Archive for Motivation.

People always ask what I do in the off-season. Do I take month long vacations and adventure to places I’ve never been? Sometimes 😉 But mostly, the off-season allows me to do things for the business that I simply don’t have time to do when I’m busy on photo shoots and editing, blogging, and delivering thousands of photos. One of those things being getting my photos out to other blogs, submitting to magazines, sharing photos with vendors, and entering photo contests. This year, I submitted 50 of my favorite photos from 2015 to The Shoot and Share Photo Contest. It’s is a free contest by which has 25 categories, some of them including: Just the Bride, Bride/Groom, Wedding Party, Just the Guests, etc. Contestants can submit to any of those categories, and voters can look through all the photos randomly and vote for their favorites without knowing who took those photos.

The Photo Contest is only about the photos; not the photographer, his or her popularity, how many friends or how much money they have. Everyone is a judge and gets a chance to vote. A group of 4 photos is shown and out of the 4 you select your favorite. Then, this keeps happening in random groups of fours in the same category. People vote as much as they want for as long as they want. Each category has a 1st, 2nd, and a 3rd place winner as well as an overall Grand Prize Winner for the contest.

With thousands of submissions, unfortunately I did not place in the Top 3 in any category, but a few of my photos did make the Top 10, 20, and 30% and one of my photos placed 21st place out of nearly 7,500 entries in that category! I’m disappointed I didn’t place as high as I had hoped, but it only fuels me to become a better photographer in the future! Here’s to pushing my limits in 2016 🙂

TOP 30% 





TOP 20% 

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TOP 10% 

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21st Place out of 7,490 entries



A few weeks ago, I spent a couple days out of the office to learn from one of the best in the industry – Roberto Valenzuela. I love going to workshops like this because it gives me an opportunity to see things the way other photographers see them. To learn from others. To gain perspective. To keep me on my toes and always keep my creative juices flowing. I never want to stop learning. And I never want to stop pushing myself. What I can do next and what are the steps that will take me there are things that are always on my mind – it’s a personal thing, but most importantly, it helps me give my couples the best photos that I can give them. Not only did I learn about Roberto’s amazing Picture Perfect Posing techniques, but I learned some incredible lighting tricks that I have already incorporated into my last two weddings that, for lack of better words, have blown my mind.

Surrounding myself with other talented photographers not only pushes me to be better, but gives me a chance to make new friends and colleagues as well. Shout-out to all of my fellow workshop attendees – standing up in front of a group of photographers and having to pose/shoot is terrifying, but we all did it – and we’re better for it. HUGE thanks to Roberto Valenuzuela (and Collin Pierson for helping) for putting on a fun 2-day workshop and sharing your insights, experiences, opinions, and techniques.


Photo Credit (above): Collin Pierson

JillTiongcoPhotography-ChicagoWeddingPhotographer_0011.jpgPhoto Credit (above): Collin Pierson


Happy New Year! Hopefully everyone had a fantastic time ringing in the new year last night and no one is feeling too hungover today. To kick off the new year, I figured I’d post my personal goals as well – since I posted my business goals yesterday. What better way to start the new year with a little optimism and positivity, right? Have a great day everyone – I’m off to do more celebrating!

14 Goals for 2014

  1. As always, workout more consistently.
  2. Cook/eat dinner at home at least 4 times a week.
  3. Play my guitar more.
  4. Get that stupid ding on my driver side passenger door fixed.
  5. Plan a girls night once a month.
  6. Sing one solo karaoke song.
  7. Show more patience in everything I do.
  8. Be a better and more supportive friend, daughter, and sister.
  9. Get the interior/exterior of my car detailed.
  10. Continue to play recreational sports year round.
  11. Plan a family night once a month.
  12. Go on one adventure-cation.
  13. Focus on what I HAVE, and not what I want. See the positive in both people and things.
  14. Backpack through Europe.



May has been one heck of a month. I’ve been incredibly busy – which is a good GREAT thing for my business, but if I’m being completely honest with all of you – it’s a lot to handle sometimes, especially when I was thrown curveball after curveball in my personal life, too. May’s calendar had 3 out of the 4 weekends booked with weddings, plus a few shoots during the week (did I mention I still work full-time Monday through Friday as a Web Designer?). I knew coming into this month that making the transition from the slower off-season into the craziness of wedding season was going to be tough… on my mind, body, but mostly my soul. I had nearly a week straight of mental breakdowns, mini-anxiety attacks, and second-guessing thoughts of myself in every way possible. Do I really want to do this the rest of my life? I need to remember to email this client. Can I handle it? Why are my photos so awful? I need to follow-up with that vendor. Why aren’t my photos as good as photographer X? I need to get through 6000 photos in the next 4 hours.

