This week I welcome Jules Bianchi. Jules is a wedding photographer based in my hometown of Los Angeles. As most of you know, I was born in Santa Monica and spent the first 29 years of life there before moving to the United Kingdom 5 years ago. I miss home big time and this November, Ilona, myself and baby Jake Onni will be cruising over the Atlantic for 3 weeks. Can't wait. So it's with great privilege to introduce you to a photographer from my hometown that is just phenomenal. Jules is so inspiring and really does take the still image to the next level. Her passion is addicting and she is always willing to help others. She is a super cool person and I love her work. Jules Bianchi is what these interviews are all about, inspiration, creativity and a vision to keep this industry fresh. Looking forward to lunch Jules. As always, comments are greatly appreciated.
Tell us a little bit about Jules Bianchi?
Hello! Firstly let me say how flattered and thrilled I am to be interviewed by you, Crash! I have really appreciated you allowing us to include a few of your interviews on my new site, Jules Café. Let’s see… I live with a dog, Olive, a cat, Abigail, and my boyfriend, Marty, on the lower level of a 1930’s Spanish-style duplex. I love the vintage style of my home, and most of the furnishings here reflect that style. (IE, even though my couches are new, they are very retro.) Every wall in my house is painted a different color. I work out of my house, so one of the bedrooms has been converted into an office, and the front room has been converted into a cute meeting space for clients.
I love photography and the movies. I’m also addicted to American Idol and Battlestar Galactica. I have a twin sister who is my best friend and is also my business partner. She lives 400 miles away from me in the San Francisco Bay Area, so most of the time we have to “meet” virtually over our computers. I shoot half of my weddings in the Bay Area, so when I’m there, she is my second shooter. Joy is in charge of working with my clients on their album design, and she is the one who runs most of the Portrait side Jules Bianchi Photography. She also helps me with all of my talks and seminars and is just an over-all great person to bounce ideas off of and keep me in the know about what is going on in the photography community.
My boyfriend, Marty, is a brilliant web designer who is responsible for the complete re-design of Jules Café. I feel very lucky to have him in my life because the internet is such an enormous part of my marketing, and he is so good with everything internet related.
I work best very late at night (going into very early morning hours) and tend to get most of my work done after 10pm. This means I am not a fan of early morning meetings or any reasons to get up early, for that matter.
Every year I make Ukrainian Easter eggs (pysanky) and I have an enormous collection now of over 150 eggs.
Where is home?
I live in West Hollywood.
If you could live anywhere on this awesome planet where would you build your dream home?
Oooh… Probably San Francisco. My family lives in the Bay Area and I really miss them. I’ve always thought that San Francisco was the coolest town. I would also love to have a place in New Zealand. I lived there for eight months in 1999-2000, but I’m sure I would miss my family terribly.
What is your current state of mind before we continue with the interview?
Ha! This is a funny question. I actually feel pretty good. I spent yesterday cleaning the house, and I always find that I can think more clearly when the space around me is clear.
Did you go to school to study photography?
No. I mean, I DID study photography at school, but it wasn’t my major. I started in 7th grade (age 12) and learned how to develop film and black and white prints. I was pretty much hooked immediately. I took classes all through school after that, but when I went to college, I was a Film Studies major.
How long have you been a photographer?
Since I was 12 years old. Do I really have to admit how many years ago that was?
How long have you been a wedding photographer?
I started my company in 2001.
What or who got you started in wedding photography?
I worked in the film industry for about seven years before I became a professional photographer. I lived in New Zealand for nearly a year in 1999-2000 and when I came home my life in LA was so different. I wanted to do things to make dramatic changes, so I made a list called the “10 Terrible Things” of scary things to do that I felt would help me grow. One of the things on the list was “to shoot a wedding or an event” since photography was a passion of mine, but at that point had only been a hobby. In a strange turn of fate, my ex-boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend (someone he dated before me) was getting married to her (current) girlfriend. As it was a lesbian wedding, it was more ceremony than legal or some reason I thought that made it a little less scary. Turns out it was just as scary. Even though it was a low-key wedding, it was every bit as serious and filled with moments that were every bit as important as a huge high-budget wedding. I was pretty much hooked after that.
