Connecting the dots: How Jaeda Reed ’13 found her vocation

Jaeda Reed always knew she had a passion for art. She loved to paint, draw and take photos, but her art was always personal and not something for sale or for show. It wasn’t until her junior year at Pacific Lutheran University that Reed realized what had been in front of her all along: a vocation for art and photography.

Now, Reed owns and operates a successful photography business that has her booked solid from summer through November. Reed graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting and a minor in communication. However, that was far from the original plan. She had intended to study biology and environmental science.

“I remember sitting down with (Professor) Michael Stasinos and he said ‘I thought you were a painting major, you take so many art classes!’ And that made me think about the fact that I was, I had been taking so much art to keep myself sane that I was pretty close to an art major,” Reed said.

Rob Wells, associate professor of communication and director of the Center for Media Studies, was another mentor to Reed. It was in his “Journalism Writing” course that Reed found her niche in photojournalism, a style that guides her work today. Between Stasinos and Wells, Reed began to iron out her next few years at PLU.

“The faculty are amazing,” Reed said. “I don’t know that I would have stayed and finished a (biology) degree if I hadn’t been connected with Professor Stasinos and Professor Wells. They really helped me find the track that worked for me.”

This might seem like the point of happily ever after, but Reed struggled after graduation. She knew she wanted to do photography, but needed a place to start.

“I applied to every studio in the area, everything I possibly could. I even applied to the photo studio at Walmart. And I didn’t hear back from anybody, not even an interview,” Reed said, laughing. “There was a lot of Top Ramen that year.”

After Reed got an an interview with Walmart but no job offer, she decided to go rogue.

“I got online the day I heard back from Walmart and got my business license. I started my website and I opened up my business banking accounts and I went from there,” she said. “It took me realizing that I had to carve out my own spot because there was no spot for me anywhere else.”

Three years later, Reed is running a successful studio shooting weddings, maternity pictures, family shoots and some commercial work.

As an observer to these big life events, Jaeda has cultivated a client base that books her for engagement sessions, leads to wedding photos, and eventually is hired for maternity pictures.

“When I go to a wedding and see engagement photos put up, or I’ll visit their house for maternity photos and their wedding photos are all over the wall. It’s extremely rewarding for me,” Reed said. “To have people care enough about my work to want to display it and show the world, that means everything to me.”

Reed’s philosophy in photography is guided by her experience in painting and drawing. She cites these courses as the most important during her time at PLU.

“A big selling point for my business is the fact that I am a traditional artist, I have a lot of experience developing my eye for composition and color theory,” Reed said.

While at PLU, Reed took nearly all her classes in Ingram, but she says her most useful class was her figure drawing class.

“Understanding anatomy and the way the human body looks in a certain light, that has helped me beyond any other class,” Reed said. “I never thought my drawing class would help so much in making my business successful.”

After three years and several twists along the way, Reed no longer has to eat Top Ramen. For her, art is more than a career, it is something that she has loved and labored at her whole life.

“If I could go back and talk to myself when I was an 18-year-old kid coming to PLU, I would shake myself and tell myself to do what you want to do, from the beginning,” Reed said. “It would have made the most of my time here if I had just, from the get go, hit the ground running with art. That’s what I wanted to do, it’s really what makes me live and breathe.”

You can find Jaeda in the Seattle-Tacoma area snapping photos. For more information visit her website

By Genny Boots ’18