Toronto Society and Event Photographer
I first met JJ Thompson a few years back when he arrived on the scene in Toronto, and haven’t looked back. He’s my top choice for an event photographer. He’s a mensch, a great dad and an all around good man.
This talented photographer’s work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Huffington Post, Lou Lou, Flare, Toronto Life, Fashion magazine, National Post, Metro News, Elle Canada, BizBash and much more. Famous faces to grace his lens include Elton John, Robert Pattinson, Kim Cattrall, John Hamm, Queen Latifah and Leonard Cohen, to name a few. An expert event photographer, Thompson knows his way around a room and has picked up a few tricks over the course of his career.
Here, he shares advice for event planners working with photographers, covering everything from pricing to the best photographic elements at events to staples that are overdone and more.
How did you get your start in photography?
It started with an event website I used to operate. I was looking for pictures to populate the site, and in order to try and create some consistency decided started to shooting for myself. I began getting requests to shoot for other people and it quickly evolved from there. Today, I’m a full-time event photographer, working alongside a thriving team.
What do you love about it? What do you hate?
There are bad days in every line of work, but on good days it’s hard to imagine having a better job. Like most photographers I really enjoy the flexibility and change; it keeps you on your toes and helps you to constantly improve. At the hardest times it’s a genuinely challenging job that keeps you working around the clock and constantly struggling for a life/work balance.
You’ve attended and shot many events. Is there anything you feel is overdone, or something you’d like to see more of, in relation to producing great photography?
‘Step & Repeats’ are common place due to sponsorships. A photographer is pretty limited in what they can do on a traditional S&R, but there are some really fun new alternatives out there (but sadly, very uncommon). It’s a really great area to try and think out the box and get creative.
Photographers have different styles from each other, as do the events themselves. What are some questions people should ask when selecting a photographer to make sure they are hiring someone who is the right fit for their event?
A photographer who’s great at one area of photography isn’t always perfectly suited to another. A professional photographer should be asking you the questions and will decline the job if it’s not well-suited. A lack of interest in what the job requires is usually a red flag.
Professionals in every field are there to assist and help with their area of expertise. When I go to the hair dresser and they ask me what I want, I tell them “I’m a photographer, I know nothing about hair.”
As an event photographer, if you could pick just one of the following elements for getting great shots, what would it be and why?
a) Amazing lighting
b) Incredible visuals
c) High-profile guests
d) Expert design
e) Unusual details
Amazing lighting. Optics are everything. Light, bright, colourful spaces can look fantastic on camera. A well-lit event can transform the results, just as much as dark colours and a lack of light can make things look much less impressive than they were.
Does inexpensive photography always mean lesser-quality photos, and vice versa? Please explain.
As with any service, I’d be very cautious of anyone willing to work for below industry norms. If you plan to be in business for a long time then you’re probably looking to be the best provider, not necessarily the cheapest. A solid business will be charging their customers enough to make a profit and reinvest, this ensures a long term stable partner you can rely on.
What can event planners do on site to help you get the best shots possible?
Keep the photographers in the loop. A “run of show” can be infinitely more helpful than a shot list, especially if the night involves multiple critical events. Anticipate photographers wanting access to all areas and plan for that in advance. Consider the photographer as a member of the core team and you’ll get far greater results.
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