How would you describe your style?
Well, I shoot from a very nostalgic place. I love weddings because they are so significant in terms of the family – not just the bride & groom. I love catching real moments that are going to be meaningful for years to come, but my goal at every wedding is to also create dramatic images that make the bride and groom look gorgeous. I have coined the phrase fashionjournalistic to describe my style.
How many weddings do you average per year?
Do you have some recent wedding images you can share with us?
What type of cameras do you shoot with?
I LOVE the Canon 5D. I am liking the 5DMarkII more and more, but I don’t see why they had to change the buttons around so much.
What is your favourite photography accessory, other than your camera?
The silver photo ring I had made at Kimbra (http://www.kimbrastudios.com) The photo is one of my dog, Olive, and everyone who sees it thinks its just a cool stone until they further investigate.
If that doesn’t count as a “photography accessory” I would have to say the Pocket Wizard. I’m a fan of off-camera lighting.
If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?
50mm 1.2. This is the lens I grab most often because I like how easy it is to include more of a story when shooting with it. I know some photographers who are so interested in getting expressions that they zoom in to faces all the time and miss the STORY of what’s happening in the moment. I also love how quickly the lens focuses and how sharp the images are, even when its all the way open.
What lighting equipment do you take on a shoot?
I bring three 580 EX flashes (I almost always just use one, though, so I guess the others serve as back-ups) and an old Quantum Q-flash. I bought the Q-flash when I used to shoot medium format, and I would have it on a bracket on the top of my Contax 645. When I sold the Contax, the Q went into the closet for years until I suddenly became obsessed with off-camera lighting.
Can you describe how and when you use flash, video light, reflectors and natural light during a wedding?
I used to bring reflectors to every wedding, but we moved around so much and so fast, it never seemed to work to pull them out. I stopped bringing them after a while. I own a video light, but its not terribly bright. I tend to use it during the cake cutting so that the light is constant and I don’t have to document that with a flash. This way I can shoot really fast and if any cake-smashing happens, I wont miss anything waiting for my flash to re-cycle. During family formals in a dark church, I will position my Q-flash on a lightstand as high as possible and off to a 45 degree angle to my group. This creates a much more studioesque look than can be obtained with an on camera flash, plus, it allows me to shoot larger groups with a portrait lens from farther away rather than having to use a wide angle as I would have to do if I were depending on the on-camera flash to light my subjects. During wedding receptions, my Q-flash is on a lightstand pointing toward the dance floor and being triggered with a Pocket. Usually I will use it in tandem with an on-camera flash, and I love the options it creates for me depending on where I’m standing in relation to it. In other words, I might bounce the on-camera flash to make my exposure while using the Q as a hair light, or I might turn my on-camera flash off and use the Q as dramatic side lighting.
What is your favourite computer/editing accessory, other than your computer?
Is this a hardware question? I don’t have too many accessories other than the monitor, keyboard & mouse… I like my super flat keyboard, though.
How important is Photoshop in your final images?
I use Bridge and custom presets to convert all my files from RAW to JPEG. I choose my favorites from the wedding and will spend more time on those, but even then a lot of our tweaks are happening in Bridge. I created a whole slew of custom presets to more quickly convert my RAW files, and I usually really like where they are once that conversion is done. Having said that, I definitely go into PhotoShop and do fine tuning to important photographs, but all a general rule, I’m not too heavy on it. I came from a film background and processed my own images in the darkroom for years. I learned the value of getting my exposure correct in-camera a long time ago, so now PhotoShop is more about tweaking colors or bringing in more detail in the wedding dress if need be.
(On a side note, the word “favorite” is being flagged here as being misspelled, and Word just “corrected” it with the British spelling. I think that is so funny! Who knew your document would carry its own set of spelling rules. Feel free to change the spelling if you are so inclined.)
What is your most used Photoshop tool, plug-in, action set etc.?
