This week’s Questions with a Pro features Terrence Jones.
Terrence is a Raleigh, North Carolina-based photographer who photographs everything from fitness to fashion to food. He has a very diverse portfolio and is focused on continuing his education through workshops and conferences. Here, Terrence describes what drew him from computer science to photography, how he has diversified his business, and how he works through the unpredictability of the industry.
We asked: You were enrolled as a computer science major in college. How did you decide to pursue a career in photography instead?
Terrence said: While enrolled as a computer science major in college, photography was a way for me to meet and interact with people on campus. I used to walk around with a camera I got from my mom’s boyfriend at the time—a Yashica with a telephoto lens. I had no problem talking to people with a camera in my hands. This is something I still do. I took a photography class, so I was able to use the school’s darkroom. Digital wasn’t around yet and processing film through a lab was expensive. Computer science in the ’90s appealed to my introverted side. Growing up I was always the computer nerd who knew more about computers than most of the teachers. What I really didn’t like about the profession at the time was being in a cubby hole. I had a short lived internship where I was alone in a room from midnight until 7 AM. There were just too many people in the world and too many things to explore, so I went into fine dining restaurants to fuel my photography habit.
We asked: Do you think your knowledge of computer science has impacted your approach to photography at all? Please explain.
Terrence said: My problem solving, analytical and detailed focus came from computer science. With film, you have to get the technical aspect right before you click the camera. Photoshop came about around the time when I was in school and I was fascinated with the mix of computers and photography. My computer science knowledge didn’t come in handy until I got my first digital camera. I already knew my way around a computer and many photographers at the time did not. I went from computer nerd to photography nerd, back to computer nerd. And now I don’t have to sit in a cubby hole.
We asked: You value continued photography education. How important has this education been to your career as a whole?
Terrence said: Without continued education, I would not be here today. Photographers were very closed, and it was challenging to learn anything unless you went to continuing education workshops or meetups. With the way photography cameras are nowadays, computer technology, and all the new ways to interact and sell your photography services, continued education is a way to keep up in the industry.
We asked: You have a very diverse portfolio. How have you diversified your work over the years? Would you recommend diversifying to other photographers?
Terrence said: The saying goes, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” In my case, most of my work is personal work, and my taste changes. “Shoot what you like!” experts say, and “Develop that niche you’re passionate about.” I don’t feel like I have a niche. I used to shoot fashion and portrait editorials for a magazine for 10 years. Then I shot food for 5 years. Now, I find myself shooting more fitness-type photos and beauty portraits for myself, in addition to getting paid to shoot events, head shots, products for a vodka company, and social media posts for a skin care company. I like the shapes and movements of people, and I love food photography. I recently took food out of my portfolio because I was “confusing” potential clients about what I could do for them. I’m going to make a separate site for food in the future. I would recommend to new photographers, narrow down 2-3 related niches and grow from there.
We asked: What are the keys to working through the unpredictability of the photography industry?
Terrence said: The keys to working through the unpredictability of the photography industry are to keep shooting and keep educating yourself. Photography is the study of light, and since the light is always changing, you will never stop studying. The most helpful thing that I learned later and am still learning now, is the business side of photography. That will take you further than camera knowledge.
Find more of Terrence’s work on his website.