This week I welcome Jon Jenkins. Jon is a wedding and portrait photographer in South Wales. He is a great guy and makes me laugh every time we speak. He is full of excellent ideas and is always helping others on the SWPP forum and in person. He is extremely busy due to his artistic eye for creating images and his comical personality. I'm looking forward to photographing a wedding together sometime soon. I really need a good laugh and being around Jon that is guaranteed. Enjoy the interview and happy holidays to you all.
News update: Last month I was asked to be become an author/contributor for the extremely popular Pro Photo Resource website in the US. This was a great honor as I'm now writing with photographers that have inspired me since day one, Jasmine Star, David Beckstead, David Jay, and Bambi Cantrell to name a few. This website with it's 8000 members is an online community and resource for professional photographers and amateurs serious about the business of photography. I have learned so much from this site and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you join. I will be contributing one exclusive interview a month to PPR and soon we will be asking your favorite photographers to dissect their favourite images. Check out this months exclusive interview with two of my favorite photographers Chris and Katie Humphreys from Santa Barbara, California.
Now back to this weeks interview with the one and only Jon Jenkins.
Tell us a little bit about yourself –
I am very happily married and have four children.
Where is home?
Newport, South Wales
Did you go to school to study photography?
How long have you been a photographer?
How would you describe your style?
If you looked at a complete wedding of mine you wouldn't see a distinct style. I very much shoot for the customer and tailor each wedding around what I think the customer would want and to reflect their personalities, with a bit of creativity thrown in for good measure. As for my baby photography, I again shoot for the customer, but particularly with the newborn baby photography, I do try to create that fine art baby look.
Do you have a few recent images you can share with us?
How many weddings do you average per year?
What type of cameras do you shoot with?
The ones with lenses you attach at the front, DLSRs I think they are called, I think the make is Canon... hang on I'll have a look... Yes it is, Canon! 5D and 40D, but my favourite is the 300D as it is so light and cheap, you can pick them up for £100 now. I've totally gone off new cameras; they cost too much and don't improve your photography.
What is your favourite photography accessory, other than your camera?
I haven't really got one but I have invested in some off-camera equipment that I'm sure will become my favourite gadgets.
Other than that, I think it's my big gob! Ha ha! You do need a big personality to do this job and I think I have one, or maybe I don't, I don’t know, you tell me! Oh, and my love of children, always a winner if you work with them. Most people wouldn't call them a photographic accessory but I think they are a necessity to do the work I do.
If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?
I'll have to think about this one... If it was for all round use, I'll go for the Tamron 28-75 F2.8. It's so sharp and light. And for the £240 that it cost me, I can use it as a tool and not treat it like the crown jewels. Also it winds up other photographers who think you have to spend a fortune to get good results.
If it's to get a creative image, then my Sigma fisheye. So much fun using that lens, most lenses are boring and show the world how it is, the fisheye makes it look amazing and weird!
I wish they made a 10-300mm lens as I would buy it and wouldn't have to change lenses all the time.
What lighting equipment do you take on a shoot?
If it is baby photography, then I don't take anything, I just use natural light. On a wedding I use a speedlite to give the ambient a boost. Next year is my year of off camera flash. I've bought a load of flashes and accessories and I'm going to practice and learn to master them.
What is your favourite computer/editing accessory, other than your computer?
Are we talking hardware here? If so then my desk, I like a big desk I can pile loads of stuff on. I do like my Eizo monitor though, gives good colour accuracy. I did try one of those Wacom things and couldn't get used to it, so that went. Basically it's just me, a keyboard, a mouse and a monitor!
What is your most used Photoshop tool, plug-in, action set etc.?
I have 2 actions that I use on photos. One is called 'Bling Wedding' and the other 'DB Action'. I wrote them myself and I use them on about 90% of my wedding stuff. The first one is an extension of the second and gives the misty glow look to the photo and then a few layers of dodge and burn. The second is my dogs b******s action, Well to be honest, it's a dodge and burn action that does all the lightening and darkening that I need. It's just so good that it needs more of an elaborate title than dodge and burn. I don't use any commercial actions any more; I sometimes look at them and dissect them to see how they reached the effect, then use that in my own actions.
I am writing an action for creating luminosity masks, giving me more control over areas of light and dark. I might even incorporate this into an action where you can dodge and burn each luminosity level and that will give me the ultimate control. I'm even boring myself now!
How important is Photoshop (post processing) in your final images?
To be honest, it is everything. The digital camera doesn't give a finished look like what film did. Even if it's just Lightroom for colour and contrast there is no way you can get the correct image you want out of camera, even if it's just a contrast boost every image gets looked at. Saying that, I did a shoot earlier this year for an X Factor hopeful and I used off camera flash with good exposure control and the images were great straight out of camera, some of the images needed no work at all, not even contrast. Shows I can do it if I try!
