Canon 5D Mark III.
As long as it’s clean, it’s a favourite.
“Nothing To Envy – Ordinary Lives in North Korea” by Barbara Demick.
Jessica Kobeissi – I’m a Lebanese-American photographer from Detroit, Michigan. At the age of 12 I began teaching myself code and design, and at age 15 I started my first graphic resource website.
I have a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. I started photography 5 years ago, and I haven’t really stopped taking photos since. After college, I started a Youtube Channel to help photographers with photoshop and photo editing.
-How did you first become interested in photography?
It was towards the end of my sophomore year of college. A few local photographers in my city were posting their work on Facebook and it immediately caught my eye. I thought to myself, “hmm…wonder what I could come up with if I did photography.” This single thought that popped into my mind – started everything. As a graphic designer I was proficient in Photoshop and loved photo manipulating and editing basically anything, so I took it as a challenge.
-Did you always want to be a professional photographer?
Hahah. No. I was a graphic design major and I always walked past the photography part of our college confused and not understanding the hype of photography. The story gets a little funnier. I even took a film photography class and I was probably the worst student, hahaha. I guess I just wasn’t interested in it at all. After it ended, I carried on like normal, not thinking twice about photography and continuing with my graphic design classes.
-What words best describe your style of photography?
Strength, confidence, but most importantly – attitude (and a little bit of grunge).
-How did you go about developing your own, unique style?
It took years. Throughout it all I was constantly frustrated. Do I want my photos to be more vintage, or do I want more contrast? Even I didn’t know! Waiting it out and trying every type of style to see what I liked help me most. At the end of 2016 I felt like I finally found a style that fit me as a person, so I’ve stuck with that.
-What is your typical camera setup on a shoot?
It’s as basic as it gets, just my camera and I! I try to keep my setup as simple as possible.
-What is your approach to lighting like?
I consider myself most comfortable in my craft when I am outside, I’m all about natural light. I chase the sun. Oh, I don’t say that metaphorically either. I really did chase the sun as it was setting once in Downtown Seattle. The model was wearing huge boots and we were trying to catch that last bit of light through the buildings… it was really hilarious and we weren’t very successful. But at least I got a small workout in, staying healthy (sorta)! Yay!
-How do you promote your work?
When I’m not sleeping, I’m usually updating my Instagram and Youtube (oh gosh haha). Youtube especially has been essential to my growth as a photographer, because it provides an international platform for me to share my work – while allowing me to help people at the same time.
-What is your post-production workflow like?
Lightroom and Photoshop work better together, so I use both programs to post process. I think after I paired them up together, my work started to become a little more consistent. Plus, Lightroom is really great to use for photo catalogs and fancy stuff like that. Photoshop is more like, “okay, you can retouch now and add in those adjustment layers”.
-What is your dream project?
I would love to do a fashion editorial series based in the Middle East. I’ve actually been thinking about that a lot lately, but I’m just waiting for the right time. It’s my home away from home. There is something very special about the Middle East that is hidden away from the outside world that I would like to show people using my photography. To add to even one person’s perceptive or challenge a stereotype through my photography would be worth more to me than all the money in the world.
-What are some of the biggest influences on your work?
I was all about greenery and flowers when I first started photography but recently switched over to using textured walls and strange colours after going to New York. Traveling really opened my eyes to what else is out there. But by far, my personal experiences and struggles have been the most influential to my work. I always try to convey a sense of strength and attitude – because with struggle you learn to be strong and persevere.
-You also shoot weddings, does this change the way you photograph?
Definitely. When shooting a wedding it’s almost like you’re forced to conform to an unpredictable environment the entire day. That in itself has taught me to be calm, patient and never show insecurity. It’s brought me confidence, and I use those skills when I work with models and a creative team. When you photograph weddings everyone is looking to you for direction and posing – so by default you have the play the role as a leader and you must deliver.
-What is your top technical tip?
I would say don’t concentrate so much on being technical. I feel like this is a mistake people make when they first start photography. They want to know the logistics of everything, they almost become obsessive about it. They forget to be creative and lose that special spark right off the bat because they’re so focused on using the right F-STOP or the “right lens”. Go out and experiment – that is the only way you will truly learn. Take overexposed photos, shoot at night, make mistakes, photograph things you don’t like – try everything. Don’t spend your time attempting to do things the “right” way just to impress other photographers – because photography is art. Art is subjective.
Become an artist first, then refine your art with the technicalities.
-What was the best career advice you were ever given?
How about this – my best career advice was never getting any advice from anyone. The fact that I didn’t get help when I started photography made me into the person I am today. There was never any expectation for anyone to guide me or give me advice. Because of this, I slowly became my best motivator and biggest critic. I knew that if I wanted to learn how to do something – I’d have only myself to depend on. My passion was there, I just needed to push myself.
The absence of help forced me to learn important things about photography that I probably wouldn’t have picked up if someone had simply given me the answers.