We recently connected with Jessika Christine Blackstock and have shared our conversation below.
Jessika Christine, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. The first dollar your business earns is always special and we’d love to hear how your brand made its first dollar of revenue.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget my first client as Jessika Christine Photography! I had started a Facebook page and I think that is how he found me. It was for a surprise proposal in Missouri, literally down the street from my house! He wanted me to be there , but keep my camera kind of hidden, while he played music in the tall grass. They were having a family dinner/BBQ and he led her out to the field and asked her to marry him. It was fun to be part of such a special moment. I had started taking photos of friends/neighbors around the military base I was located at and posting them on my Facebook page. I think word of mouth might have helped too.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
Hey I’m Jess! I’m a wedding and elopement photographer based in San Diego, but I’m always packing my bags for an adventure! I grew up camping and hiking, so the outdoors are a big part of who I am(thanks mom!) When I was a kid I wanted to be a park ranger. What job is better than working outdoors in a beautiful national park?! (The only one that’s better is my current job lol) Most days you can find me cuddling my favorite person and 2 dogs, watching Fraiser, Law & Order or 80’s Slashers films. I might be a tad obsessed with tattoos(I have 13 as of right now.) During long road trips I listen to a lot of crime podcasts and classic rock.
I’ve been doing photography since high school, but I was only interested in fashion for the first 8 years. Once I moved to the middle of nowhere Missouri I had to think about if I wanted to continue doing photography and how I could do that. I started working with another local photographer doing senior and family sessions. It was very difficult to not have a relationship with the people I was shooting, so I decided to try it on my own! At first I told myself I wouldn’t do weddings, but then a friend asked me to do hers and I said yes. That’s when it really started! Fast forward to now and I’m on my 4th year of weddings and elopements. Along the way I was able to brand myself as an outdoor loving, traveling photographer. Now I get to combine my two favorite things with my business. I travel all the time, so I have a good amount of knowledge on locations and vendors for my clients. I’m not a planner, but I do help my clients figure out locations/vendors/timeline and decide how they want to spend their elopement/wedding day!
What do you think helped you build your reputation within your market?
I knew I wanted to photograph couples all over the world and to do that you have to show them you can/want to travel. I started booking trips to places I wanted to photograph weddings/elopements. One year I traveled to New Orleans, Oregon, Seattle, Alaska, Utah, Montana and Colorado to set up photo shoots and learn the area. I ended up booking several Utah elopements the next year! They see me travel constantly and I get to share how beautiful these locations are, which shows clients what is out there.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
I’ve had to pivot a couple of times in my business, as most business owners do in the beginning. When I first started I was doing barn weddings in Missouri and now I get to do elopements in Glacier National Park! The biggest pivot I had to make was moving my business across the country. I’m located in San Diego now and that was a stressful move. I had to plan and market to SD at least 7 months before moving. I had to stop taking Missouri clients(unless they wanted to have me travel back to them) and try to book in San Diego the following year. All of this was happening in 2020, so as you can imagine it was even more difficult . No one was having a wedding, they were all getting postponed due to covid. Travel was risky, so elopements weren’t happening as much either. I started doing backyard weddings in Missouri, because the restrictions weren’t as strict out there. When I moved to San Diego, it was an entirely different mindset on the pandemic, so no backyard weddings either. I did really struggle that first year and even thought about trying to get a part time job, but luckily I was able to stick it out. Now I’m doing well in San Diego and hope I don’t have to pivot again anytime soon haha