As I said previously, I honestly use my own set of presets the most. I have various black and whites, vintage-color settings to get creative, and more practical presets like “burn edges ON” “burn edges OFF.” Once the files are converted into JPEGS, they are very close to how I want them to look. My other favorite set of actions is made by my friend, Kevin Kubota, who is a PhotoShop genius. I spoke at his booth on the IUSA trade show floor to demonstrate the new dashboard because I love it so much. Its such a smart tool – it makes it a snap to find any action I’m looking for, and his all come with such clear instructions on not only how to use them, but what they will do to my images.
Are you a MAC or PC lover?
I’ve been working on Mac since my first Mac Plus! I’ve never used a PC.
Do you plan on buying any new equipment and if so what do you have your eyes on?
I am going to start bringing a portable studio to weddings that we affectionately call “The JoyCam.” I was thinking I might need an additional light for this. So far, we’ve just been using the Q-Flash, but the first wedding with the JoyCam is coming up, and I know I’ll want the Q on the reception floor. I MIGHT see if I can put one of those 580’s to use either at the JoyCam or in the reception. Either way, I still need a new lightstand.
I own a LOT of lenses, so its getting harder and harder to justify buying new ones. I love the 50 1.2, so I wonder if I would love the 85 1.2 as much. I’ve shot with it before, and it was pretty great. Maybe that’s next.
I finally feel I have mastered my Crash-Art workflow, can you briefly describe for the readers your photographic workflow after a wedding?
We download cards as we shoot them onto an Epson P-4000. Sometimes, using the P-4000, a laptop & iView, we select favorite images that we’ve shot from the day and have a slideshow at the wedding reception. Anything in the slideshow goes into the “highlights” folder. At home, I copy the files from the P-4000 to my computer and pull the highlights into their own folder. Using Bridge and ACR, I tweak my favourites while my assistant, Jesssica, is categorizing, editing and color-correcting the rest of the wedding. I upload the highlights to Pictage and select 60-80 for the wedding album. Pictage has a free album design service that I use for every wedding. I have a set of very specific notes as to what I want to see in the design, and they get it very close. The design comes back after about four days, and I make whatever changes I need to, but usually its very few. Once Jessica is finished with her edits and color-corrections, I look over her work and batch process the files into JPEGS. We upload those –already categoried- to Pictage and release the event along with the pre-designed album to the bride & groom.
I use Queensberry albums, what wedding albums do you supply your clients with and do you design them yourself or outsource the design?
Right now, I exclusively use Leather Craftsmen. The quality of their product and their customer service are both excellent. Pictage has a relationship with Leather Craftsmen, so I can actually send designs straight to them from my Pictage site if I want to. If I want to see the pages first, I have the designs sent to my house and Leather Craftsmen picks up from my house every Tuesday.
How do you feel about cropping an image?
If it will make an image stronger, I see no problem with cropping. I tend to do my cropping in camera, but that is just how I shoot.
I choose photographers for these interviews because their work really inspires me and gets my creative juices flowing, hence the interview. What gives you ideas and inspires you to create such amazing imagery?
Like you, I study other photographer’s whose work I admire. However, I am really a fan of personal projects to keep photography fun for myself. I just finished one project that started as a personal project and ended as a 2nd place win in the Non-Event Informal Album category at WPPI. You can see the whole album here:
If you went to the link, you know now that I am probably crazy about my dog. I’m definitely her #1 fan. She’s getting on in her years (she will be 11 next month) so I worry about her. Being nostalgic as I am, I want to keep every second I have with her. I photograph her a lot. I need to photograph things other than weddings, so I created a new challenge for myself called “An Olive a Day” where I post one image of Olive every single day. You can see the results of this on-going project here:
One last thing I’ll share is a project I did with my nieces in Disneyland. To make the day more fun for me, I decided to look for the alphabet hidden in our surroundings. It was SUCH an amazing way to look at the world, made more fun by the participation of my nieces. You’ll notice Penelope discovered the “E” in her pretzel.
What has been your most memorable assignment and why?
Actually, “Olive Goes to Hollywood” was pretty much the most fun thing I have ever shot. After every “chapter” I would race home and couldn’t wait to process the images. Before I adapted the book to work in the WPPI competition, there was much more of a story involved. The story, however, couldn’t be written in advance because we didn’t know what the dogs were going to do or what might actually happen at each shoot. The really fun part of the day was looking at the images and “seeing” a story emerge. You can kind of see what I’m saying if you look at the blog posts from the various days:
If you could shoot a wedding with someone who would it be and why?
