The South 40 Creative Spotlight showcases creative talent we love to work with! Discover some of our favorite photographers, videographers and more!

This month’s Creative Spotlight features Franklin area lifestyle photographer Jenny Parker. Growing up in Indiana, Jenny studied psychology and sociology at Purdue, helping her to foster a deep interest in emotions and the human experience—a perfect skill for capturing beauty in everyday life! After working in the corporate world, the experience of helping her parents as her father suffered from Parkinson’s ingrained in her the importance of capturing life and memories for the future. This served as both therapy for her and a platform for her growth in taking photos. Today she specializes in both documentary and lifestyle photography, providing her clients with beautiful memories of special moments and everyday life.

Tell me about your journey to becoming a photographer, especially the transformation to lifestyle and documentary work.

My journey began with the birth of my first child. I knew that time would fly by, I would be tired,  and even forget little details of the tiny human I loved so much! I bought a fancy camera and threw myself into learning everything I could about photography—reading, taking online courses, and making relationships with other growing photographers. 

In the beginning, my goal was “perfect” portraits, but as I grew as a photographer, I really loved real life moments. Documenting our lives during my father’s illness for both my son and my father was so therapeutic—it was breathtaking to see the honest truth before me in an image. I believe there is beauty in all situations if you really open your eyes and look.


Why do passive photos work so well, especially with children & families?

I think that parenthood is pretty a universal experience–children do a lot of the same things no matter where they grow up, so you can relate to what’s happening in the image even if it’s not your own kid. The faces they make when they eat something that they don’t like, or unrolling the toilet paper roll while you’re not in the bathroom. All kids unroll the toilet paper–it’s truly part of childhood! I like to let moments unfold naturally because there is such beauty in our everyday lives…we are often too busy to see it. Photography can help us see that beauty.


How do you distinguish lifestyle from documentary to clients?

Most of my sessions are truly a mix of both, so even if my session is a “lifestyle” session, I am still capturing the real in-between moments too. With lifestyle photography, I do some light posing and direction to help bring out the connection in the family. True documentary sessions are quite different. I simply stand back and watch the moments unfold in front of me without assisting or interfering.


How do you get a feel for documentary shoot – how do you connect with a customer & their needs?

Every family has a story to tell, even if they don’t realize it at first. I talk with my clients before our session to get an idea of what moments they want to collect. This usually starts with, “What do you want to remember?” We choose a few activities that they can do together so if something is not working, we have options. Even putting a puzzle together, reading books, making cookies, playing in the backyard, or taking a walk around the neighborhood. It’s all beautiful.


You have captured water in so many of your photos? What do you like about photographing it–other than the fact that children love it?

Water is definitely a favorite of mine and when photographed well, it can be beautiful! It is also such a calming force, helping kids (and parents!) relax while in front of a camera. When they are focused on the joy in front of them, they are no longer worrying about what they look like or if their children are behaving.


Fine Art School portraits: What a glorious idea! Where did you come up with it?

Fine Art school portraits have my heart! My goal is to capture real expressions, not the typical forced smiles you often get. Since I photograph the kids on a black background, they are simple–yet classic—and worthy of displaying like works of art. I typically photograph preschools and homeschool groups, but I also offer little pop-up sessions throughout the year too. I can do those fun school portraits with the wonky background and year stamped on it, and I offer a mini session for an entirely different look. They are quick and easy, and the kids are always so much fun!


What is the draw of South 40? Tell me about your first experience there.

I loved South 40 from my first tour with Ann! She is so kind and ready to help. The property is huge, so there’s limitless possibilities for play and moment making. I could take 10 different families there, and each session would be unique. An added bonus is the ease of accessing and utilizing the facility—no worries about parking, it being too crowded, or if the scenery will be beautiful because it is perfect every time!

What camera did you use in your last photo shoot at South 40–camera, lens type, lighting, any other specific items which made the shoot more successful?

I currently use my Canon 6D, and my favorite lenses to use during sessions are my 35mm, 50mm and 85mm. Outdoors, I’m all about using the available natural light and don’t bring lighting with me. I rarely use props other than a stool or bubbles, but I do love to freelens with my 50mm. It allows me to get a little more creative and add a dreamy effect to some of my images. 

With a huge growth in the industry, what tips and tricks can you give aspiring creative professionals to help them stand out in the field?

Photograph what you love the way you love it, even when it’s not perfect. If it speaks to you, it will speak to someone else too. And practice, practice, practice. Give yourself grace, never stop learning, and look for the light first!!

Connect with Jenny: