Tag: Dallas Photographer

Dallas photographer, Jonathan Zizzo recently shot the style feature for August’s issue of Austin Monthly.

Jonathan Zizzo ©

Jonathan Zizzo ©

Jonathan Zizzo ©

Jonathan Zizzo ©

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.


Jonathan Zizzo is a commercial photographer based out of Dallas. His social media bio reads “Conceived in the backseat of a Chevy Nova at the Dinosaur Valley State Park. Mother was a gogo dancer and father was a trucker. I’m a great photographer.” So we sat down with him to find out more.

How did you decide or know photography was what you wanted to do?
I started out as a Fine Art Major at Kilgore College. I was very interested in art, so I studied graphic design. The graphic design program did not inspire me though. I was completing projects before other students and didn’t feel challenged. While at Kilgore, I was required to take a photography class and began to shoot for the student newspaper. I loved the responsibility of creating pictures for a story and fell in love with the program.

Who have been some of the influencing mentors you’ve had?
Rufus Lovett is the reason I got into photography on a deeper level. His sense of humor made it fun to show up to class. Rufus, the photography instructor,  is a Texas monthly contributor.  Rufus was also a Assistant to Ansel Adams at one time.

I know a lot of people ask you why you don’t move to LA or NYC with the type of portfolio you have. Why Dallas?
Dallas is where it is happening for me. Dallas is home to 18 Fortune 500 companies. We have major advertising agencies here that hold the keys to some of the most extraordinary brands of all time. If I did move to LA or NY, I would be starting over.

For me there is always the opportunity to do work for companies and agencies in both of those cities. By the time I’m 50 or 60 years old I don’t want to be in a city that is for the youthful entrepreneur. I don’t want that midlife crisis to be happily unmarried and be begging for a transition to the simple life. I’m a country boy at heart.  Moving to NY or LA is so cliché’ Like this is Texas we are supposed to be the big bad and the ugly. Those places are only “cool” by a popular opinion. There’s a lot of opportunity in this City and I’m proudly an ambassador to change the mentality or preconceived ideas that people have formed about Dallas.

How did you get into photographing celebrities? What do you enjoy most about it
I was a Staff Photographer at Envy Magazine a publication that was here in Dallas for a few years. I don’t think people ever realized all off those celebrity covers were shot here in Dallas.

What are you currently working on? Do you have anything big happening for you in 2013?
I’m working a portrait series for Zodiac Watches.  I am shooting professional athletes & celebrity personality’s people who most would consider legendary types. Starting 2013 with a project like this is great!

Jonathan Zizzo ©

What inspires you or what do you look for when shooting portraits and fashion?

When I’m shooting a portrait of someone. I’m interested in creating an image that shows a likeness of the person. The moment that I come into contact with this individual I am studying their body language. Looking for nuances, things that might make the picture more interesting. I like saving room for spontaneity. When I’m shooting fashion i’m looking for models that can take direction well & move well. I’m inspired by guys like Lee Clow and George Lois. Life is so inspirational, I’m interested in a broad spectrum of things. I like to wonder around 99 cent only stores and look at everything on the shelves and take a mental image of things I can buy as a prop for only a dollar. I think it’s important to not lose your sense of wonder. Stay as curious about all things as possible.

Jonathan Zizzo ©

What is #iamthezizz?
It’s basically just a user name!  Coaches and friends growing up started calling me the Zizz, so I embraced it! I’ll eventually have to switch it up as I get older, I am sure. My middle name is Buck. I’m really looking forward to changing my name to that when I’m much older. Buck Zizzo is pretty bold! I don’t think I’m quite there yet.

Do you have any hobbies?
I’ve been riding BMX since I was 14. Unfortunately, all of my friends (my age)  have real jobs and I don’t get to spend as much time with those guys scootin’ around the skatepark as I would like.

What are your thoughts on Instagram?
Instagram is a basically digital pollution. That is highly addictive and everyone is contributing to it. I know a lot of photographers who take it really seriously. They are probably out there right now kneeling down pointing and clicking trying to find that artistic angle. It’s even worse when they use the phonto app, throwing typography over their photo like it’s as popular as a Taylor Swift album cover. Shooting pictures with your iPhone, worrying which application or filter to use, is for the consumer you guys. Listen, NO Art Director should give a rat’s ass about  what you’re doing with your iPhone. I understand mobile technology is on the rise but I use the internet as a form of dialog to draw people in, form a likeness, and build relationships with people who “like” what I’m interested in. Trying to prove to everyone that you’re such a badass with your iPhone makes no sense. Stop already.

Favorite place for drinks?
Cosmos, I go there because I want to have a drink and be around folks that are there for the same reason. It’s no glitz, no glam. Just a place to divulge into adult beverages!

Peggy Sue’s in Highland Park of all places. It has this mom and pop type vibe to it. They haven’t changed the price of their menu items based on their zip code. I’m a patron and whoever is reading this should be too!

What’s in your camera bag right now?
I’m currently shooting with a Nikon D600 24.3 full frame HDSLR. I’ve had shutters go out on previous bodies, so I don’t see the point in dropping 7 grand on a body. If I was making payments on a camera like that I’d be really ticked off at Nikon and Canon right now. This camera is terrific. It does exactly what I need it to. There are so many rental houses in Dallas, which is very fortunate. It’s easy to get your hands on something with more resolution like a Hasselblad or a Phaseone camera  if you need it. I also use Speedotron Lighting equipment. My 2400 packs boss hog electricity and trips breakers watch out.

Jonathan Zizzo ©

Dallas based, Steven Wallace photographed for the August issue of Living Magazine.


Stylist | Kimber Yank
Makeup | Kiley Wirtz Jennings
Hair | Miguel Atkins
Model | Erin w/ wallflower
Assistants | Alex Roper, Tina Mac, Turk Akturk

Steven Wallace ©

Steven Wallace ©

Steven Wallace©

Steven Wallace©

Kelsey Foster ©

Kelsey Foster ©

Kelsey Foster ©

Kelsey Foster ©


Dallas based, Kelsey Foster, photographed Stacy King of  Sucré for Anthropologie’s concert Push Play series.