Artist Spotlight: Jon Woodhams Photography

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Jon Woodhams Photography

Please welcome Jon Woodhams Photography ~ Jon has a talent for luminous lighting and gorgeous still life photography. 

I interviewed JON last week and here is what he had to say to a few of my curious questions!

How did you get into photography?

My dad had a folding Polaroid (with the peel-apart film) and Kodak Super8 movie camera that he loved using, so that probably influenced me. As a young kid, I received a tiny plastic camera that used 126 film. I took lots of pictures with it, and I wish I still had it! In 1983 I bought a Minolta 35mm point-and-shoot that I used until I got my first digital camera in December 2001. But it was a move to New York (Brooklyn) in 2010 that really revived my interest in photography and helped me begin thinking and seeing more artisticially. I was still using a long-zoom point-and-shoot, but I devoured the architecture and other aspects of NYC in an effort to document them and share them with my Facebook friends. In 2012, though, my New York adventure ended, and I am now in Memphis, Tennessee. I got my first (and so far only) DSLR a year later. I’ve been going at it ever since.

How would you describe your style?

My style is constantly evolving, but one thing that unifies a lot of my work is my affection for vintage things: cars and cameras; telephones and typewriters; books and bottles. My shooting tends to be seasonal: more indoors in the winter and outdoors in the summer. I love to do macros, urban decay, cemetery monuments, old cars (really anything old and worn). But probably my favorite thing, and the style that is becoming my signature, is still lifes, and recently I’ve been working with natural light and backlighting.

What would your ideal studio look like?

I have a small studio now that has served me well, but I would like a larger space with a higher ceiling and much larger windows, or even a wall of windows in it.

What equipment do you use? What is your favorite lens?

I have a Nikon D5200, and I use an assortment of mostly Sigma lenses. I love my little 35mm 1.8 Nikon, and I’ve recently added a Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art series lens, a Sigma 10-20mm 3.5, a Sigma 105mm 2.8 macro, a Sigma 150-500mm, and my great all-purpose Sigma 18-250mm zoom. I have three tripods of varying weights, and some basic studio lighting, which is set up in a small studio in our home. My favorite lens is my Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art lens, followed by my Nikon 35mm 1.8. I also use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.


How do you divide your time between your career job, the photography and social media for marketing and PR / or what lessons have you learned to make this process make sense and run day to day more smoothly?  

I wish I had some sage advice. I work a full-time job from my home office, so my office is used for my photography, my social media, and my job, and it is difficult to keep the first two from bleeding into my work time. I try to set aside my earliest hour or two (after making coffee!) for promoting my work and cross promoting with others. I’ll retweet from my phone as time allows here and there throughout the day. But once you dip your toes in the water of selling your photography online, you really have to treat it almost as a second job, because between finding time to shoot photos, processing what you have shot, and promoting your work, it will eat up a lot of your “free” time. And know that it can take some time before you actually begin selling. I do wish I had more time just to shoot more photos, both locally and around the country. There are just so many hours in the day.

Tell us how you have developed your style and what part of the process captivates and emotionally charges you?

I would say my style is constantly evolving, but one thing that unifies a lot of my work is my affection for vintage things: cars and cameras; telephones and typewriters; books and bottles. What drives me? Probably just the creative aspect of photography—seeing something beautiful or striking and thinking, That would make a great photo, and then using the camera to capture what I saw.

When are images better than words?

Images are nearly universal, where words are often limited by geographic location or languages spoken. People the world over can enjoy art, though each person logically will experience the same image differently.

What is “success” to you?

I suppose there is success, and then there is Success. Success with a little S to me is seeing an image on my preview screen or my computer screen and knowing that I have captured something special, unique, or even just really well or artistically. Success with a capital S would mean reaching the point where my photography could actually pay for my investment in photographic equipment or bring in a steady stream of income (even a small one).
What helps you be more creative? What helps me be creative is shooting a lot of photos and seeing what works for me, what draws my eye, but also seeing what other people have done and then using that for inspiration, though of course making it my own. Sometimes, frankly, you can find inspiration not only in what you like but in what you don’t like and then avoiding that. I also draw a lot of inspiration from the large collection of vintage things around me in our home. Long before I shoot pictures, for example, my mind will begin putting together groupings of objects that work well together to form a narrative.

