Jacob Webster of JPW Photo On 5 Things Anyone Can Do To Take Stunning Photos
… Create your own rules. When you live by your own rules and expectations, nobody can dictate your journey or control your process. You almost have to be delusional about yourself in order to stay in control. For instance, in the most recent years I feel like I would always try to follow rules that I thought were set for me but that wasn’t the case at all. I’d see other colleagues achieving milestones like magazine placements, A-list client bookings, and just constantly growing. I’d tell myself I had to follow the same process to become successful and that wasn’t true. Fast forward to today, I make sure to stay in my own lane. I determine my success because I create and follow my own rules.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Jacob Webster of JPW Photo. Jacob specializes in the conceptualization and fulfillment of beauty and fashion-centric photography. JPW Photo has been a global hit and captured many well known A-list celebrities. Webster would like to expand his personal brand to have more visibility. A lot of people have seen his work but don’t know of the creative person. Webster thrives to inspire one creative at a time, he’s inspired by everything! From culture, music, people’s beauty, or creators who came before me, he finds inspiration in the smallest things.
AM: Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
JW: Hi, thanks so much for having me and thank you for the opportunity! To start an interesting story that brought me to this specific career path was when I photographed Diddy’s 50th birthday party in December of 2019. I share this story a lot but it really set the tone for how I would be operating the next few years of my life. So before I did photography, I would travel a lot for fun and that specific weekend I just happened to be in LA. I literally had no plans but I thought it’d be smart to just bring my camera since I usually just leave it at home. I was there for a few days and couldn’t find anyone to photograph since I didn’t know anybody in LA but my last night was when I got asked to photograph Puff’s party. This was such a big moment for me considering I just turned 21 and have never been in that space before. I remember calling my friend and telling her I wasn’t sure if I would go because I felt like I wasn’t qualified enough to be in that space. I remember thinking that there were so many other photographers there that had way more experience than me and were much older than me. Luckily, my friend convinced me to get out of my head and not let imposter syndrome win. I ended up going and before I went inside, I had to tell myself that I would leave with connections or there wasn’t any point in me going. I also told myself that God would never put me in a situation or in an environment that I couldn’t handle. That’s something I remind myself and replay in my head anytime I’m about to do something that I think I’m unqualified for — especially because once it’s done, I realize I had nothing to worry about all along. That night is when I met a lot of people in the industry (Beyonce, Kim K, Kylie, Cardi, Doja, Kobe, Queen Latifah, Usher, etc.) that I always wanted to meet and I just knew that this opportunity was just what I needed to get my foot in the door. I share this because I encourage other creatives to never let imposter syndrome win. Remember that you are a light in any room that you enter and not only do you belong there, but people are also attracted to you and your gifts.
AM: Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
JW: This is recent, but being able to experience Paris Fashion Week was a story in itself. This experience was different from anything else I experienced because it really changed my perspective on my career path. When I went to Paris with Doja, it was so dope to go to different fittings with these big brands and designers and then go to the fashion show. I thought it was interesting to watch how musical artists crossover into the fashion world and watching those two worlds blend together. I also saw how much meaning and intention there is behind fashion. Because once I left NYFW and PFW, I would go home to LA or DC and would see these trends taking place in my community. I just thought it was so cool how a decision on the runway can translate over to major trends in the states and how a designer’s decision can influence an entire generation. When we went to the shows, I saw all of the top models walking and I even saw influencers walking. What took me by surprise was that I saw other photographers whose work I admired there as just guests and not even working. I even saw one walking in one show. This really made me realize that there is truly no limit to what you can do in this industry. If you’re a photographer, you can transition into being a model. If you’re a major artist, you can transition into fashion. No matter what it is, you can do it just by being consistent and fulfilling your purpose.
AM: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
JW: I think some of the funniest mistakes I made starting out were just being unprepared. There have been times where my camera wasn’t charged, I’d lose memory cards with images on it, or I would show up to a gig without the proper lighting. All of these mistakes I made early on really shaped me today because I always make sure I’m fully prepared whenever I step out to work. Not only am I prepared now but I’m over prepared. If someone is calling me to do quick photos before an event, I’m not just gonna show up with my on camera flash. I’m gonna show up with multiple backdrop options, stands, lights, and more. Even if it wasn’t used, I still like to provide that option and it always leaves a good impression with my clients when they see I went above and beyond to make them happy. At the same time, I do want to make a disclaimer that I still make a lot of mistakes today. Definitely not careless mistakes like I did when I was starting out but just simple mistakes. I’m never mad when I make mistakes too because it always humbles me. It also serves as a reminder that I’m human and should never take myself too seriously. Also, when I do make mistakes, I make sure I’m always transparent with the client and it’s always interesting to see their responses. If they’re gracious, I know it’s someone I should continue working with, but if they’re not gracious and are nasty, I start to question if God had me slip up that specific day just for things to be revealed to me and to keep me on track.
