The MISSBISH Photography Workshop | Jonathan Encarnacion
Photographer: Jonathan Encarnacion
Location: I’m based out of sunny San Jose, California. Milpitas specifically, but all we really have in Milpitas is a Dave and Buster’s at the Great Mall of California! Home’s a good base for me because I get to watch my girls grow. On top of shooting and running a photography business, I do all the duties required of a father of a 6 and 12 year old. Making breakfast, dropping the off kids at school, you know, all the fun stuff that dads do. After they’ve gone to school though, I get to work at my own pace. I obviously have deadlines to meet, so I try not to mess around, but being based at home allows me to edit, work on my photographs, all while blasting my music without having to upset any co-workers. You can follow me on SoundCloud if you want to know what kind of music I’m into.
Equipment: Nikon for life! Down with Canon! Just kidding, I’ve been using Nikons for as long as I can remember, so it’s what works for me. I shoot with D750’s, but before that I used to use D3’s and a D4. Carrying two full sized camera bodies around during an 8 hour wedding finally took it’s toll on my back so I decided to downsize. I guess lens preference is dependent on the situation. For portraits my go-to's are either my 35mm or 50mm, I also do a little bit of astrophotography for fun, so my go-to for that is my 14-24mm. All my post work is done in Lightroom with VSCOfilm.
Style: Being primarily a wedding photographer, my style is very photojournalistic. Aside from setting up shots of whomever it may be during a wedding, I really like to keep things natural. I don’t ever pressure my subjects into shooting unless they are totally on board and are willing to create something awesome with me. In the end, when it comes to giving direction, my clients usually do most of the work. If they’re in love, it’ll show in the photographs. I don’t think I've ever had a specific process in developing my style. It’s something that just became natural to me from shooting weddings and lifestyle work over the course of eight years. I do love shooting weddings, my girls, my #IGWIFE, but there’s something about taking pictures of the stars on a clear night that keeps me hungry for more.
How did you get into photography? Tell us about your first experience.
Taking photos of meals and selfies with an old school Logitech webcam back in ‘98! Yeah, I’m pretty ancient. But getting real, I started out doing a lot of automotive photography. I used to be a member of an online car forum, so I used to organize meets and I’d be the one flexing my photographic abilities. Looking back though, the pictures weren’t that great. In high school I worked on the video yearbook in my junior and senior years. This was ‘98 - ‘99, so we used Hi8 cameras. It's crazy to think that a bunch of readers were probably still in diapers back then. Anyhow, we all know how brutal high school can be, but working on the video yearbook taught me how to adapt and interact with all walks of life. Luckily, growing up in San Jose, there’s a very diverse cultural background to the community, so learning to interact with different groups of people was very important.
Photography is all about capturing that moment. What’s the secret?
Being patient! Not just being patient, but anticipating the moment - knowing what’s important to my clients, and what’s important to me. I’m married and a father to two not-so-little girls, so sometimes when I’m shooting a wedding, I’ll look and wait for certain things that I know will relate to the bride and groom. I’ll keep an eye out for how my brides look at their dads during their father/daughter dance, or how tightly a mother holds her son during their own dance. Like I said before, it’s all about being patient and waiting for that moment to happen.
Tell us the story behind one of the most memorable photos you’ve shot.
One of the most memorable moments I’ve photographed was when my clients jumped into the pool that I happened to be waiting in for them, during a wedding in Palm Springs. It was hot that weekend - very hot. Sweaty, dry heat. It was practically miserable. The sun set late in the evening that summer. It was probably in the high nineties, low hundreds at 10:00 pm. I had already jumped in the pool earlier that evening during a surprise flash mob the bride had put on for her husband. I had my 35mm on, and had no time to run and grab a different lens. I looked at my wife, and I basically gave her the “should I just get in the pool?” look. With me doing that, I think it pushed my clients to say "screw it," and I convinced them to hop in the pool at the end of the night. My camera got wet, but hey, sometimes when we can’t anticipate a moment, we have to create it.
What is a constant source of inspiration for you as a photographer?
My fellow wedding photographers. I have a lot of good friends who are amazing at what they do, and we all do it in the name of love. I also draw inspiration from photojournalists and wartime photographers. A friend introduced me to the works of James Nachtwey, whose work is so powerful. It's funny how my sources of inspiration happen to be at the polar opposites of the spectrum - love, and war.
“There is nothing like learning from your own mistakes and being able to create something amazing from trial and error. And it probably isn't photography related, but reach out to your peers and build each other up.”
Who has been a great influence or mentor to you and what did you learn from them that you still carry with you today?
Joel Flory, CEO of VSCO. Before VSCO, Joel was a wedding photographer, one of the most sought out photographers in the Bay Area. After he photographed my wedding, he allowed me to second shoot for him for a number of years. He basically gave me my big break in the wedding photography industry. I learned from Joel that it was key to build strong relationships not only with clients, but also with vendors. Venues, chefs, other creatives, restaurant owners, entrepreneurs, etc. This guy had an amazing relationship with anyone he came across, which is what I think made him so successful.
Tell us three photography tips.
2) Keep shooting!
3) Keep shooting some more!
I know that answer may seem like an easy way out to a simple question, but those are the three main pieces of advice that I can give. There is nothing like learning from your own mistakes and being able to create something amazing from trial and error. And it probably isn't photography related, but reach out to your peers and build each other up. No, this doesn't mean leaving a comment on someone's photo on Instagram, "Great tones, love the colors, check out my feed." It means taking the time to draft up an email, reach out, and compliment someone on their success.
Finish the sentence...
If I weren’t afraid I would... pack up all of our belongings and move to Hawaii.
I wouldn't be where I am today if... I never met my wife. She is and always will be an ongoing force and source of inspiration in my life. She's always encouraged me to be myself, to create new things, and to try and push myself harder.
I've been listening to... a lot of drum & bass lately. It's takes me back to my high school years.
Kids these days... make me feel old, and remind me that I'm not getting any younger. It sucks when your 6-year-old asks how old you are, you reply with your age, and they come back at you with, "You're almost 40." FML.
I look and feel my best when... I get the opportunity to put on a suit! I'm usually the one working at weddings, so I try to keep my work outfits semi-formal. I do get to dress up when the wifey and I go out for a nice dinner, though. Sometimes I do my best to try and impress her.
When no one is looking I... am usually trying to sneak a good "Chatsnaps" in as my alter ego, Tito Jon. @hiimj0ne on Snapchat.
Traveling... will come after the girls are grown up and moved out of the house. We had our kids when we were fairly young, so our priorities are on them for now. I don't mind being that 40 something-year-old married couple that travels the world while the kids are away at college, though.
I respect... myself. Well, I try to as much as I can. I've always been a modest man and a humble photographer. I don't like to brag, and I really don't ever boast. My wife always tells me I need to put myself out there more. Maybe she's onto something.