LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: In your early years of high school, were you involved in the yearbook ? What sparked your interest in photography?
JEN MAY PASTORES: Yeah, actually. I was a senior in high school when I was on the yearbook staff. I was more of a band geek then and wanted to highlight the music scene both at school and off-campus. I was using disposable cameras to get most of my shots, so a friend of mine offered to teach me how to use her DSLR. That’s when I’d say my interest in photography began. I went to a lot of local punk rock shows–I was a drummer for one myself–and I fell in love with the energy I could capture in photos. Almost a decade later I still enjoy photographing live music.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Do you still have photos taken from the early years when it all started? What were your subjects? Are the digital photography pictures online to share with everyone to compare with your photography work today?
JEN MAY PASTORES: I have all of them! Every single print, negative, and digital file are all safely filed away somewhere. Other than the music scene, I photographed my friends and family, as well as covering stories for the campus newspaper. I chose to pursue Journalism in college and felt like I had great training in approaching new subjects and handling the sensitivity that sometimes come with photos. If you do a google search for “Jennifer May Pastores” I’m sure you’ll find a lot of my early work.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What books did you read at the beginning of your wedding photography career that helped you prepare for today? Title of book, author and price of book please…just messing around, the title of the books should be fine thanks to google search. Do you recall any other resources that you referred to heavily to help you prepare for the wedding photography business? We want to know what the must have resources are to fully equip ourselves when and if we ever plan to take that leap of faith into wedding photography.
JEN MAY PASTORES: My leap into wedding photography was exactly that. A leap of faith. I knew nothing about the industry except that it was an opportunity to get professional experience as a photographer. I don’t think I ever picked up a wedding photography book until two or three years into my career. Resources that did help me though were the relationships I had invested in in the photography community like WPPI or meeting up for lunch with other industry peers. My mentor in the beginning was Danny Baker of Epic Imagery who I photographed for at the start of it all. He was the first down-to-earth guy to explain business as a photographer in a sharp, but fun way, and continues to be an inspiration for me today. Since you mentioned books I did, in fact, spend numerous hours at Borders by the photography section. I remember taking down notes as if I were studying for a huge exam, but I knew it was a good way to learn something new and stay inspired.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What was your very first professional wedding photography job? Was this purely out of luck that you were at the right place at the right time? How did you get your first wedding photography job? Once you had your first job under your belt was it difficult to get another wedding photography job? What did you do to acquire more work besides providing awesome images?
JEN MAY PASTORES: My first job was with Epic Imagery in Los Angeles. It definitely was perfect timing. I had designed my first photography site, filed for a DBA, and told everyone my plans of pursuing professional photography. Next thing I knew I got an email from a friend who recently got married telling me about her photographer and how I should get in touch with him for a possible job. I knew I needed experience, but never had considered weddings as an option. Turns out they were looking for some help in the studio and hired me right away. A few months later two of my friends were getting married and hired me to document their wedding, so I soon had a fast-growing portfolio. I was fortunate that word about my work spread quickly among folks I knew. Back then (2006) I used Myspace and my website as a vehicle to market myself. I knew that in order to acquire more work I had to put myself out there and build my brand. Suddenly, people were forgetting my last name as I successfully identified myself as, “Jen May Photography.”
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: After your first photography job, What was the next photography gig you obtained and how did you go about your execution? Did you apply all that you’ve learned in all the photography books you’ve read ? Did you buy more photography books or accessed any more photography resources to help you jump to your next big step in the game of photography? What tools do you recommend that are a must have that helped you get to where you are present day?
JEN MAY PASTORES: I’m very fortunate that I had a part-time job at the start working with a photography studio. I was able to get back-to-back experience shooting different weddings, as well as corporate charity events, Bar/Bat Mitzvah’s, and portrait sessions. On my own I was also working hard to shape my own brand. I used everything I learned in the studio, the notes I took from my book-browsing excursions, and investment in personal projects to sharpen my craft. Some tools that I’d recommend today are mainly hands-on. Join up with other photographers like with smugmug.com or start your own meetup, and share your experiences and how you approached certain, difficult situations. Connect on online forums like opensourecephoto.net where a wide range of discussions are taking place. One of the books I enjoyed was Fast Track Photographer by Dane Sanders (fasttrackphotographer.com) that gives tools to look into yourself, the most important element when marketing yourself against the ocean of other photographers.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What keeps the money rolling? Your brand and reputation in the wedding photography space is possibly a huge factor to your longevity? Am i right? Do you have any recommendations on brand building for weekend photographers trying to get into professional wedding photography?
JEN MAY PASTORES: Oh, is this where I now share my golden secrets? The part about professional photography is that it isn’t as steady as we’d like it to be. There are seasons of feasts and seasons of famine, but success doesn’t have to be defined by the amount of money that comes in. If photography is your passion, don’t give up when the money stops coming in. The longevity is found in your attitude and will to stick it out through the hard times. Brand is definitely important, as well. Continue sharpening your craft and watch your work improve as you grow in your career. Keep shooting, keep going after projects that inspire you, and keep stretching yourself as an artist. Let your brand reflect who you are, because that’s really who your clients are hiring.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What is currently in your photography bag? Please be as detailed as possible for those starting out photographers that want to be just like you. Are you mainly doing digital photography? From your photography equipment arsenal, what do you bring for your photography engagement sessions? What do you bring for your wedding photography sessions?
JEN MAY PASTORES: Currenty, I have a great collection of film cameras and ironically, don’t own a working DSLR. Borrowlenses.com has been a great rental house for me when I need to shoot for my clients, so I usually rent when I have scheduled shoots. What I usually bring with me in my bag is a Canon EOS 7D, a 50mm 1.4 or a 35mm 1.4, a 70-200 lens, and a Speedlite 580EX. I’m definitely not a gearhead and like to work light. Renting isn’t ideal, but when you need to it’s a good road to take when you want to save money. I realize that I’m one of the few professionals who doesn’t own a digital camera, but I like being the underdog in that sense. In fact, I’m currently raising funds so I can invest in a new DSLR in the near future. Would you help to spread the word or give towards my personal cause? http://helping.jenmayphotography.com
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What is your favorite image in your current photography portfolio and why? How did you approach the photographic execution? Give us a glimpse on how you construct an image from scratch.
JEN MAY PASTORES: I’m literally scrolling through my galleries, because there are so many images coming to mind. As far as most interesting for a story of execution and how my mind works I’ll go with a recent underwater photo of Jessica and Mark taken at Hanauma Bay on Oahu, Hawaii. (You can see the image here: http://tinyurl.com/269mpat) This was my first shoot in the ocean of a couple, and I decided to use my $15 underwater film camera. I get excited when I can explore creativity with something that’s out of the ordinary for me, and when my subjects are open to joining me in my ideas it’s even better! We had gotten a late start on our session, the sun was setting, and the park was closing so we had to work quickly. I had to really trust my instincts in this case since I couldn’t instantly review my images like I can on a DSLR. I knew I wanted to create a world of magic that was subtle and romantic, and when you’re underwater you can imitate the idea of flying that sort of embodies both those elements. I requested Jessica and Mark to practice our idea before I took the photo, so every shot was rehearsed before it was captured. When you’re underwater and shooting with film, it’s especially important to execute as close as possible to what you had in mind. The best part was that I didn’t have to do any retouching after I developed my images. It was perfect just the way it was, and discovering that I captured reality just as it was is always a happy feeling.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Do you have a photography studio? Is having your own photography studio space essential for a professional wedding photographer? Has any of your photography engagement sessions ever take place in a studio? If not, where do you mainly photograph the engagement sessions? Could you reveal to us 3 of your favorite locations and why?
JEN MAY PASTORES: No, I don’t nor do I think it’s essential. I’ve survived as a professional photographer for five years now without ever having my own studio space. I’ve built my business around working with environments and space that’s available to me. It’s sort of an organic way of working, but results in much more exciting images I think. I mainly ask my couples to think of a meaningful place to have their session. If requested I’d suggest some of my favorite locations such as Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills, around Three Rivers nearby where I live in Visalia, and downtown Pasadena. Those places either offer a somewhat secluded working space with beautiful scenes or an urban feel with lots of color and textures to work with.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What types of commercial gigs are you currently involved in now and how did they surface? What are your recommendations on how we photographers diversify our wedding photography offering to the marketplace?
JEN MAY PASTORES: I’m not involved in any commercial gigs since my current focus involve weddings, families, and musicians. The last mention is something I want to have in my calendar more often since I desire to get back in the music scene that first introduced me to photography. As for my advice on how others can diversify their photography to the marketplace I’d recommend to explore what you love and take bold steps to try new things. Naturally, your creativity will show up, and with your diligent efforts, you’ll offer a unique style of photography that will attract your ideal clients and set you apart. Master what you’re good at is the best way I can put it.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What are your immediate goals as a wedding photographer? Are you planning on releasing any how-to books? What are your recommendations to people thinking about starting a photography book?
JEN MAY PASTORES: My goals for 2011 are to book weddings where my clients and I have the same artistic taste, especially ones that are out of the norm of “real weddings”. Recently, I was joking with my sisters about writing a book that shares my confessions as a working starving artist, so that might turn into a real goal, as some jokes with me do. For those thinking about starting a book I’d probably ask you to share with me your advice since I’m in the same boat.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: A lot of professional wedding photographers are starting to run workshops. Will you start offering workshops in the future?
JEN MAY PASTORES: I’ve had one workshop as a way to fund raise for a photography project in Cambodia, and that was a lot of fun and successful. With that said I do have an interest in offering future workshops, but I can never see myself charging thousands of dollars for what I would offer. Unless I was offering an incredible lineup of all-stars in a unreal location with perhaps a spectacular buffet. Maybe? This is what happens when I think out loud.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: I am sure you’ve read many articles discussing how in the future videography and photography will be one? What are your thoughts on that and how will you evolve to the new morphed medium?
JEN MAY PASTORES: I enjoy videography, but not as much as I do photography. Although, I’ve started to record clips throughout my sessions and during the weddings and use it as a fun addition for when I blog. It’s another great way to share with prospective clients how I work and the clients that work with me. Will I ever record an entire wedding day? Probably not. Will I do music videos? Very much so.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Ok so thinking about the future and how it is very important in any endeavor especially the professional wedding photography business. What do you suggest wedding photographers do in the future to solidify their presence in the photography industry? What will you do to ensure that you remain on top, not taking into account your photography niche?
JEN MAY PASTORES: To ensure longevity of your business the best thing to do is to never give up. It’s probably guaranteed that you’ll run into hard times, but success comes after “x” amount of failures. Continue sharpening your craft, marketing your brand, and producing stellar work. If you can still be amazed at your own work, I think you’re doing exactly what you’re meant to do, and that’s the gift of photography.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Thank you again for your time and giving back. What would you like to
leave for us photographers to think about when moving forward with wedding photography for the future? If you have any words of wisdom will be appreciated.
JEN MAY PASTORES: If photography is what you love, continue investing your time and efforts to give your clients an exceptional experience and excellent work. And when you’re going through difficult times, keep your head up and keep at it.