Meet the woman who pushed Photojojo to the top with quirky gadgets and plastic dinosaurs


As Photojojo’s employee No. 1, Jen Giese wears a number of hats. Her title is officially store manager, but she oversees operations and a stable of writers and photographers, negotiates with vendors, and also happens to be the one curating the fun goodies that fill up the online store.

Photojojo is a beloved online photo superstore that specializes in the most eccentric and nifty of camera gadgets. The site is the brainchild of Net entrepreneur Amit Gupta. After burning out from the dot-com bust at the end of the 1990s, he wound up in New York City and rekindled his interest in photography. Gupta started an e-mail newsletter called Photojojo highlighting quirky DIY photography hacks, publishing twice a week. After a year the newsletter grew in scope, and carried its first item, Magnetic Photo Rope, because it wasn’t available in the U.S. at the time. Fast-forward five years later to today, Photojojo has grown its catalog to about 200 items, all under Giese’s guidance.

The Magnetic Photo Rope, the first item Photojojo sold.
The Magnetic Photo Rope, the first item Photojojo sold.

As Photojojo’s buyer, Giese is often trotting the globe in search of the next big hit, from the New York International Gift Fair to the Tokyo International Gift Fair – the latter of which is her favorite, as far as trade shows go anyway. It’s Giese’s hope that she might stumble onto another gangbuster gadget, as she did when she discovered an iPhone mount for SLR lenses.

“We were on a sourcing trip in Hong Kong,” Giese said. “We were in an anime mall, a manga mall. From some of our research, we heard some stores there sold camera stuff.”

These closet-sized stores were lined wall-to-wall with boxes. “You really have to dig through, and I find something that looks like it has a lens mount on it. … It was this huge moment when I figured out what it was and ran across the mall, ran to get Amit [Gupta, Photojojo’s founder] because I knew it was the coolest thing ever. We wouldn’t have come across that if we didn’t go to this strange anime mall in Hong Kong.”

At $249, the item was a bit up there for the clientele. Photojojo exists to excite inner photo geeks by making photography fun and accessible. “The things that do really well usually are about $50 because it’s more of an impulse buy,” she explains, highlighting in particular the popularity of smartphone accessories. “You don’t have to save up to buy it. There’s a lot of expensive camera stuff out there and we don’t want to add to that.”

That the mount would sell out within two days was unthinkable. “It got crazy,” she recalls. “We didn’t have enough supply. We probably lost a lot of unit sales because of that, and we couldn’t get more for months because it was this sleeper success.”

Media coverage hastened the frenzy, and those links continue to bring visitors to its website today.

The iPhone SLR Mount, which Photojojo discovered in an anime mall in Hong Kong, was an instant hit.


Fans of the store – if we’re going by newsletter subscribers, that puts the number at half a million – are fond of the little things that make Photojojo Photojojo. Its sunny personality evokes a sense of wonderment among its visitors, further conveyed by the little friend each package is shipped with: a toy dinosaur. 

Users like to take to social media about their dinosaurs. First-time buyers are sometimes surprised by the gesture. These toys are often the subject of fans’ images. The newsletter, which came before the store (which founder Gupta admits is kind of “old timey and weird”), even featured a how-to on making photo stands out of them.

A camera-shy Jen Giese, Photojojo's first employee.
A camera-shy Jen Giese, Photojojo’s first employee.

You can thank Giese for the injection of fun. “I wish I had a genius reason for doing it, but I think it came down to me just having a thing for plastic dinosaurs. I’ve always collected them,” she says. One time, the store ran out – “world dinosaur shortage or something” – and disappointed customers wrote in about the matter. “We ended up sending tiny dinos in business envelopes to them.”

This past holiday season, Photojojo did the unconventional, bringing its online presence to the offline world. The company cleared out its studio, used for taking product shots, in its office in San Francisco’s Mission district, lining shelves with photo toys for its holiday pop-up, purposely kept low-key. The Secret Store, as it was called, was Giese’s brainchild and gave local users an opportunity to play with these goodies before buying them.

“[It] wasn’t done because we wanted to make a bunch of sales or draw a bunch of foot traffic,” she says. (High foot traffic would’ve been difficult since visitors had to be buzzed in to get to the second floor.) “We did it because it was a fun idea and it was something different from what we normally do.”

And there you have it. Jen Giese, who has arguably one of the most fun jobs in the world, just described her favorite thing about working at Photojojo. Not the loan policy (employees are encouraged to check out equipment), quirky decor (including an installed dental chair), or world travel. “We just want to have fun. That’s the ultimate perk really.”

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Movies & TV

'Stranger Things' season 3 teaser reveals the new episodes' titles

With a sophomore season as strong as its first, Stranger Things is now moving on to season 3. Here's everything we've learned so far about the Netflix series' upcoming third season.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Once the dust settles, 'Fallout 76' will be a nuclear wasteland worth exploring

The launch of Fallout 76 has been nothing short of apocalyptic, but that doesn’t mean the game is dead on arrival. Bethesda has a path forward, paved by The Elder Scrolls Online, another game that suffered a rocky start.

From DSLRs to mirrorless, these are the best cameras you can buy right now

From entry-level models to full-frame flagships, many cameras take great photos and video. The best digital cameras, however, push the industry forward with innovative sensors and improved usability, among other things. Here are our…

Photographers can now customize the layout of Lightroom Classic controls

Tired of scrolling past Lightroom tools that you don't use? Adobe Lightroom Classic now allows users to reorganize the Develop panel. The update comes along with new sharing options in Lightroom CC, and updates to the mobile Lightroom app.

Leave the laptop at home, the iPad Pro is the travel buddy to take on vacay

The iPad Pro is a powerful tablet that's perfect for creatives and professionals. How does it fare when traveling with it as a laptop replacement? We took it on a two week trek in Japan to find out.
Social Media

Instagram could be making a special type of account for influencers

Instagram influencers fall somewhere between a business profile and a typical Instagram, so the company is working on developing a type of account just for creators. The new account type would give creators more access to analytical data.

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…

These are the best action cameras money can buy

Action cameras are great tools for capturing videos of your everyday activities, whether it's a birthday party or the steepest slope you've ever descended on your snowboard. These are the best money can buy.

Canon holiday sale features the Rebel T6 2-lens kit for just $449

If you have a budding photographer in your life in need of a real camera, the Canon EOS Rebel T6 could make the perfect gift. Canon is currently offering the camera in a two-lens bundle for just $449 through December 29.
Emerging Tech

Light, speed: Lighting kit for DJI Mavic 2 lets you fly and film in the dark

Lume Cube, maker of small battery-powered LED lights for mobile photography, has announced a new lighting kit built specifically for the DJI Mavic 2 -- the first of its kind. Already our favorite drone, this makes the Mavic 2 even better.
Social Media

Instagram’s 2018 year in review shines a light on where our hearts are

What did Instagram users share the most in 2018? A lot of heart emojis, heart face filters, and heart GIFs. The platform recently shared the year's top trends, including hashtags like #fortnite and #metoo along with a few surprises.

Want a fun, affordable instant camera? The Fujifilm Instax Mini 7S is just $49

Instant cameras have had a surprising resurgence of late, and no brand is better recognized in the instant photo space today than Fujifilm Instax. Walmart is currently offering the Instax Mini 7S for just $49.