PhotographySILO.com: In your early years of high school, were you involved in the yearbook ? What sparked your interest in photography?
JULES BIANCHI: Why yes I was involved in the yearbook. In fact, in my senior year of high school I was the editor-in-chief. My interest in photography was sparked by my father giving me a camera. I used to like to draw, but when I discovered photography and realized I could document my pets and toys, I was hooked.
PhotographySILO.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?
JULES BIANCHI: As I mentioned, my earliest photographs at age 12 were things that most 12 year old girls like… animals and toys. Mostly teddy bears. I was never much into photographing scenery or still life, as I grew older I liked to photograph my friends and events happening in my life. I know my photography has grown as I am learning all the time, but I think my eye is very similar to the way it has always been.
PhotographySILO.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.
JULES BIANCHI: I started my business back in 2001, and I honestly don’t remember reading too many books. I think I probably should have! I had been taking photography classes since Jr. High, but I think reading BUSINESS books would have been the right move. It didn’t even occur to me at the time. Crazy. I think I grew more then by becoming friends with other photographers in my community and sharing/growing with them.
PhotographySILO.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?
JULES BIANCHI: My first two weddings were jobs I did for free. They were for friends of mine who had no budget for their weddings and because I was happy to just get the experience, it was a perfect situation. The first professional job I ever had was back in 2001 for a couple who knew a friend of mine, so I didn’t know them personally. It was definitely a rush to have perfect strangers agree to let me shoot their wedding. We met in a cafe that was showing photographs of mine from a road trip I’d taken the year before, and I showed them images from the two free weddings I had shot. I was also lucky because my sister, Joy, was working at Azusa Pacific University at the time. APU is well known for couples getting married straight out of college – read: not much money for a big wedding. I was able to shoot eight weddings my first year of business because of this. Even though I was charging very little at the time, I put 100% into every wedding and made the experience of having me there at their wedding fun and easy. They recommended me to all their friends and things just snowballed from there.
PhotographySILO.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?
JULES BIANCHI: When I started my business back in 2001, most of us were still teaching film and websites were not as common. No one had a blog. The best thing I did once I did switch to digital in 2004/2005 was join the DWF. I highly recommend getting involved in an online community as well as attending at LEAST one conference or workshop a year.
PhotographySILO.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?
JULES BIANCHI: To be honest, I think its incredibly difficult to make a living as a photographer these days. The competition is very fierce. Most well-known photographers are supplementing their incomes by selling workshops, tools, gadgets or bags to other photographers. Having said that, I think being true to your brand is definitely key for continuing work with referrals and new clients. You need to find a niche and then stick with it. Trying to be all things to everyone will actually not get you as far. In other words, if you want to shoot weddings, be the best, most reliable and fun-to-be around wedding photographer you can, but don’t also start shooting senior head shots. Or if you DO want to shoot senior head shots, but sure to carefully separate out that part of your brand. I like to think of myself as a family photographer. I start with my client’s weddings and then stay with their families for life!
PhotographySILO.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?
JULES BIANCHI: I shoot on the Canon 5D MarkII and I bring my older Canon 5D as a back-up body. I use the 580EX flash with a 580EX as my off-camera flash during weddings.
Canon EF 50mm f1.2 lens
Canon EF 35mm f1.4 lens
Canon EF 50mm f1.4 lens
Canon EF 15mm f2.8 lens
Canon EF 70-200 f2.8 lens
Canon Ultrasonic 24mm f1.4mm lens
Canon Ultrasonic 16-35mm f2.8mm lens
Canon Ultrasonic 85mm f1.8mm lens
Canon Ultrasonic 100mm f2.8mm lens
Canon Ultrasonic 24-70 f2.8mm lens
Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 tilt shift lens
I usually have all of them with me at weddings. For engagement shoots I will bring the 24-70, 70-200 and the 50 1.2
PhotographySILO.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.
