John Thatcher is a commercial photographer based in the Bay Area of California whose portraiture is filled with a nostalgia for summer days and roadtrips through the desert – Americana at its finest…
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you first got started in photography?
I’m 30 years old and I live in the Bay Area of California. I work as lead photographer and head of the photography department at a fashion company called Le Tote. I first started taking photos with my iPhone about five years ago; I got really into it and, one day, I decided I needed a real camera to take with me on a trip to Canada, so I bought one. Haven’t stopped taking photos since.
Who or what are your main sources of inspiration?
My sources of inspiration are kind of all over the place; I really love photos in vintage magazines and of old country musicians. I get really interested in certain aspects of different cameras and that usually leads me to dig into photos other people have shot with that model of camera and I always find something inspiring. I love my Pentax 6×7 medium format camera and old photos taken with that always inspire me. There is also Instagram, obviously; tons of talent there. Treats! Magazine is amazing as well.
I first started taking photos with my iPhone about five years ago; I got really into it and, one day, I decided I needed a real camera to take with me on a trip to Canada, so I bought one. Haven’t stopped taking photos since.
What is it that you look for in a model when you are planning a portrait session?
I usually have a ton of different ideas floating around my head and, whenever I see a model or am contacted by one, I try and decide which of my shoot ideas they’d work for. So when I plan portrait sessions, I have the finished product in my head already. I know what cameras to bring and how I want to shoot. It makes it so much easier on me and the model.
How do you direct your portrait shoots in terms of pose and feel; meticulous planning, pure spontaneity or somewhere in between?
I rarely leave anything up to spontaneity when I’m shooting unless I’ve already got the shot that I had been planning on getting. Since I know what I want, I can usually direct the model and get the shot pretty quickly and then, after that, we figure out something different from there. So it’s a mix of work and fun.
What does your post-production workflow look like – do you have any tips and tricks that you can share?
I usually get my film developed right away and, as I’m waiting, I start editing my digitals. I make my selects and edit in Photoshop. I make extra selects because I like to have extras in case I change my mind or have an idea later. After I make the edits, I throw them into Lightroom if I think I need to. I almost always drop the yellow color out of my photos. I’m just not interested in yellows most of the time; I don’t know why.
The best piece of advice for a new photographer would be to learn your camera functions.
What would be the best piece of advice that you could give a new photographer?
The best piece of advice for a new photographer would be to learn your camera functions. Don’t set it to auto; you will have a harder time later when you notice your style is just like a lot of other people. It’s not just composition that makes style, its settings too. Also, even with that being said, it’s going to be hard to develop a style and some people never really lock one down. Don’t be mad about that. You either will or won’t, but at least you’ll know your camera settings.
What has been the high point of your photography career so far?
There hasn’t been one real highlight yet. I’ve shot photos of some of my favorite musicians, gotten a huge pay check for shooting a big corporate campaign and met more than a few brilliantly talented people just because I know how to use a camera. It is truly humbling and amazing.
What is next for you?
The things I’m going to concentrate on next are growing my portfolio and getting my work out there more. I’m lucky enough to have landed a salary position doing what I love and I’d like to continue making great work that will let me live the life I’d like to live.
See more of John’s work at:
All images copyright John Thatcher.