Crash Taylor Interviews Jose Villa

This week Crash Taylor welcomes Jose Villa. Jose Villa is a photographer admired by many. His wedding photography has been featured in magazines around the world. He still shoots film and was recently named 1 of the top 10 wedding photographers in the world by American Photo Magazine. He is a super cool guy and definitely someone that is pushing the boundaries in wedding photography. It's great to feature such talent on the site and I hope you enjoy the interview. A special thanks to all my readers, last week the stat counter reached over 100,000 + hits since September 08. All your emails and rockin' comments are greatly appreciated. - Crash

Hi Jose,

Tell us a little bit about Jose Villa? I'm 28 years old, born in Los Guerrero, Mexico and at the age of 5 migrated to California. I grew up on a horse ranch. I have the typical photography story, fell in love with it in high school, then went to Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California. I have been shooting weddings for 7 years now.

Where is home? Solvang, CA, The Danish capital of the US. LOL! No really they have the best Danishes here, like pastries.

If you could live anywhere on this awesome planet where would you build your dream home? I love Belize, I shot a wedding there a few years back on a small Island. It was stunning! I think I would build a home on one of the thousands of small islands out in the ocean and have all my friends come and visit year round.

What is your current state of mind before we continue with the interview?
Inspired and refreshed. Just cleared my mind with a personal trip to Mexico visiting a Mayan family, with 3 Holgas and 100 rolls of film.

Did you go to school to study photography? Yes, I went to Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California. I received my Bachelors in Fine Art and Portraiture.

How long have you been a photographer? I picked up my first camera 10 years ago, but professionally 7 years. It was a $250 Pentax 35mm. That was the most expensive item I had ever spent my own money on at the age 17.

How long have you been a wedding photographer? 7 years and loving it.

What or who got you started in wedding photography? I graduated Brooks in 2002 and was shooting kids lifestyle photos for 1 full year when a client asked me if I would photograph her sisters wedding. I declined and told her I would never shoot weddings. Later that day I called her back and said, I changed my mind; I would LOVE to shoot your sisters wedding. It was the best wedding ever. I have never looked back.

How would you describe your style? Fine Art, Organic, Life Style

How many weddings do you average per year? 45

Do you have a few images you can share with us?

What type of cameras do you shoot with? I shoot 100 % Film and LOVE it!! My main camera is the Contax 645, but also love the Canon 35mm 1V

What is your favourite photography accessory, other than your camera? I don’t like accessories. I’m very minimal.

If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why? 80mm 2.0 on my Contax because the shallow depth of filed on the Carl Zeiss lenses are stunning! Crisp and clear and simply amazing fall off.

What lighting equipment do you take on a shoot? I use a Sony Video light, the battery lasts 12 hours. It has saved my a** many times.

Can you describe how and when you use flash, video light, reflectors and natural light during a wedding? I use as much available light as possible, but when I need a magic wand to help, I use the Sony video light to add some flair, or to light the bride and groom during the first dance. My assistant will hold one light and the other is mounted on my camera. These lights are very small.

What is your favourite computer/editing accessory, other than your computer? I really like Bridge. I’m really old school. So I try not to use any thing on the computer other than Photoshop if I absolutely have to.

How important is Photoshop in your final images? Not important at all, since I shoot 100% film

What is your most used Photoshop tool, plug-in, action set etc.? The clone tool.

Are you a MAC or PC lover? MAC

Do you plan on buying any new equipment and if so what do you have your eyes on? I do love Holga cameras. I’m actually addicted to them. I have 5 now, but really want at least a few more. Ha!

I finally feel I have mastered my Crash-Art work-flow; can you briefly describe for the readers your photographic work-flow after a wedding? I gather my 30 some odd rolls of film and put them in a plastic bag. Send them to Richard Photo Lab in Los Angeles. They process and print, and scan all my images at high resolution. Two weeks later I get the images roll by roll, we edit the blinkers; throw those away and then put them in order in a Cypress cloth box.

I use Queensberry albums, what wedding albums do you supply your clients with and do you design them yourself or outsource the design? I use both Queensberry and Cypress; love them both for different reasons. We design all the albums here in my studio. If we are doing a flush bound album, we have the pages printed at Richard Photo Lab. We then send the printed pages to the album company.

How do you feel about cropping an image? Never! Ok, maybe a few images a year. What I see is what I get, and want.

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? I love museums, art galleries and most importantly I love to travel to Mexico and to clear my mind of sooo much wedding stuff. I love the colors down there, the people and the lighting.

What has been your most memorable assignment and why? Oh. Wow, there have been many, but the first that comes to mind is a wedding I shot in Monterry, Mexico. There was a drive by shooting the morning of the wedding at our hotel. That was a rude start to the wedding day, then we found out there were 5 paparazzi photographers at the ceremony. The wedding had more than 1000 guests. That day could not have come to an end any sooner. The client is a great friend of mine.

If you could shoot a wedding with someone who would it be and why? Frida Kahlo, she’s a painter, but I love her color, and I’m sure I could learn a thing or two about lighting from her as well.

Do you have an assistant/2nd shooter that accompanies you on wedding assignments? Yes, my assistant is my little sister; she is the fastest film loader I have ever worked with. She also shoots for me when I’m not available to be in 2 places at once. Usually I can be. LOL.

How many images do you average per wedding and how many do you usually present to your clients? I shoot about 700 images per wedding, and deliver about 600 for an 8-hour wedding. I deliver 4x6 images with custom borders we design in house.

Where would be your dream destination wedding? I would love to shoot a wedding in India.

How do you make the bride and groom, bridal party etc… feel relaxed in front of your Contax? I just talk to them as if I was one of their friends. They loosen up and end up being real and comfortable.

Have you ever had anything go wrong at a wedding and if so, how did you handle it? I dropped my Contax 645 in the middle of the ceremony, the lens shattered. I looked as if nothing happened. The bride and groom were freaking out, but luckily my assistant had a back up in the car, so I just used hers the rest of the night.

What are your favourite three images you have shot recently? Can you describe their creation in regards to location, lighting, composition, camera settings etc, also your thoughts when creating the images and what they mean to you?

This was shot right before the bride was going to walk down the isle. Very low light shot with 3200 Film

This was during the first dance. I love the expression I got from the bride's mother's face.

I really love this couple, they made me feel so at home, this image was shot during the ceremony. I love the cropping.

What do you feel is the most challenging thing about photographing weddings? Dealing with so many different personalities. I love to make people happy, but with so many different ideas and thoughts, I just take a seat and ride the rollercoaster.

What do you think of the wedding photography industry at the moment and where do you see it in 5 years from now? I love the state of it at the moment, it seems as though it has transitioned from photojournalism to fine art, lifestyle these days. I see it staying this way for the next 5 years.

A wedding photographer who inspires you? My clients, and those that love photography.

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/she took my portrait? Henri Cartier - Bresson

A website and/or blog you visit often? http://www.rodneysmith.com/

The first photographer that comes to your mind and why? Rodney Smith, he has the best composition of any photographer I have ever seen. His ideas are amazing!

The last workshop or seminar you attended and why? Joe Buissink workshop 7 years ago when I got into wedding photography. He was and is the wedding photojournalistic god.

Do you have any workshops or seminars planned for the future? Yes, I have a few more this year. one in Italy and one in Mexico. I have been conducting the Mexico one for 3 years now and it’s always such a huge hit. http://www.josevillaworkshops.com

I have heard a lot about an awesome workshop you are doing in Italy with the great Gene Higa. Can you tell us about it? I'm very excited to be joining up with Gene, a great friend of mine, in Italy for a 3 day workshop in the beautiful hills of Tuscany. Seats are limited and there are a few left. Please visit www.josevillaworkshops.com for more info.

