I came across Jerod’s work while surfing through Photoshelter. His work stood out so I contacted him immediately, so I could share some of his knowledge with you all.
Tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a Texas-based editorial and travel photographer, and I teach photography at Texas Tech University while finishing up coursework for a doctorate in mass communications and sociology.
What made you get into photography?
I believe it was the combination of being creative and the overt communicative characteristics of photography that drew me to do it professionally. I grew up drawing and painting (skills I dare say I minutely possess today), and playing music, so when I began working at a small agriculture magazine during college, I also started shooting. I was hooked after listening to a presentation from the state photographer of Texas, Wyman Meinzer (unbeknownst to me that we would later shoot, teach, and partner in a business later).
How did you get started?
I started out shooting film, and I quickly fell in love with shooting landscapes and natural history. However, I soon found out that if I wanted to start making a living in the editorial business, I was going to have to start photographing people. I received an assignment from a local magazine to photograph 10 researchers at the university I was attending. By this time, I was just getting in to shooting digitally, and I also bought several Canon speedlites for the shoot. Over the course of that multi-day shoot, I learned how to make progress with the lights, I learned about a thousand things not to do with them, and more importantly, I learned I have a great passion for environmental portraits!
What sort of photography do you mainly do?
I’m primarily an editorial, environmental portrait photographer. I occasionally do some commercial work and family-style photography, but for the most part, I concentrate on visual storytelling that complements varying amounts of text, in magazine, newspaper, or book form. My travel photography is a combination of portraiture, photojournalism, and nature work.
What gear are you using?
I’m a Canon shooter. I primarily use the EOS 5D Mk II for most of my environmental portraiture and editorial work. When I’m working with a bit more active subject matter, I dig out the EOS 7D. I use a typical range of EF lenses: 17-35mm f/2.8L, 24-105mm f/4L IS, 50mm f/1.2L, 70-200mm f/2.8L, 300mm f/4L IS, and a 400mm f/5.6L.
For lighting, I’m certainly a fan of Canon speedlites. I typically carry a 580EX and two 430EXs with me at all times. Along with the speedlites, I use the PocketWizard Mini TT1 and Flex TT5 system. For more portable power, I use the Elinchrom Quadra Pro S kit. I can’t say enough good things about this particular rig! My modifiers range from umbrellas to Westcott Apollos, to Elinchrom Rotalux softboxes, to Photek Softliters, to Honl speedlite mods and gels. There’s no end to good mods and creating great light!
Whats your favourite lens and why?
This is probably one of the hardest questions a photographer could answer. I like all my lenses, and I deliberate quite a bit when I’m shopping, making sure the lens I buy will fit appropriately in with my needs and my kit. I’m putting the 50mm f/1.2L through its paces quite a bit lately since it’s my newest lens, however, if there was only one lens I could walk this earth with, it’d be the 70-200 f/2.8L. From landscapes, to rattlesnakes, to portraiture, this lens is THE workhorse in my bag, especially paired up with the 5D Mk II.
How are you marketing yourself?
My web site and blog are certainly necessary for my marketing purposes, and that tied in with social media, you’re able to do by yourself what had to be done through an agency 10, even five years ago. Twitter (@jerodfoster) is a great place to connect with clients and the photography community, and I tend to focus more of my social media efforts there and on Facebook than anywhere else. That being said, there’s nothing like just writing or calling a magazine or publisher and offering your services, pointing them toward a web site, or seeking feedback on a set of images you think they might be interested in. No matter how powerful social media gets, or whether you’re signed with an agent, you have to keep working at making those contacts and, more importantly, shooting great, consistent, stylistic work.
Whats your favourite photo you have taken?
This is another one of those tough questions. Arguably, the next image/portrait I make will be my favorite, but one that I keep coming back to for many reasons is a portrait I made a few years back of my grandparents on our family ranch. I don’t photograph a lot of agricultural subject matter, but I did grow up in this type of setting, and I owe a lot of who I am as a person today to a ranch and rural background. Everything about this image tells their story as Texas cattle ranchers. On the surface, the green pastures behind them, the cattle, the warm evening light, even the clothing is indicative of a rural, agricultural lifestyle. What’s not as apparent is what you can read in their faces: the work ethic and attitude to continually move forward, no matter how bad the weather may be one year, or whether or not the hay crop is plentiful. Generationally, the fact that they’re not smiling also says something about what portraits meant when they were younger: a serious occasion. Granted, I really KNOW these folks, but to me, this portrait objectively conveys story while subjectively adds layers to that narrative.
Advice for new photographers looking to go pro?
I’ve mentioned before that it’s real easy to start photographing and wanting to turn professional with blinders on their eyes. I started out only wanting to do landscape and nature photography. I very quickly learned that my passion was more for environmental portraiture and travel photography. If I had not been flexible enough to accept my first environmental portrait shoot, I don’t think I would be doing exactly what I’m doing today! Be versatile and open to any and all photographic experiences right out of the gate. I think then, over time, you’ll find what you really love and fall into more easily!