March 01, 2010 — The mystery woman sports sunglasses and a bronze suntan. Her little black sundress is not quite a mini, and her candy apple stilettos provide that perfect pop of color required by fashion. In her hand is a unique, half-sized business card reading “JLG” in tribal-style script. She reaches her destination just off the famed Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, among the gleaming glass and chrome structures of the “Miracle Mile.” She arrives at a sanctuary of light and shadow, the serene studio of Jay Lawrence Goldman—JLG Studio.
She removes her sunglasses and settles into a cozy yellow leather couch. She is greeted by bird song from the finch aviary and welcomed by water song from the fountains. Foliage shades her perfect cheekbones, as she studies a large portfolio on the cool, glass table before her. She might be in search of a fine art portrait for her significant other. She might be a young mother on a quest for that first definitive family portrait. She might be an editor of a magazine, prepared to discuss the layout for the next month’s spread. It does not matter which of these identities she claims. She has found the correct photographer—Jay Lawrence Goldman.
Despite his youthful appearance, Jay is a 20-year veteran photographer. His client list sports such names as Eva Longoria, Snoop Dogg, Kate Beckinsale and Billy Crystal, as well as MTV and HGTV. He also contributes the main jewelry and still life photography for Inside Weddings Magazine. As she regards her surroundings, the mystery woman notes that JLG studio was the setting for one episode of America’s Next Top Model, which showcased Jay several times. His work has also graced such magazines as InStyle, Town & Country, Robb Report, Grace Ormonde Wedding Style, Angeleno, Vegas and Los Angeles magazine.
All name-dropping aside, he says, “I am proudest of the long relationships I have cultivated with my clients over the years, from shooting someone’s wedding, to photographing their family portraits year in and year out, to their kids’ bar mitzvahs and then photos for their work.” Jay prides himself on full care and attention to his clients, which means providing all of their photographic services, both personal and commercial. Not every portrait or wedding photographer would be comfortable shooting clients’ products as well as their children, but Jay thrives on versatility. He has challenged himself to create an identity in both the portrait/wedding market and the commercial/fine art market. “I am combining a high-end wedding photography studio with a high-end jewelry/still life photography studio as well as portrait/family sessions.”
After 10 years of commercial shooting in New York City, Jay headed for California and the bright lights of Los Angeles. In 2001, he added the wedding market to his successful commercial business, discovering that he loved being a part of “those sacred moments that [couples] will look back on all their lives.” Likewise, with portraits, he enjoys “connecting with the person and getting to know them and bringing that personality out through the camera.” To date, he has photographed over 500 weddings and special events.
There are five keys to success in Jay Lawrence Goldman’s range of versatility.
1: Catch Successful Versatility
in Your Web
The first key to Jay’s successful duality is his strong, well branded Internet presence. He explains, “I have two Web sites for photography. One for commercial/product, JLG Photo; and one for weddings, JLG Weddings. I keep them separate. It is our most important marketing tool. I use liveBooks for my Web sites so that I can go in and change photos all the time.” Reinforcing his branding power, Jay keeps the two sites similar in design, color and style. “My logo and look were designed by Dreamentia Creative Labs. I have a blog called the “Photo Steam Shovel” for random mutterings and usually artistic photos. I also have a headshot blog and a bar mitzvah blog.” Jay Lawrence Goldman also has a surprise for all of you Rangefinder readers: He has designed a scheduling form that you can download for free at www.pocketshoot.com. Surprises should not be spoiled by further explanation, but the form is in a uniquely charming format (note the folding instructions.) Keeping this schedule form free online is a little way that Jay gives back to fellow photographers.
2: Keep Your Equilibrium
The second key to successful versatility is balance. Part of keeping any photography studio working is a balance between business acumen and daily inspiration. This rule doubles intensity when both personal and commercial photography are on the menu. Jay assures his clients of images that are “creative, imaginative and edgy,” whether they are commercial or personal. He says, “Everyone is creative. The hard part is unleashing the creative beast and controlling it enough to run a business off of the passion and energy.” As stated in his WPPI 2009 workshop, his business advice to photographers is succinct. “Get lean. Outsource what you can. Keep your costs down.”
