REAL ESTATE - INTERVIEW
Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Architectural Photographer Jason Jones
REAL ESTATE - INTERVIEW
by Melisa Kaya
In order to reflect the beauty of a well-designed architectural project, it requires high-quality photographs, not hundreds of photographs. At this step, Architectural Photographers comes into the stage, aiming to transfer the project in the best way to the photo. Jason Jones left behind his 15 years of industrial career and choose the way to be a professional architectural photographer, and his love and passion for photography made him feel more and more motivated to work every day and to be more successful. From the ground, plane or any rooftop of a neighbor building, he is trying to evaluate where there is a better photo opportunity for each project. I asked Jason Jones about the Importance of Photography in Architecture, the basics of photography, and his career.
Jason, before start talking about Architectural Photography, could you tell us about yourself? Who is Jason Jones?
I am a creative soul inside a blue-collar worker's body. I dream big, work hard and get hands-on with everything. I have a loving wife and 4 kids that travel the world with me. They are as crazy as I am and we make life OURS.
How did you decide to pursue a career in photography? What or who inspired you?
I worked in the high-end European auto industry for 15 years, but had always been interested in photography. In 2007, I made my mind up it was time for a change, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I went back to college for web design, but realized early on I hated that as a career choice. However, I met a couple of strategic people in real estate through that who really jump-started my career in photography with opportunity and access.
It didn't take long to realize I enjoyed architecture and that type of photography MUCH more than the weddings and portraits I had been casually doing on the weekends. I quit web design school, and jumped in feet first full time with photography. Also during that transition, I met a couple of veteran architectural photographers, and began assisting them. The education I received from that hands-on experience was invaluable and much more than anything I would have learned in a classroom. It gave me some high-end skillsets that allowed me to jump from generic real estate to true architectural and interior photography at a pretty quick pace.
Residential Exterior - Photo by Jason Jones
Could you tell us about Jason Jones Photography?
I am a photographer. I love photography, and cannot imagine doing anything else. Ask any of my clients, and they will tell you the same thing. I treat my biggest and smallest clients the same way - as if they are my only client. I specialize in architectural and interior photography, but also do a fair amount of editorial work, as well as some food/product assignments. I will travel anywhere in the world for a shoot, and have been blessed with many clients who take that statement as a challenge to see where I will say yes to going next!
How would you describe your photographic approach?
Realistic representation. One of the things I saw early on in real estate was many photographers did "good enough". The photos were not color accurate, they used extreme wide angle lenses that distorted the space, etc. There was no real pride in the work, and their name wasn't on it per se, so good enough, was good enough. I'm not that guy. When I hand your images over, they are accurate representations of your project, just as if the viewer was standing in the space. Colors are accurate, lighting is representative and easy on the eyes, and space is accurately portrayed. Your vision is a reality in the physical project AND the images I create for you.
Residential Exterior - Photo by Jason Jones
What type of services do you offer to architecture firms?
Interior and exterior photography are my staples. I also offer aerial photography services, either with drones or from manned aircraft, as the job warrants. I have an associate who offers videography services that I routinely partner with, so those options are available as well in a "one-stop" decision to hire me.
What is the most important component of a spectacular architectural photograph?
The light. The hardest shot, in my opinion, is actually the exterior of a large commercial building. As a photographer, I cannot change the position of a building or the direction of the sun. Many times those two factors do not line up with each other for a perfect arrangement. This is where scouting and pre-production walkthroughs come into play. On the day of the shoot, we already have it planned, prepared for and any access or logistical challenges have already been decided and worked out. For interiors, I bring a large assortment of strobe or continuos lighting to meet any challenges faced there. While all my architectural clients' design beautiful spaces with amazing lighting/natural light, camera sensor technology is nowhere near what our eyes are capable of resolving in terms of dynamic range (think about those party pics where the people against a window are blacked out, despite the fact your eye could see them clearly). I make that balance happen in camera so the space is lit in the photo as the architect/designer intended.
Commercial Interior - Photo by Jason Jones
How does the work of a professional architectural photographer add value to the architectural project?
