Behind the Lens with Jess Lance
Updated: Nov 30, 2020
Meet one of Connecticut's top Photographers who Shares Her Story on How She Started Her Business
By Bridney C.
Jessica Odaynik, also known as Jess Lance, is a photographer from Connecticut who specializes in wedding photography. Not only does she work on shoots in Connecticut, but also throughout New England.
Born in California and raised in Southeastern Connecticut, Odaynik grew up in an artsy household, and her father loved to draw.
"I've always loved art, and my favorite gift to receive as a kid was a disposable camera," says Odaynik.
As a child, she was one of the few students who were allowed to use the school's digital camera. Her teacher noticed she had an eye for photography, but she was not aware of her hidden talent.
In high school, she was fascinated with the fine arts classes and took all the photography courses that were offered. Her close friends would often end up as her subjects for photography projects.
Her bedroom walls in high school were covered with portraits from magazines such as Vogue. She adored Annie Leibovitz and Richard Avedon's iconic portraits, which she credits as being inspiring.
She also was inspired by Cindy Sherman to pursue her goal to have her portraits published in a magazine. In 2019, she achieved that goal when her wedding photos was featured in The Knot New York Magazine.
The first client Odaynik worked with was a friend who commissioned her to take family photos.
"That's when it sunk in that I could pursue my photography as a job without it feeling like a stuffy portrait studio. At the time, I never thought it would become my full time job," says Odaynik.
While attending The New England Institute of Art, she envisioned her future as a fine artist who created art or worked for a museum while teaching art to elementary school children. After graduating in 2010, she and her husband were stationed in Miami, Florida, where she took a short break from photography to teach art to children.
"The fine art scene down there [in Florida] was very different compared to Boston." She started working on photographing family portraits on the side and small weddings in Florida.
She returned to Connecticut in 2013 and decided to pursue portrait photography. After her first big wedding in 2014, she realized her passion was in photographing weddings.
By 2015, she had made it her full-time job with a studio storefront. As a full-time photographer, Odaynik has traveled to many places, citing Boston as being her favorite place she resided in and named her dog after the city.
She has visited Hawaii and San Diego three times. She also photographed a wedding in Cannon Beach, Oregon, her favorite place to travel to for work, where the giant frock from the 1985 movie, The Goonies is located.
"My favorite so far for personal travel was Venice, Italy it's such a unique place and no cars. We [my husband and I] went there while on a trip to visit family in Rota, Spain."
She describes her style as being "true to life" and incorporates movement and flow into her poses so her subjects do not look stiff. Her favorite photos are the spontaneous ones that happen in between big moments on her client's wedding day.
"After I photographed my first wedding, I fell in love with the momentum and energy. Clients usually book about a year ahead and I spend about 8 hours with them the day of, so I really get to know them and tell their story."
The most fun thing about being a wedding photographer, according to Odaynik, is attending the reception parties on the weekends to celebrate the bride and groom's special day. Before the pandemic, she was scheduled to go past 150 weddings in 2020, and says she is just shy of that number.
"It is rewarding to see that by pursuing my passion full-time I'm able to support my family both financially and with my flexible schedule, the years of hard work have paid off."
To see more from Jess Lance, be sure to follow her on Instagram