JULES BIANCHI: ooh… I think my most favorite recent image is the one I created at the end of the night at a wedding this past March. I put the camera on a tripod and had the couple stand fairly still, set the camera to about F22 and dragged the shutter for about 30 seconds. I lit them with flashes and then played around with some flashlights to create a photo that had light painted onto it. I painted the word “love” and made a bunch of fun swirlies. It turned out really pretty.
PhotographySILO.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?
JULES BIANCHI: I do have a photography studio, but of course, one isn’t necessary to be a successful wedding photographer. I worked for about nine years before having one. I have only ever done one engagement session in a studio setting. For all the rest, I send my clients a questionnaire that basically asks them a little bit about themselves… who they are, who they are as a couple. Things they do together and places they like to go together. I find out if they have pets and if they want to incorporate their pets into the shoot. Then together we come up with ideas of where and when to shoot. I had one couple that was really into music and were planning a burlesque-type wedding. We decided to shoot at night all around San Francisco and make it kind of a film noir type feel. I loved how those turned out! I like shooting at Crissy Field in San Francisco because there is so much variety with such a small amount of walking required. I also like starting at the couple’s home if they live together so we can incorporate pets and because since its usually their first place together, the pictures will be that much more significant when they move to a larger house. I really like shooting at Lake Temescal in Oakland and the Embarcadero in San Francisco because again… lots of variety within a short walking distance at each of those places.
PhotographySILO.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?
JULES BIANCHI: I have been working with a company called “SimplyShe” who makes clothing for dogs! We shoot the dogs in their outfits in our studio. Its so fun and really different than weddings! I got the job through another photographer who referred me when she wasn’t available. I also recently was hired by Amtrak to shoot professional images so they could promote “National Train Day.” That was a blast. They found me through the PPA website. To diversify, I would suggest that if there is an event or group you want to get involved with, offer to shoot one of their events for free or trade. Be open to opportunities and be willing to stretch yourself or do something outside of your comfort zone.
PhotographySILO.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?
JULES BIANCHI: I did, in fact, write a how-to book. It wasn’t for wedding photographers, though, it was a photo 101 book for anyone wanting to understand photography. It originated from a class I taught and you can find it here: http://julescafe.com/shop If you are thinking to start a photography book, I would say just make sure that you are through in your research. Its okay to write a book that’s already been written, just be sure that your own personal “voice” is clear and offer a new perspective. Also, include a lot of stories and examples. I think these are the types of things people relate to and can latch on to.
PhotographySILO.com: A lot of professional wedding photographers are starting to run workshops. Will you start offering workshops in the future?
JULES BIANCHI: I guess I should have finished this interview a LITTLE sooner… my sister and I just finish an awesome course at CreativeLIVE! It was a three day workshop that was broken up into two parts. The first day was the photo 101 class for Moms wanting to learn how to use their cameras. The second and third days were for professionals looking to learn how to market to Moms and further their family portrait business. If you’re interested, you can purchase the downloads here: Photo 101: http://www.creativelive.com/courses/photography-101-moms-jules-and-joy-bianchi
Building a Family Portrait business: http://www.creativelive.com/courses/marketing-moms-jules-and-joy-bianchi
PhotographySILO.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?
JULES BIANCHI: To be perfectly honest, I don’t see this happening as quickly as everyone thought. I am happy to still create physical albums that my clients don’t need an iPad or computer to view, and there isn’t a way to incorporate video into that. Shooting video is difficult and learning the editing software is even more difficult. I think they are two very different mediums and I’m very impressed with folks who can conquer them both!
PhotographySILO.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?
JULES BIANCHI: Keep practicing your craft. Keep honing your niche and figure out what really makes you happy. Don’t feel like you have to take every job that comes your way, but be open to opportunities when they come to you. Continue your education all the time. Take workshops and make friends. Get out from behind your computer as much as possible. Outsource and prioritize. Be sure to take time for yourself and still do personal projects!