Tag: commercial

Justin Clemons, a University of North Texas alumni, is an editorial and commercial photographer based out of Dallas. Some of Justin’s clients include Texas Monthly, NY Times, and American Airlines. While Justin travels some for work, he says he is most inspired by Texans!

How did you get started in photography? 
I started taking some photo classes in college, and enjoyed the classes so much that I just kept taking more and more until I decided to make it my major. Strangely, I never really considered myself very creative growing up. I was actually an embarrassment in high school art class, but I absolutely loved the process of creating. In college, I learned to loosen up and not to be so controlling, and I  also learned about design, composition, textures, concepts, etc.

The biggest component that pushed me into pursuing photography on a professional level was my professor Dornith Doherty.  She saw something in my work and told me that I could make it in the real world doing photography. I interned for a summer putting together kitchen appliances and cabinets to be photographed by a JCPenney’s photographer and loved every minute of it! During this time, I learned about lighting techniques, business strategies and dealing with clients, and I finally started to make the leap toward having my own business. From then on, I worked on building up my portfolio and started pursuing editorial work.

I think it’s really important to have your business and brand spread out like fingers in lots of different areas instead of just one single promotion tactic.

How do you manage the business side of photography? How do you promote yourself to potential clients?
Oh my gosh! So much time and energy is put into getting estimates together, producing jobs, managing assistants and crew, dealing with clients, billing, TAXES, post-production, promoting, updating websites, updating blogs, updating work on other websites and being active on social media. I am forced to do the business side. Business isn’t my strong suit, but I make it happen.

I think it’s really important to have your business and brand spread out like fingers in lots of different areas instead of just one single promotion tactic. I have both an editorial and an advertising list.  I try to do a printed piece about twice a year.  I am working on a magazine size promo piece at the moment. I am on some websites that show photographers and their work in order for creatives to go and find good shooters.  Some of these have a monthly fee and some are free like: PhotoServe , Wonderful Machine , and FoundFolios. Hopefully, I Love Texas Photo soon too, haha. Carissa (my rep) sets up lots of book showing at ad agencies and I try to stay pretty consistent with updating my blog.  Social media is playing a decent size role in promoting these days as well.  It’s just a good way of showing that you are busy shooting cool stuff and helps keep your name and work on people’s minds. I mostly use Instagram (@justinclemons).

What would your ideal/dream assignment be?
I recently shot a job for a publication called Whiskey Advocate. The piece was focused on a small whiskey distillery in Waco, TX called Balcones.

It was one of those jobs where at the end of the day, I got in bed thinking, “Today was a really amazing day!”  And then I thought, “I actually get paid to do this!”

It was just so much fun walking around this whiskey plant having Chip (head distiller and owner) explain the whole process while showing you the storage of old wood barrels and letting you taste all of their amazing whiskeys  (After I got my shot of course)! I love learning new things and experiencing new things. I love people that are specialists in what they do and love doing it – people that had a dream and followed it. So, maybe my dream job would be traveling around shooting people that are creating something they love and learning about their process while I’m there.

Justin Clemons ©

Why have you chosen Dallas as the place to work and be?
It’s pretty simple really… family. Dallas is where both my wife and I are from, so we have a huge web of friends and family around here.  It would be difficult to leave that behind.  And since graduating college in 2003, I have had 10 years of making connections and relationships in the Dallas photo world, connections that continue to lead to jobs. It would be really hard to start that whole process all over again somewhere else. I really like the people in Dallas. I just wish we had better weather and terrain.

Who have been or are your influences and mentors?
Like I said earlier, my professor Dornith Doherty was a huge mentor for me. I share studio space with Andy Klein, Scott Slusher and Matt Hawthorne, which is an amazing privilege. All three guys are extremely talented in different areas, and we all get along really well.  It is so helpful putting together a series or promo piece and being able to get them to come look at it and get their opinion. Specifically those who Influence my work and style, I would have to say people like…  Eric Ogden, Peter Yang, Dan Winters, Chris Buck, Chris Crisman and Julia Fullerton-Batten to name a few.

