Johnnie Minney is all about helping people. She’s previously worked as a teacher, nurse and receptionist before opening her own photography studio — Speak to Miss J Photos in Shiloh.
Minney, who goes by Miss J, realized the importance of photos after her brother died a few months ago. “Apparently we didn’t have enough pictures of him,” she said. “I realized all we had was the old pictures of him.”
That got her thinking about how many other people would like to get pictures taken but don’t, due to the high cost some studios charge.
Minney said she and her husband, Denon, who live in Madison County, are committed to offering professional-quality photos at an affordable price.
She says it’s important to capture moments of your life with your loved ones. “Too many people have actually lost someone unexpected,” Minney said. “Every moment is important. Every day is important. It’s important that we don’t take it for granted.”
If you have someone in your life who may not like his or her photo taken, she suggests “dragging or pulling” them to her studio.
“We will make them feel comfortable for that 20 minutes,” she promises.
Minney is a self-taught photographer. She says she’s been taking photos her whole life.
Too many people have actually lost someone unexpected. Every moment is important. Every day is important. It’s important that we don’t take it for granted.
Johnnie Minney, owner of Speak to Miss J
Speak to Miss J Photos has a large selection of backgrounds from traditional ones to more modern ones such as a train track and a graffiti wall and props available for customers. The business is located on Country Road in Shiloh in the same building as Bricks 4 Kidz.
We recently sat down with Minney to talk about her new business:
Q: Where did the name Speak to Miss J come from?
A: “So many people like to talk but very few people actually listen. If you speak to me, I’ll listen. Tell me what you want.”
Q: What type of services do you offer?
A: “At Speak to Miss J, we try to offer A-plus service. We want you to be completely satisfied. That’s why before you pay anything we get a chance to bring the pictures up on the (computer) screen and we get a chance to pick out what you like. If you don’t like it, I don’t like it either. But most of the time people love it.”
Q: How did the Illlinois Metro-East Small Business Development Center help you get your business up and running?
A: “They offered a lot of publicity. They offered a lot of counseling.”
Q: Why did you pick Shiloh as the location for your business?
A: “I was looking in the paper and I’ve seen this area and I thought, ‘I bet I can work wonders in that area.’”
Q: How do you decide what kind of photos to take?
A: “I ask questions when they first come in. I want them to relax. Sometimes music. I notice music really cause people to relax. Whatever music they like, I tend to play that for a little bit. I talk to the parents and find out what exactly do you want — head shots or candid shots.”
Q: How does your portrait studio differ from the others in the area?
A: “Affordable. Very affordable. You can get 23 pictures here for only $40. We just want to help people not go through what I’ve been through.”
Q: How long have you been taking pictures?
A: “My entire life. Back then it was all about me. Then you have kids and you realize it’s not about you, it’s about them now too.” (Johnnie and Dennon have two adult daughters.)
Q: Can you explain the theme photo nights your studio hosts?
A: “There’s certain nights we do ’80s, you dress up as whatever kind of character you want to dress up as. You come in, we put you on the green screen and take a picture and do different poses. We take it to the computer and put the backdrop in — whatever we want to put in the background. You select the picture you like, and the picture comes back in 7 to 10 days. We also have people come in dressed up as your favorite cartoon character.” (Theme nights are held every other week.)
Q: What’s it like working with your husband every day?
A: “It’s exciting. … It’s fun. I drive him crazy changing up things all the time.”
Q: You also write a blog. Is that related to your photo business?
A: “That’s a separate thing that I do. I like writing.” (Her blog can be found at
Speak to Miss J Photos