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Jim Garner, one of the world's top wedding photographers thinks Phase One digital backs are an integral part of his success. Michael Roscoe finds out why...
Life changed for Jim Garner from the day he was named as one of the top ten wedding photographers in the world. The list was featured in a prominent American photography magazine and in Jim’s own words, “It just exploded”. Jim gained an international profile and offers of work, as well as requests to speak at seminars and conventions, came from across the globe.
Some say it takes ten years to become an overnight success and in Jim’s case this has the ring of truth.
Jim has had a passion for photography since his youth, but it was after his own wedding that he decided to go professional. He explains, "We had a really great experience with our wedding photographer and my wife told me to follow my passion. I decided to learn a little bit and went to art school for one quarter but I then got recruited as a ‘dot-com’ photographer and I was a director in six months. It was hilarious, we had a big studio and we shot thirteen to fifteen hours a day – we were trying to get as much product online as possible... But on the weekends I would shoot weddings."
Jim’s distinctive, avant-garde, photojournalistic style and approach to wedding photography soon ensured that he was in high demand. He confides,
"Weddings were not considered a very cool thing to do back then. I decided to go about it in a completely different way and not pay attention to the rest of the industry. It really took off... after three years we were shooting sixty five weddings annually – it was absolutely insane for the next seven years.”
The ‘dot-com’ studio that employed Jim was eventually swallowed up by Amazon and he took the opportunity to go freelance. It was at this point that he invested in a Phase One P25 digital back and made it the cornerstone of his promotional strategy. He states, “We flat-out market ourselves on the resolution of the Phase One camera system – it proves that we are not messing about.”
He is confident that this industry-leading image quality doesn’t go unnoticed by his clients. He recalls, “I’d been doing monthly shoots with a certain firm and I scratched the filter on my digital back so I had to send it off to get it fixed. During that down-time I had to use just my DSLR and, after five or six years of working for these guys, for that one job the art director said: "There is something different about the images Jim... I don’t know if it was an off day for you... It does not have the depth that I’m used to seeing... It doesn’t have the ability to impact on an emotional level the way that your other shoots have done for me." So I confessed that my Phase One gear was being fixed and that I had used my DSLR camera. I had used the best lenses and still they were not happy. So they said, "Moving forward, we’ll cancel the shoot if your Phase One equipment is down. Is that a deal?"
Invest in the Best
Jim used to use the P25 with a Contax 645 camera but after eight years of reliable service, he decided to upgrade to a Phase One IQ180 and 645DF camera solution to maintain his commitment to investing in the best equipment. "The image quality difference is so clear compared to a shot with a DSLR", he states resolutely.
But the camera system also has other benefits that soon become apparent.
"I shoot about an eighth of what I would with a DSLR. You slow down and get everything right – the composition, the settings. I typically fire off a set of two to five shots, compared to a DSLR where you’ll shoot twenty frames. It’s less hassle, less retouching, less color correction with an IQ back", he enthuses.
Time wasted in postproduction is a consideration that Jim takes seriously as it can impact on profitability. He explains:
"Shooting too many images is a major problem in this industry when using a DSLR. Someone told me that they shot a 12,000-image wedding. You won’t make money when you have to go through that many photos. It is a phenomenon taking place right now that is leading more and more people to be unprofitable – the IQ eliminates that problem."
Backs for the Future
Investing in any camera system can seem like a daunting prospect but Jim is quick to quash any concerns from photographers who are timid about the early costs. "Go big or not at all", he declares before adding, "you also need to realize that this isn’t like a one year or two year DSLR craze. This is not a short-term camera and it will go on so far beyond the initial investment that it is a no-brainer."
Jim Garner is certainly decisive and encourages others to be the same.
"You’ve got to realize that the sooner you do it, the better. If you want to shoot for top clients who find value in this great technology, then you have to have this equipment. The sooner you can start marketing yourself to those patrons, the sooner you’re going to have long term clients who will end up paying for your investment", he says before summing up, "go for it 100 % and start marketing the technology and be seen as a player and leader and not as a follower."