This may be the longest blog post I ever write for my website, but I feel it’s an important one!
Today I’d like to introduce myself so that you can get a chance to know the girl behind the lens a little better! I will sometimes do an intro post on my social media feeds, but my intent with this blog post is to go a little deeper so you can really get to know me and why I love my job.
First, let’s go over the basics: I’m 29 years old and I’m from Southern Utah (I claim both St. George and a tiny town called Parowan as my hometowns). I love sushi and any kind of dark chocolate is my favorite treat. My favorite color is blue and my favorite flower is a poppy. I want my house to be full of beautiful plants, but I’m also really awful at taking care of them. I’m giggly, and I love trying new things. I’ve been in three beauty pageants and if I hadn’t met my dream guy and gotten married I would have done more of them! The farthest I’ve traveled from Utah is Nashville, TN for a competition in high school. I’ve taken several personality quizzes and tests and I always get a different result! As an enneagram, I’ve been typed as a 1w2 – The Activist, a 7 – The Enthusiast, and even a 9 The Peacemaker. When I’ve taken the 16 Personalities test I’ve gotten the result of Mediator (INFP), Entertainer (ESFP), and Consul (ESFJ). So it’s safe to say that I really have no idea what my true personality “type” is. But I’m always up for an adventure, I love making new friends, and I love helping and serving people! I’m a pretty giggly, upbeat person, and I think it’s safe to say that I’m fun to be around!
I’m a mom of four (soon to be five!) kids under the age of 7. My husband and I met at Dixie State in band class. Yep, we’re music people! We both played low brass instruments. In symphonic band my husband plays the tuba and I play the euphonium (it’s a thing, Google it!) We even took some of our engagement photos with our instruments. We both also play several other instruments and we sing. We were friends for about nine months before we started officially dating, and then we got engaged after only three months of dating each other exclusively! Six months after that and we had tied the knot for good.
We transferred to USU after having been married for two years so that my husband could pursue a degree in mechanical engineering and I continued working on my degree in elementary education. Our first baby joined our family in July 2014, and she’s almost seven now! I finished my degree and graduated with two babes on my hips in 2016, and then worked as a teacher at an intermediate school for a year while my husband finished up the senior year of his degree. That spring, we found out we were expecting twin girls and our whole world was turned upside down!
My husband graduated and we relocated to Utah County for his new job, and I decided that I would take an indefinite break from teaching – at least until our kids were in school so we wouldn’t have to fork out buckets of money for daycare. After the twins were born, I kept feeling like I needed to be working, in some capacity. I’ve always felt that drive – like I was supposed to be a contributor to our family’s finances, and I learned that working is really good for my mental health.
Soon after the twins were born, I started a little Etsy shop making and selling hair bows for little girls. It was a fun creative outlet and I enjoyed it. But it was only a little hobby – I wasn’t making any sort of profit and felt that it was taking too much time away from my family for something that was basically just for fun. So I closed up shop. After several months, my mental health really suffered, and I was diagnosed with depression. Despite medication, I was still feeling like something was missing – part of me! I needed something that was mine, that I loved doing, and that could help contribute to my family’s finances without having to leave my kids all day long.
Enter my first dslr camera! As soon as I pulled it out of the box I fell in love. I’d often received compliments on my photography skills in seeing and capturing sweet little details and emotional images in the past using just my cell phone, but I had no idea I would love taking photos as much as I do now. Having a camera in my hand feels so natural to me, and I learned the ropes of using my dslr in no time. I felt that I have something to offer other people with my photography skills, and so Jessica Stratford Photography was born. At first it was just a little spark of a dream, that maybe I could someday make a little money here and there from taking family photos, but it has quickly turned into a fire raging in my soul with purpose and direction.
Family Photography is considered a luxury by some people, but in so many ways I feel it is a necessity! In the recent past, I’ve seen several friends lose loved ones very close to them, and their photos are one of the most precious things that they have to treasure and remember the good times with their family members who have passed on. I truly believe that documenting your family on a regular basis with a professional photographer is not only a good idea but one of the most important things you can do for your loved ones and your posterity down the road.
Soon after I started, I branched out into wedding photography. I loved my own wedding photos, but in some ways I was largely disappointed in my experience with my wedding photographer. Your wedding day photos are some of the most important photos you’ll ever have taken, and that’s not a responsibility I take lightly as your wedding photographer! I do my best to make sure your wants and wishes and dreams for your wedding photos are heard and made into a reality – because I wasn’t able to have that and I feel that everyone should be able to look back on their wedding day photos and be reminded of the love and connection you experience during our time together instead of the things you wish you could change about the photography experience.
While I was making and selling my bows on Etsy, I quickly learned about the immense need to keep a consistent flow of content for social media channels and high quality photos for my Etsy listings. Then when I started this photography business and really dug deep into what it means to be a small business owner, I learned there is SO much that has to be done, and it can be really hard to manage it all on your own as a small business owner! So I decided to jump into commercial photography as well, and I’ve started offering product shoots for small businesses and brands! My favorite parts of commercial photography are styling flat lay images and taking detail shots of all the amazing products I’ve been able to photograph!
I have HUGE dreams for the direction I feel this business of mine needs to go, and I’m working hard each day to keep on the path to achieving them! This is not just a hobby/side hustle to me anymore, but my big girl job! I’ve found something that I love doing, have a talent for, and am able to put those passions and talents to work serving others in so many different capacities with beautiful photos.
If you made it to the end of this post, thank you! I know it was a novel, but I hope that by reading through this epic you’ve learned more about me and why I love and have a passion for being a photographer. You are the reason why this dream of mine is coming true – I couldn’t do any of this without my incredible clients, friends, and family cheering me along the way!