I had a very vivid dream the other night. I got into an elevator, pressed every single button to go to every single floor, and as each button lit up one by one illuminating the dim, quiet space, the elevator stood achingly still. Until it suddenly went wildly and uncontrollably crashing down. No matter how many buttons I pressed and no matter what I did to try and make it stop, the elevator kept plummeting faster, and faster, and faster until it inevitably hit bottom.

Then something amazing happened. I emerged from the destroyed elevator unscathed, unphased, and unaffected—like nothing ever happened. I pushed my way through the collapsed elevator walls, manually pried open the double doors with my bare hands, and stepped out of the broken down elevator one step at a time, one foot in front of the other amidst all the dust and debris. What was most memorable about the dream was my mindset after the huge crash. I merely shrugged it off and kept moving forward. The timing of this dream, the meaning of it, the ending of it… it couldn’t have been a more clear sign that maybe I take on too much sometimes or try to do too many things at once, which inevitably causes me a great deal of stress (which I’m sure everyone can relate to at one point or another), but in the end, everything is alright, I can push through anything, and I always survive.

So instead of focusing on the stressful things in life that bring me down, I’m choosing to focus on everything that is good, positive, and healthy.

1. My family. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful, supportive, and loving family that is always there for me. I think I’ve taken it for granted in the past and thought everyone had family like this – but I’m starting to realize as I get older that I am truly blessed in this department.

2. My boyfriend. My rock. My even-keel, steady, dependable rock. He keeps me sane, he keeps me laughing, and he keeps me standing when everything else is trying to knocking me down.

3. My friends. Although all of our hectic schedules and current living situations might not allow us to see each other as much as we’d like, no matter how much time passes between visits, when we do get together it’s like we never missed a beat.

4. My thriving business. If you would have told me my business would be where it is now just 1 year ago, I would have never believed you. I’m connecting with new clients, vendors, and industry peers every single day; I met and exceeded my goal of booking 10+ weddings this  year, and I’m so excited this is the direction my life is heading.

5. My health. While I may not get the opportunity to work out as much as I’d like or eat as healthy as I should, I’m alive, I’m active, and I’m well. And as one of my clients told me the other day, “life is a gift.”

Jill Tiongco Photography | chicago wedding photographer


Personal notes from my brides are the best and put the BIGGEST smile on my face 🙂

Yesterday, a photographer reached out to me after just shooting the D.C. Hendrick’s Gin event, similar to the one that I recently shot in Chicago. Apparently the promotions company that handles the account had mentioned they liked my photos (HOORAY!), and he sent the following email…

Hey Jill,

My name is (we’ll say, *Matt*), and I just shot a Hendrick’s event here in DC.  They mentioned really liking the shots you took at their event in Chicago, and I was hoping you could give me a little insight on the actions you used on those pictures and anything else you did to touch them up.

If this is uncouth, let me know, but any help would be appreciated.


After looking up “uncouth” on (I’m a photographer, not a wordsmith!) I was beyond excited to share my knowledge with another photographer – like so many other photographers had done for me over the past year. I’ve built my entire business by learning from others. Learning what is industry standard, studying other’s workflows and adapting it to work for me, applying new techniques that I’ve read about in photography forums. Yes, I put the work in and my vision is my vision, but I apply everything I’ve learned to create something that is completely Jill Tiongco Photography. I realize Jill Tiongco Photography wouldn’t be where it is today without the help of all the photographers who generously offered their experiences to me. So why wouldn’t I happily pay it forward? Here’s how I responded…

Hi  *Matt*,

I’m happy to help! I’m a firm believer that we as vendors need to stick together in this industry and resorting to purely competition shows more inadequacies than strengths. I hope the information below helps and if there’s anything else I can do for you in the future, please don’t hesitate to ask 🙂

 I’m not sure what the light situation was like at the events in D.C., but here’s what I did at the Chicago events.

 I shot at 500 ISO, using a Canon 420EX pointed upwards (occasionally pointed downwards at the ground to bounce the light up underneath the character’s faces to create a more mysterious, eerie look), at about a 1/250 to 1/320 shutter speed. I primarily shot during the event with my 24-70mm 2.8L (in hindsight, I wish I would have used a 35mm 1.4 during the event), and I also shot details with a 50mm 1.2L.

 As for post, I wish I could give you a set of actions that I used, but I manually created a look that I liked, applied to all the photos, and adjusted if necessary. Here are the basics of what I adjusted using Lightroom 4:

–         Exposure, contrast, post-crop vignette

–         Increased clarity more than what’s “natural” looking, also increased luminance

–         Decreased saturation about 25%

–         Sometimes added slight grain

That’s really all I can think of right now. If you have questions on any of this, please feel free to follow-up.You can also see my photos from the Chicago Hendrick’s Events at Or read my blog post at

Good luck and I’d love to see your photos when you’re done.