Any tips to photographers just starting out? 

Regarding camera equipment purchasing/ time management/ goals… it can be overwhelming when just starting out. Get the best camera you can for your budget, but know that the camera is seldom the thing holding you back from better photos. Learn everything you can about photography, especially pushing yourself to take off the training wheels of the Auto setting and experimenting with both Manual and manual focus until you are very comfortable with it.
Shoot in RAW or RAW + JPEG and learn about image processing. It is an integral part of photography, and despite what some people might say, there is nothing wrong with processing your images. Either your camera will process the image (as a JPEG) or you will. Wouldn’t you rather be the one making the creative decisions?
Invest in prime lenses when possible; not only are they almost always faster and better, but the discipline of using a prime/fixed focal length lens is invaluable and can make you a better photographer. And don’t be afraid of third-party lenses such as Sigma (my favorite), Tamron, or Tokina, which are often less expensive and as good as or even better than their counterparts from your camera manufacturer.
Finally, ask yourself what your goals are for your photography. When I started with my DSLR, I really had no thoughts of trying to sell my work. But I found an easy-to-use site where I could upload my work and offer it for sale. I had no idea at the time just how much work was involved in bringing people to view your work; I figured if I uploaded pictures and put them online, someone out there would stumble upon it and like it enough to buy it. (I also cringe at some of my very earliest uploads there, but that is a different topic.) I quickly learned from discussions on the site forums that I had to be active in social media to promote my work. But the reality is that, once I began thinking of selling my photos, it took me outside of my own head, and I began to think in terms of what actually might sell, and I concentrated on taking those kinds of photos. I am sure that it fundamentally changed the direction of the photos I took. That is not something that will happen with you if you are content to shoot for yourself or even just for your family and friends. So choose which way you really want to go, because it will tend to shape every photo you take.
I also had little if any idea of ever having my photos on gallery walls, but I joined an arts group with ongoing spaces for exhibitions, and because I was able to show my work with them, it gave me confidence, especially when I took a second and then a first place ribbon in a judged/juried show. And from that, lo and behold, I’ve actually sold a fair number of pieces locally through various venues and am hoping to be able to put on a solo show in the next year.

What kind of encouragement or jump start ideas do you give to someone who has been shooting a few years but hits a wall / slump?

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you will never stop learning as a photographer or artist, and often there is a disconnect between what you have recently learned in theory and what your actual skill level is. Practice is the way to close that gap. Also, looking back on your older work can be instructive. I often look back at an older photo and think, “I wish I had used a slightly smaller aperture there,” or, “I wish I had gotten three steps closer [or zoomed in or out just a little more].”
If you are in a creative or artistic slump, sometimes you just want to just give up on photography. But something made you want to pick up a camera in the first place, a drive, a passion, the desire to express yourself or document what you were seeing. Try to remember what motivated you then. Also remember that sometimes you don’t truly know what you have captured with your camera until later, when you’ve been away from it for a while. So while you might look at your most recent uploads and think they’re all crap, in reality, you might come back some time later and find some gems. And when you hit the wall, maybe take a short break but then get your camera out again and shoot something totally different than you are used to, or just get a change of scenery. Try shooting purely for fun, with no thought of selling or even sharing any of the photos on Facebook; try to find the joy and spontaneity of it again. You might be very surprised to discover that your less-pressured photos can turn out to be your most creative and interesting ones.

What is your current favorite type of photography project and why?

I have been delving further and further into still lifes with natural light. I’ve always liked still lifes (both paintings and photography) and have been creating and shooting still lifes since I got my DSLR. But I think this last bunch represents a leap forward for me artistically and stylistically. It is a genre I want to continue to develop, because I enjoy not only shooting the photos themselves but also creating the still life scene and the combining of various elements to tell a story about the person who might own these seemingly disparate objects.

Where do you show your work?

I am very fortunate to exhibit and sell my photography locally at galleries and other venues. I’m online too, and my favorite site right now is Crated. I have work on other sites too.


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