Say Hello To Justin Douglas!
We are super excited to introduce you to our new friend, Justin Douglas! He is an Austin Fine Art Wedding Photographer with some mad skills! This week we got to know Justin and learn about his work. Check out the full interview below!
LB: Tell us a little about your background and experience. How did you get into photography?
JD: I was going to school in Atlanta for Radiology. I had never even touched a camera before. I had some friends asking me to move to Austin, and radiology wasn't really working out for me, so I decided to go. Originally, I was going to do marketing, because I love business and I love marketing. I thought it would be a good avenue for me, so I enrolled in UT. It was cool for a bit, but I realized I wasn't going to school for the right reasons. My parents wanted me to go, but it wasn't a good fit for me. I felt like I was stuck in a rut. It was during this time that I attended a family reunion. We'd never really taken many family pictures before, so I decided to pick up a bunch of disposable cameras so we could have a way to take some pictures. I thought it would be great to actually have some photos and memories of family I don't get to see very often. At one point in the reunion, I was trying to get a picture of my grandma and her sisters. They got together and started doing the typical fake pose and I found it really boring. I knew how much they loved each other, so I encouraged them to just look at each other and laugh and converse with each other. My aunt went in for a big silly kiss on my grandma's cheek, which caused them to burst into laughter. And that's when I took the picture. It was this photo that changed everything. Unfortunately, a few days after the reunion, my aunt got really sick and passed away. Months later, I realized I had never gotten the reunion pictures developed. So I got them developed and mailed my grandma the photo of her and her sisters, which included my late aunt. I didn't really think anything of it at the time. About 9 months later, I went home to visit my family. When my grandma saw me, she just started crying and hugging me. Then she showed me the picture I sent her and said "This is the only picture of me and my sister that I have and can cherish." That's when I realized the true power of a photograph. I knew I had to do something with that. So I became a photographer.
LB: How did you learn photography? Did you take classes or teach yourself?
JD: I started off being self-taught. I didn't want to go the traditional education route because I knew it wasn't a good fit for me. I didn't want to go back to college and be in a strict learning environment. I wanted to be in control of what and how I learned. I started reading tons of books. The books taught me that if you love someone's work, you should reach out to them. So that's the route I chose. I started reaching out to photographers I admired and got some mentors that way. Some of my early mentors were Jeremy Chou, Latasha and Isaiah Haynes, Dana Fernandez, and Jenna McElroy. I started building a rapport with a these different people from all over the country. I was so hungry to learn and it was great to get to learn from people that inspired me.
LB: How did you get into weddings?
JD: I shot a wedding with a friend once, and when I noticed all the emotions that were happening, that's when I knew. Weddings. That's where I can create and find emotion. I love emotion and I love moments. I had done nightlife photography for a while, which was cool, but not fulfilling. After that first wedding, I knew that's what I wanted to do.
LB: When did you decide you wanted to start your own business?
JD: I had been second shooting for a while when this photographer reached out to me. He had heard all about my great reputation, my energy, how good I was with people. He wanted to bring me on to work at his photography studio. So I started working with him. Basically, he booked all the weddings and sent me out to shoot them. It seemed great at first, but I soon realized it wasn't a good fit. He started trying to control my vision, which I can understand to some degree since it was his business. But it got to the point where he was critiquing every little thing I did and telling me exactly how to shoot each image. His ideas were outdated and very different from mine. All his clients loved me and the images I took, and yet he was always giving me negative criticism. I realized that my focus was on the clients and making them happy, because I'm a people person. I always had great relationships with clients. But he was very focused on money and making the sale. Based on my experience and reputation, I knew I had the power to create my own business. I needed my own brand. Even my mentors were telling me I needed to start my own business. So I did. And it's been a blessing.
LB: What is your philosophy/mission for your business?
JD: Enjoy and capture the moments. When I'm working a wedding, it's all about being able to capture as many moments as possible so that my clients can cherish them forever. I'm here to serve them because they deserve it. My mission is all about creating an experience and evoking emotion. Yes, I will get those certain poses that everyone wants for their wedding, but those aren't the photos that the couple is going to want in the end. It's all about the moments. The interactions between people. I want to make the couple feel relaxed and I want them to have fun together. I don't want them to feel like they are having a controlled experience. I want to create an eclectic and fun experience for them. The best pictures are going to be the ones with real emotion in them. Because people remember the moments when they were experiencing something.
LB: What is your artistic vision?
JD: My artistic vision has been manifested into film. I'm a film photographer now. I love film photography because it stands the test of time. It's timeless. Film photography requires natural light. When shooting clients, I always look for the most beautiful light. I want it to be angelic. My artistic vision can be described as fine art. When I used to shoot digital, I noticed I was editing like crazy. At one point, I was going for the whole dark and moody look, but it wasn't really speaking to me. I started looking at the work of other photographers and found images that were bright and airy, but also moody. I began to wonder, how can a bright image be moody? Why am I drawn to these images? I realized I was drawn to the emotion, the passion, the details. So when I'm shooting, the common denominator for me is love. I love creating an experience. I love seeing interactions and finding the love among people. There's this thing I always do during my sessions. I tell the couple to hold each other and look at each other. I tell them to smile at each other. Then I tell them to think about the time when they fell in love with each other. This always evokes some kind of reaction. It creates a calm energy between them because they are reminiscing. And once I've evoked real emotions, then I can start shooting. So ultimately, my artistic vision is to create an emotional experience and capture it through film.
LB: Aside from shooting your clients, what is your favorite part of working in the wedding industry?
JD: I love working with awesome wedding vendors. Planners, florists, cake artists. I love being able to collaborate with other people outside of the couple because I'm a people person. It's fun to work together and get to know each other and build relationships.
LB: Do you do destination weddings?
JD: I do. I've done several. I actually just got back from shooting a wedding in Cancun. That was so much fun! It was the first time I'd been to Cancun. It was fun because I was basically friends with the couple. I don't just have clients, I have friends. I don't want a client to ever just feel like a customer, because it's not about the money. I want them to feel like my friends. I got pretty close to the couple prior to the wedding because we were hanging out and partying the day before. I even got to know most of the guests and family. So when I shot the wedding the next day, it was amazing because I had already created relationships with people. I'd go up to people and ask to take a pic and they'd be like, "Anything for you, Justin!" It was a great vibe. I definitely want to do more destination weddings in the future.
LB: So, you were an Austin photographer for a long time but just recently moved to Arizona. Why did you move?
JD: Because I'm a free spirit! There wasn't really a specific reason. I didn't move for weddings or work or anything. I just felt like I was ready to try something different and venture outside my realm. I'm still shooting weddings and I'm still booked. I really love Austin, but I want to travel and see other places. So I actually would like to start marketing myself more as a destination photographer so I can travel more. I do still consider myself an Austin photographer, though. I still book weddings in Austin and visit pretty often.
How great is this guy? Here's a sneak peak of some of his amazing photography!
Love what you see? For more on Justin, check out his website and show him some love on social media!