ve heard if you wish upon a star, your dreams can come true!