Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Lavengood, a professsional photographer based in Noblesville, Indiana. He is primarily a wedding photographer, but is also very well versed in stylized portraiture, fashion, commercial, HDR, and landscape photography.
How would you describe your photographic style?
I think as with all artists, my style has “evolved” through the years. Right now I guess it would depend on what I am shooting. I like really detailed, dramatic landscapes, crisp clean well defined portraits and whimsical soft wedding portraits. It really depends on the people I’m shooting and the places that I shoot that effect my mood and in turn the style of the photograph.
How did you first get into photography?
I was in 8th grade taking a yearbook class and I started developing black and white film. I fell in love with photography and have been shooting ever since. I made the switch from film to digital a little over 10 years ago. Before digital photography a teacher asked me if I thought that images being taken and adjusted on a computer was art. I answered no because you are not working in the darkroom. Now, I find that it is just a different kind of art and Photoshop is my digital darkroom with endless possibilities.
What is typically in your camera bag?
Usually my camera bag consists of my Nikon D700 and D300 and a Canon Powershot SX200IS for when I don’t want to carry everything and I’m not looking for professional shots. My lenses consist of Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, Sigma 10-20mm f/4.0-5.6, Nikon 70-300 f/3.5-5.6, Nikon 10.5mm fisheye and a Nikon 18-200 f/3.5-5.6. I use a single SB-800 for indoor shots at night, fill light and mainly to trigger my studio lights. I have a Nikon 10 pin cable release that is invaluable for shooting low light HDR. I use a Manfrotto 055X PROB tripod with a Manfrotto 486 RC2 ball head. My tripod is awesome for getting great angles.
What are you looking forward to purchasing next?
I would love to have a couple of Elinchrom BXRI 500 strobes and an Elinchrom 53 midi octa softbox. Oh and a reflector while I’m at it.
Did you have any formal training in photography?
No. Other than high school photography class, which did help teach me the basics of using a manual 35mm slr, I have had no training. I picked up the technical aspects of shooting film with an all manual Nikon FM2 and it really helped me when I did switch to digital. I’m proud to say, I am pretty much self taught in photography and Photoshop.
Do you post-process your photos? If so, please describe your process and tools.
Yes, I post process pretty much every image that I release, whether online or to a client. I find post processing invaluable. In today’s world, anyone can shoot a wedding, family portrait or landscape. I believe that you have to stay up on the post processing aspect to keep a different “look” to your photos.
I use many techniques. The one I get asked most about is what I call HDR Hybrid. This is where I shoot, depending on the contrast of the scene, anywhere from three to nine RAW images bracketed at .7 stop intervals and merge them using a program called Photomatix. Then, I import the image into Photoshop as a 16bit tiff. Depending on what I think my HDR “needs”, I open one to three of the original RAW images in Lightroom and make adjustments. I import those Lightroom images as 16bit tiffs into photoshop as layers on the HDR. I use layer masks and brush the desired aspects of the LR images into the HDR thus creating an HDR Hybrid. From there I use multiple adjustment layers with levels, color balance and sharpening.
When I’m just about done I will duplicate the merged down image and remove any unwanted distractions ie: people, cars, a distracting leaf or reflection. Finally, I use a couple last filters that I have created to finish off with some exposure highlights and give the image a “unique” look. So that’s my secret. It is different for almost every HDR but each one involves similar steps.
What has been your favorite photo location?
That’s hard. It really depends on lighting I think. I could be in my backyard if the light is right. I loved shooting a wedding on the beach in Las Caletas, Puerto Vallarta. And I just shot a beautiful wedding in the UK. I’d say those are my favorite locations just because they are different for me than my everyday surroundings.
What is your next goal in photography?
It would be great to further my business as a photographer. To continue to do what I absolutely love as well as support my wonderful wife and beautiful kids. I would love to pursue a career in fashion advertising. Diesel ads have always been a good example of what I would like to shoot for advertising photography.
What tips or advice do you have for other aspiring photographers?
The key to everything is light. If your light is not good for a beautiful landscape, the place will look just ok. You can take an average image ie: a doorway, building, person or anything and make it look beautiful with the right light. Evening light is my favorite for everything because it has a soft, calming look and people identify with it. Who doesn’t love the way things look in the evening?
Thanks to Jason for talking with us!
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