It’s “Guest Blog Wednesday” featuring Jon-Paul Douglass!
First I want to thank Brad Moore and Scott Kelby for inviting me along as a guest blogger. I’m flattered and excited to share some random insights about what I do. I would like to inform that I am a young digital born photographer that has been practicing for three years. I will try and keep this concise since the last thing I want to do is bore anyone with quotes and clich©s. If anyone has any technical questions about how I created an image please email me and I will get back to you with detailed specifics.
The title of photographer can mean so many things these days that I have come to dislike the question of, “What do you do for a living?" Nothing is more difficult than trying to explain the randomness that is my job. I sometimes reply, “Yes, weddings and stuff like that,” just to change the subject. It is not uncommon that a person who asks the question is, of course, also a photographer, and they immediately ask me which brand of camera I use. Ten minutes after trying to explain why I personally don’t care which brand is better, I am asked to take a group photo with a point and shoot camera because well…I’m a photographer.
a very quick bio.
When I was very young, I wanted to be a cartoonist and the evidence of that was all over my school work. During high school I could care less about anything that didn’t involve a skateboard. And in college, graphic design kept my interest for a short while until I began dabbling in film. During film school I found most of what I loved about film could be accomplished using one frame. I began coordinating photo shoots with friends to create film-like stills. I quickly realized that for the types of images that I wanted to create I needed to learn everything that I possibly could about lighting for photography.
Before a shoot I’ll sometimes sketch out how I want certain shots to be framed. This helps my subjects to better understand what I want from them.
I feel that I developed my style early because I knew what I wanted to create from the start. I feel that many photographers struggle with finding a style because they start a business purely based on the fact that they enjoy photographing, simply love photography gear, or are in it to make money. Looking at my style from a business standpoint, the images on my website are not always the best display for the job at hand. Sometimes I have thoughts of updating my site with a more diverse portfolio, but always decide to stay with what I love. The truth is, I do many types of photography whether it is product, lifestyle, weddings, editorial, documentary or advertising. I can easily say that I enjoy some jobs more than others although I am extremely lucky to be getting paid to create images at all. I choose the style I display in my portfolio as my identity because these are the images that I love and what I ultimately want to be hired for.
When I look at an image, I don’t want the first thing that I notice to be the light. I would much rather be confused as to how the light in an image was created, or whether it was lit at all. The photographers that I am most impressed by are ones that puzzle me with their process. I think that sometimes we forget, since we have access to many varieties of expensive portable strobes, that natural light could possibly be the best answer. One of my favorite things to do recently is to take one small strobe with me and limit myself to just that. I’ll use sunlight as my key and pop the tiny strobe on the subject’s hair or cheek to give the image a more three dimensional look. You can also use the available light as a hair/edge light and the strobe with a modifier as the key. I would say that ninety percent of the time I would rather have large studio strobes, but a hot-shoe flash on a stick/stand allows for virtually no set up at all and can save you when you are guerrilla shooting on location. It is amazing how much you can do with one light and knowledge of how to use it effectively.
One small strobe behind subject shot in an actual down pour.
One small strobe on ground and angled up camera left.
Here I set off all my battery pack would allow in my car.
I have been working full-time with this for roughly three years now. I owe most of my photographic knowledge to the endless amounts of information available on the web. Three years doesn’t seem like a long time, but when you’re hungry enough to constantly improve, there is nothing stopping you from teaching yourself. I don’t scour the web looking for pointers the way that I used to, I mainly just learn from happy accidents or thinking up a technique and giving it a try. I used to get nervous before each shoot and wondered if I was going to be able to deliver. After countless jobs, I can say that a client has never been displeased and I always try to deliver far more than is expected of me. If I struggle with anything today it is mastering photography as a business. Unfortunately being a successful photographer isn’t purely based on photographic talent, but knowing how to conduct a proper business as well. I think that I myself, as much as the next person would much rather study their craft than read practices on how to promote it. I have become better at my business over time but I think that everyone faces similar challenges when their work is also their play.
So I think I’ve taken up enough of your time and I thank you all for your interest. I’d like to thank Brad and Scott again for allowing me to go on a rant here. I have tried to mix it up a bit with the images chosen for this blog, but if you would like to see more you can visit my website and also keep up with me on my blog.