Photographer Spotlight: John Gress

Posted by: on Apr 1, 2020

For over 20 years Chicago photographer & director John Gress has created stunning photography and videos for some of America’s largest companies and international media outlets.  His work has included national lifestyle advertising, portraits and videos for the beauty industry and action photography of professional athletes. Professional Photographer Magazine called Gress “one of the nation’s foremost experts on lighting.Visit his Instagram @johngressmedia and his website.

Photo Credit: John Gress

I would describe my style of photography as…

It’s a hard question to answer from the inside looking out, but I think of myself as a commercial people photographer who loves everything about lighting.

What was your first camera, and how’d you get started in photography?

My first camera was a Vivitar, which I purchased around 1994. After a few photography classes in high school, I started shooting high school sports for a weekly newspaper for $5 an image. A few years later, I was basically making a living as a photographer.

Why did you want to become a photographer?

I loved how photography gave me a reason to meet new people and interact with them. For a kid who was less than popular and sometimes bullied, it felt like a real opportunity!

What’s your most memorable shot or shoot, be it challenging to capture or interesting subject?

About ten years ago, I got hired to shoot the cast of Twilight. I didn’t know who I was shooting when they walked in. I just looked for the people who were getting their makeup touched up!

What image are you most proud of from your photography portfolio?

I used to be able to answer this, but lately, I think my work is constantly evolving and hopefully improving every month.

Photo Credit: John Gress

My dream gig would be…

The gig I have now! =)

My favorite piece of gear is…

It’s currently an optical snoot that allows me to project shapes and patterns onto things. The creative possibilities are endless!

Photo Credit: John Gress

Do you shoot tethered?

I went from only tethering when working with an art director to shooting tethered all the time once I started teaching lighting skills to other photographers. Now it’s second nature and helps me perfect my lighting on set, which cuts down on my time in post.

My favorite piece of Tether Tools gear is…

The orange cable, because it reduces the risk that I will stand on it and break something!

What’s on your photography gear shopping list?

I’m considering the Canon R5, but it’ll depend on the final specs.

The best advice I can offer a fellow photographer would be…

Practice as often as you can by doing photoshoots that will fuel your creative soul while helping you grow your skills. A lot of client work can be soul crushing and repetitive, so if you push the envelope on your personal work, you’ll remain motivated and move beyond what you thought possible!

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