Read the Exclusive Interview with the best selling author, business coach & the award winning photographer with more than 500 published magazine covers !
Tell us a bit about yourself.
James : Originally from Chicago, now living in Phoenix I am an award-winning photographer with more than 500 published magazine covers, the best-selling author of Fit Business Guide: The Workout Plan for Your Brand, a business coach for entrepreneurs, the creator and founder of FITposium and the host of the podcast Beyond the Image.
What technology/software/camera gear do you use to keep focused on what you do best, as you photograph?
James : I get asked about my gear a lot but the truth is – great gear does not make great photos.
I was never one to care too much about the technology, software or camera gear. If it works, I use it.
My camera gear includes a variety of cameras ranging from half a dozen Canons, including my main camera the 5D Mark IV with maybe 9 or 10 different lenses. I also have a Sony Alpha I will use, a Mamiya film camera or even just creating work on my iPhone. Your best camera is the one you have at that time. My lighting gear includes a variety of Einsteins, Elinchroms, Interfits, a few speedlights or just natural light. Same approach applies here – the best lights are whatever I have at that time.
It is not really about the gear. It is about how I intend to use it.
What brought you into photography?
James : In college I was studying journalism and was working as a freelance reporter when I was asked to start taking photos to go along with my articles. That was my first experience in creating images.
After learning and exploring the field of photographer further I transitioned my job to become a photojournalist. It did not take long before I was promoted to being the Photo Editor of the newspaper I worked at. Although still in college, I also picked up a second job as a Photo Editor for a new startup magazine.
Once I graduated college I actually took what I considered to be a safe job to work in professional service marketing – but was still running my freelance photography business on the side.
Eventually I made the decision to walk away from my marketing job completely and just do photography full time.
Name few of your personal favourite fitness photo shoots?
James : That is a question I’ve always struggled with. As an artist I am always looking forward to the next creation more than I am looking back at what I have already done. At any given moment, my favorite photo shoot is the next one I have on the calendar.
When I do look back at my own work, it is hard for me to separate the quality of the final images from the experience of making them. So there may be instances where I had a great experience but maybe did not create an image that ended up on the cover of a magazine.
Overall, I would say that I reflect fondly upon any project where I forced myself to create beyond my perceived abilities.
If you could photograph anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would that be and why?
James : I see being a photographer as having a backstage pass to the world. In my career as a photographer I’ve been able to meet with and create with some truly amazing human beings. So my list would include people I would want to have access to connect, create and tell a visual story with.
That list is actually pretty never ending and includes current professional athletes, retired pros, best selling authors, world leaders, musicians, actors and great thinkers.
But if I was hard pressed to choose one, I would have loved to spend a weekend following, learn from and photographing Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.
Would you say you have a specific photography style?
James : I always love when people are able to recognize my work because of my style. Although it is hard for me to conceptualize it into works – there are a few facets of my styles that I am very proud of and that all involves doing everything with intention. For example, I light my subjects intentionally. Whether I am using 9 lights, 1 light or no lights – there is a reason behind it and a story I am trying to tell. The way I use color, or when I choose to use the absence of color, is another way I like to tell stories in my images.
But the main thing I am proud of in my photography style is my ability to connect with my subjects to pull something out of them energetically and show it in the final images that they may have not even known was there.
There are lots of photographers who can take good looking photos. I have the ability to make the right images by how I work with my subjects.
What do you love most in a model? What is your favorite set?
James : It does not take much to impress me as a model. You have to be on time, you have to act professionally, you have to treat everyone on set with respect and you have to do your job with enthusiasm. That is it! Pretty easy. If you can do that chances are we will work together again.
Where does your creative inspiration come from?
James : I don’t consider myself very creative, but I am very curious and I think that is a more valuable trait to have. My curiosity will get me to work with different subjects, to try different lighting, to experiment with different compositions, to test different formats and to play with different postproduction techniques.