Hmmmmmm…. This is an interesting question. I have been lucky and had the opportunity to shoot with a lot of people I really respect such as Anna Kuperberg, Robert Evans, Dane Sanders, David Jay, Becker… at this point, I really just like shooting with people I have fun with. If I had to pick a stranger whose work I like, I think I would choose to shoot with Elizabeth Messina. She is famous for her film work, and I would love to see how she runs her wedding day and get the beautiful shots she does!
Do you have an assistant/2nd shooter that accompanies you on wedding assignments?
Yes! In Los Angeles, I use a woman named Shannon Lott – you can see her work on my site because she is also my associate shooter and takes jobs that have slightly more modest budgets than my clients. In the Bay Area I shoot with my sister, Joy. I love both of these women because they are so much fun and so easy-going, and having them along makes the day so much more fun. They put my couples at ease and know exactly what to do having shot with me for so long. Having one of them along with me makes me better at my job because I can concentrate more on what I’m doing knowing with confidence that they are getting what I need them to get.
How many images do you average per wedding and how many do you usually present to your clients?
Average per wedding: 3000
Give to the client: 800-1000
Where would be your dream destination wedding?
New Zealand. I want a reason to get paid to go back!! I’m super excited though, because I’m shooting in St. John on the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Vallarta this year, and I was hired to be the American Photographer at a new hotel in Japan. What this means is if a couple wants an “American-style” photographer, they will get me!! I’m crossing my fingers because I really want to go soon!
How do you make the bride and groom, bridal party etc… feel relaxed in front of your Canon 5D?
I find that because so much of my personality has been infused into my websites, blog and home studio, the clients who hire me are people who are very similar to me. They are fun, love photographs and love their family. Most of them agree with my schedule to see each other before the ceremony so that we have time to get creative and shoot a lot of portraits. I start the day with the bride and groom alone, and I think this helps get the jitters out. Many times, my couples do an engagement session before their wedding, so that helps them feel more comfortable with me on their wedding day. Whether at the engagement session or wedding day, I chat with my couples and gauge how comfortable they are with me interacting with them. I’ve discovered that many times, grooms just need “permission” to be snugly and cute with their brides, so as soon as I’ve given him instructions to chew an ear or tell his girl his favorite thing about her, he starts to loosen up. Occasionally, I will make up “scenes” for them to act out which has been fun… ie I’ll tell them to pretend its their first date and he’s trying to convince her to give him a kiss, but she’s not 100% sure she’s into him… they start to get really sweet and coy and it usually gets them cracking up.
Have you ever had anything go wrong at a wedding and if so, how did you handle it?
Nothing really specific comes immediately to mind, but I’ve certainly had my share of emotions flaring up on the wedding day. Sometimes it’s a bride who is upset because someone important is running late, or it’s the bride’s mother who is upset because she feels the groom’s family is getting more shots than her family (as strange as that sounds, its happened). Whenever a situation arises where someone becomes anxious or upset, I am very good about letting them know I hear their concerns. Even though weddings fill me with energy, and I get quite bubbly on the wedding day, I never get ruffled or anxious. (at least never in front of my clients!) I let them see that I’m calm & confident that we will get all the shots we need, even if we need to change the schedule on the fly. I think my confidence about my ability to capture everything they want really helps people calm down.
What is your favourite image you have shot recently? ? Can you describe its creation in regards to location, lighting, composition etc, also your thoughts when creating the image and what it means to you?
I love finding details about my clients that give an insight to who they are, and my latest fascination is shoes. I have included six of my favorite images from recent engagement shoots. Shoes are the finishing details to an outfit, and the shoes a person chooses to wear says so much about what that person is like. I love to move away from the obvious – the faces – and focus on the shoes to “tell” the story of the relationship of my couple and/or personalities.
What do you feel is the most challenging thing about photographing weddings?
