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Starting Out in Wedding Photography | John Solano Interview Part 2

By Pye Jirsa on August 15th 2014

Getting Started in Wedding Photography

I’ve had the good fortune to get to know John Solano, an extremely successful wedding photographer who also teaches. He is my mentor and friend, and he stopped by for an interview. John Solano has insight on what it takes to set yourself up for wedding photography success. Check out part 2 of this 3 part interview series. For part 1 of this interview series, click here!

Starting Out in Wedding Photography | John Solano Interview Part 2

Starting Out in 1987

John was only 16 years old and he wanted a job. So, he hopped in his car, and with his student portfolio and yellow pages in hand, he went to every photography studio in his area. Eventually one photographer was impressed by John’s audacity, and asked John “why did you you come out interviewing on a rainy day?” to which John replied, “Well I just figured nobody would be out taking a 2 hour lunch, everyone’s going to be indoors!”

The photographer (who was Jewish) was impressed by John’s answer, and told John that he had “Sechel” which is a Yiddish word for “foresight.”

Saving Up and Buying His First Camera

After assisting for a while, John wanted to buy his own camera. He asked the photographer he was working for, “What kind of camera should I buy?” and the photographer responded, “Only buy a Hassleblad.” A Hassleblad system with lenses, viewfinder, and lights would cost around $10,000, not exactly the kind of money a 16 year old would have.

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Luckily, when John was 14, he would go down to Mexico and play piano for his grandfather, and his grandfather would give him money. John’s mother also supported his decision to become a photographer and told him whatever he put in to buy a camera, she would match it. To his mother’s surprise, John put in 5k, and she kept her word, putting in another 5k. And that’s how John got his Hassleblad.

Hassle with the Hassleblad

John was excited to use his new camera, but the photographer John was working for would never let him use it during the weddings. For a year, while John was working, he was never able to use his Hassleblad. Eventually the photographer retired and John left, going down the street to work for his competition. This was a good move for John because at the new studio, he was now a photographer.

Going Out on His Own

John Solano stayed at that studio for 11 years, but the last 6 of those years, he had hit the ceiling. John’s friend pushed him to start his own studio, but John didn’t want to because he was comfortable where he was at. Eventually, John did leave to start his own studio, and with the help of his friends, he was able book 40 jobs for the following year.

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Conclusion

John’s work ethic and personality are two key factors to his success today. He worked for 2 years in weddings before being promoted to a photographer, and to even get that promotion, he had to leave a studio and join another! His story is motivating to anyone who wants to get started in the industry.

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About

Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

Follow my updates on Facebook and my latest work on Instagram both under username @pyejirsa.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Aaron Cheney

    Great article!

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  2. Chuck Eggen

    Love the interview. John seems like on elf those people you would enjoy sitting around and just chatting with. What a great story on how he made it into the business. Inspiration for all of us.

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  3. Wendell Fernandes

    Awesome story!

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  4. Jesse Rinka

    Didn’t realize John was behind the Lowel GL-1. Looks like an awesome tool to have in the kit.

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  5. Kayode Olorunfemi

    Inspiring…

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  6. Michel Andy

    Amazing story

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  7. Greg Faulkner

    Great interview :)

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  8. Mi Guel

    Awesome interview..Having a little trouble locating the Part 3

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  9. Brandon Dewey

    Great interview!

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  10. James Matthews

    Awesome. Been waiting for this. Thanks Pye!!

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