You cant pick up a building or house and take it with you to a presentation. You might be able to get a couple of principles from your prospective client to fly out to a project, but that's going to be the exception instead of the norm, or at least not until much later in the selection process. Once a residential project is sold/completed, the owner may not want anyone coming back to the project, even if that was an option. Images can be emailed, stored in the cloud for access anywhere anytime, and are CRITICAL when making first impressions with initial inquiries or bids, or even attracting that inquiry in the first place.
Commercial Interior Lobby - Photo by Jason Jones
What do you think about the effect of a good photograph in the buyer's decision?
I saw this in real estate early on, and its one of the main things that carry over into both niches. You actually need fewer photos to "sell the job" when they are great photos. No one wants to look through 100 mediocre photos. It was frowned upon decades ago when Uncle Ned got the projector out at a family gathering, and nothing has changed since. 10 amazing professional photos of 2 or 3 recent projects will sell your services every time, where showing 30 not so great photos the construction manager took with his iPhone of your latest and best project to date could cost you the next bid.
Infomart Dallas - Photo by Jason Jones
Could you tell us about some of your architectural photography projects?
I've been doing this long enough I could say "just about everything". Some of my recent favorites though are a new construction office building in North Dallas for the developer, a renovated law firm office in a downtown Dallas high rise building, and one of my newest clients has been keeping me busy with some of the most amazing multifamily new construction projects I have ever seen.
Commercial Exterior - Photo by Jason Jones
Do your equipment and project plan vary depending on the size of the building? What type of works do you prefer most, is it interior or exterior?
Absolutely. I approach each job as a one-off project. This is where experience has no substitute. I know what to expect/look for at a residential interior job, and what to expect (that's completely different) at a 1 million sq ft office complex. So when we walk through the job ahead of time, I also use that to look for any unexpected hurdles, and arrange any special accommodations we might need with facilities management, etc.. Some projects in crowded urban environments even need coordination with a competing property across the street for roof access or something similar, and I take that pre-production time to work all of that out. They are not letting you on the roof without insurance certificates and proper clearance just because you walked across the street 30 minutes before the shoot and asked nicely.
Residential Interior - Photo by Jason Jones
I love photographing it all. Interiors and architecture fascinate me. Photographing it is a bonus. My clients make it even easier with all the nice things they install and build. If I HAVE to pick just one thing, I'd say large commercial building exteriors. They are way more challenging than they appear in order to do them right, and I always love a challenge. The final images from them are so commanding in presence and scale its hard to not like them, even if you are not a fan of the design style or materials used.
Photo by Jason Jones
What are your expectations from your clients for a suitable shooting environment?
Lets do a walk through. Seriously, 2 hours spent on a walk through of a large project 2-6 weeks prior to the shoot makes all the difference between smooth success and undo stress on the production day(s). Even if I have to jump on a plane for 4 hours each way to do a 2-hour walk through ahead of time I will. It's that important. Otherwise, the client did their part with the design of the project. It's their baby, vision and hard work coming to fruition. I'm here to take that last little bit of stress off of them (planning the photoshoot). I'm usually the last vendor they interact with onsite at a construction project wrap up / finalization, so making that happen smoothly is very important to me.
Could your clients use the photographs in any publication, catalog, website, ad or other platforms in the future?
Absolutely! When discussing projects in the pre-production phase, all usage and licensing are covered and agreed on right then. Each client's needs and budgets are different, but I'm probably one of the more flexible photographers around with usage rights too. At the end of the day, these are the client's images, and not mine. I want them to be happy with our contract and what they receive as their part of the deal. I really dislike saying no to a client's reasonable requests, so I can't imagine not being able to reach an agreement everyone is happy with.
Residential Interior - Photo by Jason Jones
Smartphones and affordable priced DSLR cams made everyone is more enthusiastic about photography. How did this affect the professional photography industry?
It has certainly led to more "photographers" in the job pool, but I honestly think it hasn't affected the serious, skilled professionals too much. It doesn't take a photographic expert to look through portfolios and other media to spot the folks who know what they are doing. Discerning clients know what they want and can sort the wheat from the chaff pretty easily. The camera is MAYBE 20% of the image at best. While technology has changed the old phrase "Its the photographer, not the camera" a bit, it still takes a skilled photographer to complete all the pieces of the process into something the client can be proud of.
