Inspire Speaker: Sharona Jacobs

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In this series of blog posts we are introducing people who are speaking at and attending Inspire 2014. Today we’d like to introduce you to Sharona Jacobs of Sharona Jacobs Photography.  Sharona will be speaking about Getting Unstuck: Find your Business by Finding Your Compass

Sharona Jacobs

Many people leave behind another career when they become a photographer. I started off as a photographer, became a psychotherapist, and then brought everything I learned back with me when I started taking portraits again. For me, a successful image is more than just great lighting and beautiful composition; the portraits I’m proudest of reveal something important about the subject’s psyche, character, and soul.

Before I photograph my clients, I sit down and to get to know each person prior to bringing out my camera and lighting equipment. I ask my client questions that reveal how they perceive themselves, and how they want others to. I want to know how they feel about their facial features – what they want to emphasize, and what they don’t. There’s joking around too, but mostly after I’ve listened attentively to what they want, and any insecurities they might have. By establishing this connection, clients realize they will be safe in front of my camera, that I take them and their concerns seriously. By then we’ve established a friendly relationship, so when I do pull out the equipment that separates the two of us, they trust me despite some loss of eye contact.

About two years ago, I started photographing the portraits of novelists for a personal project, which expanded into a significant amount of business. You’ll hear this a lot at Inspire: shoot what you know and love, and the work often follows. Writers and psychologists and photographers all have a lot in common; we dig for stories in our own ways. The images below have been used for books, online publications, author websites and bios, and social media.

Inspire Final AlmondHere we have Steve and Erin Almond, a husband and wife duo of writers. I photographed Erin first, after a brief interview in which I asked her various questions ranging from what age did she remember first beginning to write stories, to requesting three adjectives to describe her work. After our chat, I photographed Erin, focusing on her music background prior to her MFA in writing, and worked to capture her sweet calmness and optimism.

Steve is a New York Times best-selling novelist most known for writing about sex, drugs, rock n’ roll, and candy (stuff you can stick in your mouth, he jokes). Steve’s extroverted, no holds-barred personality resonates through his work, and he was willing to take risks to get an interesting shot. In the above image, I photographed Steve in 101-degree heat in his sweltering attic, surrounded by the detritus of his travelling lifestyle. I wanted the image to be a little bit grimy, and a little bit provocative, just like Steve.

Lippincott final for InspireRobin Lippincott is well known for his book, “Mr. Dalloway”, which brings the husband’s counterpoint perspective to Virginia Woolf’s classic, “Mrs. Dalloway”. Robin and I had coffee prior to the shoot, getting to know each other quite well. We discussed family dynamics, working in isolation, and how much he hated to be photographed and why. I actually love photographing people who hate to be photographed because it generally means there’s a story there that needs to be investigated. It helps me very quickly figure out how I can make a photograph successful. Robin is a wry, warm, and sharply insightful man, and my goal was to highlight the character and horizontal dimensionality of his face. I shot Robin at eye level with broad lighting, courtesy of a beauty dish, in order to create the image.

When you can, take the time to sit down one-on-one with your clients and try to see through their eyes. If you can reflect what they yearn for through your image, you’ve created a successful portrait.