Where do you find inspiration in Texas?
I find inspiration in the people of Texas rather than a location.  There are some extremely talented and interesting people that are doing really creative things that I am challenged by.  If I were forced to name a place, I would have to say my backyard.  Just sitting back there on a nice day smoking a cigar and sipping on scotch relaxes me to the point that my mind can wonder.      

Justin Clemons ©

Do you feel that social media (twitter, facebook, and instagram) has impacted or changed the way you do business? Has it helped more than hurt?
For better or worse, it has changed things somewhat. Negatively, it adds another thing for me to do.  I always feel like I’m not Instagraming, tweeting or on Facebook enough.  I always feel behind in those areas, and when I do make time for it, it seems it’s when I’m at home or at dinner with my wife and daughter and should be paying attention to them. On the positive side, it is a way for people to see that I’m busy and I’m shooting interesting work.  Social media is a good way to keep on the front of job giving people’s minds.  I do have some art directors and creative directors I know that follow me on Instagram. It just raises their perception of you. When you are posting images from shoots or BTS shots from locations or you are just able to make everyday life look cool in photos, they put a higher value on you and your work.  They feel they can trust important shoots to you.

Who are some of your most recent or notable clients?
Some recent clients include: Texas Monthly, D Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc Magazine, DFW Airport, and Walmart.

When you are posting images from shoots or BTS shots from locations or you are just able to make everyday life look cool in photos, they put a higher value on you and your work.

What is the must have item in your camera bag aside from the camera? Most interesting thing in there?
Wrigley’s Doublemint gum is a must.  No matter how cool or good you are, if you got skanky breathe nobody wants to talk to you.

Justin Clemons ©

What goes into setting up a portrait shoot for you?

 I just like to be as prepared as possible, because I don’t like surprises.

I’ll answer this as if I was shooting an editorial portrait….

I want to shoot in a place that describes what they do visually, but isn’t cluttered or boring.  If people will give me the time, I try to show up at least an hour and a half before I am supposed to shoot the portrait.

When I get there, I meet the contact person and get them to give me a tour of the facility in order to scout where I want to shoot.  While I am doing this, my assistant is unloading all of the equipment from the vehicle.  I’ll pick out two locations (minimum) where we can shoot.  I explain to my assistant what lighting I want to use and where we will be shooting first, and we get to work putting it all up.

Once the lights are up and placed in the area I feel is good, my assistant stands in as the subject, and I photograph him. We make tweaks and changes until I’m excited about the image.  We will do this at the two or three locations I have picked before the subject arrives.

The subject is sometimes in a hurry and doesn’t have a whole lot of time to shoot, so we are as prepared as we can be.  If the subject is in a hurry or doesn’t like pictures, we still get good shots, because we have everything set. They can just walk up, shoot and they are done.  If the subject is cool and doesn’t mind pictures, its even better.

We can take our time, try different things, add in some relevant props, have him move around some, and get amazing shots. So much of it depends on the subject. But even if you have a boring, crabby subject, if you have cool composition, great lighting and interesting background, you can still get a good photo for your client.  I just like to be as prepared as possible, because I don’t like surprises.


Jody Horton is an Austin-based food and lifestyle photographer whose work has appeared in Garden and Gun, The New York Times Magazine, and Esquire.
What’s your background? Did you study photography?
I went to Clemson University and got a BA in in English with a minor in Communications. At Clemson, I took an intro to photography class. After Clemson, I went to the University of New Mexico for a Masters in Cultural Anthropology. During grad school I was interested in photography and film, and took 16mm film classes as part of the grad program. In school, I used visual mediums for ethnographic work. I did a study on low rider culture where I took pictures of their cars and then interviewed the car owners. I also did a semester in Bangkok, plus some time in central Java and attended the Maine Media Workshops.
What was your first big break?
For a number of years I was focused on documentary video. When my first son was born, I realized I couldn’t do it as well because it took so much time and the technology was changing so quickly. The amount of time needed to apply for grants, storyboard, etc. just wasn’t right for me anymore. So I decided I needed to become more serious about photography.  My first break came from meeting with Texas Monthly. Leslie Baldwin (Director of Photography) and TJ Tucker (Creative Director) loved the work and were enthusiastic. I pitched several stories to them, one of them was on squirrel hunting in east Texas. A few days later they called and asked me to shoot it. I had only met with one other magazine before, Garden and Gun. The fact that I could approach a magazine and they would hire me to do something and was extremely gratifying.

