The Man, The Myth, The Legend: Jay Cassario on Defining Your Style

One of the biggest temptations for any photographer is to try and be like someone else. Shoot like someone else, process your images like someone else, offer a similar experience as someone else, the list goes on. But if you actually take a look at the truly successful photographers out there, the ones who make money and earn a living with their photography, you will see that they (for the most part) are photographers who have resisted that urge, or grown beyond it to solidify a unique style and experience of their own.

My good buddy Jay Cassario is known for his beautiful brand imagery and his unique processing style. In a couple of weeks time Jay is hosting a webinar on defining your style as a photographer, and if you are struggling with this (as I know many of us do) this is a webinar that you will want to invest in.

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He poses this question to you: How can you separate yourself from everyone else? “By creating an editing style that fits your vision and is all your own.” In this workshop he will tell you how he did it, and give you the tools and tricks needed to find one of your own.

Defining Your Style Workshop Topics

  1. How he edits his images, going from RAW to final edit.
  2. How he came up with his preset and process, and how you can too.
  3. How he shoots to help get the look he is going for.
  4. The gear he uses and why.
  5. How he organizes and back up his files.
  6. All editing software he uses, how he uses it, and why. Along with Lightroom tricks you may not know about.
  7. Q&A

You can get all of the details about the webinar, which is coming up on May 26th at 9PM EST, over on Jay’s website, here. But before you head over there and sign up (because why wouldn’t you!), I had a chance to do a quick interview with Jay and you an read that below. We talk about his background, his inspiration for this webinar and more. Keep scrolling to check it out.

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Give us a little background on your photography journey; how did you get started, and how have you grown since then?

My photography journey is a pretty interesting one, and it’s one that is a little complicated so I don’t always tell it. I was an artist my whole life and won several awards growing up. My Mom was a wedding photographer and always had a camera on her. When I was in my late 20’s, I tried to make a career in the fitness world. Right out of college, I took a good paying job as a Network Engineer, but never enjoyed the cubical world. I went back to college to study health/science to study nutrition, and was a certified nutritionist and personal trainer. At the same time, I was trying to build my name up in the industry by getting my photos in fitness magazines. I was doing photo shoots with many of the recommended photographers, but I was never really happy with the results. Since my Mom was a photographer I began picking her brain about what these photographers could be doing wrong. Long story short, it was their lighting, and once I had them change a few things my photos began making it into publication.

My fitness career was short lived and I focused on my engineering career, but I had started to take an interest in photography. I started borrowing my Mom’s camera and slowly got into landscape and star photography. Photography quickly became something that my Mom and I reconnected with in my early 30’s, and she loved that I was following in her footsteps. I slowly started taking photos for family and friends, dabbling into portrait work, but weddings weren’t anything on my radar.

While on a family vacation to celebrate New Years Eve in 2010, we went to bed and life was good. Early the next morning, while my wife Sandi and I were sleeping in the same room, we were awoken by my a panic and my Mom gasping for air. Her heart had stopped in her sleep, and within minutes… she was gone. I had a very close relationship with my Mom so this was extremely hard to come to grips with. As months went on I tried to find ways to cope. Photography was what I turned to, and it reminded me of the passion we shared together. About 6 months after she passed, I got asked about shooting a friend’s wedding. Weddings were my Mom’s thing, but I thought about how cool it would be to shoot a wedding to see what she loved about them so much. Well, that wedding led to another, and another, and although my Mom wasn’t alive to see me shoot my first wedding, it’s pretty crazy to think about where I am today. It’s only been 5 years since she passed and I have taken her love for wedding photography and ran with it, making it my full-time career. The other crazy part is that my wife shoots with me, something that I feel would be even more shocking to my Mom. My wife had no interest in photography while my Mom was still alive.

How does your gear effect your shooting style, or does it?

My gear is a big part of my shooting style, and it plays a big role in the look of my photos. I shoot with all prime lenses, I don’t own a zoom lens. I’m not a big fan of compression, and I sold my 70-200mm lens a couple years ago and never looked back. There’s nothing wrong with loving compression from being zoomed in at 200mm, it’s just personal preference. I prefer to shoot with a 24mm or 35mm f/1.4 on one body, shooting them wide open, and either a 50mm or 85mm f/1.4 on a 2nd body. I don’t anything longer then an 85mm, nor do I feel the need for it. I prefer to be close to my subjects, not standing half of a football field away.

I like making the scenery part of my images, showing more than just the subjects and a blown out background. I like shooting with a 24 or 35mm prime because it allows me to better tell a story by incorporating the background. I also like to physically move to change my compositions rather then simply zooming in or out, it allows me to create more creative comps. It allows me to see things different when I am forced to move, instead or standing in one spot.

I have also began shooting more and more film, and am now a fully hybrid shooter, shooting both film and digital with both my personal work and weddings. I started shooting film a few years ago and it has been a big influence on my shooting and editing style.

What gave you the idea to host this webinar?

The biggest reason I decided to host the Defining Your Style Webinar is because of the number of emails and Facebook messages I get from other photographers asking about my editing and how I get my images to look the way that they do. I know where they are coming from when they explain their struggles to find an editing style they are truly happy with. I struggled for the first few years once I started shooting portraits and weddings, and it was hands down the most frustrating process. I spent about 3 years focused on creating a workflow and editing style that I was happy with, creating a look that best represented how I see things when I shot them.

With the large number of photographers asking me how I edit my images and get them to look the way they look, I thought it was time to host a webinar. Not a webinar that just showed how I edit my images, but how I came up with the look and process. I spent 3 years creating the process to get the current look to my images, and once I found it, it hasn’t changed much over the past couple years. It’s the editing process and style for all of the images edited at Twisted Oaks Studio, a 9 photographer studio shooting over 150 weddings per year. While most photographers that teach workshops show how they edit their images and end it there, I wanted to show how I created the look, and how you can create something unique as well.

What would the success of this workshop look like to you? What would the attending photographers come away with?

This webinar would be a success if all the attendees left feeling good about how to start creating an editing style that better fits what they are looking for. Having the attendees leave the webinar only knowing how to edit and get the look of my images, I will have failed to accomplish what I set out to do. I want everyone to learn a new way to create a unique look to them, and start working on either a new look, or enhancing their current style. I also want to show how to be consistent in their style, no longer struggling matching one image to the next if the lighting might have been different.

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You are known for your unique style, are you fairly set with where you are at now or do you see yourself continuing to grow and evolve that style further?

The hardest part about finding a style that your happy with, a style that best represents how you see things, is getting it to the point where you are truly happy with it. I’m at a point now where I am truly happy with my style, and I feel like it matches my film scans pretty closely which I tweak as well. My editing style is a big reason that my clients are willing to pay my prices to photograph their wedding. My editing style has really helped me start booking the clients that I wanted to book, the ones that weren’t price shopping, they wanted to work with me and only me. It’s because of these clients that I don’t plan on tweaking my current style that much. But, I’m an artist, and I would be lying if I said my style is always evolving. As an artist I never want to stop learning, growing, or evolving.

I just wanted to thank Jay for taking the time to do this interview and for giving us all a great opportunity to learn how to better ourselves, become more confident in our own photography style, and work towards defining what that style may be. Jay’s webinar is coming up soon, there are only 25 spots available and when I last spoke to him they were going fast, so if you want to get in on this amazing opportunity, I highly suggest hopping over to Jay’s website now and locking in your seat. You won’t regret it, believe me.

If you are curious about seeing some more Before/After images of Jay’s, like the ones you saw above in the interview, he has set up a gallery of them over on his site and you can find that here.