We were blown away by the thousands of amazing photos in the 2013 Photo Contest. As we put this magazine together we have spent hours looking at the winning photos, and it has been inspiring. But, the Stylized Portrait category grabbed our attention with the rare occurrence of a photographer being awarded 1st and 2nd place in the same category. We were surprised again to find this photographer is 16 years old, and we were downright amazed to discover the winning photo is a self portrait!

We were able to sit down with Janelle Putrich to ask a few questions and hear her story of becoming a professional photographer at 15, what it's like being a new photographer in the industry today, and where her passions are taking her.

See Janelle's winning photos
in the Stylized Portrait category.


Can you share a little about your story and how you got started as a photographer?

As a kid, looking through old photos was one of my favorite activities, and my passion for photography started 5 years ago. After a few years of sporting a point and shoot, I saved up to buy a DSLR. From that point on I drew my inspiration from God’s creation and showing people the way I see the world. I realize He has given me a gift and a passion, and I want to fully pursue photography and take every opportunity to do what I love.

So far, I've been completely self taught just by practicing and learning as I go, and thanks to being homeschooled, and having incredibly supportive parents, I’ve been able to juggle high school studies and running a business. It definitely comes with challenges, but one that has made my photography business even more rewarding.

What's it like to be a new young photographer entering the industry right now?

I live in Cleveland, Ohio and as a 16 year old it's been hard to get to know many professional photographers. But being in an industry with so many talented artists I look up to, I've been on a journey to grow artistically and personally to define what makes my photos unique.

When I started to shoot more clients I quickly discovered how important it was to understand how they felt in front of the camera. This inspired me to take on a personal self-portrait project with the goal to be in front of the camera often and challenge myself to be comfortable. It has helped me grow both artistically and technically (not having a subject when setting up a shoot has it's challenges), and it has given me a unique perspective I think to connect with clients in a very personal way.

Why did you choose to be a Shoot & Share photographer and how has that helped you in your business growth?

It's really amazing what technology allows photographers to have at their fingertips. I feel like being a Shoot & Share photographer allows me to take advantage of the innovation of where photography is, and is going. It gives me the freedom to serve my clients by using technology to make photo sharing, printing, and downloading so convenient. Giving my clients the digital photos cuts costs for them and saves me a lot of headaches and time spent on a printing system. Being a Shoot & Share photographer offers me a way to maximize client happiness while cutting time that would keep me away from doing what I really love - taking and producing photos.

One more question. What are some of your short and long term goals for photography and for you personally?

From here, my first goal is to graduate from high school! :-) But my dream is to combine a passion for missions with my love of photography. I feel the Lord will open doors to use both gifts, as I have a burning desire to be a photojournalistic missionary. My goal would be to communicate the needs of people around the world through photos, without the need for words. My grandma says, “If people knew better they would do better.”, and my hope is I can use photography to bring awareness so that people will do more. History has shown us a single photo can have the power to move a whole nation, and my desire is to use my photos to bring awareness to the needs of those living in extreme poverty around the world.