An interview with Janelle Bendycki of Janelle B Photography

Janelle Bendycki, Pittsburgh Photographer extraodinaire

Have you ever looked at images online and felt immediately changed by them? That's the way we feel when we look at Janelle Bendycki's body of work. Her photos are, on the surface quite beautiful. But the more you dig into them and learn about the story behind the work, the more they begin to nestle into the core of your being.

Janelle is a goddess armed with a camera. She is able to put people at ease while extracting the buried treasures that lie within. And her mission of empowering women — through photography, through a message of body positivity, through acceptance — is one that we wholeheartedly support. 

We hope you enjoy getting to know the woman behind the camera, as well as a sampling of her work. 


Janelle Bendycki and crew from the Aerie Spark Photoshoot

Name: Janelle Bendycki
Business: Freelance photographer focused on lifestyle + advertising photography
Job title: small business owner // photographer // creative consultant   

Talk to us about your trajectory into the wonderful world of entrepreneurship. Was this where you landed first or has it been something you've tested out for a while before going full time? 

I have been dipping my toe in and out of the entrepreneurial pond for a while, but back in July 2015 I took my first leap into full-time independent business owner status. Prior to that, I was a full-time shooter in a major retailer corporate photo studio for about four years. I always took on small projects here and there since I graduated college in 2003, but at a certain point I ended up with an almost full-time side gig while working a full-time 9-5 regular gig.

I had reached a crossroads and had to decide what new challenges I wanted to take on, and being in business for myself was the next step for me. I enjoyed my full-time job and it was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make but, as they say, ‘no risk, no reward’.

Where does your love for photography (and creative expression in general) come from? 

Creative expression is something that is inherently a part of me and always has been. I find inspiration everywhere, from the way light falls on my bed through the window in the morning, to finding a brightly colored house on an evening walk.

I grew up with a crafty mom who taught my sister and me how to make and create things. I believe that nurturing of my imagination at a young age really helped grow my creativity into the way it is today — in constant awe of the world

Gymboree Photo Shoot | Janelle Bendycki

What has been the biggest challenge for you, as you've been navigating the world of working for yourself?

My biggest challenge is staying connected to other entrepreneurs. As glamorous as working from home sounds, it can get lonely at times. I belong to some networking groups and make an effort to connect with other freelancers to bounce ideas off of. It’s important for me as a person and my work. As much as we want to do it all, there is no shame in asking for help every once and a while.

We're huge fans of your work and your mission for empowering others. How does this take shape in your work and/or the projects that you take on?

Thank you! The ultimate goal in my work is to empower people through my images — whether it be the subject matter I am photographing, the viewer, or even a brand I am working with. I want people to feel something.

In a society where feelings are scary, that may be a tall order. But I’d like to think we are turning a leaf and I want to take on projects that are just that. Whether that's working with small businesses to help them gain more exposure or big advertising clients that want to promote body positivity. It’s all the same message of empowerment, just different vehicles for the message.

Aerie Spark Body Positive Photo Shoot | Janelle Bendycki

What has surprised you most on this journey?  

The personal growth that would occur right alongside growing my business. I knew what I was doing was going to be a big change, but I underestimated the way it would affect me as a person from gaining more confidence to becoming more straightforward on a whole.

What words of advice or nuggets of wisdom would you pass along to other women entrepreneurs or photographers out there who are just getting started? 

Don’t be afraid to say no to work that doesn’t resonate with you. If it’s not a hell yes, don’t do it. Truth be told — It took me a little while to learn this one and it’s a constant practice.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Fellow freelancers, friends, and even slight strangers have all helped me out on many things from job bids to gear I may need. Even if we are not all in the same professional field, we are all in this small business world together.

Moto Shoot | Janelle Bendycki