3: Lights, Camera, Cladder
Jay’s third key is using the right tool for every job. He praises his Canon EOS 5D Mark II. “This is perfect for shooting weddings full frame and the file is sized just right. My favorite lenses are my Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8 and my Canon EF 85mm f/1.2.” For weddings, as well as commercial shoots, Jay believes in maximum lighting control. “I carry a battery-operated flash system to every shoot, the 1200-watt Elinchrom Ranger RX.” Whether he is shooting models or personal portraits, he finds this monolight setup provides consistent and reliable light. He compliments this battery system, not only for its versatility, but also for its safety. Since the battery loads from the bottom where there are no electronic parts, it never shorts out. For big location shoots, as well as weddings, Jay stows his gear on a “cladder.” “Available from a number of sources, this is a combination ladder and cart. Once unloaded, the contraption becomes a creative tool that offers a variety of levels from which to shoot.”
The right tool does not have to be large or expensive. In a recent workshop, Jay revealed some unexpected tiny tools of the trade. For example, a humble nickel is a perfect tripod screwdriver. He also carries a small LED light to help focus the camera. Any photographer knows that emergencies can happen. Something perhaps overlooked, Jay’s advice is very specific when it comes to bringing money. “Carry the correct change. Be sure you have six 1-dollar bills, two 5-dollar bills, one 10-dollar bill, one 20 and two 50s. Think about it. You’ll need tip money for the parking lot and the hotel, and you might need taxi or gas money. Time is money and the correct change will save you time.” In his kit he also keeps a pencil eraser—the right tool for cleaning battery contacts. Some small tools cross over from the commercial to the portrait studio. For example, in the commercial studio, Jay uses wax to prop up small products, like the pieces designed by his wife, award-winning jewelry artist Pamela Froman. Likewise, he always takes a bit of wax with him to a wedding, just to prop up the rings perfectly. A simple index card becomes his ring reflector.
4: Observe and Reflect
Sometimes a photographer researches a very narrow area of the art, but the flexible photographer learns from every genre. “Harry Callahan was the first black-and-white photographer who really struck a cord with me. His very simple, graphic ‘Weeds in Snow’ made me look at photography in a completely new way. Irving Penn’s work was always so raw and in your face. Richard Avedon’s work is very pure to me.” He adds, “When I was first printing in a darkroom, I discovered the work of Jerry Uelsmann. He also opened my mind to creating and combining images early on in my career. The fact that some of his best work was done without the use of computers is mind-blowing. Maggie Taylor, Uelsman’s wife, is a contemporary photographer whose artwork I love.” With this eclectic collection of motivators, it is no wonder that Jay’s portfolio is extremely diverse. Extending to other media, he says, “I like to step away from the cameras and computers in order to work on pen-and-ink drawings and abstract acrylic works.” Another creative outlet for him is painting his own backdrops.
5: Schedule What Matters Most
Jay’s studio might be one of the few LA businesses with a preschool junior executive. Jay grins, “My son Hudson, who is 4 years old, has his own area that he calls his office at our studio. I can take a break and play with him if I have time in the day.” Jay is also quick to praise his wife, Pamela. “I am really proud of my wife and her amazing talent as a fine jewelry designer. On top of that she is also an amazing mother. She works at the studio, so we can take a quick lunch together or go down the block to the museum for a different view.”
As for the mystery woman in the first paragraph of this article, she requires several types of work on Jay’s menu. She will confidently order a personal portrait, a headshot, a family event and commercial work for an ad. Who she is must remain a private client-list mystery, but she has a familiar face. LA is just as reliant on word-of-mouth publicity as your hometown. Jay says with a wink, “It isn’t who you know; it’s who knows you!”
Visit Jay at www.jlgphoto.com and www.jlgweddings.com. Be sure to catch C.S.I. photos at his blog, http://photosteamshovel.blogspot.com.
CharMaine R. Beleele owns a full-time photography studio, www.angelkissed
photography.com, and teaches speech-communication at the University of Arkansas, in Fort Smith, AR. She writes for Rangefinder and WPPI Photography Monthly and can be contacted at her email: firstname.lastname@example.org.