And although his response was short and sweet, I think he was delightfully surprised and appreciated it…

Hey Jill,

This was by far the most helpful email I have received in a very long time.

Thanks for the help!

I’m so glad I could help him, and in case any of you want to see the photos that were produced using the techniques listed above, you can check out my blog post from the Chicago Hendrick’s Events, or see the full gallery here.

I’d say my first attempt at setting monthly goals was a success. In case you missed it, check out the recap for August here.

September is jam packed with family photos shoots, weddings, engagement sessions, and promotional events. While I couldn’t be more thrilled and thankful for my schedule picking up, I’m naturally a little apprehensive about how I’m going to handle everything, which brings me to my goals for the month.

Goal: With all the events I have scheduled, I’m hoping to streamline my editing process, create an efficient workflow (I can now use my Client Workflow Check List I created last month), and be able to have the photos edited and out the door within one week (two weeks max.). Usually that isn’t a problem, but with multiple back to back sessions scheduled, it might get a little tricky.

Goal: This one is carried over from last month, since well, I did everything in the world except get myself to the gym. I need to workout 3-5 times a week, for at least three out of the four weeks in September. I’ve already looked at the XSport class schedules and have penciled them into my calendar. Now I just have to get myself there.

Goal: Cook one dinner recipe from Pinterest for Danny and blog about it. I look at these all the time and have even made a few, but I haven’t had the time to cook recently. I have a few that I’ve been eyeing for quite some time now so I’d love to get around to making them one night.

Goal: This is a silly one, but I’ve been in my new apartment for nearly 6 months and I still have picture frames sitting on the floor. I want to fill them with new photos and have them hung ASAP.

Goal: Don’t sweat the little things. I’m the youngest of three kids AND the only girl. So needless to say I can be a bit of a drama queen. Sometimes I let small things really get the best of me, but my goal for the month is to get better at letting things roll off my back.

Bonus Goal: Learn to juggle, both literally and figuratively. I started to learn to literally juggle over the weekend, and I’m so close to being able to! And of course with all the different events going on this month I’m going to have to juggle my photography, personal, and work life.

Can’t wait to get all the shoots started this month!


Every now and again, someone randomly goes out of their way to be nice to me. Whether it be an old friend, a classmate from high school, my boyfriend Danny, or a stranger walking down the street, their kindness and generosity never cease to amaze me (and also puts the biggest smile on my face).

Earlier this week, a friend I met at the University of Illinois reached out to me about Jill Tiongco Photography. Karla and I had Speech Communications 112 together our freshman year of college (nearly 8 years ago—yikes!),and we bonded over a semester of writing debate speeches (Topic: Pro Solar Powered Cars, haha) and our love/hate relationship for our TA, Jon. Unfortunately, like many college friends do, we lost touch over the years but managed to remain Facebook friends since then.

Back in July, Karla wrote on the Jill Tiongco Photography& Design Page’s wall saying, “Hi Jill Tiongco! I just wanted to say I love your work!!!! :)”

How sweet was that? So simple. Straight to the point. She probably didn’t even think twice about it. Yet it was so heartwarming. And it gets even better…

Earlier this week, Karla reached out to me again in a message saying that she has been following my work, is such a huge fan, and loves my talent (awh shucks!). She wanted to know more information on my wedding photography packages because she has been recommending me to her friends that are getting married!

The thought that I haven’t spoken toKarla in years, she’s not currently looking for a wedding photographer (yet ;-)), and she is out there rooting for Jill Tiongco Photography makes me unbelievably happy. Not only am I so thankful for her thoughtfulness, but it also reassures me that I am doing the right thing by following my passion. No matter how much I love the photographs I take, there’s always that small (sometimes huge) part of me that wonders if I’m doing the right thing, if I’m any good at this, or if there’s anyone out there that actually likes my photos.

Hearing little comments like Karla’s truly do make me feel so blessed, and help me believe that I can really do this. So Karla, I just wanted to say… thanks.

Over a year ago, I started a blog section of my website that I am embarrassed to say, did not keep very up to date. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some great content in there. Which I’m sure no one had the pleasure of reading since it was tucked away in a pseudo-blog page that I thought would suffice until I was able to upgrade to my current blog.

That being said, I’m going to start pulling some of my favorite posts from JT Photography Blog v1.0. Here’s the first… and an important one at that. The blog post below describes only a sliver of my experience at Jasmine Star’s theFIX at Loft on Lake in Chicago. It was such a pivotal moment in my career. The night was filled with new friends, inspiring stories, and starstruck moments. It was a whirlwind of photography do’s and don’ts… and in the end, helped me decide what I want to DO with my business.

