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Student Spotlight: Meet Vonda Jae Perkins


Vonda is a phenomenal photographer who has been though three of my past e-courses, Shoot It Sensational, Perfect Portrait and Photoshop 101. Her drive for wanting to succeed and progress is inspiring Just take a look at some of her work below! Here style and variety is amazing! Plus, she really connects with what a lot of you might be feeling right now when it comes to being a photographer and growing your skills. Come read the advice she has for you and check out here fantastic photos!

Describe your photography journey.

I’ve been taking pictures for decades. It’s only been in the last year that I’ve really begun to pursuing it as a source of income. I finally accepted that it is my passion and started taking online courses both on photography and post-editing. Six months ago I had no idea what a layer or a mask was in Photoshop. Six months ago I was still shooting in Auto Mode. I’m thrilled with the progress I’m making and only regret that I didn’t start pushing myself sooner!

What (or who) was your inspiration for wanting to get into photography?

As a kid I fell in love with the works of Ansel Adams. His mastery of light and shadow pulled me into another world. Since then, I’ve come to know and admire many different photographers from a multitude of different genres. But I’d have to say Ansel Adams was the one who first ever influenced me to pick up a camera.

What type of photography do you enjoy the most and why?

For many years I primarily focused on landscape and cityscape photography. Partly because I travel so much and LOVE documenting the places that I’m so blessed to visit and live in (So far I’ve lived in 9 countries on 3 continents). The other part was a fear of trying portraiture. I’ll be honest, it scared me to death! I still love landscapes and cityscapes, but for the last few months I’ve really been focusing on portraits…primarily family and lifestyle portraits in natural light. I LOVE natural light and capturing those genuine, real life moments rather than sitting in a studio and posing people.

Where do you see yourself as a photographer in the next 5 years?

In the next 5 years I plan on continuing to build my client base, expand my skills into newborn photography and focus on family and lifestyle portraits. My goal is to be able to do photography full time/as my only source of income. This is what brings me joy. This is what gets me excited about life. This is what I want to do.

What do you think your biggest struggles are as a photographer and what do you do to overcome them?

My biggest struggle is that I still have a LOT of self-doubt. I still feel like a fraud sometimes when I say that I’m a photographer. I fall into that abyss of social media and comparing myself to everyone else out there. I don’t have a hundred thousand followers. I’m not good enough. etc. etc. I overcome them by looking at how far I’ve come in just six months time and reminding myself that everyone stinks when they first start. The greats are the ones who kept going so I’m going to follow their lead and keep going too.

What is one piece of advice you would give to a brand new photographer?

Ask questions and find someone to mentor you. It can be scary and embarrassing to ask what the exposure triangle is (or in my case what a layer in Photoshop is!). But, then again, who cares if you don’t know right now? That’s why you ask! So you can learn, progress and grow.

Tell us a little bit about the gear you use.

I have two canon rebel bodies (both are about 10 years old) and they’re crop sensors. For lenses I have: 50mm f1.8, 135mm f2.0, and 18-200mm f2.0.

Tell us some ways or places where you continue to learn more about photography (or editing)?

Getting out there and taking pictures is a great teacher. You’ll learn from your mistakes. When you set your aperture too low and the image is soft, or you set your ISO too high and you’ve blown out your image you’ll remember next time. I’ve taken several of Emily Supiot’s courses and I highly recommend them. I’ve sought out local photographer’s in my area asking to let me tag along and watch them work. I’ve done a LOT of courses on for editing…Chris Orwig (a phenomenal portrait photographer) has quite a few classes that are incredibly in depth on Photoshop and Lightroom.

Do you have any funny or embarrassing moments to share about a time when you were out shooting?

I’m kind of clumsy. I always have been. So far I’ve had 12 broken bones! Just this evening I was out with a friend for some portraits in a park here in Rome. I was using my 135mm lens so I had to give myself plenty of space between him and me. I was backing up a little and stepped into a small divot in the ground and tumbled backwards. Ernesto, being the gentleman that he is, comes running to help me (laughing at the same time) and tells me that his portrait isn’t worth killing myself over. We had a good laugh over it and I got some great natural/real smiles from him for the rest of our session.

Describe how you find inspiration in your work.

I follow a lot of photographers on Instagram and Facebook. I love seeing how other people see the world because it helps me notice things I would have overlooked otherwise. The trick is to appreciate their work and talent without falling into that comparison blackhole. And to realize that nobody shoots what’s on their feed 100% of the time. I read a quote recently (I can’t remember who said it, sorry!) but it basically said that they had taken something like 50,000 images and out of that they had maybe 500 that they liked. 500 out of 50,000! When we’re scrolling through Instagram we’re only seeing the best of the best. Nobody posts their rejects.

What tips do you have that would help others that are looking to advance their portrait photography skills?

Take portraits! You’re never going to improve unless you start doing it. Put out a model call to friends, family and co-workers. Explain to them that you’re trying to learn and build your portfolio and that in exchange for them letting you practice on them you’ll give them 5 or 10 edited images for free. Then go out and do it. Face down your anxiety of not being able to get perfect images right out of the gate.

How would you describe your style?

I would say my style (still developing) is one that goes for natural light and rich, deep colors. I love those images that have such richness it almost looks like a fairytale. For a while I tried to go for the light and airy look because it seemed to me that this is the style that’s most popular right now. But then I realized that if I were to get my own portrait done I would not go to someone with that style. I don’t like overexposed skies or images so light that my eyes have trouble landing on the subject. So I’ve found that I enjoy creating those images with greater depth and larger spectrum of light and shadow.

Where can we find you? Do you have a website or social media channel where people can follow you?

Go follow and see Vonda’s work! Let’s help support each other!

I’m on Instagram at @photosbyjae2019
My website (still a work in progress) is
I’m just now starting to utilize Pinterest because of Emily’s blog and you can find me there!

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  • terri tiffanyApril 19, 2019 - 1:03 pm

    I can relate to so much of what Vonda shared! Thanks for a great interview. ReplyCancel

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