Jonathan’s sports photography caught my eye, you know me I love all things snow related so it was inevitable that I would come across Jonathan’s snowboard shots. Further research showed that he does weddings and editorial photography as well. Have a read of what he has to say.
Tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Jonathan Moore. I am 28 years old. I was born in Los Angeles, California and I still live here today. Aside from photography, I love mountain biking, traveling, hiking, running, basically anything involving the outdoors. I am also a certified scuba diver. I love my alma mater (USC) and the Trojans! I’m a huge Trojan football fan (sorry Bruins)! I also practice yoga pretty regularly. I listen to a lot of electronica music, mainly house and trance, though I like pretty much anything! I’ve completed the Los Angeles, Chicago and Honolulu Marathons. Sadly I injured my knee during the LA Marathon in 2006, so I haven’t been able to run long distances since then…
What made you get into photography?
There are two reasons why I got into photography. First reason (in 2004), it was to get access to the field during USC Football games. To do this, I contacted the Daily Trojan (the university newspaper), and basically asked if I could shoot football for them. Having had no experience shooting sports whatsoever, they told me I couldn’t shoot games, but that I should shoot practices three or four days a week as a start. I did that, and eventually I was asked to shoot the USC v. Cal football game in Berkley. Since that game, I was hooked – I knew that sports photography was for me. I continued shooting Football and Basketball for them until I gratuated in 2006.
The second reason for pursuing photography was my semester abroad in Paris in 2005. During that term, I traveled through almost every country in Europe, and I did around 80% of my travels alone. I was forturnate to learn a new language (French) and experience new environments and cultural traditions on a regular basis. It was the first time in my life I felt totally free and independent. Everyday was a new experience. It was definitely challenging at times, but ultimately very rewarding. I’d give anything to have that experience again, so I wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to travel around the US and abroad on a fairly regular basis. Of course, this is easier said than done. I have traveled a bit for photography but I’m always working on traveling more!
How did you get started?
I have to say, getting a firm foot into the sports photography industry has been (and still is) very, very challenging. There is just so much competition for so few positions, especiallly here in Los Angeles. It’s very tough and there were many instances where I, along with my parents, felt that it’s just way too risky to make a living trying to do sports photography full time. I almost gave up photography several times, until I landed an internship internship for Getty Images in the summer of 2008.
Long story short, it was an absolutely amazing and inspiring experience. I learned so much about composition, lighting, the importance of clean backgrounds – really on how to treat sports photography as an art form more than anything, and most importantly, how to make yourself stand out amongst the sea of determined photographers in our industry. Here is a link to an essay I wrote for Sports Shooter about the internship that I would encourage everyone to read: www.sportsshooter.com/news/2099
After the internship ended, I was determined to make this career a success. I’d hoped to freelance somewhat regularly for Getty (and the other wire services) after the internship, but being in Los Angeles with so many staff photographers present, it just wasn’t happening. After contacting AP, the LA Times and US Presswire with no luck, eventually I came to terms with the fact that I simply could not make a living shooting only sports. This is ultimately how I got into wedding and portrait photography, which has been a success financially so far more than anything.
Even though my passion will always be with sports photography, I really do love shooting weddings and portraits because the same rules apply – good light, thoughtful composition and clean backgrounds. Furthermore, I was still able to apply everything I learned during the Getty internship. I started shooting weddings as a second shooter in Spring 2009. I used the images from that one wedding to book my first wedding, and after 2nd shooting a couple more weddings, my portfolio grew and eventually, it just became a “word of mouth” trend. I advertised a little on facebook, but in the wedding photography business, nothing beats a personal reference. Trust is SO important in this business, and an engaged couple will trust their friends more than anything.
What sort of photography do you mainly do?
Currently, I shoot mainly portraits and weddings, though I still shoot Football and Basketball for USC. I do freelance (very occasionally) for Getty Images, AP and the LA Times. I’m hoping things will pick up at the AP this summer…
What gear are you using?
Since I invested in gear used for sports photography, I use the following Nikon equipment:
(2) SB-900 speedlites
(4) Pocket Wizard multi-max transceivers
Audio recorder (for multimedia essays)
Whats your favourite lens and why?
Depends on what I’m shooting. For sports, the 200-400 f/4 is a very versitile and reletively fast lens. Great for basketball and football (during the day)! For weddings and portraits, the 50mm f/1.4 is definitely my favorite. I try to shoot everything in natural light, so that wide open aperture is definitely a necessity for that, especially when the lighting conditions are not so good! I also find it helps me interact with my subjects more if I’m forced to actually move my legs (rather than just zoom out).
How are you marketing yourself?
For the first year or so, I marketed mainly on Facebook, which worked quite well in the beginning. I noticed, however, that I began to loose those potential clients (who found me on Facebook) to personal references, so I stopped advertising on facebook completely about four months ago. I’m a member of the WPJA (Wedding Photojournalist Association), which is a great resource for researching local competition. When it came to creating a pricesheet, for example, I looked at dozens of WPJA photographer’s websites in my area, evaluated their work and compared that to their rates for wedding photography. Today, my business comes pretty much from word of mouth.
Marketing as a sports photographer is far more a challenge for two reasons: first, there is very little or no demand, and second, it involves reaching out to very busy photo editors who have little or no time to deal with someone asking for a job. I have an established relationship with Getty because of the internship. I contacted the LA bureau of the Associated Press three times before I was asked to come in and interview. As for the LA Times, one of my mentors, Wally Skalij is a staff photographer and he helped set up a meeting for me with the deputy photo editor.
Despite these efforts, there just isn’t a lot of work out there, so I simply check in with them every couple weeks just to stay in touch. I find my own events to cover (for free) and if I come up with anything unique, I send it to them just to show that I’m still out there. It can be incredibly frustrating at times trying to keep up a relationship with a wire or paper when there is such little demand. This was a particularly painful experience after working at Getty (interning full time to basically no work at all).
Whats your favourite photo you have taken?
I attached one for sports and one for weddings.
The one of Kevin Pearce (snowboarder) was taken during the Winter X-Games in 2009. It was used as a double truck in Sports Illustrated. It’s a clean shot, peak action, nice snowy background. I wouldn’t have picked it if it weren’t for the snow…
The one of Allison and Ryan (this is from my third wedding) was taken right after their “first look.” I like this shot in particular because it’s just such a natural, emotional moment for them. It isn’t posed. I didn’t tell them to embrace, they just did it. I also really like the forrest background. This was taken in Oregon, and coming from LA, we don’t really have dense green forest areas like this!
Advice for new photographers looking to go pro?
If you’re just starting out, never be afraid to ask questions. Never be intimadated by another photographer just because they’ve been around 30 years longer than you. At the same time, be respectful and open to learn from those who have more experience. If they give you attitude, don’t give them attitude back, just ignore it and move on. Find a mentor. Do research in your area for a local newspaper or wire photographer and get to know that person. Let them know what you’re trying to do and convince them that you’re a good, honest person who has a good attitude. The sports photography industry is a surprisingly small community (in any country or city). People see each other at the same events and they talk, so you never want to give yourself a bad reputation, especially if you’re just starting out.
Have a back up plan. For me, wedding photography subsidizes my sports photography. However, weddings require a very different mindset. While in sports your goal is to capture athletes in the peak moment. In weddings, you’re doing the same thing, but you’re also connecting with your subjects emotionally. Your couple will only be open and express their feelings of happiness (tears of joy) or whatever, if they TRUST you.