Photo by Jason Jones
When I teach classes occasionally, I always use an analogy about a cake bakery. Think about the best wedding cake you've tasted, that cost thousands of dollars. They used the same eggs, flour, butter and milk that wal mart uses for their cakes. It's what they did with those ingredients, and the attention to detail that sets them apart as an industry leader or chain store junk food.
What advice would you give to photographers who want to pursue a career in architectural photography?
One time I was told, "if you want to be a millionaire, find a millionaire and do what he does". It sounds corny but it is completely true in any industry. In photography, find someone who is established and does work you like and see if they have openings to assist them. Apprenticeships have fallen out of favor in the age of youtube and instant gratification, but there is NO substitute for a few years of hands-on experience. NONE.
You also need some mentors/peers to bounce things off of. My success is greatly attributed to a few local photographers, that early on, were generous with information and help, and we still all help each other to this day. Maybe one person is booked up or doesn't do a particular type of photography requested, so we bounce jobs/referrals to each other. The very first request for aerial photography I received went off without a hitch because I knew another photographer who did that and I was able to call him for logistical assistance on where to rent a helicopter, pilot, etc., and he was happy to share that with me because of that relationship. When he started using drones, I had already been involved in UAS systems for a year or so, and I was happily able to return the favor when he called me.
Residential Interior Archway - Photo by Jason Jones
What type of different solutions do you offer for different needs? Could you briefly tell us about your other services?
As I mentioned previously, while I specialize in Architecture and interiors, I do offer other services. Being a one-stop shop for a client is a tremendous asset and value I can offer them. My main "other service" is aerial photography/video. But I also offer most other commercial photography services at some level. Many times when a large project is complete, and we are preparing to photograph it, the firm or company has several key people present and it's a great time to do a group shot, or environmental portraits in the space of the team, since they are all in one place at the same time. Even without a milestone event to bring everyone together, I can provide portrait, product, editorial and other photo/video services to my clients.
What do you think about social media? How do you use it for your profession?
It is an amazing thing! Word of mouth has always been my main source of advertising, but it allows that word to travel further than ever before. Audiences that previously would never even be connected to those referrals can see my work, reference it back to reputable companies/references, and share it with others, because one person liked or shared an image once - with little to no effort on my part. I still do many of the traditional marketing techniques and SEO practices, but social media plays a HUGE role in my career.
SKEI Waterfall - Photo by Jason Jones
How can our readers follow Jason Jones?
Instagram. In my opinion, it is the king of social media for all visual creatives. I've dropped almost every other social media outlet in favor of it. For me, its great way to share some of the cool behind the scenes, travel, and on set things that people love to see, but are not portfolio website material. They can see this information without making them read a whole blog post or something, and I don't know a single person that doesn't have the IG app on their phone. When people have idle time these days, they just open social media apps that are right in front of them. Hashtags and keywords do the rest of the work for you.
I travel quite a bit, and Instagram/social media is a good way to show potential clients considering me for travel jobs that I am no stranger to the rigors and demands of traveling for work. I can cherry pick my portfolio to death, but I can't go back and insert stuff at will in the past to my feed to cater to a specific inquiry. It's a genuine look at the process in real time and I really love being able to share those things, and some personal work there, that would never be seen on my website. Everyone WANTS to travel for work, but its very demanding, physically, mentally and financially. Many photographers cannot pull it off consistently over and over, and I have had clients tell me part of their decision to hire me was based on following me for a while on social media, and knowing for sure I would show up with no logistical issues/excuses to the job hundreds or thousands of miles away.
Anything you would like to add that I haven’t asked?
I am working on a large body of landscape and street photography images that will be released (hopefully by the year's end) as a Fine Art "catalog" of sorts. One of the by products of traveling so much, I have downtime in some amazing places before catching a flight or hitting the road. Depending on the place, I may just stay over a couple of days after the job too. Sometimes a place is so amazing I return with my family (and occasionally take them with me to begin with) to really explore it. I 've already had some gallery exhibits and a couple of commissions with this work, so I feel like now is the time to get it out there and do something with it.
Thank you Jason.