What photographic organizations do you belong to? WPPI, PPA

One way you market Jose Villa Photography? Getting most if not all of my weddings published in bridal magazines as “real weddings”

Do you advertise? If so where? Yes, in www.mywedding.com and a few local websites.

How important is an awesome website for your business? Your website is your store front, it better knock the passer by’s socks off.

If not a photographer, I would have been a marine biologist studying the great white shark. What would you have been? A mailman.

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.

My love of film really plays a huge roll on shooting with Holga, you control the light intake on the speed of the film. Holga is a plastic camera that allows you to really think about the images that you take. You really have to compose the shot. I wish we all lived our lives this way as photographers.

Is there anybody or anything you would love to photograph? I would love to photograph Marilyn Monroe and James Dean

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? Shoot with cameras that you aren’t familiar with. Take them to weddings and start exploring the art of wedding photography. You never know, you might fall in love with a camera that gives you a certain look that can be yours. Everything is starting to look the same in wedding photography. I run the other way.

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? Fresh air, leaves, grass, and color

Is there anything you would have done differently during your photographic career? No, not really. I love where I’m at, I love my clients and I love my life.

Name one photographer you would like to take a portrait of? Mary Ellen Mark

Name one musician you would like to take a portrait of? Madonna

If you could be invisible for one day with your camera... I would travel to the Indian tribes in South America and document their amazing lives.

I’ve learned the most from… my family

What talent would you most like to have? I would love to juggle fire torches. Ha!!

Something you’re still learning? The art of time management

What is your greatest fear? Being a passenger in a car. Yikes!

Something that is overrated? Reality TV shows.

Something you’re saving up for? A ranch

What item do you wish you had designed? The iPhone

If you could have lunch with anyone who is famous who would it be? Ellen

Where you'll find me on a Friday night at 9 p.m.? Shooting a wedding or game night with my BFF’s

Your favourite film (movie) of all time? Slum Dog Millionaire

Who would play you in a film (movie) of your life? George Lopez. Ha! Not because I’m like him most, but because it would be funny to see how he plays my roll.

First thing you would do if you won the lottery? Invest it, and then give part of it away.

Which five words would your friends use to describe you? Honest, humble, happy, sincere, hardworking.

What would you like to be doing in 5 years from now? The same thing I'm doing today.

And the last question, if you had one wish… I would wish to have a big healthy family one-day.

Oh one more, if someone said ‘how can I be the next Jose Villa?’ What would you say? Ha!! Why?!!

Your readers can find out more about me:

Website: www.josevilla.com

Blog: http://josevilla.bigfolioblog.com/

  • Absolutely love Jose's work! LONG LIVE FILM!!!

  • Jose is a shot in the arm of originality. Film rocks.....and these images rock! Being completely digital now, I find it ironic that I spend part of my post-processing trying to make my images look more "film like".....that is ironic right? Great interview again Crash - thanks for keeping the inspiration fresh.

  • Oh my god. I absolutely love his work. He has amazing use of colour, composition, style - well, everything really. If he ever came to England to do a seminar, I'd sign up.

  • i was just reading about him yesterday! i want to sign up for his workshop in italy!

    he sounds like a cool guy. i love his passion for film--keeping it real.

    thanks, crash!

  • What a great interview ! Amazing to see such gorgeous images, with no cropping or PS work ... totally inspirational :)

    Thanks !

  • I met Jose in London last year and have been inspired by his work since. His openness and honest approach to his beautiful art is rare.

  • Stunning images, amazing photographer, great interview as usual Crash, you're picking some great photographers to interview.

  • hi crash, jenna again. love jose's work. i can see similarities in your work and his and since i love your work and now jose's i'm even more inspired. thanks crash.

  • Thanks for the interview brother. Jose is keeping it de verda. Representando for the Latinos on Interviews with Crash. Its nice to see some diversity on this site, ethically. Jose, your work is beautiful man. I see what you mean in terms of making your own images different. The film works wonders. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jose is fantastic. I've met him several times and he is always so warm and willing to impart what he has learned over the years to new photographers. He is also one of the most talented photographers I have ever seen. Great interview!

