We had the good fortune of connecting with Jess Summers and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jess, what is the most important factor behind your success?
When I was growing up, I was always told I needed to grow up. That people of whatever age I was didn’t use their imagination the way I did. At the time, I thought I was wrong and weird and didn’t understand why I couldn’t just do that. It was frustrating and as a teen when everyone wanted to be “grown”, I tried to follow suit.
Fast forward to now and the fact that I still dream and imagine like a kid has been a huge reason for my success. Being able to pull ideas out of the sky or looking at an object and having an idea pop into my head is invaluable.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m a composite photographer and I run a company called Say Yes To Jess. Composite photography means that I take photos of tons of different things and people and combine them together in Photoshop to create one badass portrait, made with the images I’ve taken. Each portrait I make is designed off of a concept that is thought up between myself and my clients designed to tell you a story.
Sometimes it will be a family portrait where I have shrunk the whole family down and placed them on the back of their family pet and made it look like they are going on some sort of epic adventure. It could be a portrait built to showcase the imagination of a child. Perhaps a portrait showcasing a new mothers journey into motherhood. No matter the reason for making it, there is always a story behind it with lots of little story telling details hidden inside it.
I got where I am today by starting out in wedding photography and realizing how much I strongly disliked doing it. It was always the same things over and over again and I didn’t feel I had a lot of room for creativity in what I was photographing. Well, the type of creativity I wanted anyway. One day after asking a bride if I could have them all run towards me and act like dinosaurs chasing them, I decided I needed to put my focus to something that I truly loved doing, compositing.
When I first started compositing I was really bad at it. I had no idea how to do anything, Photoshop was hella confusing and I would get frustrated when I would do a tutorial and my final copy didn’t look like theirs. With a lot of practice though and a whole lot of passion, I kept going and growing to where I am as an editor and photographer today.
There were and still are a lot of challenges though when it comes to what I do. A huge one is that when you think of photography, you don’t jump to “Yes, I want a photo of my family on a dinosaur”. You usually go with a nice setting in a park. A composite portrait or as I call it a Dream Portrait, isn’t something that is on your mind. It’s been an interesting challenge to overcome. I’ve found I just have to meet people with what they know and then show that this is also an option- a really cool option.
I think throughout my journey so far, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that whatever you’re trying to do there is a way. Even if you have to pave your own road for it. Keep going even when things are hard. Stick to your values, passions and things that make you who you are. You can do this.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The Cincinnati area is such a fun place to live and visit. I personally live downtown and love all of the things we have when it comes to nightlife, food and shopping. We would have to start one of our days in Mainstrasse to check out the cute shops. Maybe go to the Museum Center that used to be a quite grand train station and a trip to Krohn Conservatory during the butterfly show. I’m a huge pizza fan so we would have to grab a pie at Adriatico’s or Tagglio too.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are quite a few people that I can thank for where I am today. A big part of that was a small group of online small business pals that really helped me get started. We bounced ideas off each other, watched each other grow, quit our jobs, turned into full-time entrepreneurs, and even started families. They are and always will be a huge part of my life.
I’d also like to give a big shoutout to my friend Angela, she has been alongside me on journey since college and is also trying to build her own business. We have seen several ups and downs together and I’m so thankful to have her in my life.