Dealing with the high degree of emotions that can crop up between parents. There are so many broken families nowadays, and weddings are events where steps and exes will all be present.
What do you think of the wedding photography industry at the moment and where do you see it in 5 years from now?
I have noticed a great deal of newer photographers flooding the industry in the past five years. Digital photography has really opened up a lot of doors for people by making the photography learning curve a lot smaller. I think this is great for those photographers who are selling workshops and lessons to newbies, but I wonder if a good chunk of new photographers who are in business now will have trouble staying in business for the long haul. Being a mentor, I have seen photographers who really don’t understand the very basics of photography getting a website and a blog and selling their services. I know from experience that running a business is very difficult, and I have a feeling that five years from now things will level off again in terms of number of new photographers coming into the market, and I have a feeling that many of the newer photographers who are trying to maintain a business now will be forced to try something new within five years. I totally get the desire to be a photographer… MOST of what we do is really fun. But there are parts about running a business that are just plain difficult and expensive.
A wedding photographer who inspires you?
Oh this is a hard one…. There are so many amazing photographers out there, and because I know so many of them personally, I don’t want to list any for fear of forgetting someone and hurting that person’s feelings! Suffice it to say that I look at many many blogs and sites on a regular basis for inspiration. Not only that, but many of my friends are photographers, so I spend a lot of time with them, too. Just hanging out with like-minded people I respect inspires me, too.
It’s almost that time of year for a Taylor family portrait. Is there any photographer out there that you would be stoked to say - he took my portrait?
I think for a portrait of myself, I would like to be photographed by someone whose style is really different from my own, like Jesh De Rox, or by someone who is a good friend to me that I respect a lot, like Kevin Kubota.
A website and/or blog you visit often?
Facebook & Twitter! These are undeniably the easiest way to keep up with what’s going on RIGHT NOW. Plus they are very addictive. I have found no better way to procrastinate than these two places.
The first photographer that comes to your mind and why?
Annie Lebowitz…I just love how she conceptualizes a shoot in her mind before it exist, then has the resources to make it happen. I took my PUG to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art recently and saw the Vanity Fair exhibit. There was a video that showed the creation of one of her images, and it was such an enormous production! I thought it was very exciting.
The last workshop or seminar you attended and why?
A Photoshop class at WPPI. I always feel I can brush up on my PS skills.
Do you have any seminars planned for the near future?
I don’t have any seminars that I currently plan to ATTEND, but I will be going on a Pictage User Group tour and doing a talk called “From I Do to I’m Done.” Right now I’m not 100% sure how many cities I’ll hit, but here are a few cities who have expressed interest so far: Denver, NY, Boston, Minneapolis, South Carolina. I’m also teaching a “Mom’s with Cameras” workshop in Palo Alto in April and the Pacific Palisades in May. For both of these talks Tamrac, Kolo & Kubota Imaging Tools are providing give-aways, so I’m super excited to have such great products to offer the attendees!
What photographic organizations do you belong to?
One way you market Jules Bianchi Photography?
I make albums and give them to venues I like shooting at. This gives them a book of a wedding recently shot in their space and provides me with more targeted marketing to brides who are considering having their wedding in that space.
Do you advertise? If so where?
Not in any magazines or directory websites (except the Pictage directory which comes with my membership. Its my image they are using on the front, too!)
How important is an awesome website for your business?
I think its important to find a way to get your site to project YOU and your style, because unfortunately, its getting harder and harder to create a website that is really going to stand out. Templates are easy to customize, but they area all starting to resemble each other. I often think photographers mask less-than-stellar photography by having really exciting, well designed websites. Having said all of this, because of the number of beautiful sites out there, yours has to be equally gorgeous just to compete. The web is the FIRST place a newly engaged bride is going to look.
If not a photographer, I would have liked to be a marine biologist studying the great white shark or a cinematographer. What would you have been?
A film director.
I realize that each great photographer has a particular penchant or love for photographing a particular subject whether it be nature, portraits, sea or landscapes, shadow and light, etc. as a result I would love to have you talk about and share whatever images you feel appropriate of your own private obsession in the magical world of photography.
I think I covered this pretty thoroughly earlier in the interview with all of the talk about my dog, Olive!
