“I don’t focus on being the best; I just focus on being better than last week.” Aside from being named by WPPI as one of the top 5 best wedding photographers in the world (as well as listed on our own Top 150 Wedding Photographers list), Jerry Ghionis is a sought-after speaker and educator, and creator of innovative products like the Ice Light 2 and the Omega Reflector, the world’s first 10-in-1 shoot-through reflector.
Jerry got his first camera when he was fifteen years old and he’s been obsessed with photography ever since. In the 21 years that he’s been shooting professionally, he’s accumulated numerous awards and accolades as well as racked up a list of impressive accomplishments.
In addition to operating and owning multiple successful wedding photography studios (Jerry currently owns Jerry Ghionis Photography, a boutique wedding studio with locations in both Australia and Beverly Hills), he’s created a photography training website called the Ice Society, launched an app called Picpockets, created two popular pieces of photography equipment and travels the world doing workshops and speaking. He also started a charity with his wife Melissa, which helps children in third world countries.
With over two decades of experience under his belt in both the photography and entrepreneurial arenas, we asked Jerry Ghionis,
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started photography?
Read his reponse below. You can see more of Jerry’s work here:
Jerry Ghionis’ Gear List
Nikkor 70-200mm VR II f/2.8
Nikkor 70-200mm VR II f/4
Nikkor 24-120mm f/4
Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8
Nikkor 85mm f/1.4
Nikkor 58mm f/1.4
Nikkor 50mm f/1.4
Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8
Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8
Micro-Nikkor 45mm PC tilt/shift
Nikon SB-910 Speedlite
Think Tank – Airport Roller Derby
The Omega Reflector
Wireless Flash Trigger
Phottox Odin TTL Wireless Flash trigger
Jerry: Success in wedding photography and especially in performing on the wedding day is more about your communication skills and your listening skills and knowing how to read people. That will go a long way in making you a great photographer rather than focusing on how technically brilliant you are.
The ability to have an endearing and attractive personality and the ability to work under pressure while still being technically proficient is especially important. You almost need to be like a chameleon, in the sense that you need to know how to be relaxed and more down to earth at a casual wedding and at the same time be able to carry yourself professionally when you’re at a high society wedding.
I also believe that assisting at weddings is the best training for any photographer. At the very first wedding that I assisted, I probably learned more than in all of the time I spent in school. And that was because I was getting on-the-job, real-world training.
At that first wedding I was taught about the direction of light, how to use flash, interacting with clients, working under pressure, working under time constraints. I literally just carried bags and assisted a photographer for a year and half with no pay while I was working at a camera store selling cameras. I did all of that just so I could be involved in the industry. And that’s because when you’re photographing a wedding, you’re actually shooting much more than that, you’re shooting a wedding, portraits and fashion; you’re shooting photojournalistically, shooting product (all the details that you need to document), landscape, etc. So you’re photographing in all these different genres and under time constraints, weather constraints, different cultures and dealing with different personalities. So I truly believe that a really good wedding photographer can pretty much shoot in any genre.
Artistically, don’t be safe or stay in your comfort zone by going to “pose number 23 in location number 37”. Comfort zones have never been synonymous with artistic expression.
I encourage new photographers to be as passionate about their business as they are about their photography. Consider yourself a businessperson first who happens to be a photographer. As a business owner ask yourself, “Am I working in my business or on my business?” Surround yourself with great people – your studio is only four walls without good staff. Stop being a control freak and get some help. Educate yourself. Seminar and workshops can literally change your life. After all, knowledge is power. Don’t be too precious about the work.
One of my favorite mantras has always been that I don’t focus on being the best; I just focus on being better than last week. I believe this is one of the keys to being successful and consistently creating beautiful images. By doing that, you become the best that you can be – you realize your own potential.
CREDITS: Photographs by Jerry Ghionis are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.
Read what other photographers had to say in the One Thing I Wish I Knew Series here.