AM: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
JW: One thing that I think makes me/my company stand out is the way that I allow my clients to control their own narratives and to never pressure them. As my clientele started to grow and I started working with bigger clients, I noticed how much pressure they’re under and how much people try to control them. I learned to extend everyone’s grace and understanding. High profile individuals work so hard in their crafts and give so much to the world, I believe they should be able to control their own images and should be able to control as much as possible what is shared. A general example and a common issue within the photography community is posting images of people without their approval. Some of my best work with some of the biggest artists out will not see the light of day just because the talent changed theirs and didn’t want to share them anymore. I had to learn to be okay with that and not want to pressure them to change their mind. When I started accepting that, I started to see how much more people will respect you when you run things by them and build a genuine relationship with them, rather than trying to get clout off of them. This has happened to me a lot, and still happens, but I will say that there will always be another opportunity, especially if the talent respects you.
AM: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
JW: A few tips I have for colleagues in my industry are the following:
- Focus on becoming grounded. Place your mental, physical, and spiritual health first and it’ll give you an advantage over everyone else because you’re unphased when life tries to knock you down.
- Learn the business side of this industry instead of just focusing on your talent. You’ll easily burn out if you’re easy to take advantage of and don’t have any boundaries.
- Create your own rules. When you live by your own rules and expectations, nobody can dictate your journey or control your process. You almost have to be delusional about yourself in order to stay in control. For instance, in the most recent years I feel like I would always try to follow rules that I thought were set for me but that wasn’t the case at all. I’d see other colleagues achieving milestones like magazine placements, A-list client bookings, and just constantly growing. I’d tell myself I had to follow the same process to become successful and that wasn’t true. Fast forward to today, I make sure to stay in my own lane. I determine my success because I create and follow my own rules.
AM: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
JW: Honestly, I don’t feel like it was just one person who helped me to get to where I am today. I’ve always had a really strong community behind me which included people like my parents, my team, and my friends. I don’t have a specific story that stands out but I always reflect on my journey and think about where I started and how I started. When I first started taking pictures in my freshman year of high school, I would ask my friends to stick around to model for me. I’d also pay attention to my friends that always had their makeup or hair done and would ask them to do my models glam. Then it just started turning into this whole big thing. I really appreciate my parents because they’re never questioned me or asked me to find an alternative to my craft. I never really planned on doing photography full time but it just happened. Even when I said I was picking up my stuff and moving to LA, it was no questions asked. Just okay, you go chase your dreams! Even outside of taking my own clients, I like to do my own portfolio work. I’m always getting my friends to help me put these projects together and I’ve noticed how much everyone shows up for me no matter what it is. It’s so affirming when not only do people believe in your vision, but they also want to see it come to life.
AM: Are you working on any exciting projects now?
JW: I’m working on exciting projects currently that I can’t yet talk about but it’s a mixture of portfolio work and client work. I feel like the space I’m in right now has been finding my own style as an artist and surrendering to the creative process. I can see with my own eyes my growth with each project and can see how much easier it is for my vision to come to life and it being exactly how I imagined.
AM: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
JW: I don’t think I’ve reached a global audience but I’ve definitely used my success to bring goodness to my community. As I continue to grow and reach more people, I’ll be able to do more and bring goodness to the entire world but within my community, I try to uplift every person around me. I network across, try to plug in anyone as much as possible, and make sure everyone feels valued. For example, most recently I’ve been specifically asking God to use me as a vessel and help me bless those around me. I got hired for a gig and brought my friend along to help me. Not only was my friend paid for the gig but they also left with a full time job with the company that hired me. It was such a beautiful Aha moment for me because I literally saw how God used to get me to someone else. He got me that job and got me to bring them along so they could be blessed.
AM: Can you share “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Take Stunning Photos”. Please share an example for each.
JW: 5 things anyone can do to take stunning photos are the following.
- Have good lighting. Get some lights off Amazon and make sure your subject is well lit.
- Choose the best environment. Try to find clean, simple locations that aren’t so busy.
- Have a clear vision or concept prior to shooting. Plan out your photos. Visualize it and then figure out how you can execute.
- Ask yourself the 5 W’s. Who, what, when, where, and why!
- Provide feedback and direction for your subject. Give your models directions. Speak up and make sure your voice is heard. Make sure to provide constructive feedback. Be open to feedback yourself.
AM: You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
JW: I’m honestly not sure what movement I could do to bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people. I think it’s hard to answer or figure out because I like to be really intentional in anything that I do. So I’d have to sit down and do a lot of research and find something that makes sense for me and how it can impact others. Off the top of my head, I’d want it to be something revolving around the idea of authenticity and showing up as yourself in new spaces.
AM: How can our readers follow you on social media?
JW: Readers can follow me on Instagram at jpwphoto or cameramanjake on twitter!