Meet Joel, a wedding, portrait, and commercial photographer who uses Canon. Joel shoots RAW with his right eye and uses mostly Av and Tv modes, but will occasionally use Manual. He is a big advocate of Nik Software’s set of actions for Aperture and owns the complete set which includes Color Efex Pro and Silver Efec Pro (the main ones he uses for the “artistic” feel) and Dfine, Viveza, and Sharpener Pro which helps with images that need an extra boost.
Describe the moment you decided it was time to pursue this as a career?
I have always loved photography and maybe five to six years ago I invested in a – wait for it – Sony Cybershot! I was one of the fortunate ones that captured some stunning photographs with that relatively inexpensive camera, the best being a photo of a Volitan Lionfish in Cancun, Mexico. As I posted the pictures on sites such as flickr and my own personal website, I garnered more and more comments and requests for different types of photos which eventually lead me into Digital SLRs starting with the Canon Rebel XT and to my current gear, a Canon 50D.
What is one thing you’ve learned so far that has proven most valuable?
There’s so much conflicting information out there today for the aspiring photographer, telling you to do this or do that to become a “pro.” While technical knowledge is important – especially the exposure triangle – the cameras today are so much smarter than we give them credit for and just understanding basic techniques can create stunning photographs. In saying that, I found the most valuable piece of information I received was simply to shoot everyday. In doing so, you have so much more opportunity to understand how aperture or shutter speed settings affect your photograph than you ever would reading about in a book.
What makes you different from everyone else?
I think my background and ability to connect with clients is what separates me from your average photographer. I consider myself fortunate to have had parents who ran a photography studio as I was growing up and because of that I had the chance to learn so much about photography – albeit on film at that time. Their experiences and encouragement has been tremendous as I have built this business and even though they don’t have the studio anymore, their insight into my current work has always resulted in better images. My company is also very customer-orientated and it’s a gift to be able to connect with clients on a much deeper level than “just the photographer.” I treat my customers like a friend and I make sure they are taken care of even if it doesn’t involve photography and that’s why a majority of my business comes from previous customer’s referrals.
One item you can’t live without?
My iPhone – it’s my mobile business. I update facebook and twitter during shoots, I can post to my blog, I check and respond to e-mails, and update my booking calendar with new dates all on the fly. How did I ever live life without this thing?
Your best bokeh image and why?
Lens: EF-S60mm f/2.8 Macro USM
Focal Length: 60mm
I love bokeh and answering this question is like asking a father to pick his favorite child! But, I think my favorite has got to be an engagement picture I took in Greenville, NC with a lovely couple. My artistic side kicked in and I thought the nearby railroad tracks would be perfect for some shots. Once there I decided to take one of my two signature images which resulted in a beautiful bokeh shot. I especially love this photograph because the railroad tracks actually lead the eye and frame the ring.
Why did you want to be included on The Bokeh Pot?
I have surfed this site for a while to see the profiles of the different photographers and I figured it was about time I submit a profile!
I have three – Winning by Jack Welch, Fast Track Photography by Dane Sanders, and Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy.
As anyone that knows me can tell you I am a huge movie buff with nearly 1,000 DVDs and Blue-Rays at home. If I had to pick a single movie, I would say Vanilla Sky. The movie is awesome because it explores the variety of human emotions but is very deep in doing so, it’s one of those movies you either love or hate and I’m one of the few that absolutely love it!
Where do you find inspiration?
I found it odd when I first started in professional photography that many consider it a faux pas to admit they feed off other photographers but I’m proud to admit it. There are millions of photographers out there and seeing different perspectives or different styles of taking a photograph forces me to constantly examine and evaluate how I take photos. Sometimes I honestly prefer my style; however, in the beginning I found that those different styles really helped shaped the way I framed and took photographs (in terms of settings).
What do you think is the most valuable aspect of your business?
Without any doubt or hesitation my clients. Starting out in photography it was those clients who catapulted me to my current success and were willing to trust my judgement in lieu of a “formal’ portfolio. Accordingly, I setup my business to be very customer-centric and I believe in working with my clients closely to make sure that the photography I provide them lives up to everything they ever imagined!
Do you use a second shooter?
I haven’t recently but I’m always receptive to helping out up and coming photographers because we all been there before and it’s great to have a helping hand!
How would you recommend that someone wanting to second shoot with you go about getting the gig?
Make Contact! I won’t necessarily know you’re out there if I never hear from you! Just send me an e-mail, let me know your experience, and what you want to accomplish with second shooting. I’ll always respond back even if it’s not for a particular job!
If you could second shoot with anyone, who would it be?
Although it’s a stretch, I would absolutely love to second shoot with Mike Colón. He has an incredible reputation of helping the photography community and seems like such a down to earth guy despite his incredible success.
Are you a member of any organizations and have you won any awards?
Previously, I was a member of the PPA and I have been considered joining WPPI sometime this year.
Do you have suggestions for others trying to make the transition?
The most important thing I found is that you have to believe in yourself and your talent. People aren’t always receptive to new ideas or a new way of doing things but it is that new perspective which will constantly drive innovation and, if successful, put you at the forefront.
What is the biggest or most creative thing you do/have done to draw new clients?
In the beginning, reaching out to couples my wife and I knew or had met became an important source for clients. A vast majority of those sessions were done for free but provided a valuable starting place for building a portfolio and attracting paying customers to my company.
Are you for or against advertising (paid or free)?
If for, who have you had the most success with? In general, I think advertising is well worth it; however, I think you have to make sure it fits your branding and will generate new clients. After all, it does you no good to spend all this money on advertising if at the end of the day you don’t have any new clients to show for it. Similarly, when considering advertising give yourself a few days to think it over after you speak with the advertising agency and, most importantly, be honest in your assessment of the results you will generate through this particular advertisement!
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