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Relax, have fun, and don’t say “cheese”

By Chris Umscheid
North Liberty Leader
NORTH LIBERTY— We’ve all been there, the dreaded moment when having a picture taken and the photographer says “say cheese!” What results is often less than a natural smile, and something bordering on a tortured grimace made under duress. Jeanna Hegewald is on a one-woman crusade to make portraiture fun, relaxed and natural.
And don’t you dare say “cheese!” when she’s tripping the shutter.
On Oct. 1, Hegewald opened the doors to Portraits by Jeanna in North Liberty after three years of renting a space in Iowa City. With the new location, and her name on the deed, the photographer finally has a place all her own.
“I’m finally seeing my full vision come to fruition,” she said. Hegewald started viewing life through a camera in 4-H, where she discovered the thrill of “the ability to capture a moment in time. It was almost magic.” While a student at Clear Creek Amana high school, art teacher Mary Pat Hanson (now Hanson-Karstens) pointed the budding photographer farther down the road of discovery and development.
“She had faith in me; she gave me that freedom to discover my talent.” Hegewald said Miss Hanson taught her how to see the world, “how to look for the details you normally wouldn’t see.”
After graduation, Hegewald entered the realm of portrait photography with four and a half years with Flash Digital Portraits. “It was a good stepping stone,” she said crediting the studio with giving her a solid foundation to build on. But she said the time came where she needed to move on and do things her way. Renting a space in Iowa City was “scary and exciting all at once.” The building had previously been used as a studio, which meant opening her business required little more than bringing in her equipment.
With the lease coming due, getting
tired of paying rent, and discovering it was actually cheaper to buy, Hegewald took the plunge and purchased her new facility. With an empty shell to work with, she said she had fun designing her first office, a lobby, viewing room, and of course the actual studio space. Husband John was very supportive and helped with much of the construction work. “Happy wife, happy life,” she said with a laugh.
After nearly two months Hegewald said, “this still doesn’t feel real.”
Hegewald does a little bit of everything including family portraits, senior portraits, weddings and pet portraits. Her true love, however, is working with and photographing kids.
“With a kid, you look for a way to tell their story. I earn a variety of expressions by getting down on the floor and playing with them. Sometimes people ask me ‘how did you get him to do that?’ I didn’t. The kids are the artists,” she said.
For high school senior portraits, she tries to make things personal for the client, find out what makes them tick.
“If we use a prop, let’s use something meaningful to them,” Hegewald said.
Family portraits can be a challenge from enthusiastic participants to the reluctant soul conscripted into the appointment. To bring everybody into the act, Hegewald keeps the mood light and is loose with the poses. She said, often “mom and dad are smiling because I’m playing with the kids.”
“I try to treat everyone as if they’re my best friends.” And actually, many clients do become close friends. “When people use me once, they tend to come back for life.”
Hegewald describes her approach as very relaxed and informal. “Its fun, they look forward to it, and it should be fun. I try to make the experience as good as the pictures.” However, for all the laughs and smiles, Hegewald takes what she does very seriously. “It’s a personal experience preserving memories.”
With the proliferation of digital camera equipment, Hegewald has encountered what many other professional photographers have; “Everybody thinks they can do this.” When it comes to portraiture, she believes
you truly get what you pay for.
“It’s not just the piece of paper (photo print) you’re buying, it’s the heart, the soul, the creativity that goes into creating the image.”
Portraits by Jeanna is located at 745 Community Dr., Suite C (next door to Studio 5) in North Liberty. Phone 319-665-2320. To learn more about Hegewald and to see some of her work, go to www.portraitsbyjeanna.biz.