One of my favorite things to do is after I finish my main work with a subject and there is still time left to start to experiment and ask “what would happen if I tried this” or “what would happen if I tried that?”
It doesn’t always work out and that is the point.
The path to creativity goes through failure!
What would you say are the Key components for creating a great photo?
James : The first thing would be how light is representing in the image as photography means writing with light. I want to know the image was lit with intention and purpose. Then I want to see how the story is told in the image. Is emotion conveyed? This could be how the image was shot, but it is also in how the subject is represented in the photo. It is obvious when a photographer is unable to connect with their subject as they often will look like a dear caught in the headlines in the image. I may actually spend more time getting my subjects to feel comfortable and confident on camera than I do actually making the pictures.
You have created a platform “FITposium”, what it’s all about?
James : FITposium was created out of an organic need from many of our clients. I’ve worked in the health and fitness industry for over a decade and I would see so many I worked with struggle to establish their business, market their brand and grow their profits. So I took my background in marketing and sales and created FITposium to equip fitness enthusiasts with all the information, tools, connections and opportunities they needed to become entrepreneurs.
FITposium started as a conference in 2015 and has grown every single year attracting hundreds of attendees who want to learn, connect and grow in their careers.
In 2019 we also launched FITposiumPLUS.com, an online membership and coaching platform for the entrepreneur who was access to information, connection and accountability year-round!
Our mission to provide those in the fitness, health and wellness industry with the skills and tools to make success their only option!
What’s your suggestions for the fitness models trying to get out of a photoshoot?
James : First is to determine what your goals are with the photo shoot. What do you need the photos for? What are your intentions with the results of the shoot? Realize that you may need multiple photo shoots. Top clients I work with end up doing several shoots throughout the year to get all the imagery they need for their branding, marketing and publicity needs.
Once you decide that, you can select the right photographer for the job. You will need to work with different photographers for different reasons. For example if you just need content for social media you will want to work with a photographer who specializes in influencer branding photos. If you want photos to pitch to magazines you will want to hire a skilled editorial photographer. No one photographer can provide you with everything you need.
That is why I always ask a client what their goals are before they hire me. If I cannot successfully provide them with what they need and I know another photographer who can, I will gladly refer them over.
You do not need to go broke hiring photographers, but just know that there is nothing more important that the visual assets in your marketing. You will be judged by your worst photos – so quality matters.
If you just go with “free” photographers it will show that you are unwilling to invest in yourself. If you unwilling to invest in yourself, others won’t either.
When hiring a photographer, be open about your goals, expectations and needs for the shoot. Ask a lot of questions on pricing, terms and what is included. Every photographer is different so you never want to assume anything.
On set you want to be prepared with your outfits, backup outfits and any props you would want to cycle through during the shoot.
Pull together a mood board of sample images you found, and be sure to share that with the photographer ahead of time to reiterate your goals.
While on set, before you start shooting, make sure to review the strategy and goals of the shoot. This will help ensure you get the right results from your investment.
What advice will you give to the budding fitness photographers?
James : Be curious. It is hard to imagine a more enjoyable job than being a photographer. We get to create every day for a living. That said, it is also a grueling and different industry to be a part of. Your curiosity will keep you at the top of your game.
Never assume that you, or your work, will just be found. That is the biggest problem I see most make and why they are not getting the work they want. They assume that if they get a big enough Instagram following they will just be “found” and get work. Not likely.
The most successful photographers are the ones who invest time into prospecting their potential clients and asking for sales.
You don’t get what you don’t ask for. If you never spend the time to learn how to sell you work, you won’t sell.
What are you future goals?
James : I really love goal setting. It has helped me to become a best-selling author, an award-winning photographer and a business coach who has helped so many earn real income.
In the next few years I am aiming to get my podcast to over a million downloads and to earn my right to speak on a TED stage. But overall my goal and focus is to help as many entrepreneurs as I can to create their brands, market their brands and profit from their brands.
Social Connects & Links :
FITposium : FITposium.com
Membership : FITposiumPLUS.com