Bio: Los Angeles based photographer Jake Thomas has been working in the entertainment industry at a professional capacity since a very young age, starring in over 100 episodes of television and numerous films. His work behind the camera ranges from commercial entertainment photography and directing, to screenwriting for film and TV.
I would describe my style of photography as…
Clean? Is that a style? This question has perplexed me for years, but I try to keep my work simple, clean, and when I can, with pops of color or bits of humor.
What was your first camera, and how’d you get started in photography?
A Canon A-1 bought from Thompson Photo in Knoxville for a high school photography class that bored me to death. It wasn’t until a couple years later that I picked it back up and really started getting into photography. I shot everything from “fine art”, to street, to concerts, and then back to “fine art” again. I finally found a home with portraiture and I’ve been working with that for a while now. As an actor, I started paying attention to the lighting when I was on set, and would often ask gaffers, the DP, and the grips how they set shots up and why. Eventually, I started implementing artificial lighting in my own work.
What’s your most memorable shot or shoot, be it challenging to capture or interesting subject?
To this day, it has to be the underwater photo shoot I did for a Thirst Project campaign. The client wanted to incorporate water in a very fun way with our two talent, and one of the ideas I pitched was to capture them underwater, looking as if they were on their way to deliver the iconic water canteens.
They loved the idea, and now the challenge was to make it happen. I filled the canteens with sand and threw them to the bottom so our talent –with the supervision of a lifeguard, could swim down and grab onto them, weighing them down so that I, on the other end of the pool with a 20lb sandbag on my shoulder, could snap off a handful of shots with my camera in an underwater housing accompanied by a couple underwater strobes. Oh, and to top it off, the pool owner – a director friend of mine, had forgotten to warn me that the pool heater had died the week prior, leaving us with a very cold pool on a Fall day.
My dream gig would be…
Shooting more key art! I absolutely love it when I get to shoot key art (posters for TV and film). I’ve worked in the entertainment industry for a long time and key art is the combination of both worlds for me. I love working with fellow actors (especially since they get to be in-character) and working with producers to help convey a plot within a single image.
My favorite piece of gear is…
My camera cart! Holy moly, how did I live without this thing?! It’s a Flight Case Mini made by Backstage Studio Equipment here in LA. It loads all my equipment in and out of cars and set, turns into my rolling tether station complete with a monitor for a client, and when the day is done, it folds up into a rolling case that slides under my sofa.
Do you shoot tethered?
As much as physically possible! The only time I’m not tethered is when I’m running and gunning doing some kind of action work.
Years ago, when I first began shooting editorial, I realized I needed a better way to see playback, make adjustments on the fly, and really scrutinize details –especially when the client was on set. It also proves to be absolutely vital in instances when I need the camera on a boom 15ft in the air or over a carefully designed product flat lay. On a normal commercial shoot, I wouldn’t dream of going untethered. The client absolutely needs to be able to see what things are looking like, give notes along the way, and to make selects on set.
My favorite piece of Tether Tools gear is…
The USB 3.0 active extension! I like to move around a lot when I’m on set, now I never run out of slack, and the bright orange Tether Tools coloring makes sure none of my crew trips over it. Sometimes, like with lifestyle shots, I have to venture into a smaller room while the cart stays with my assistant and client at video village. That extra breathing room really comes in handy.
What’s on your photography gear shopping list?
More stingers (fancy film-term for an extension cord). Always need more stingers.
The best advice I can offer a fellow photographer would be…
I’ll take the opportunity to share some advice I heard from a photographer I really look up to, Frank Ockenfels III, it was something along the lines of: Stay true to yourself. When you look at the work of others, pay less attention to the elements you like and more to those you don’t. How can you do it better? How would you do it differently to make it work?
I’ve been challenging myself to focus on that more and more. It’s harder than it seems, as it is so easy to get distracted with work that really resonates with you, and then you end up trying to emulate that style or aesthetic instead of being yourself.
Tags: Jake Thomas, Photographer Spotlight