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Photographer - Jerry Ghionis - Speakers' Corner - part 1 of 1

by Jerry Ghionis Published 01/11/2009

We don't believe there's ever been a speaker line-up quite like this before at any photo convention - anywhere. At the pioneering seven-day long 2010 gathering, our broad church of professional and aspirational photographer visitors will have a truly enormous choice of seminars to be delivered by 175 top-rated experts from across the globe. (We just wanted to make quite sure we had covered every subject under the imaging sun!)

Of course it would be impossible to produce personal profiles for every single speaker given obvious Imagemaker pagination restrictions, so we've drawn a dozen of these key names out of the hat to give you an exclusive 'cross-section' profile snapshot. We asked them all similar questions - and here's the result.

Jerry Ghionis has emerged as one of the most influential wedding photographers of the 21st century. He was the only Australian named as one of the Top Ten Wedding Photographers in the World by American Photo magazine and an 'Icon of Imaging' by Microsoft. In February 2009 Jerry won the WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photographers International) Wedding Album of the Year for a record sixth time to add to his long list of accolades.WPPI included Jerry in their Top Five Wedding Photographers in the World.

In January 2009 Jerry won 1st, 2nd and 3rd place for The Societies Wedding Album of the Year and 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in the non-wedding Album of the Year. As a dynamic public speaker, Jerry inspires and educates fellow professional photographers all over the world with his passionate approach to photography and his natural business acumen that has made him a leader in the photography industry. Don't miss his 'Extraordinary Effort. Extraordinary Results' seminar at The Convention on Monday 18 January.

Imagemaker: Tell us a little about your background, your first camera and photographic experience and your subsequent emergence as a pro.

JG: I was obsessed with photography after I was given my first camera at the age of 15.

After completing high school in 1990, I started a four-year photography course and quit after a year as I was tired of teachers trying to teach me to save the world with one photograph.

In 1994, at the age of 20, I married Georgina who was 18 at the time. After working at a few camera retail stores I approached a popular studio in Melbourne and offered to work for no pay on weekends and did so for the next year.

Later they made me studio manager and principal photographer.

By 1997 I was ready to spread my wings and start my own business. XSiGHT Photography has become one of Australia's largest and most respected studios.

My biggest reinvention to date has been the launch last year of my new boutique studio in the prestigious Docklands precinct of Victoria Harbour in Melbourne. Here we cater for discerning clients who demand only the best.

Why photography?

There is no other industry like it. Creative, rewarding, fun, lucrative, involves travel, meeting new people, immortalising moments that will outlast me and the people I photograph...oh and shooting beautiful women!

If I wasn't a photographer I would be a singer. So now I just sing when I shoot.

Film or digital? Is there still a place for silver halide?

I have been shooting digitally for over eight years. Film is useless in my opinion. But those who have film and darkroom experience certainly have an advantage over those who have only shot digitally.

Tell us about your capture and output devices.

I use two cameras - both of them Canon 5D MK IIs. My favourite lenses are the 70-200 f2.8L, 17-40 f4 L and the 85mm f1.2.

I have started to use the Phase One P40+ Back for my 'wow wedding' shots, all portraits and fashion. The quality, detail and clarity are second to none.

I use 'The Edge Imaging' as my lab that prints on Lambda machines. I also print on the Epson 3800.

Bit of detail about your own studio set-up/staffing. Why (as a customer) would I choose you?

There are just three of us in the team. My wife Georgina, Personal Assistant Sally-Ann Sargood and me.

After running a high-volume studio for several years I have gone back to being the only shooter in my studio. I offer extremely personal service. My clients feel like they are the only clients I have. Everything the client sees and everything they experience screams luxury. I tailor make all my albums (I use Seldex Artistic Albums) using exotic leathers and gorgeous packaging. I capture the natural magic of a wedding day as well as capturing magic of my own.

The problem with professional photographers today is...

