& Free Trip to Margaritaville
As the evening sun went down on Galveston Island, Jennifer Baird O’Heeron began capturing photographs of her subject, a young mother-to-be. The sun turned the clouds peach and mauve and was reflected on the waves of the Gulf of Mexico. It provided the perfect lighting for the emotion-filled photo shoot, and the portrait was destined to become Jennifer’s favorite.
For more than five years, Jennifer has put her talent, as well as her heart, into her photography business, Jennifer Baird Photography. Rather than taking one-size-fits-all photographs, she takes the time to get to know each subject so she can capture his or her personality. Although Jennifer has earned a loyal following on her own merits, recent clients have discovered that two photographers—Jennifer plus her husband, Forrest O’Heeron—are even better than one.
Thanks to her father and uncle, who were both avid amateur photographers, Jennifer grew up hearing about aperture openings and shutter speeds. In keeping with the family tradition, Jennifer always seemed to have an eye for photography. At her annual Fourth of July party in 2014, equipped with a new camera, she took dozens of photos. Her party guests noticed the quality of the shots; over and over, they told her, “You really should do this professionally.” At the time, Jennifer taught second grade at B. B. Rice Elementary School in Conroe, and the school’s art teacher, a proficient photographer, was willing to help. “I went under her wing a little bit and learned a lot from her,” Jennifer says. It wasn’t long before Jennifer began working as a professional photographer, shooting weddings, family reunions, high school and college seniors, and other events. For a while, she juggled her teaching job with her photography business, before becoming a full-time photographer in 2019.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Jennifer, her future husband was becoming a capable photographer himself. As a child, he was fascinated with photography, but things got interesting when he bought his first digital camera in the early 2000s. He discussed this exciting digital technology with a colleague, who mentioned he had retired his 1970s-era, 35-millimeter film camera in favor of his own digital camera. He offered to let Forrest take the film camera for a trial run over the weekend; if he liked it, he could buy it for $20 the following week.
Forrest took his colleague’s camera home that weekend and experimented with its manual settings, capturing lots of photos on film. His modus operandi was to take lots of pictures, figuring he was bound to get a few good ones. (“As you get better,” he says, “those percentages improve.”) Forrest then had the photos developed at a one-hour developing business. “I was blown away by what it could capture versus a point and shoot,” he says. “That was the moment I went from ‘I like to take pictures’ to ‘Wow, I want to get into this.’”
When Jennifer and Forrest met in 2017, they soon discovered they had a mutual love of photography. At the time, however, Jennifer’s photography business was temporarily on hold. She was teaching art at Lynn Lucas Middle School in Willis and was overwhelmed with the restoration of her Lake Conroe-area home, which flooded during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. When she began taking photography assignments again in the spring of 2018, Forrest joined her at a wedding shoot. There, he snapped many memorable, unposed photographs. “I love getting the candid shots,” he says. “There are so many moments to capture.”
Some of the photos Forrest took at the wedding became personal favorites. One, an unplanned shot of the bride and groom as they began to clasp hands as husband and wife, showed a tattoo on the wife’s wrist, which said: “hold fast.” Forrest didn’t notice the meaningful phrase on the tattoo until after the wedding when he was editing his photos.
As Forrest began to accompany Jennifer on more assignments, they discovered they worked well together. “We realized we have different but complementary styles behind the camera, especially at weddings,” Forrest says. “Jennifer is the primary one taking the wedding photos, and I am wandering around looking for the candid moments.” It’s an arrangement that provides clients with a unique assortment of photographs. “Photography has brought us together and brought us closer,” Jennifer says. “We enjoy going out and doing this together, capturing the moments and capturing the subject.” Forrest agrees: “We can provide a client with a really wide range of styles and shots.”
When Jennifer and Forrest tied the knot on St. Patrick’s Day, 2017, Jennifer became Jennifer Baird O’Heeron, but because her photography business was already established, she opted to keep its name Jennifer Baird Photography.
Capturing a subject’s soul
French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard once said, “To photograph a face is to photograph the soul behind it.” The quote resonated with Jennifer. To best portray her subjects, she enjoys getting to know them before photographing them, and she particularly enjoys the one-on-one nature of shooting senior portraits. She also has a special knack for small weddings. “I do love doing maternity pictures and capturing the emotions that come along with it,” she says. “There’s more to a photograph than just a picture of someone. The right photograph tells a story.”
“If you are capturing a natural moment, unscripted, that’s the soul of that moment,” Forrest added. When he arrives at events, especially weddings, he usually photographs something that catches his eye. It might be a flower, a tree, or the way the light reflects off the water. “If they choose a nice picture of a beautiful flower, they might frame it and put it on a wall, but they can look at it and know it’s not just a random print. It’s something on their wedding day. It’s something to remember. It’s theirs,” he says.
Whether she and Forrest are photographing weddings, family reunions, mothers-to-be, seniors, or any other subjects, Jennifer firmly believes that professional photography should not be prohibitively expensive, and she and Forrest make their entire digital gallery of photos available to clients. It’s all a part of their desire to help make occasions memorable through photography.
“I look at it this way,” Forrest says. “Someone is allowing us into their life and their special moment. It’s an honor to be invited into their lives to be there to capture the moments and the memories for them. We treasure those moments as much as they do, and we take it on ourselves to capture those moments in the best way possible for them.”