I love the ease with which she asks the viewer to take her journey through the lens. I did this and found myself wrapped up in the sumptuous colours and compositions evident in this selection we are showing this week. Her use of colours inspires and maybe this is helped by the elegant natural light available in Naples Florida but also within her slightly manipulated images colours, shape and form capture the eye. This is Jillian’s story.
A Brief Introduction to Jillian
Hi, I’m Jillian! I’m a wife, friend, dog mom, and photographer. I’m grounded by my faith and family and lifted by creativity. I was born and raised in Naples, FL, and am proud to call paradise my home! Growing up, we were always going to the beach and exploring our beautiful surroundings, which continues to inspire me to this day and plays a huge part in my photography style. After high school, I went to University where I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing, and I now have a full-time job in the field for a Construction company!
Could I ask when did you start taking pictures or have a desire to become a photographer,
I don’t have any fellow photographers in the family, but my mom and dad are both creative people in different ways;
I will always remember my dad doing amazing freehand drawings growing up, and my mom was a Kindergarten teacher for 30 years; if you ask me you have to be creative to do that job for so long! Bless her.
For me, it was the beautiful northern summer landscape and light that drew me to photography, which is funny since I hardly ever do landscape photography these days. I was 14 years old when my mom bought me my first point and shoot camera at the local store in Michigan during our family vacation. It was after that first snap of the shutter that I was hooked and I never looked back.
Fast forward 14 years and here I am still head over heels in love with the art. I don’t take photos to simply pay the bills, I do it to feed the soul, to fill the lungs and heart. I take photos of others in hopes of sharing that same magical feeling. I want everyone to have an easy, enjoyable experience, and photos to cherish and proudly share with the world. I also do it because I love creating and channelling my emotions and energy. I couldn’t imagine a world in which I wasn’t doing that.
That’s why I do this.
How did you become a photographer?
I started taking photos of nature, and then quickly moved on to taking photos of people such as my friends and family. I instantly got hooked on portraiture and was planning creative shoot after creative shoot to improve and hone my craft. It wasn’t until I had been doing it for years that I realized I could be doing paid photoshoots; that is when I started assisting, to learn as much as I possibly could from the professionals around me. I learned valuable lessons from each and every time I assisted and think it is a great way to improve your skills!
Can you tell us where you work from
I am based in Naples, FL which is in SouthWest Florida and only a few miles from the beach which is amazing. It works for many reasons, one of them being the locations it provides for photo locations, as well as providing a large client base for work, which I am so thankful for. A move to a city could no doubt be beneficial to me and other types of photography work, such as fashion, but I will stick to travelling to cities for now and enjoying the slower-paced day-to-day life.
You have a very interesting style which I see developing. What helped create your style and who do you follow for inspiration.
The local landscapes and beautiful nature I grew up around completely shaped my photography style. If you look at my work it is almost all on location at the beach, the woods, or a random rock quarry when I need to get creative with my shoots. I follow all different types of photographers for inspiration because it can truly come from anything and anyone; concert photographers, wedding photographers, portrait photographers, they all have something different to offer, a different perspective to make you think!
Jillian your style of work seems eclectic and in a way similar to my own and so what drives your creativity
So many different things inspire me; music, movies, books, words, sayings, people. It all comes at random times too. I might see that a new model moved to town and they instantly inspire me to come up with a concept, but a lot of the time it is working to think of something new and exciting, and it only gets harder the more you create, for me at least. I have learned that it is important to not be hard on yourself when the creativity doesn’t flow. It’s okay to take breaks and just work on client work for the moment and let your mind rest and be ready for the next project.
Is it possible to define your style of photography?
I would say my style of photography is whimsical portraiture. That’s what I want it to be anyways. I love adding little touches of magic to photos because it’s fun and adds something more to the photo and makes the viewer think and hopefully become inspired as well.
Is your desire for photography driven by early growing up or studying at a later date?
My interest in photography started when I was 14, so fairly young. I was always a creator, whether it be arts and crafts, making my own clothes and jewellery. It wasn’t until photography that I truly found my favourite medium!
I can see that your images have a strong colour saturation to them, but when you shoot colour? The images still have a very strong atmosphere to. How do you get them this way?
