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The Beginning | Or “What the heck does psychology have to do with photography?!?”

When I left academic psychology and told people I was going into photography, I got a lot of slow blinks.

I had plenty of time to ponder the question “What does psychology have to do with photography?” because it was thrown at me dozens of times.  And my answer?


Photography is fundamentally about people.

You probably take a lot of photographs of people.  If not, then you’re probably selling photographs to people.  And even if you’re not selling to people, then people are looking at your images.  At some point in a photograph’s life span, it will interact with a human audience.

It follows, then, that becoming a better photographer should ideally involve understanding people better.  And that is what this blog is poised to explore.  People are both wonderfully unique and wonderfully predictable.  Emotional and irrational, they make errors in judgment that are strikingly consistent, discard the better in favor of the familiar, and behave in many other ways that frustrate photographers immensely.

How about we stop being frustrated and start learning how to handle people better?

I studied psychology at Yale, then went on to earn a master’s degree in the field.  And although my career move into photography bewildered many, what I learned in studying psychology has helped me immensely as a photographer.  Academic research has produced a lot of fruits that are directly applicable to the business and practice of photography – but as far as I can see, this area remains largely unexplored.

I hope you’ll come along with me for this ride.  We’ll look at why nearly everyone owns a camera, but people still claim they hate having their photo taken.  We’ll talk about how people decide what to buy, and why they always want 8x10s when a 30×40 is what they need.  We’ll look at what it takes to make a psych-savvy website.

This blog is not a lecture space.  My suggestion box (see the menu bar) is a virtual door – always open.  What are you struggling with?  What bugs you about dealing with people in your business?  I want to know – and we’ll explore answers together.

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  1. Kristi Kvenild on January 10, 2012 at 5:13 am

    So happy I found this blog. Now, if we could just organize a little client systematic desensitization clinical trial to rid some of the irrational fears and issues with parting with their money for true pieces of art, we may solve the world’s problems… I’m just sayin’. 🙂

    • Jenika on January 11, 2012 at 6:54 pm


      😉 Couldn’t have said it better!

  2. Dana Thompson on January 11, 2012 at 1:02 am

    Bueno!! Glad I found you – just mentioned you to the crew over at Clickin’ Moms if you aren’t already with us, then be prepared for your stat counter to skyrocket!!

    Clickin’ Moms

    • Jenika on January 11, 2012 at 6:53 pm

      Thank you Dana! I really appreciate you spreading the word, that’s just fabulous. Have a wonderful day!

  3. Petro on February 8, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Thanks Jenika! I’ve read all the posts in one day and love them!

  4. Mandy on May 25, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    oh thats what im gonna do. im planning to study psychology and then after 2 years. minor photography.!!!!!!

    • Jenika on June 3, 2012 at 4:01 am


      You might take a few biz classes too….you’ll be glad later 🙂

  5. Candace on June 3, 2012 at 3:47 am

    I am so happy I found this blog, and I absolutely love the ease and confidence that come through in your writing. I have had your site bookmarked for a while now, but just sat down to read through all of your posts yesterday – today I finished! I can’t thank you enough for the insights and inspirations; I am looking forward to following you in everything you do!!

    • Jenika on June 3, 2012 at 4:00 am

      Wow Candace, thank you for the kind words and for reading….ALL…the posts! Whew, that’s dedication! 🙂 I am glad that you found the info useful. I hope you stay in touch! 🙂

  6. Tory Ho on February 11, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    i’m 16 right now, looking for possible fields to study in university and am currently extremely interested in the arts, particularly photography. soi was just looking around for similar people who have the similar ideas in mind about psych and photography and people for a upcoming art project and i saw this blog… anyways, i have a lot of ideas going on in my head right now but would you suggest studying psych first or photography or both as majors?

    • Jenika on February 11, 2013 at 7:01 pm

      Hi Tory – sounds cool! Everyone’s path is different, especially when you have more than one interest. I suggest going to college, starting to take classes in both, and then pay CLOSE attention to what you do in your FREE time, and/or which classes you tend to go above and beyond in your assignments. Meaning, do you find yourself up all night studying psychology, or working on your portfolio? Paying attention to what you do in your spare time, what you’re willing to spend extra time on, and what you’re willing to keep doing despite obstacles, are all big indicators of your true passions. A BA in psychology is minimally useful – if you want to really do psychology as a career you’ll almost certainly need grad school. However, it teaches a certain type of thinking. I don’t know a lot about BA programs in photography, but if you do major in photography I strongly recommend taking as many business courses as humanly possible and getting business/marketing skills as an intern – business skills are more key to success than any other single thing I could name. My own father told me this, but I didn’t take business classes as an undergrad, and it would have been nice. So anyway – those are my thoughts. Good luck with your path!

  7. Tamara Chrispin on September 13, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    Hi, I am a psychology major who is about to graduate and transfer to a four-year college. I’ve been interested in psychology and was happy to pursue it, but lately my “hobby” in photography has become ore than just a hobby. I have a passion for it and love to be behind the camera. I am so glad I found this blog becomes it helps to know that I am not alone and could do both because they tie hand-to-hand. I am curious though how did you get into photography and did you take any classes for it.

    • Jenika on September 14, 2013 at 8:25 pm

      Hi Tamara,

      I was a lifelong photography hobbyist, starting as a child. I started photo blogging regularly about 5 years before I started doing photography professionally – just practicing on my own. I never took an in-person university course, but I studied online courses (some paid, some free), and checked out just about every photography book at the library. I spent an enormous amount of time studying on my own. I had a mentor who gave me occasional feedback, which usually caused me to scurry off and rethink things. I also studied business extensively, alongside my seven years of studying psychology. Like anything – lots of practice, feedback from experts, and studying on your own or with a group (depending how you learn) yields progress. Best of luck to you!!

  8. Jamie Gallagher on May 26, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    I have to do my sophomore gate way and I wanted to do psychology and photography. This was so helpful thank your so much!

  9. Lauren on July 22, 2016 at 10:36 am

    Hi I’m so glad I’ve found this! It has definetly reassured me! Im in my second year studying psychology but I’ve found out from uni that I do want to have a career in photography. I’m constantly torn between changing my course but it’s good to know that I can do both. How did you get into photography after your degree?.

  10. eltet on December 15, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    Wow, this is amazing, i’m not alone. Been thinking about how I could collide psychology ang photography. I don’t wanna waste my degree though I can’t resist my passion too which is photography. So i’ve been thinking about how to justify this. Glad to read your this. Lets explore 🙂

  11. Lisa on October 31, 2017 at 4:50 am

    I am so excited to get started with the help of this site. Thank you for sharing!

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