Are you a Mac or PC lover?
PC! Macs are for people who don't know how to turn a computer on and have to have it bottle-fed to them! Ha ha! Only joking, it's just I've never used one and never want to try as I'm happy with my retro looking PC. I hate laptops, I think they are a government conspiracy to slow the world down, and that stupid pad thing for a mouse, what's that all about? A Mac laptop would be my worst nightmare!
What piece of equipment would you most like to get but don’t have yet?
Quantum Qflash. They are the ultimate; you have so much control with them. It's just they cost a fortune! I now have 7 speedlites (which cost me less than 1 Qflash including all the triggers and accessories) and may one day use them all for a shoot, to have the same amount of lights with Qflash will cost me more than my wife's cars and mine put together. One day I will have one.
What’s the best part of being a photographer?
For a wedding photographer, it's having the power to get 150 people to stand on one leg for the big group photo! Ha ha! I haven't tried that one yet but I'm sure if I asked them to do it they would.
For my work, which is social photography, mainly weddings and babies, it's being a part of the couple's lives and recording that day or moment with some creativity. I've built up some good relationships with my customers (I hate the word client, makes it sound too corporate) and have been a part of their lives through these special moments. One couple recently whom I photographed their wedding a few years ago asked if I could take photos of their little boy. I was so pleased to be asked to record this moment in their lives as well as their wedding day it means so much to me. You have to have this kind of passion in you to be a social photographer, you have to get a bit starry eyed when you're showing your customers these images that mean so much to them. If you're not an emotional person, then I really think you should just shoot still life and landscapes as emotion plays an important part of being a photographer for me.
How do you keep yourself motivated and your photography fresh?
Take every shoot as it comes and try to take the best images of your life with every shoot. You're taking images that could be on the wall for many years to come and with this in mind, it does help me be more creative. I also spend hours (far too many) looking through websites of other photographers for inspiration. Not just the top photographers either, many everyday togs get a look in from me, I just love looking at wedding and baby photos to see some spark of inspiration.
What has been your most memorable assignment and why?
This is a tricky one.... ummm... there have been so many. But one that stands out from last year was a baby shoot for a 6 month old at the baby's home. The shoot went well and I was very pleased with the images. I took them round to show mum a couple of weeks later and I sat in the lounge with mum while we watched a DVD slideshow of all the images. Mum just sat and cried, then she went on to explain how the couple had been trying for 14 years to get pregnant and went through 2 lots of IVF treatment with no luck at all. Then when all hope was lost she found out she was pregnant and this was the little bundle of joy. Once the tears were wiped away (from both of us) she went out of the room and shouted 'you can come in now' and her mum, sister and best friend were in the other room banned from seeing the first viewing as it could have been too emotional (which it was). The room just filled up with emotion again while everyone thanked me for the good work I had done. It's beyond my vocabulary to describe the feeling in that room. Money soon changed hands and I was gone with the most heart warming feeling I could have ever had. I have brought something into their lives that will be there giving them pleasure when this couple are in there 90s. I think that was one of the most memorable for me!
If you could shoot a wedding with someone who would it be and why?
There are loads of togs that I respect and would love to work with. Jerry Ghionis, Gordon McGowan, Crash Taylor, Sofie Louca, Bev Downie, Damien McGuiliguddy, Trevor and Faye Yerbury, Sean McCormack, Jay McLaughlin etc.... These are just a few of the people, there are so many, if I thought about it I could give you at least 100. Why do so many good togs have a surname that starts with 'Mc'? If I had to choose one it would be Jerry Ghionis as he just gets so many good images from a wedding.
Apart from weddings, I would love to work with people who are out of my field of photography to see how it works, such as Tim Tadder, Dave Hill, David Lachappell etc.; these guys are doing such great things. They don't have simple shoots to do; they have big projects where just one image might be needed from what is a massive shoot/project. I would love to work on one of these shoots and see it all from drawing board to completed image! It is completely different to how I work with weddings and babies.
Do you have an assistant/2nd shooter that accompanies you on wedding assignments?
I do, I wouldn't call him an assistant or a 2nd photographer but a co-photographer. His name is Richy Walton and sadly for me he's moving slowly away from wedding photography as his own studio is getting off the ground. Richy is an excellent photographer who has inspired me many times and I do hope he keeps working with me in the future.
Where would be your dream destination wedding?
Kenya. With a trash the dress session the next day on safari! That would be amazing!
A website and/or blog you visit often?