  • What a great photographer. I has the courage to continue with film!!! :)

    Nice work!


  • It's rare to see a photographer these days with such a unique style but Jose has that. I love his sense of composition and colour. Great interview.

  • Exceptional interview Crash. Love Jose's simplicity and that's crazy he still uses film.

    Thanks again for doing these, they are so fun to read.


  • Nice photos, My youngest son loves the Bride holding the CHickens , Very pretty photos though.

  • Just found your website. What a great idea, especially for you! I'm sure you're learning so much. Thank you for sharing this with the rest of us. I love Jose and his work. He's a great guy and who doesn't love his images, really? Jose, if you see this, the sunflower photo is AMAZING. Definitely subscribing to this blog...

  • You got that right Embrace Life, these interviews are a major resource for learning to take your wedding photography and business skills to the next level. The emails I get daily from photographers who are learning and getting inspired from the interviews makes doing them so worthwhile.

    Thanks everybody for all your support. 100,000 + hits in 8 months just blows my mind.

  • Fantastic interview yet again Crash.

    Beautiful and inspiring images and on film !!!

    Makes me want to dust off my trusty Mamiya C330 and shoot a few rolls


  • love the b/w's and the grain is just gorgeous. this guy has the eye. and..... photoshop is unimportant - an interesting concept.


  • So great to see you feature my friend Jose! He's just as amazing as his photographs!

  • met Jose at the swpp convention and was impressed at his determination to keep to film...brave and with pure results


  • Beautiful, beautiful work. What an inspiration! Thanks guys!

  • crash.. thanks for the opportunity to be interviewed.. it was much fun and look forward to meeting you soon.


  • I am a huge fan of Jose's work and hope to attend his workshop one day. Thank you so much for this wonderful interview Crash and thanks for taking the time to answer all these questions Jose.

  • outstanding read! I was entertained the whole time.

  • Great Interview!

    I've recently ventured back into film by purchasing a Holga and a Diana! I love the medium format and processing the B&W film myself. I haven't given up digital yet... but that may change?

    I've loved Jose's work for many years now since I've discovered him and he's a great inspiration. I love the fact that while digital technology is advancing so quickly - he turns and runs the other way. I know my Holga's will be coming with me on my weddings this year!


  • [...] comprehensive interview with Jose Villa. Since the interview is so recent, I shall direct you to the website rather than plagiarise. Here’s a few tidbits so you know why we put him in the [...]

  • Great interview. Jose's work is so inspiring and wonderful to enjoy, simply amazing. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Stephanie Connolly
    April 10th, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    I like turtles.

  • How can you not love this artist when he answers like this Q: if someone said ‘how can I be the next Jose Villa?’ What would you say? A: Ha!! Why?!!
    Love your art and love you Jose!

  • I really admire the work of Jose. That he shoots entirely on Film even nowadays is very interesting. Judging from his answers, he also seems to be a hell of a nice guy....;)

  • Great interview. Love Jose Villa's work! :)

  • Yes! Absolutely love Jose's work so much, inspired me a lot a lot!!

  • yey! jose villa is love! though i don't shoot film (still practicing) but his work is beyond inspiring indeed! I love the part when he answered:
    "Shoot with cameras that you aren’t familiar with. Take them to weddings and start exploring the art of wedding photography. You never know, you might fall in love with a camera that gives you a certain look that can be yours. Everything is starting to look the same in wedding photography. I run the other way."

    thanks for sharing! great great interview!!!

  • Amazing interview!!! Thank you so much for sharing -- I love Jose Villa's work!

  • Love this interview! Thank you!!

  • Fantastic - thanks for sharing Crash.

    I realise this is an old article, but nevertheless it's very interesting to see how Jose approaches the medium....as it's clear that he still seems to be shooting pretty much using the same values today.



  • LOVE Jose's work!

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