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From passion into profit, SWR student launches photography business

Jordan Montenegro

Like many others, Jordan Montenegro started her own business upon graduation. The catch is that the Wading River resident made her foray into professional photography with only a middle school education under her belt.

As a preteen, Jordan said, she saved money while using an “average, everyday” camera to teach herself photography basics. In eighth grade, she purchased a Nikon D3100 DSLR camera she still uses today.

Once Jordan got the hang of taking photos, she and her father, Rich, went to the Suffolk County Clerk’s office in Riverhead to register her business: Jordan Taylor Originals.

“I loved it,” Mr. Montenegro said of helping his daughter, now 17, start a business. “I think everybody should at some point in their life run their own company, so I was actually excited that she want to do that rather than work someplace else while she had the opportunity to be able to work on it without any bills or expenses.”

“My parents are business owners,” Jordan added. Her father owns a wholesale investment firm, FIS Marketing LLC, and her mother owns Terri Montenegro Daycare, Inc.

“So I’m following in their path, but creating my own footsteps,” she said.

The teenager started off small, mostly taking and editing pictures of family and friends for two years. Now in her fourth year of business, she has expanded to doing family photo shoots, professional headshots, team photos, newborn shots and more. Photography sessions are approximately 45 minutes and customers leave with five edited pictures and an additional 25 shots for $50, Jordan said. Currently, she has 48 clients that she meets at her Bohemia studio or a destination of their choice. However, her favorite place to take pictures is at the Brookhaven Ecology Center.

“It looks like there are mountains in the background,” Jordan said. “It looks like you’re upstate when you go out there. And it’s outdoors, so the pictures you take look better because there’s more lighting.”

Jordan Montenegro took this photograph in August 2014 at the horse races in Saratoga, N.Y. (Credit: Courtesy)
Jordan Montenegro took this photograph in August 2014 at the horse races in Saratoga, N.Y. (Credit: Courtesy)

Jordan’s interest in photography began as a child, when her mother frequently set up “mini photo shoots” of her and her brother. As Jordan grew, so did her love for photography. She began taking pictures of nature scenes and her friends, who were eager to pose.

“It’s a passion for me,” Jordan said. “I’m not just in it for the money.”

Currently a senior at Shoreham-Wading River High School, Jordan has taken school photography classes, focusing on portraits and nature.

“I like to show people different perspectives that they wouldn’t see naturally,” she said.

Jordan has twice entered her work in the Five Towns College Media Arts Show. Her photos have also been displayed at LIU Post and People’s United Bank.

She said she uses judges’ feedback from these events to propel her professional and personal work forward. She also urges anyone interested in starting a business to do so — especially younger people. She considers her age an advantage because it allowed her to take time to learn the ropes without feeling pressure to make a large profit.

“If you’re looking to open a business, make sure that it is something that you love to do,” Jordan said. “My dad always told me, ‘Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.’ That goes for anyone working or opening up a business.”

This fall, Jordan will attend Florida Atlantic University, where she will double major in business and psychology. She plans to keep her photography business active when she’s home on break. As for what will happen when she graduates from college, Jordan isn’t sure which career she’ll pursue, as she’s interested in both her majors.

“I’m really proud,” Mr. Montenegro said of his daughter’s success. “I couldn’t be more proud because she’s doing it all on her own … with no marketing team, no salespeople. It’s just her using word of mouth and social media. It’s wonderful and she’s learning a valuable lesson.”

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Photo: Jordan Montenegro of Wading River started her own photography business after finishing middle school. Now a senior at Shoreham-Wading River High School, she does family photo shoots, professional headshots and more. (Credit: Nicole Smith)