Lately I have wanted to photograph models in Iceland and great white sharks in South Africa. Is there anybody or anything you would love to photograph?
I actually really enjoy photographing people. I get energy and inspiration from watching people going through significant moments of their life. I’m less interested in shooting architecture or nature. I would love to photograph a celebrity wedding.
When I was 2nd shooting I was picking everybody’s brain, I still am actually. That’s why I love these interviews so much. Every interview I learn something that makes me a better photographer. What advice do you have for somebody who wants to pursue wedding photography?
Be sure that you are up for the challenge! I truly believe that shooting a wedding is an enormous responsibility, and you need to have your technical abilities down cold. A person who is out-going and likes working with people would do well as a wedding photographer, but you shouldn’t let other people’s emotions get in the way of your doing your job. You should not be the type of person who is easily ruffled by unexpected changes.
We know that each of us has someone or something, which inspires our life and work. Can you tell us the true basis of your inspiration?
I used to draw when I was a kid, and I was very close with my family. I adored my pets and would get very emotional when my cats would get hit by cars (which happened to me a lot in my young life, sadly.) When my father gave me his SLR at age 12, I suddenly felt like I’d discovered this tool that would allow me to freeze time. Not only that, but I really loved being able to show other people how I saw the world – it was like drawing, only better!
Later, I chose film studies as a major because I wanted to be able to tell stories with pictures. Although ironically, one of the movies that made the biggest impression on me was “La Jette” by avant-garde filmmaker, Chris Marker. The film, although technically a movie, is told all in stills. I thought it was beautiful and innovative.
Is there anything you would have done differently during your photographic career?
I wish I had started going to WPPI a lot sooner than I did.
Name one photographer you would like to take a portrait of?
Hmmm… no one really comes to mind. I have taken portraits of many of my photographer friends already!
Name one sports player you would like to take a portrait of?
I actually don’t know ANY sports players. I don’t watch sports and wouldn’t know one if he bumped into me!
If you could be invisible for one day with your camera...
I would try to stay out of people’s way since they wouldn’t be able to see me…
I’ve learned the most from…
What talent would you most like to have?
I would like to play the guitar.
Something you’re still learning?
I feel like I’m learning all the time. Most recently, my sister, boyfriend and I launched a site called “Jules Café” which is a place for photographers to go and discover places to learn and share. Its definitely been a learning experience in terms of what is available on the internet and how we can learn from each other and really help each other grow.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
What is your greatest fear?
Losing my family
Something that is overrated?
Getting up early.
Something you’re saving up for?
What item do you wish you had designed?
A machine that would transport me from one place to another by breaking up my atoms and sending them wirelessly like a text message to their destination where I would be re-assembled. Preferably with the fat parts left out.
If you could have lunch with anyone who is famous who would it be?
No one immediately comes to mind…
Where you'll find me on a Friday night at 9 p.m.?
Eagerly waiting for Battlestar Galactica to start.
Your favourite film (movie) of all time?
Crimes & Misdemeanors by Woody Allen
Who would play you in a film (movie) of your life?
First thing you would do if you won the lottery?
Buy a house!
Which five words would your friends use to describe you?
I couldn’t answer this one, so I called my good friend, Robert Evans to answer for me. I asked him to think of my face and say words that came to him, and this is what he came up with: Bubbly, creative, friendly, nice, fun. He certainly must like me a lot!! ☺
What ambition have you not yet achieved?
To speak at WPPI
What would you like to be doing in 5 years from now?
I would love to think I’m still shooting, but more personal projects and only jobs I really want to shoot.
And the last question, if you had one wish…
I would love to be independently wealthy so I could travel whenever I felt like it and only shoot what I felt like shooting. (And I’d probably still shoot weddings.)
Oh one more, if someone said ‘how can I be the next Jules Bianchi?’ What would you say?
Hmmmmmm…. Stay up late and sleep in! No, I don’t know…. That is such a strange question! I really believe that to be the best photographer you can be, you need to just be true to who you REALLY are. Don’t try to be like me, take a good look in the mirror and embrace who you are!
Your readers can find out more about me: