Jane Eaton Hamilton is the owner of Jane Photo. A master gardener, Jane began shooting fine art florals for collectors around the Lower Mainland, then spent several years honing her talents shooting weddings before switching, three years ago, to family photography with a special focus on newborns. Jane is also the award-winning author of six books, mostly fiction and poetry, including the popular titles July Nights, Body Rain, and Hunger. She has been published in such places as the New York Times and Seventeen magazine, and has won a plethora of awards, both for writing and for photography, including the CBC Literary Prize. At the beginning of her career, Jane worked as a therapist to autistic children, and she has retained her love for working with challenged children and special families. For pleasure, she draws and is passionate about dance. She is married and has two grown daughters.
1. Why did you get into photography?
After 25 years as a Canlit author, I made a significant and very delicious career change. I was an avid amateur photographer until, as an equally avid gardener, I started getting down and dirty with a camera and lens in the garden—capturing the close-up macros I became well-known for. I even hung one at Kew Gardens outside London, UK! After a few years of focusing on fine art photography, and falling more and more in love with the camera as a creative medium, I officially opened Jane Photo in 2003 and began to work with weddings and families. I’ve taken a ton of courses, many with famous photographers in places like Mexico and South Africa. I take several courses per year just to keep my mind and talents fresh and cutting-edge.
2. Tell us a bit about your company.
Jane Photo is a small, very creative studio in east Vancouver. I shoot mostly maternities and newborns in creative and tantalizing ways, but I also love to get out of the studio to do lifestyle, urban and environmental work for families either in alleys, parks, beaches or homes. One of my favourite of all sessions is what I call A Day in the Life, where I spend time photographing families as they go about the ordinary events of their days…cookie baking, baths and bedtime stories. Those ordinary moments, I’ve come to believe, can seem so tedious while going through them, but—oddly—these small moments are the ones most sorely missed in retrospect.
Ever since I had kids I’ve been captivated by pregnancy and birth. I love kids, always have; I especially love newborns. I try to find new innovative ways to bring out their new little identities. I don’t know where this came from, but I seem to be able to introduce instant narcolepsy in newborns (I bore them to sleep?) which leads parents to call me the baby whisperer and to joke that they’ll be phoning me to come over at 3 am.
I love doing what I do. I like clean, simple, always-tasteful design with lots of colour…or lots of classic black and white. It’s really my challenge to both have a beautiful frame (the design, the composition) plus capture my subject’s essence. It makes it never boring.
I’m always excited about planning their session and seeing my results, and often even I gasp at what I’ve been able to capture with my camera.
3. How would you characterize your style of photography?
Fresh, fun, fabulous!
I think I have an inner drag queen, because I’ve always loved design and colour and costumes and amazing sets. I’m to do something a little bit different than the run of the mill (maybe I should call my take ‘fun of the mill?’). If shoots weren’t always fresh and exciting to me, I would be bored, so families can count on me not beiing able to tolerate that.
I work very hard and spend quite a bit to get awesome and unique props and looks. Whether that’s a baby scale for a newborn, plexi mirror for a seven-month old, pettiskirts and tutus for girls, or cool brown wings for a four-year-old boy, I always seek out the best and prettiest available. I try to update my blog with a new session at least once a week, and always run monthly specials.
There’s also a money back guarantee for session fees at Jane Photo. If a client were to be unhappy with their images (it hasn’t happened yet!) I would purge and shoot anew.
I’m very reliable, fair, and I provide timely, excellent service. I want my clients to feel part of the process, to feel like I’m listening to their wants and needs, all the way from our first contact to the end of our experience together. I work at making my photography convenient for the client by being flexible, open-hearted, and motivated. I really care about providing a product they’ll be completely satisfied with. I want them to absolutely love their pictures and have an enriching experience with me.
I work hard at sourcing the best quality printers, canvas company, books and albums, so my finished product is always one I would be thrilled to have myself. I offer a wide range of products to allow for clients’ differing styles, tastes and décor, and clients can actually put their hands and eyes on my products in the studio to see for themselves.
I spend a lot of time in post-production attending to detail. I feel quality in all aspects of my business is important, from capture to editing to colour-correction to providing the most beautiful products available on several continents.
I miss the kids when they go home. I always hope to maintain a link with them, so that I know how they are growing and getting on. The best thrill is when they come back again, and I can again capture them with the camera.
I am now offering some really cool new sessions…vintage maternity Hollywood and pin-up sessions, along with boudoir (just for you, or as a gift for the sweetheart in your life).
Oh, and I also make sure to have my own photos made at least once a year. I absolutely hate being in front of the camera, and this is a good reminder about how hard it is to pose! It’s very humbling (and keeps me empathetic).
4. Who are your clients?
My clientele is really diverse, like the city itself. I have a good mix of young and older moms, straight and same-sex couples, and parents from all walks of life, from SAHMs to really successful artists, entrepreneurs, doctors, scientists and business people. I often photograph twins. I treasure working with a wide variety of people—and no one would be turned away here because they are “different.” My own family is racially diverse, so racial diversity is of paramount importance to me, and I really love getting to know a little bit about cultures different from my own.
The commonality, if I had to say, is that my clients are absolutely gob-smacked by their kids. That’s what touches my heart the most–these are families who absolutely adore their children. I am always after capturing that really magical connection between a dad and his daughter, or between a sister and a brother, or between a gramma and her new grandbaby. It is love without conditions, pure and true. Life takes us in such unexpected directions, and I always keep in mind that some of the families I see will, statistically speaking, end up losing each other to divorce or death. So I always imagine that the kids, when they’re older, will find themselves looking back at a photo I took of them with their mom and dad, and there it will be, that love, shining so transparently that no one could ever doubt its strength and truth. They will use these photos we make today to see tomorrow how adored they were and what a good start they were given.
The families I work with invest in photos of their kids over, say, a new TV—I love their priorities.
Oh, also, I get the coolest bunch of parents through my studio. I mean it when I say this: my clients are just awesome. How cool is that to have a Mountie and his new son posing in the studio? How cool is it to get to make photographs with a prima ballerina? Or a taiko group? Or someone who runs a Fortune 500 company? Or a grade school teacher? Or a nurse with Medicine sans Frontiere? Or a SAHM of five? Or a couple of doctors?
They are interesting people leading such interesting lives, and it’s an honour to know them.
I should also mention my other, special clients: I have volunteered for several years for the non-profit organization Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. NILMDTS offers families suffering an early infant loss complimentary bereavement photography. More information about them can be found at www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org. This volunteer work came full circle this year when I was privileged to photograph the healthy newborn of a family for whom I had also photographed a loss last year. What an incredible honour and so touching you wouldn’t believe it.
5. What should your mom clients expect when working with you?
I think most of all that they will be respected as mothers and cherished as clients. At Jane Photo it’s specialized, individual, patient and interested attention from start to finish. I will help to guide you through prepping your session with a planning session, where you come by the studio, preferably with the kiddos, and talk about your vision for your session/s.
I offer tons ‘o help with prepping clothing, and lots ‘o tips for a successful session. I have a welcome package that helps clients start looking at their walls for how to make successful wall groupings. I have an online client service site that walks folks through every part of their photographic experience. I have the coolest software. My clients can even take photos of their walls, email them to me, and then, during their order session, see their actual images on their actual walls!
I also have a pretty neat new referral system, and I’m just waiting for it to go viral on Craigslist, lol. Families can get up to $800 to apply towards their next session—as session fees and any product going—just by sending along their friends. Their friends get nice little bonuses too.