by Phil Jones Published 01/01/2006
Pleasant Hill, California.
How did you get started in photography?
I had a chance when I moved to California as a friend of mine told me that a photographer was looking for someone to take wedding photographs for him. He offered me the opportunity to do some training with him. In the first year I did something like 25 weddings that soon became 50+ per year and that is when I decided to go it alone.
His studio was based in Walnut Creek, California, which is the next town to Pleasant Hill. I worked for Don Gerhardt for seven years and he remains a good friend to this day
Would you say that shooting weddings and portraits is a good career choice if you want to make money?
It certainly can be. I think that we need to appreciate that our craft is a valuable product and we need to price it accordingly.
Did you have a 'lucky break' like many other successful photographers?
Yes I can tell you exactly, it was in March 1994 when I attended the WPPI and sat in on an education programme by Dennis Reggie. He made one statement that transformed my business, 'don't price your services according to what you can afford.'
Which other photographers have you found inspirational?
Other inspiring photographers that have influenced me are David Anthony Williams from Australia, Yervant Zanazanien, Cartier Bresson and George Hurrell.
Is there a huge marketing effort required to generate the core of good business or do you rely on word of mouth?
It is not quantity of marketing that is important it is selective marketing, targeting just the right people for my business.
Do you shoot what you feel is best for your clients or do you allow some to clearly define what they want?
Clients are always in the driving seat. I am there to interpret what they want. I do have bridal discussions but I find I learn a lot about my clients by simply looking at the clothes that they wear. That defines their style; it tells me if they are fluffy, romantic or fashionable.
So how do you make sure that you are commissioned above any of your competitors?
By paying attention to the market and photographing each wedding in its own unique way. I ask myself - would they see the same type of images on someone else's web site? My photography is very much influenced by fashion magazines, impact is the most important quality that my photographs need. I hope that my images are a little controversial and that I am not disappointed if a prospective client doesn't like my images. At least they have an opinion and they have to stop and look at my images; you to accept that, when you are pushing the boundaries, some people are not going to like your work, however they do talk to their friends and show images.
How would you best describe your personal style or technique of photography?
What things do you most enjoy about your job?
The people - I love people, there is nothing more interesting than a human being and I just enjoy being in their company - they can be so entertaining and so such fun.
What are the most difficult things about your job?
Making business decisions, like hiring employees. Though I have been very lucky, I have had two terrific members on my team - Lindsey and Michael Van Auken, who have been with me for many years. Lindsey has the uncanny ability to be able to just read my mind; Michael is incredibly patient, open to new ideas, and flexible, all essential qualities I need with my hectic career
When is the busiest time of the year for your business?
Weddings, May through to October; portraits, May through to November. I am also kept on my toes, lecturing through-out the year.
How much of your workflow is digital?
What advantages does digital offer you?
Primarily, I can experiment with new techniques and see the results immediately, adding to my creativity
What generally is in your kit bag?
Hasselblad H1, Canon EO1D, and a selection of prime, fast lenses.
What prompted you to buy the camera of you choice?
Reliability is really important, you have to start with good equipment, bite the bullet
and buy the good stuff and you will not end up with junk - you only get what you pay for.
From a technical point of view which areas of work could be improved upon?
I have a continuing bone of contention with colour management. I believe in continuous growth, I take the opportunity to go to seminars; I don't want to be the best photographer from yesterday, I want to remain on the cutting edge.
What do think the future holds for you?
Publication of my third book, I hope at least another 10 years of photographing weddings and sharing my experiences
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