We had the good fortune of connecting with Jason Smelser and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jason, what do you attribute your success to?
The most important factor for me has been finding a niche and sticking to that. Of course I believe you should be yourself and in the end you will attract like minded clients. When you are first starting a business, especially with photography, you can be tempted to go in so many different directions. I feel strongly about choosing a specialty and sticking to that so that people will know what you are about. Another simple but equally important strategy is showing only my best work. Like the saying goes, put your best foot forward. Be yourself!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My style as a wedding photographer is a mix of romantic and whimsical moments, combined with moody and artistic elements. I strive to create images that look believable and unposed, despite the fact that most couples will need some direction. I gravitate toward images that are painterly and dreamy, and I achieve this with lens selection and technique. I try to find out more about a couple’s unique love story and allow that to shine through in my work. What sets me apart from others is the way I see and use light, shadows, and flash. No matter what kind of light or environment I’m working with, I enjoy the challenge of thinking creatively and out side of the box. Another thing that sets me apart is my background. Being an operating room nurse for 15 years gave me life experiences and skills that I use everyday. One of my most valuable strengths is the ability to remain calm in stressful situations. This definitely comes into play with wedding photography and clients often say my calm energy and direction really helped them throughout the entire process. I’m a self-taught photographer and often jokingly tell others I got my degree at Barnes & Noble. As with many things in life, I had to start from the bottom, finding ways and opportunities to perfect my craft. I was an operating room nurse for many years and and slowly developed the needed skills and equipment to become a full time wedding photographer. I started my photography journey 15 years ago before the Instagram generation of photographers. It took a while to form connections with other local photographers and vendors. I had to prove myself and grow my portfolio and this took years. The key ingredients to success for me are being passionate and consistent. Others will soon take notice when they see how passionate you are about your craft. I want my clients to know when they hire me they get someone who is actively involved throughout the entire process and is committed to getting memories that will mean the most to them for years to come. It’s not just about photography, but rather an experience. Choose a photographer that you connect with and really gets your vision.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Houston is a very urban city. In my opinion you don’t come here for beautiful scenery but rather amazing restaurants, bars, breweries and shopping. Some restaurants I’d take a friend would be Hearsay Market Square in downtown where you will get amazing drinks and food, while enjoying the gritty historic vibe of an original bank building. Another favorite would be Brenner’s Steakhouse on the Bayou. We could also head over to Pearland, TX for Killen’s steak house or BBQ. Pearland also has an amazing Italian restaurant called Grazia. We might also make reservations to visit the speakeasy located inside the restaurant, which is called The Noble Experiment. Houston has so many options when it comes to food. It’s hard to even know where to start. Definitely visit downtown, and possibly Midtown, Museum District, Rice Village, Citycentre, The Heights, Kemah, and Galveston.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My greatest inspiration as a wedding photographer came from Sam Hassas, a photographer from San Jose, CA. I was captivated with Sam’s creativity and how he used high fashion in his poses. This guy is truly a master and a true talent who was creating magic way before Instagram and fancy filters. As far as education, Scott Kelby’s books on digital photography and Adobe Lightroom taught me the foundation of what I am today. His books made for fun and easy learning, as they always included humor and were broken down into smaller sections that didn’t overwhelm you. My favorite workshop and the one that probably changed my life the most was the Let’s Go Workshop masterminded by Grace Burt. Going to Oregon for this workshop connected me with many other creatives, gave me new insight, but also sparked a passion for adventure photography. You just don’t know how beautiful Oregon is until you visit. Since that time I’ve been back multiples to shoot adventure sessions. Last but not least, I have to mention Nirav Patel from Santa Rosa, CA. Both his personal and wedding work really changed the way I look at light and shadows. When you look at Nirav’s work it’s like peering into a dream. I really love the whimsical meets moody vibe I feel when looking at his photos.