Too many photographers work 'in' their businesses and not 'on' their businesses. They shoot lazily and overzealously employ Photoshop. It's all about correcting an average image rather than truly understanding the fine art of lighting techniques and posing. Being professional is not just about charging for your services. Many photographers are letting the clients dictate to them rather than educating their clients and charging what they deserve.

What's the worst commercial error you have made to date and what were the lessons learnt?

Never before has it been more important to be careful with your money than in today's economic climate. Early in my business career, I used to spend money that wasn't mine. As an example, I would receive $10,000 one week, so I would spoil myself with the latest computer, lens or gadget, etc. I did not keep money aside for the compulsory bills. I didn't have a clear understanding of tax (company tax, goods and services tax, and tax on wages), superannuation (regular compulsory payment made by an employer for their employees for future pension), work cover (liability insurance), etc.

I was in debt and didn't know how to get out of it. Every quarter my bills would cripple me. I had to take charge of my business. I wasn't a child anymore. I had to discipline myself to keep money aside. I opened a separate bank account and began to deposit 20% of my gross sales every week. When the large tax bill would come every quarter, I not only had the money sitting there but always had a surplus because I overestimated the amount of money I had to pay to the government. I could then spoil myself on those luxury items with the money I had left. I strongly encourage you to do the same with your business if you haven't already done so. It's a great feeling to be in charge of your business. I truly hope you learn from my mistakes.


Are you excited by the evolution of imaging?

If you had told me 15 years ago that the industry and technology would be where it now is today, I wouldn't have believed you.

I both love and loathe technology.

Email keeps us connected with people all over the world but it takes too much time. Since when has anyone had an email-free holiday? How many more megapixels do we need? Is everyone going to be a videographer as well as a photographer?

Is it getting harder or easier to make a decent living?

I have met many people from all over the world and everyone is pretty much saying the same thing. You have to work harder for your money. We have to work smarter as well. We shouldn't wait for the next recession. If we are quiet we should use the time wisely and reinvent ourselves for when it becomes busy. Having a good website and a decent Google rating isn't enough. We have to chase the work. Fight for it.

How do you stay ahead of the game?

Rather than expend my energy on my fears or negativity, I spend my energy on chasing my dreams. I surround myself with positive people. I market myself relentlessly. I place myself in positions to win. I create my own luck. I am enjoying my life now. I focus on influencing people in a positive way.

How do organisations such as The Societies help?

For me, organisations such as The Societies are all about networking, friendships and the mutual sharing of education and inspiration. The minute you think you know everything, you know nothing.

Why is The Societies Convention such a big deal for photographers? Is it primarily about the chance to learn from the experiences of imaging icons? How would you add to the Convention's value proposition?

There is nothing like recharging your batteries and getting a quick burst of education, inspiration and perhaps a kick up the backside. I would do a survey on whom the delegates would like to see. Maybe allow for more critiquing during the judging. The more you are exposed to new ideas and different ways of seeing, the more you have a chance to make a significant improvement in your business and life.

Your own mentors (living or dead)?

I don't really have any mentors and never have. I wish I did. I have always simply tried to beat my last week's effort. I will be biased and say I still think the Aussies are leading the way in creative social photography.

If you could pick just FIVE seminars (other than your own of course!) to attend at The Societies Convention whose workshops would you attend?

In no particular order:


Kevin Kubota - Knowledgeable, great workflow tips and very funny.
Doug Gordon - Very funny, challenging and great posing ideas.
Ken Sklute - Amazing lighting ideas, great speaker.
Tamara Lackey - Talented, funny, creative, business minded.
Sandy Puc - Truly one of the most extraordinary women I have ever met.

What do you think will be the next big thing in the industry?

Not giving away digital files to clients.

Your plans for the next five years?

To do exactly what I am doing now. Shooting, teaching, travelling and helping people realise their own potential. Live life, love life and celebrate every second.


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1st Published 01/11/2009
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