work-life balance for photographers

Take Five with Jen Marvel, Food Photographer at Marvelous Foodies

Welcome to the Take Five interview series! My corner of the internet where I explore how career women are balancing their work, health, and life. Today we take five with Jen Marvel, Food Photographer, and Content Creator at Marvelous Foodies. She shares everything from how she landed in photography to the recent vacation spots she visited to recharge.

What led you to become a photographer?

I’ve always been a creative person and knew I would have a career in the arts. At different points of my life I studied dance, acting, creative writing, art, and even sang in a band. In 2012, I decided to quit my corporate job back home and move out to Jersey City to pursue my passion at the time; playwriting. I had already started producing my plays in Manhattan and felt it was time to make the leap.

Before I made the move, I took a month off to travel by myself. I ended up buying a DSLR camera for the trip and it became my best friend on the road. I taught myself everything about the camera and fell in love with photography. It reminded me a lot of playwriting; connecting with people, telling a story, capturing a moment in time.

At that time, Instagram started to become popular and I shared many of my photos from my trip. People seemed to take interest and would ask me to photograph little things here and there. As I did it more and more, I eventually thought, I could turn this into a real business! So that’s exactly what I did!

What do you love most about your job?

I love experimenting with new recipes, having freedom in my job, and taking something from concept to a completed piece of work.

Jen Marvel food styling and photographing cookies

What are some of the challenges for someone in your industry? How do you manage them?

I think one challenge for me is having to wear so many hats. As a creative, you want to be creating as much as you can; but you also need to be a businesswoman, a salesperson, a problem-solver, an accountant, a bookkeeper, an editor, a copywriter, a social media manager, a website designer…the list goes on. Focus and becoming extremely organized have helped me in a million ways. Also, hiring help when I need it is life-changing!

How did you get your first career break?

When I decided photography was what I wanted to pursue, I began looking for work and opportunities, nonstop. I ended up doing a test shoot for Seamless, an online food delivery service. I had never shot food before but was interested and up for the challenge! They ended up liking my work and hired me as a freelancer. I was sent to 15-20 restaurants a week to photograph their food and establishments and it was the most amazing experience.

Not only did I get to meet amazing people and chefs from around the world, but I got to try the most delicious food! After some time getting to know many of these restaurant owners and their specific needs, I had a desire to work more one-on-one with them.

That’s when Marvelous Foodies was born! We use beautiful professional photography to create brand-specific content that makes our clients stand out amongst the rest.

Do you have advice for anyone trying to break into your industry?

Practice, practice, practice. Bring your camera with you everywhere and photograph something new every day. There are so many tools online now on photo technique and business but one thing you need to develop on your own is your style. This can take time but will come more naturally once you start experimenting more and take risks with your work. 

What career advice would you give your younger self?

F*ck the fear! Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You are not always going to feel ready but you have to start anyway.

Is there something career-wise that you aspire to do?

I would love to photograph a cookbook. I also aspire to collaborate with more food publications.

How do you support your health in-between work?

Having a positive outlook and mental state is very important to me and something I’ve worked hard on throughout the years. When I don’t feel happy, I try to dig deep and understand why. I give myself breaks when I need them. I also work hard on my communication skills and building strong relationships with people. I think the energy you surround yourself with says a lot about who you are and if that energy is good it can truly uplift your life.

Jen Marvel, Food Photographer traveling.

Favorite fitness regimens?

I try to practice yoga regularly, usually a few times a week. I’m a fan of the Youtube channel Boho Beautiful. Some of the videos are more challenging than others so I try to go by how my body is feeling that day! I also love to be outdoors and to be active. I love hiking, riding my bike and dancing.

Do you have a favorite healthy snack when you’re on-the-go?

I bring Kind bars with me everywhere! Usually ones with dark chocolate!

Is there a beauty product you cannot live without?

I’m pretty simple when it comes to beauty products. I honestly can’t go without my Carmex chapstick!

Favorite place to vacation?

This is a hard one! A few of my favorite places I’ve been to recently are Iceland, Italy, Peru and Turkey. All for the landscapes, the people, and the food, of course!

Your career is naturally creative. Do you have any additional hobbies or interests that help you maintain balance in your downtime?

I have a lot of hobbies! Someone once told me that they felt I would never truly be alone because I have so many interests! One thing I really enjoy is salsa dancing. I recently discovered sunset salsa last summer on Pier 45 in Hudson River Park and it was everything!

Traveling is also another great love. I try to take two big trips every year, one in the winter and one in the summer. Carving out this time for myself refreshes me and I feel it only enhances my work when I return home because I see with new eyes.

Who inspires you?

Anthony Bourdain was a huge inspiration to me. I think he offered a much needed perspective to this world. One of my favorite quotes of his is,

“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.”

Jen Marvel, Food Photographer on vacation.

Do you have a favorite playlist or music genre that gets you in the zone for work?

It changes all the time! Leon Bridges seems to make the most appearances on my playlists though.

How do you take five when things feel chaotic?

I will usually take a long walk somewhere new to gain perspective. I like to see how other people are living their lives. It gets me out of my own head. If I’m in my apartment alone though, more often than not, I’ll blast music really loud, sing at the top of my lungs, and dance around like a crazy person. It works like a charm, ha!