The night pushed me to be more efficient with my time. Inspired me to be confident in my work and value myself with my pricing. Assured me that investing in my business was not only a good idea, but imperative to my success. Since this night, I can honestly say I’ve taken numerous steps towards bettering my business and I’m looking forward to continuing improving each and every day. My current up-to-date blog, new website, more efficient client relations, more focused wedding photography, and investment packages are all a bi-product of this night. But before I get all businessy on you, I’d like to share a funny story….

throwback blog [hi, i’m mortified. nice to meet you.]

After weeks of anticipation and excitement, the day had finally arrived. It seemed like when I bought my tickets to theFIX with Jasmine Star that it was so far away. But here I was, pushing myself to network with other photographers and force my shyness back down my own throat. The day had finally come. For those of you who don’t know, Jasmine Star is like a celebrity to wedding photographers. Literally. I mean the girl is driving around the country on a tour bus selling out city after city, singing autographs and taking pictures with us photo nerds. She is big time. Anyway.

Getting off the expressway and finding Loft on Lake seemed like it was going to be impossible, but it was pretty hard to miss the venue when there’s a GIGANTIC rock star tour bus parked outside the building. I felt my nerves jump and my whole body tense when I saw it. I was about to meet people who I’d been chatting with via Facebook for weeks now, but I was still so nervous.

Luckily, I found a close parking spot just around the corner from the loft and had a minute to gather my thoughts. As I organized my bags (camera, laptop, and purse!) and locked my car, I turned to walk towards the loft and see if there were any fellow photographers waiting to go to the group dinner we had all planned together. Still looking at my feet, I took a deep breath and mentally prepared myself for introductions. Like I don’t know my own name? I have to practice saying where I’m from and how long I’ve been a “photographer?”

After figuring out how to say “Jilllll Teeee-ong-ko” and visualizing myself in friendly conversations with complete strangers, I see a little white dog trotting on the sidewalk out of the corner of my eye. And my heart stops. Anyone that follows Jasmine Star knows what her dog, Polo, looks like. I do a double take, and then slowly, in what felt like an eternity, bring my eyes up to see if is truly, Jasmine Star herself—and then I realize it is. AND JD. Walking Polo. And I freeze.
I contemplate running back into my car and hiding until they pass. Maybe they didn’t see me. Maybe I should go up to them. Maybe I should introduce myself. Maybe I should stop staring. Maybe I’m the only other person on the street and now this is just awkward because I’m staring at them smiling like a freakshow. “No, don’t bother them,” I think to myself. “They’re probably trying to relax and spend some time together before things get crazy tonight,” my mind reasoned. I swear, it was probably only about 5 seconds, but the number of thoughts that ran threw my mind was ridiculous.

So at this point, I’m in the middle of the street walking towards them on the sidewalk. I still don’t know what to do. Clearly they know what a camera bag looks like and that I’m probably there for theFIX. I notice that JD is staring right back at me, and we make eye contact. He has a big smile on his face and looks so friendly. So I smile back, and then I say, “Hiiiiiiiii,” in such a high pitched voice that I only think dogs could hear it. And then here comes the worst part. I keep walking. I awkwardly screech HI! And then don’t even stop and introduce myself. Or say anything for that matter. “Hi, how are you? I’m here for theFIX. I’m so excited for your presentation. I love your work. You’re such an inspiration. Polo is so cute. How are you liking Chicago?” I can think of a billion things to say to them right now, but in that moment, I said NOTHING! Let’s just say I was not expecting to be that star struck and I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I turned the corner, saw the first person with a camera bag and said, “I am mortified!” I didn’t even tell this person my name first. Luckily, fellow theFIX attendee and new friend, Erin Knowles was nice enough to help me calm down and pick up the pieces of my shattered nerves.

Despite my shaky start, the whole night ended up being a success. I had a great meal at De Cero and got to chat with some amazing photographers over chips and guac, tamales, and tacos.

I’d say the biggest thing I took away from the event was the importance of meeting new photographers and networking. I made some great connections with some awesome people and have already started to make plans for stylized photo shoots, dinners, and coffee dates.

As for what I took from Jasmine’s presentation… I think the number one thing is to be confident. If I can’t see myself doing something, how am I going to convince clients I can do it? Be ME in everything that I do. Break the mold. Do it my way. Play to my strengths. It’s ok to say no to people who don’t value my services. Oh, and of course, templates, templates, templates!

Jasmine Star | theFIX Chicago

Overall, it was a great experience and I’m so happy I did it. While I regret my little run-in with Jasmine, JD, and Polo, the silver lining is that at least it gave me a funny story to tell her when I chatted her up after the show. She’s even cracking up at how mortified I was.

Wedding Photographers Jill Tiongco and Jasmine Star

She’s so sweet though, she said “Don’t worry, all I’m going to remember about Jill from Chicago is how cute her outfit is and how her hair is all jchhoozed up and fabulous.” ☺

Wedding Photographers Jill Tiongco and Jasmine Star

Wedding Photographers Jill Tiongco & Jasmine Star