We’re bringing you our next artist feature from the June winners of SLR Lounge Awards! These articles are meant to give the photography community insight on how our award winners created their business, grew their portfolio, and achieved excellence in the industry.

Jay Cassario, owner of Twisted Oaks Studio, entered 2 winning images into our Awards submission earning him one Apex Award and one Ascent Award, both in the Wedding Portraiture category. He was also voted one of our Top 100 Wedding Photographers in the US & Canada in 2016. Let’s take a glimpse into his creative process and learn what tools and ideas have inspired him along the way.

What made you decide to focus on Wedding Photography?

It was the moment I finished reading How To Get Rich Quick For Dummies. Okay… maybe not so true. This is a question that I can ramble on for quite some time about. The short answer is that it wasn’t until after I had shot my 3rd wedding that I decided to focus on them. Not only focus on them, but dedicate as much free time as I could to educate myself and shoot as much as I possibly could to create the style I had in my head. A year later I shot 20 weddings. Two years later, 38. Three years and I had a built a multiple photographer studio that has over 100 weddings booked for 2017.

Prior to that life changing decision, my main photography focus was a mixture of landscape and nightscape photography. On New Years morning, of 2012, my mom suddenly passed away while on a family vacation. It rocked my world and I went through the roughest year of my life. My Mom was a wedding photographer, whom I was very very close to, and growing up she always had a camera on her. My love for photography started by borrowing her camera and learning how to edit both mine and her images.

It wasn’t until she passed that the idea of photographing a wedding even entered my head. My first wedding was a friend of mine, like most started out, and both my wife and I decided to take the job as a way to honor her. It felt like she was there with me every step of the way, as well as every wedding since. I fell in love with the challenge. I fell in love with the artistry; the idea that each and every wedding presented its own challenges, its own story, and its own unique way of helping me keep the memories of my mom alive.

What’s one tool you use (software, app, etc) that helps you daily in managing your business?

Without a doubt, the answer to this question is the office management software Pixifi. I honestly can’t imagine managing my business without it. While there obviously isn’t just one software or app that help run my business on a daily basis, I can very quickly and easily say that Pixifi is the most important.

How did you get your first paying client?

My first paying wedding client was an old friend of mine. The 2nd was a friend of my younger sister’s. The 3rd was a friend of a friend. The 4th was a complete stranger.

What is your favorite lighting accessory?

Hands down, MagMod. Primarily, I do my best to shoot as much as I possibly can using natural light, and finding creative ways to use it. When the time comes that I have to use speedlights, I need the look to mix well with the rest of my work. Before I started using MagMod products that was tough, and I struggled getting my OCF work to mix well with my natural light work. Between grids, CTO gels, and the sphere, I can do just that.

What type of presets do you use, if any?

I’ve spent the past 3 years focused on my shooting style and my post processing. I started learning Lightroom and Photoshop before I learned how to shoot in manual, editing my Mom’s photos for her. Once I started focusing on weddings, I dedicated a ton of time to making my photos look exactly the way that I had envisioned it when I pressed the shutter. It took a good amount of time, just about 3 years, but I finally came up with a consistent post processing style that I still use today.

Every time that I hear someone say that they immediately know my work when they see it puts a smile on my face, and a sense of accomplishment. With a mixture of Lightroom and Alien Skin Exposure, I was able to create an editing style that stood out from everyone else’s. It also does a good job of taking a RAW file and turning it into the vision I had in my head.

Do you have a favorite place for inspiration/education?

I look to magazines, movies, album covers (which I’ve shot a couple myself), and old paintings. I love looking at the work of famous artists and reading about the inspiration they had for each piece.

As far as education, that’s pretty simple, Kishore Sawh, he’s taught me everything I know. Ok, seriously, and I know I might be a bit biassed, but SLR Lounge is hands down the best educational site online and is the only one I still follow. I mentioned in the first question about how I dedicated all my spare time educating myself, most of that education came from right here at SLR Lounge.

See more of Jay’s work on his Website & Instagram and view all of our June 2017 Award Winners here! Don’t forget to submit your image before July 21st  to be considered for our July 2017 Award Winners!