The SWPP forum is my most visited photography related site but as for blogs I look at many, including this one! Flickr groups also take up a good chunk of my time. As I’m getting more pulled into off camera flash, the Strobist and related blogs get some of my time too.
The hardest part of your job?
Probably customers. Even though they can be the best part of my job they can also slow me down. I do seem to be getting better customers lately or it could be I'm getting better at dealing with them.
Things you say or do to put your clients at ease in front of the camera?
Whatever comes to my mind at the time. Calling a group at a wedding 'a miserable bunch' usually gets the smiles going. I do like to have fun at all my shoots and this can put them at ease. For family shoots a 'high five' with the kids beforehand can get them in the mood for some fun. Just depends on whom I'm dealing with.
Have you ever had anything go wrong at a wedding and if so, how did you handle it?
Not really anything too bad. I did have a memory card fail on me and I put the camera and card in the bag to worry about it later, knowing I have an arsenal of recovery software to hand does take a bit of the worry away. I have had a flash break off and a lens drop on the floor and snap in half, this only happens when working with Richy though! When he dropped the camera and the flash broke from the shoe, I just told him to put it in the bag and worry later, I didn't want the bride knowing there was a problem. When the lens snapped in half (Richy again) the couple were in front of me and they looked very shocked, they asked me how much it was worth and I told them it was a cheap spare (which it wasn't) not for them to worry. It is important that the couple are the most important thing, EVER! Cameras, flashes and lenses are just tools, like a spanner to a mechanic, no different, the equipment was replaced by insurance so there was nothing to worry about at all.
The first photographer that comes to your mind and why?
Richy Walton! Well, we were on the subject of things going wrong at weddings! Ha ha! Saying that, he is a good photographer! Other than him, Dave Hill, his images are amazing and makes you just look at them for ages!
A wedding photographer who inspires you?
Jerry Ghionis! He is such an inspiration; he gets so many excellent images from every wedding. As far as weddings are concerned he's the Don!
The last workshop or seminar you attended and why?
Gordon McGowan and David McGirr. It was last summer and I just joined the BIPP and it was their South West regional seminar. I had seen David McGirr's Associate panel and I was blown away by it. I just had to go. Also Gordon McGowan was there who has been such an inspiration to me! It was the seminar that inspired me go out and buy a fisheye lens.
Do you conduct workshops for aspiring photographers?
Not yet! I am looking to do it in the future. In January I'm giving my first seminar talk at the SWPP convention. I'm doing the talk with Richy Walton, which should be fun. We're also going to do a shoot with models, which should be more fun!
What photographic organizations do you belong to?
SWPP and BIPP. I'm quite an active member of the SWPP, I write articles for the magazine, moderator on the forum and doing a talk at the convention.
One way you market your business?
Word and mouth is the best and always will be. Although for my baby photography I do find an advert in the local paper works wonders! In this day and age you do need a good website, I just need to update mine!
How important is an awesome website for your business?
It is such a reference point for customers that it is too important now to overlook. I'm my worst enemy, as I've not updated mine for 2 ½ years. The images are shocking! I think this interview will be a good kick up the backside for me to get things going!
Do you advertise in bridal magazines?
No. Do you? I would love to know if it works, the adverts cost so much money.
If not a photographer you would have been?
I've had 22 jobs before I became a photographer so I don't know what I would have been. Probably a care worker for learning disabilities as I did that for 3 years and loved it! Even though I love cooking I wouldn't do it for a living as it would become just a job and it would take away all the enjoyment I get from it.
Do you make time for personal photographic work? If so, what do you enjoy photographing and do you have some images you can share with us?
I'm a father of 4 so I don't get any time for myself! I don't have a personal collection of images except for family snaps and holiday snaps. I did take a nice photo of a turtle underwater while diving in Kenya and also a nice one of a leopard up a tree while on safari. Oh, and a panoramic from St. Paul's Bastille in Rome a few years ago that I'm quite proud of. But I don't get time to do photography for myself as when I'm on holiday I want a break. As for finding time at home, forget it! I will one day but that will be about it, One Day! Here are a few recent photos from my baby photography collection.
If you could be invisible for one day with your camera...
I don't think we should talk about that here! Other than that, a backroom at a political summit. I'd love to see what those world leaders are like without the cameras on them.
Photographing elephants in Africa, Bengal tigers in India, Polar bears in Alaska or the wedding of Brad and Angelina?
The Brad and Angelina wedding would pay for all the holidays! I prefer Jennifer Aniston anyway; she's my ultimate woman! If there were no money involved I'd go for the Tigers. I've shot the elephants in Africa and Alaska would be freezing. As for the wedding they would be so much hassle afterwards sorting out their images I'd want to kill them.
