All images by Jake Zaepfel. Used with permission. See his work on Instagram, Facebook, and his Website.
“They look like Sexy Kenny Powers,” I said to photographer Jake Zaepfel in a Facebook conversation. He laughed. In fact, Jake credits the entire thing to his client, Dane. The amazing photos wouldn’t have been possible without Dane’s confidence and personality. It all happened after an offer Jake put out. Essentially, he let seniors have free photography sessions amid the Coronavirus pandemic. He then blew up on the local news, and in a few weeks he had 75 senior portrait sessions. And even after I sent Jake the interview questions, he was shooting and editing a wedding. Jake is an understandably busy guy with this much talent. But he walked us through this shoot and his creative vision.
Photographer Jake Zaepfel’s Essential Photography Gear
- A leather two camera strap harness
- 2 Sony a7 III cameras
- Tamron 70-180mm f2.8
- Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art
- Godox AD600 and Godox XPro S
Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.
Jake Zaepfel: Kind of by accident! I owned another company, and people keep asking who took all of our shots for social media. It was just me with a horrible Galaxy S7 camera. Once I sold that business, I bought a camera and did (still do) a ton of research on Youtube learning how to use it.
Phoblographer: How’d you get into senior portraiture?
Jake Zaepfel: I had done several senior sessions up until the Pandemic started, then with everyone losing their norm and seniors not getting proms or to graduate, I offered a round of free senior sessions to those affected by the pandemic. IT BLEW UP, I took over 75 senior mini sessions in just a few weeks. There was an article and new coverage on a couple of local news stations. Since then, I kind of fell into that niche.
Phoblographer: So, this idea. We’ve got so many questions. We love it. But we guess it was the senior’s idea? How much input did his parents have?
Jake Zaepfel: This is one thing I can’t take credit for. I showed up and started to do a normal lighting test with the model. I told him we can just be ourselves and not be all nervous. He made a goofy look at me and I was like “Dude, go with that!” and we just kept getting sillier and sillier. There was nothing I told him to do that he wasn’t completely game for. Lol.
Phoblographer: I take it this is far different front current trends with senior portraits. So what type of requests are you usually getting?
Jake Zaepfel: I typically get requests for senior sessions either in downtown or a more woodsy setting. I consult with my clients to see if there’s anything they’d like to incorporate to make the session unique to them. Most times its basketball, football, swimming, and so on. When they put the creativity in my hands we get to do a lot more original stuff and they’ve all turned out pretty awesome!
Phoblographer: What’s it like giving portrait directions for you amidst the pandemic? I personally use gestures and stuff.
Jake Zaepfel: It was odd at first, but that’s what the 70-180mm is for. I don’t have to get too close, and being very verbal and goofy with my clients tends to bring out the genuine and unposed looks we are looking for.
Phoblographer: How’d you even go about finding the locations for stuff like this?
Jake Zaepfel: This happened to be at their house which had quite a bit of land, barns, tire swings, and other stuff for us to use as an aesthetic environment. Typically, I will go scout locations a couple of weeks in advance. Google is my best friend. Lol.
Phoblographer: Was there a mood board? What did it look like? To me, it says, “Sexy Kenny Powers” from Eastbound and down.
Jake Zaepfel: No mood board because the shoot kind of morphed into this on site, but I see more of an “Achy Breaky Heart meets Squirrelly Dan from Letterkenny.”
Phoblographer: How often do you have fun shoots like this that slap the norms in the face?
Jake Zaepfel: I’ve had a couple. There was also a late 80’s early 90’s shoot that I did with some other clients that turned into a blast. Both shoots we were all laughing so much I had a bunch of out of focus pictures to cull through. Haha
Phoblographer: Do you feel like you and the senior are trying to say something about gender and posing at all?
Jake Zaepfel: Not at all. Guys have a stigma of being stern and tough–especially country boys like Dane. That is why the direction I gave him for poses were the exact opposite of what I would typically give a guy like himself. BE GOOFY, COMMIT, and JUST HAVE FUN. Whatever you imagined this shoot being, let’s do the exact opposite, and it came out as pure gold. It wouldn’t have been possible without Dane’s confidence and personality.