How do you stay motivated?
I’m motivated by needing to save for my children’s college of course, but also motivated by the idea of death. You only have so many years that you can do this and do it well. That’s what brought me to photography seriously in the first place.

You only have so many years that you can do this and do it well

You obviously love food and stories around where our food comes from. How did that come to be?

When I was in grad school I created a local food magazine. I started doing food photography then. The magazine had a cultural bent, and I would cover local growers as well as restaurants. I was drawn to people who were really passionate about what they do, and food people seem to be very passionate. I have a lot of different photographic interests — portrait, landscapes, etc, and I like how the theme of food can encompass all of those things. There’s a lot of range. That circle sort of limits the world to a degree, but it is a colorful subject matter and has a colorful community.

How did you end up in Texas?
While on a trip to Costa Rica doing adventure photography and writing, I met my future wife who was living in New York City at the time. We dated long distance for a while and then ultimately decided we would both move to Austin. Austin seemed like a cultural and geographic middle ground between New Mexico and New York City and there was an active documentary film scene.

What’s your favorite thing about shooting in Texas?
Texas is an awesome place to be, and Austin has one of the most vibrant food communities in the country. Part of the reason it does is because the community is really open. It’s not about who you know as much as in other places. Texas is so big and Austin is situated right in the middle of so many major Texas cities, so I can really cover assignments all over the state.

Texas is an awesome place to be

Do you have a favorite uniquely Texas assignment?
I met an interesting man, Shelby Johnson, while working on the squirrel hunting story. Johnson lives like people lived 70 years ago. He has a ton of free time, so Johnson will would go squirrel hunting for 3 weeks at a time after he pulled in his summer harvest. He would spend weeks on end catfishing. Johnson was a window into an older farming lifestyle — a community that is set on a the same schedule of work and play. Even further, Johnson could articulate so well what he loves about doing what he does. I like doing stories about people who otherwise the public wouldn’t get to know. I find an interesting person and then through them interesting stories.

Dream assignment?
I would like to have the chance to document food or food culture for Saveur. Or to shoot for National Geographic documenting a community of fisherman or pearl divers in the South Pacific.  National Geographic, want to send me around the world to document oyster gathering and eating?

How do you define ‘success’ in your own career?
Earning enough to where I can take care of my family, and have some freedom to do jobs that don’t pay well but that are interesting.

What’s next? Any exciting projects coming up in 2012?
I have a hunting and cooking book in the works that will come out in the fall of 2012. Hunting is being reconsidered now and being seen as a natural means by which to acquire local and sustainably harvested food. Hunting used to be associated with rednecks, but it’s being reclaimed and now as more types of people are hunting. Also, I am taking photos for a book on wood fired cooking by Tim Byres of Dallas’ Smoke. The book is essentially based on traditional American cooking, with a focus on making everything from scratch.

Do you have a favorite bbq spot?
Locally Franklin’s. Overall though, I’m more in love with South Carolina pork BBQ. My favorite is a backyard whole hog served with red vinegar pepper sauce, typical of mid-state South Carolina. My wife is a vegetarian. Her stance: “I draw the line at having a whole pig roasted in the backyard.”

Favorite breakfast taco?
I prefer the breakfast burrito, which you can find at Taco Shack. But the very best is one that cannot really be had anymore was from a place called Desert Willow in Alberquerque. Potato, egg, cheese, applewood smoked bacon, the best New Mexico red sauce I’ve ever had.

Favorite libation?
I’m a whiskey straight kind of guy. I love the tobacco-infused drink at La Condesa.

Do you collect anything?
I like stuff that carries other stuff. I have a great bag collection. I’m also always collecting interesting props for food shoots.

Hobbies outside of photography?
With little kids in the mix there is not much time for ‘hobbies’, but I do like to play guitar. I also like to make work a hobby. Do what you want to do.