Tokyo, Helsinki or Cape Town with a Hasselblad H3DII-50 and Kate Moss?
With a what? Sod that, I'd take my compact with me, take a few snaps then sit and drink coffee all day and chat to Kate. Probably in Tokyo as that city fascinates me.
Is there anybody, living or dead you would love to capture on film and why?
Photographs are all about preserving memories so I'd probably want to go back in time and take more photos of my Grandmother when she was alive. I do have some snaps of her but I wasn't into photography then like I am today and would love to have some nice photos of her. If it has to be someone famous I'd go for the actor Sid James, he had such a wonderful character to his expressions that I'd love to capture them and I'm sure it would be a fun shoot. And of course Jennifer Aniston.
What advice do you have for wedding photographers just starting out?
Don't worry about that thing in your hand. It's useless if you haven't got the scene in front of the camera right. I see so many photographers talking about equipment and not about the 3 main elements of wedding photography. Light, Pose, Composition! They are the things to worry about. The best camera and lens in the world won't make your image any good if you've got the light wrong. Get a 'good' camera and a 'good' lens (and not the most expensive) and an external light of any kind and go get some training and practice working with light. Photography is about light and not cameras. I used to be into the equipment side so much more but it doesn't bother me at all now.
I’ve learned the most from…
I've probably learned the most from talking to other photographers and not just the top guys either. I try to have a good chat with a least one photographer a week, some of them are just starting out and I learn so much from just having chats about images etc. I've had people ask me advice and while I'm giving it I find that it's giving me new ideas too. Just talking about photography in general is my greatest resource. I'm so excited about attending the SWPP convention in January because I have 6 full days of non-stop chatting about photography. I must go out more and get a life!
Who or what inspires you in your personal life and work?
I'm going to say my family even though it is such a cliché. I really love my family and I get so much from spending time with them. When I was younger I never thought I would grow into one of those blokes who likes to spend time with my family and enjoy the company of a wife but I really do, that close family love does inspire me. I also get inspired from spending time with other families and couples who have a great love for each other too. My job is to put emotion, togetherness (I think that's a word) and love into my images and having that feeling around me really does help. (How soppy do I look?)
What talent would you most like to have?
To be able to paint. I'm the most awful artist ever. My handwriting is worse than a 6 year old, in fact ever since my daughter could write her handwriting has been better than mine. Other than that to be able to sing and play the piano.
Something you’re still learning?
Photography! I'll never stop learning something to do with it; it amazes me how something as simple as light can have so many possibilities.
Although, through all this talk of photography I have to mention my love of cooking. I could go forever and not take a photo and be happy but as for cooking I have to get my fix every so often. I love it so much, my favourite hobby ever! I'll spend money on cooking gadgets but not on cameras. I love learning new cooking skills.
What is your current state of mind?
Very very tired! I'm typing this after a few weeks of very hard work doing family shoots and dealing with brides who want their albums for Christmas.
What do you love to indulge in?
Fine dining. It is my main luxury, just last week I was fortunate enough to dine at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay one of the finest restaurants in the country. The food, service, everything was out of this world.
Something that is overrated?
Cameras, especially megapixels! They don't take photos themselves, you have to do most of it yourself, they are just a tool.
Something you’re saving up for?
I don't really save up for things, as I'm useless at it. As for photography, I want to go on a good training seminar next year. In my personal life I want to take the family on a nice holiday.
What item do you wish you had designed?
The wheel or the Ipod, I'd be worth a few quid now and I could have time to take photos for myself.
If you could have lunch with anyone who is famous who would it be?
Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal, Thomas Keller. Or any good chef for that matter. Oh I forgot, Jennifer Aniston.
Where you'll find me on a Friday night at 9 p.m.?
With my wife having a glass of wine watching a murder on telly.
Your favourite film (movie) of all time?
Fuji Velvia. Ha ha! Had to get that one in, sorry. The Castle, a very funny Australian film.
First thing you would do if you won the lottery?
Pay off my mortgage and go on holiday.
Which five words would your friends use to describe you?
Fat, lardarse, lazy, unreliable, no attention span. I have nice friends.
What would you like to be doing in 5 years from now?
Much the same as I am now but doing less work for more money.
And the last question, if you had one wish…
For shops to close for a whole week over Christmas. There is such a good opportunity there for families to get together and show their children a real sense of community and family values but most people would rather go shopping.
Oh one more, if someone said ‘how can I be the next Jon Jenkins?’ What would you say?
Eat loads of kebabs and take no exercise. Enjoy dealing with people through photography and stop worrying about megapixels.
Your readers can find out more about me: