Jim Jordan approaches every assignment--whether shooting celebrities, supermodels, children, or animals--in a similar fashion: His goal is to make everyone feel comfortable. Whether it's playing with the kids or giving the actors a role to play, he wants to put his subjects in a relaxed environment. "I love catching kids in the moment, instead of posing them" explains Jordan. "It's the same way I approach celebrities--I just have a good time. When I shoot, I open my heart--because it's not really about what I'm seeing, it's more about what I feel. I want a feeling and an emotion to what I'm seeing, and it comes from my heart. So I basically treat all of my shoots the same."
Jordan finds he gets the best results when he can let his guard down and just be himself. "I show my subjects that I'm photographing them from my heart and let them see the vulnerability of my life," he says. "If I can share something very authentic and personal about myself, it allows my subject to be comfortable and trust me with everything they have to share. It's like they're telling me a secret that they won't share with anybody else. They'll give me a look and emotions that they're afraid to show other people. That's my whole approach--to get on a heart level and to be vulnerable, open, and honest with my subjects."
Jordan says he doesn't approach his career, subjects, or talents any differently than he approaches people on the street or his friends. "I'm just authentic in my life and everywhere I go," he says.
One of the challenges of shooting actors and movie stars, according to Jordan, is that they normally have a script to follow or a story that they're trying to convey. Sometimes during a photo shoot, they get uncomfortable without direction. "I was a celebrity hair-and-makeup artist for 10 years, and I worked with all of the biggest photographers," says Jordan. "A lot of times they would just put the movie star in front of a camera and start shooting. The actors didn't know what to do, because they weren't used to being themselves in front of a camera."
When Jordan approaches a celebrity, he tries to give them a story with a feeling that he wants them to portray. "I explain my vision and what I want them to be--something that gets their mind off of who they are, so when I'm taking their picture they're not thinking about themselves," he says. "I get their minds off of themselves and onto what we're trying to accomplish."
The hair and makeup background gives Jordan an edge when shooting as well. "A lot of times, the actors or models love that I will jump in and fix their hair or their makeup," he admits. "They love that I pay attention to the little details and see things besides just the lighting and exposures and the technical stuff. And, to be honest, I don't want to approach any of my shoots thinking about the technical. All I care about is what I see and how my subjects look."
Letting Kids Be Kids
Jordan takes the same approach when shooting children. A lot of photographers say the hardest subjects to shoot are children and dogs--and, if you aren't prepared, it can be a nightmare. Jordan, on the other hand, loves it. "I just walk into [those assignments] loving it," he says. "It's like a gift from God that I have been blessed with."
Jordan connects with kids on their level. "I have fun, get down and crazy, and have the best time ever with the kids," he says. "I like shooting outdoors with them, like snowboarding or skateboarding. I'll get my snowboard on, grab my camera, and have the best time--kids will do anything, they are so coachable. I just try to be super-relaxed and have fun." Jordan admits to always running in on his shoots, styling their wardrobe or doing their hair, and having lots of interaction with the children. "I'm very hands-on, so they're very familiar with me," he says.
For the Dogs
Jordan also does many animal shoots, including ad campaigns for companies such as PETA and other animal-rights charities, as well as cover images for magazines such as Animal Fair, Hollywood Dog, and Modern Dog. He has a Purina campaign out right now for all of the packaging that's on the shelves for the company's Dog Chow, Cat Chow, and Kitten Chow. The ad campaigns almost always feature "professional" animals, while the magazines often feature celebrities with their pets. So, does Jordan prefer working with the pros or the pets?
"I'd rather work with nonprofessional animals, because I don't have to deal with the trainers," laughs Jordan. He says the more people on a set, the more confusion there will be: "I feel like the smaller my crew, the better pictures I'll get, and the more things can happen authentically. When there are too many people standing around on a job, the energy gets spun away."
Because he's very much into animal rights, he does a lot of charity work for PETA and various animal shelters. All of the celebrities that he puts on the cover of Animal Fair are very much into animal rights and rescuing animals, and all of the covers are about charities for rescued animals and animal rights. One of his favorite subjects is his good friend Charlize Theron. "All of Charlize's dogs are rescued dogs," says Jordan. "I contact celebrities who I know are into rescuing animals, and I ask if they would allow me to photograph them and their pets for different magazines."
In one instance, an Animal Fair shoot lead to a big ad campaign. "I did these pictures of Charlize on the beach running and chasing her dog, Tucker," relates Jordan. "I presented them to Purina with a concept to have me photograph all of their packaging featuring pet owners running and chasing their dogs." Jordan's production company did all of the comps and the layout for Purina, and Purina loved the idea so much that they decided they want it to be their branding for the next five years. "So I photographed the models chasing their dogs, and that is the campaign that's out now for Purina Dog Chow," he says.
Jordan started his own production company, White Cross Productions, about six years ago. He was with an agent/photo rep for 10 years and says he learned a lot about the business side of photography from them. "When I first became a photographer, all I wanted to do was take beautiful pictures of people," he says. "It wasn't about how much money I was making. I just didn't care. But after 10 years of being with a photo rep and learning a lot about business, I decided to open my own company."
White Cross Productions produces all of Jordan's shoots. They have in-house agents, in-house producers, and their own retouchers and production team. "We have basically become a one-stop shop for clients," reports Jordan. "We come up with the concepts and storyboards, execute the vision, produce the whole shoot, shoot the advertising campaign, and direct the commercials. This provides the client with a seamless campaign from print to film. When people see the campaign on billboards and in stores and then see it on TV, it's instantly recognizable that it's all the same brand."
Jordan also just finished shooting an international brand campaign for De Beers diamonds. "I just shot four commercials for De Beers and did a new 2009 print campaign for them," he says. "We executed the storyboards, the layouts, the concept, and the design. I directed the commercials, shot the print campaign, and did all of the retouching, layouts, video editing--the whole number."
Tips of the Trade
A lot of photographers ask Jordan how he gets his jobs, how to bid on projects, and how to know what to charge people. Jordan says he learned through experience and he wants to share his knowledge with others. "These are big mysterious questions in my business," he says. "There is no manual, there is no right or wrong, there are no guidelines. Everybody's price is different, everybody's caliber of photography is different, and there is no right way of bidding on a project." However, Jordan does have several tips to share with his fellow photographers on marketing:
Websites--Jordan used to have several complicated websites, but he realized by talking to art buyers that the best websites are the simple websites--ones that load up fast, so clients don't have to wait long for pictures to open up. "I work with liveBooks, and it is one of the best websites--its simple, fast, easy to navigate, and art buyers love it," he says.
Backup--"Some of the best lessons I've learned have come via trial and error," he says. "Backing up all of your images is extremely important. I've had several incidents where I've lost images and had to learn the hard way." Jordan now works with G-Technology.com. G-Tech has high-performance external hard drives that are fast. "They have 6-, 12-, and 16-terabyte RAID storage devices that are amazing, as well as 2- and 3-terabyte drives that are small, compact, look great, and come with me on all my shoots," he says. Belkin battery backups protect his computers and drives. Jordan has fast access to his images through a shared storage solution provided by Small Tree Communications, a provider of shared storage products. The solution includes the Edge-corE ES4524D, a 24-port gigabit Ethernet switch, along with the PEG4, a four-port Ethernet card that enables Jordan to concurrently share and transfer images at an extremely high rate of speed. This solution addressed the need to centralize storage and saved Jordan, and his clients, a lot time and money.
Databases--One of Jordan's strongest marketing tools is Adbase.com. "It's an online client resource," he says. "I get all of my advertising agencies broken down by territory. It also breaks down all of the art buyers, magazines, photo editors, corporations, and catalogs and only targets those who are interested in my style of work." The listings will have the creative director's name or the art buyer's name with a phone number. It allows users to customize mailings to clients and will let the user see if the client opened the e-mail and clicked onto the website. "It's really simple and an easy resource," Jordan says. "And Adbase.com is specifically designed for photographers and artists. It's an easy way to pitch clients."
Jordan has two in-house agents who make 50 to 60 calls a day through Adbase.com. "Adbase is the best thing that ever happened to me," says Jordan. "Within two weeks of using Adbase as a resource to find new clients, my calendar was booked nine months to a year in advance. I have very few days off. Adbase is a big key to my success, as well as having a great website by liveBooks. Those two work really well hand in hand."
Jordan's personal contact database is through Daylite and Billings, two programs created by Marketcircle.com. Daylite is a business-productivity manager, and Billings is a practical time-billing and invoicing application. Once he pitches a client off of Adbase and they book him, they immediately go into his personal contact database. "Daylite tracks all of my portfolios, model releases, clients, and personal contacts," he says. "It's a great resource that helps streamline my business and helps me get organized."
Jordan keeps his images organized and accessible through Microsoft Expression Media 2, allowing him to attach metadata to all images and simplify workflow.
Jim Jordan's Gear Box
• Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III
• 24-70mm f/2.8L USM AF
• 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM AF
• 50mm f/1.2L USM AF
• 85mm f/1.2L II USM AF
• Hasselblad H3DII-39
• Macro 120mm f/4 HC
• 100mm f/2.2 HC
• 80mm f/2.8 HC
• Profoto Pro-8a Air 2400 w/s power packs
• Pro-7b 1200 w/s power pack
• Pro-7 heads
• Pro Ringlight, striplights, & softboxes
• Pro Globe
• White & silver beauty dishes
• Elinchrom Octabank
• Briese Focus 330 H/S
• 4-, 8-, 16-GB Lexar CF cards
• Gitzo tripods
• Century Boxes
• Tamrac bags
• SF Bags
• Apple Mac Pro
• Apple 17" MacBookPro
• Apple 23" Cinema displays
• G-Tech hard drives & RAID
• Wacom tablets
• Small Tree Communications Ethernet switch
• Epson Stylus Pro 3800 printers
• X-Rite i1
• Phase One Capture One
• Microsoft Expression Media 2
• Adobe CS4
• Marketcircle.com Daylite and Billings
• FileMaker Pro
FOR MORE OF JIM JORDAN'S WORK, GO TO WWW.JIMJORDANPHOTOGRAPHY.COM