Behind the Lens with Jeren Kent

When I decided to focus our first magazine’s cover story on QZ Gallery in Missouri, I had to find a photographer who was based in the area to shoot the pictures for it. I simply searched through hashtags on Instagram, doing some digging for photographers near Kansas City. This is how I came across, and eventually hired, Jeren Kent – emphasizing the importance of having a social media presence these days. I reached out through Instagram and he said he was down to work with us. Now, three months later, the magazine is printed and out in the world with his photography right on the front cover.

Kent works began shooting analog photography, but has been shooting digitally as well. He chooses which medium is best depending on what style he’s going for on a particular shoot. He’s been so busy with freelance work that he hasn’t had as much time to work on personal projects, which he says isn’t ideal. Jeren still loves what he does, though, and wants to continue working with photography for now. Read more about the man behind the camera below.

I know you shoot with different types of cameras – is there one that you prefer to use or that you find yourself drawn to more often?

I really enjoy shooting film. Shooting analog was my introduction to photography, so I think I’ll always have a bias toward it. My Hasselblad 500c is my favorite film camera I own, but it’s much more expensive to use. Shooting digital is a lot more convenient, but isn’t always the best choice depending on the situation. Shooting on film feels much more organic, and I think that’s why I’m drawn to Hasselblad so much.

How do you creatively prepare for a new shoot? What does coming up with new ideas entail?

I think I draw a lot of inspiration from vintage movies. I mostly try to mimic color palettes that I see throughout films, or I’ll sit down and think about how I can tell a story throughout my image. I used to focus a lot on just taking aesthetic portraits (just making them look good), but as I’ve progressed as an artist I’ve really tried to making the image feel like it’s a telling a story. It all starts out from a feeling, and from there I work on how I can convey it. Sometimes it hits during a movie , or during a walk – then I’ll head home and write it out. From there I try to find someone that fits the image, and we go from there.

I like that a lot and I feel like you capture that feeling very well. Some shots look like they’re screenshots pulled out of a film. Have you ever worked in filmmaking or tried it out?

I’ve always wanted to. I even got around to buying a gimbal, and I’ve shot a few music videos here and there – but I’ve never done a full-on short film. I’d love to work on something like that, but it takes a lot of time and dedication.

How much of your photography work is commissioned rather than personal projects you work on? Has your photography work reached the point where it’s bringing in steady income?

I’ve actually been really busy with freelance work. Senior portraits make up most of my income, and I work part time at a restaurant. I’ve gotten to the point where I only really need to work twice a week to pay my bills and it feels really great. When I first started, I was really scared because I didn’t;t think anyone would respect me or my work enough to give it value. My clients were awesome, and I love what I do – though I do miss doing personal projects. Half of the fun of starting out is doing what you want rather than trying to get a paycheck. I miss that.

Do you just not have time to work on personal projects?

I think that I’ve had to sacrifice a lot of creative endeavors to make this a full-time thing. For right now, my personal projects don’t make me money, so I have to focus on freelance work. I still love doing photography regardless, but eventually I’d love to work with brands/companies to create something more than just senior portraits.

And at what point did you realize that photography could be a legitimate source of income for yourself? How far into your career was it?

At first, it was never about getting money. It was all about creating something that I thought looked good. People started to ask me if I did shoots, and I didn’t really know what to tell them. I’ve only been shooting portraits fora little under two years. I started actually charging a living rate last summer, but up until that point I was only charging about $25 to $50 for 20+ images. Even up until last year I never wanted to do this full time. I only started charging because I didn’t;t really want to get a part-time job during college, but as time passed, I started to get busier and busier. Truthfully, I don’t really know if I’ll end up doing this forever. I was a full-time student, working towards my Bachelor’s in Fine Arts. Eventually, I wanted to get my Masters, and teach college kids photography. Now, I’m kind of conflicted on whether to pursue college full-time and pause my photography business, or focus solely on creating and just hope it works out. Either way, I’ll do something I love.

Follow Jeren on Instagram and Twitter. Purchase 500 Magazine here.

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