During each photoshoot, I am already editing the photos in my head; the colours I want them to have, the contrast, and the light. I can already picture it as I’d like it to end up looking. Most of the time that involves making the colours pop and changing the tones to fit the mood. I try to steer away from making the colours look too unrealistic, as I used to play with them too much in my earlier days, but hey, we learn! Sometimes I even have to step away from the computer for a few minutes or so and come back to see if I still like the edit. That can really help, especially when you’ve been staring at a screen for countless hours!
I think it would be and of interest to our readers if you would mind briefly running through your workflow, please.
The first step after a photoshoot for me is to cull through the photos on Adobe Bridge, and then edit the raw files in Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw. I then group shots that have the same colours, backgrounds, and moods into folders, edit the colours, curves, use any of my personally made presets, on one photo, and then batch edit those photos in that same folder so they all look exactly the same. If retouching is necessary, I will go back into the Final folder of images and select the ones that need a little frequency separation or simple retouching. Lastly, if there was a need for any black and white images, I would make those edits and save them as copies.
Do you like art and find it an influence and if so, does this affect your work?
Yes! I love art. I especially love art that is magical and ethereal. I love doing photoshoots inspired by paintings because they weren’t limited to a camera and a model, the artist dreamt up whatever was in their head and put the paintbrush to the canvas and made it happen. It pushes me to be more creative with concepts and editing.
Who would you say is your number one photographer that inspires you?
Tim Walker is my all-time favourite photographer. He is so imaginative and his sets are mind-blowing. His mermaid series with Kristen McMenamy is one of my favourites. I am still on the hunt for a giant tank to do my own version!
Jillian would you share with us, how does your average shoot day look to others looking in?
It looks like a decent amount of prep, making sure all my batteries are charged, physically and mentally, memory cards are set and IN the camera, and the gas tank is full! Nothing worse than heading to a shoot and forgetting you need to stop for gas. Once I am at the shoot I am usually playing music on my phone to get the vibes going, and the subject(s) and I are bouncing pose ideas off each other and making magic while having a blast. Once the shoot is done, I am normally super thirsty and starving so the next step is to fuel myself up! After that, I come home and try to relax for a bit and clear my mind before uploading the photos.
What is your favourite location to shoot?
There is a really cool rock quarry in my town that allows me to use it for photos. It is my favourite because it doesn’t look like anything you’d find in Florida, and that is desirable to me because the location options become limited after a while!
What lighting equipment would you like to own?
I would like to own another light to supplement the one Prophoto light I won in a contest! It was a blessing because artificial lighting has always been intimidating to me, and I fear that if I hadn’t won it, I wouldn’t have ever bought it to try it out myself. It makes a huge difference and I am so glad I have been learning more about it!
What is your camera system, how many do you have and why?
My main camera body is the Nikon Z7ii, which I just recently purchased and love. I also have a Fujifilm x-t3 with a 56mm 1.2 lens that produces beautifully sharp yet dreamy portraits. My next buy is another mirrorless Nikon to be my second camera on hand at all shoots. The fuji I will keep since it was another part of the contest I won, and I’d like to keep it for the memories!
What lenses do you use and what is your go-to lens or no.1 lens?
I mainly use 85mm and 35mm lenses. They are such a great pair to have at a shoot to get those different focal lengths and looks. My go-to for portraits is the 85mm, but for my creative work, I prefer the 35mm. I just love the focal length, not having to be too far away from my subject, and the way it pulls the environment into the shot.
Do you exhibit your work and would you like to hold your own exhibition?
I do not exhibit my work, mainly because I do not know where or how to. I would love to be a part of something like that so with a little research I’m sure I could find out how. Holding my own exhibition would be amazing, maybe down the road! I have been published in Vogue Italia’s online publication. I have 19 images on my Vogue Italia profile that have been accepted. It’s no print magazine, but I will take it!
Have you ever worked for clients?
I work for clients all of the time. They are mainly local families, high school seniors, and couples. I have the best clients because they trust me with an important job, capturing their memories to last a lifetime! While they may not be large, corporate brands, they are the best clients!
Instagram Feed link https://www.instagram.com/jillianleephoto/