Jasmine Star is an Orange County, California-based wedding photographer who travels the world to capture the big day of so many clients. Voted one of the Top 10 Wedding Photographers by American Photo Magazine, Jasmine's work has been included in magazines such as Comsopolitan, Professional Photographer, TheKnot, Inside Weddings, Santa Barbara, and Rangefinder. She took a few minutes to share with Pictureline why her photography and approach to the wedding has garnered so much attention. We found her attitude and personality as lively as her website. For those who are breaking into the wedding photography market, Jasmine is an excellent resource for style and business.
Pictureline: Tell us about your background. I could see you successful in many different fields, not just photography. How did you get into photography and develop yourself as a creative?
Jasmine Star: "I was actually in law school, and I got a scholarship to go to UCLA here in Los Angeles. At the end of my first year, my mom had a relapse of brain cancer. At that time, she had battled cancer for five years, and her diagnosis was made when I was in college earning a degree in business administration. It was just a really hard time in my life, and I wasn't the biggest fan of law school but just thought that was what I was supposed to do. I asked for a medical leave, promising to return the next year to finish off the semester. They were gracious about my departure, and I really thought that I would return, but my boyfriend of eight and a half years proposed. It was a really bittersweet time in life because we really weren't sure about my mother's condition, and doctors had stopped giving her treatment. It was during that time when I picked up a camera and started documenting life, and then planned a wedding in about six months so that my mom could be there with us.
"The wedding planning process was really cathartic for my mother and against all odds, she was able to walk me down the aisle with my father during my wedding ceremony. It was a really great moment, and we had a really amazing wedding photographer who documented it all, and when we got home I was like, "That guy has the best job ever." He documented a miracle! I loved that he was able to be passionate about what he did. When it came time to go back to law school, I just thought, "I just don't want to go back." My husband asked me, "If you could do anything you wanted for the rest of your life, what would it be?" I said, "I think I want to be a wedding photographer." And that hit him completely out of left field because I didn't even own a camera at that time and had no professional aspirations and no professional training. He said, "Ok, you have five years to go back to UCLA and reclaim your scholarships, so why don't we try pursuing photography for a year? I would rather see you fail at something you loved rather than succeed at something you hate." I booked my first wedding October 2006, and I booked 38 weddings in 2007, and things took off. That was the start. (And by the way, my mother called me to the carpet. With her being so ill, it forced me to reconcile what I desired and what I thought I was supposed to do. She was 50 years old, and I was 25 years old. Dealing with the notion that I wasn't promised any certain years in my life, I really thought that I was having a mid-life crisis. I thought, "If I die when I'm 50, do I want to die a lawyer? Do I want to die happy? What do I want to do?" Having my mother be with me on the biggest day of life and then having her be one the biggest champions of the business is just really, really cool. She will always have health complications, but she has far exceeded anyone's expectations, which is very, very cool.)"
Pictureline: You're obviously very successful. What should wedding photographers be thinking about when deciding to take their photography to the next level? And their businesses to the next level?
Jasmine Star: "Up to this point, most of the conversations I've had wtih photographers addressed leveraging a personal identity online. This really helps separate the photographer in a saturated market, and if you are able to do this online, then the market is no longer limited to Chicago or Salt Lake City or Los Angeles. It's so much broader than that. My clients--anyone's clients for that matter--are around the world. Before someone thinks about running a high end business, it's important to go back to the basics, making sure that the photography is intact and that the business model is sound. Having said those two things, I would then go back to the foundation, making sure the photographer's online store front is really representative of not just what they are producing, but also who is producing the work. We deal with clients who are very emotional, and they are making a big decision, but they are largely uneducated. We are trying to sell them an educated service for a largely uneducated audience. In light of this, we need to make sure that we become the face of our business. We need to gain our clients' trust, while simultaneously asking them for the permission to be artistic and have control. I think that's beneficial in growing the business."
Pictureline: What are your thoughts on marketing for the wedding photographer? What are the most important aspects to focus on for a wedding photographer's marketing?
Jasmine Star: "I basically want to do two things with prospective clients: I want to attract or I want to repel. So many times I think photographers in general are really afraid at turning people off, and I believe it should be the complete antithesis. I actually want to turn people off if necessary because if they don't like me from the outset, I feel like I'm saving them time in helping them realize that I wasn't perhaps the best fit for them to begin with. In light of that, I put so much of myself into my website, adding in personal components and revealing myself as a person, not just a photographer. Some photographers take issue with that. They think that it's absolutely ridiculous that I talk about my dog and my obsession with chocolate on my website or on other social media. I think that's fine. The more people know about me, the more distinctive their opinion will be of me. The stronger this feeling is in a positive way, the more likely I will book that prospective client. The complete opposite as well. The more they don't like, the more likely it is that they won't contact me. That's awesome! It saves me time, and it saves them time. It's a win-win."
Pictureline: Tell us about your editorial work. There is a recent article in PDN about wedding photographers branching out into other areas of photography. Have you specifically gone after editorial work or have you been sought out for extensions on your wedding/portrait work?
Jasmine Star: "I specialize in wedding photography; however, I have a proclivity to editorial style shooting, so I shoot a wedding editorially. I think that helps in regards to getting my work published in print and online media. I love W Magazine, I love GQ, I love Vogue, and I love Vanity Fair. I saw a lot of that fashion/editorial type posing and imagery, and I didn't see that so much in the wedding world. Instead, I saw a lot of "Here's the groom and bride by a brick wall and here's the couple in a field holding hands" and that's beautiful and that's lovely, but I wanted to do something different. Shake it up, merge both of the worlds. Do I think it's for everyone? No, I do not. However, I think it's a very good fit for my clients and my clients' friends, which have become feeders for new clients. Definitely, this style has been in demand the past few years, and I'm very happy with it.
Pictureline: For someone of your status in your genre, your personality and positive attitude seem to come through the website, through your emails, and through your phone calls. Have couples or editorial commercial clients commented on this? I can imagine this is a very positive thing when someone is considering hiring you for a first, second, third time.
Jasmine Star: "I book 50% of my clients in person and 50% online. This means that roughly half my clients are booking me "blindly." After booking, I usually shoot an engagement session with most clients, and I get to spend about an hour and a half with them, we have a great time, and the situation is overall positive. The bride is feeling great. The groom is looking good. They have a great time. And then they go and have champagne at dinner later on. We really get to know each other then. It is important that they have this confidence in me because everything is going to get emotional and sometimes tense on the wedding day. For example, one of my last weddings, the bride was two hours late and the ceremony was slated to start on time. She rushed in and was very apologetic, and I had only one option: still be positive. Sure, it could have been easy to become frustrated with the situation, but I knew if I remained in control and kept the bride happy, it'd do more good...both personally and professionally. She called me after the wedding and said that she was sorry everything was out of control, but was so appreciative that she had someone there who was very positive and kept things going and was still able to keep the day beautiful in a way that she didn't feel like she lost out on any photos. So do I think my clients notice my upbeat attitude? Yes, I do, especially on the wedding day when things are emotional. When the wedding planner wasn't there, I felt the responsibility fell on me to keep everything going and keep people on time. In these instances, I also try to manage expectations, saying, "OK, we were going to do this, this, and this, but now we should probably take a deep breath and a sip of champagne to ensure we're still having a good time." I just stay upbeat and happy.
Pictureline: OK. We ask all the pros…Do you have a favorite camera and lens?
Jasmine Star: I shoot with the Canon 5D Mark III, and I love it! My favorite lens is a Canon 50 mm f/1.2. I shoot with that lens so much, and it's truly defined my style. Right behind it would be the 35 mm f/1.4."