Tips & Techniques - Jerry Avenaim    

Fashion Photographer Los Angeles - Discipline - Jerry Avenaim

Jerry Avenaim, Los Angeles based fashion photographer to the stars, talks about the passions and techniques that have taken his career to the stratosphere and beyond.

The Art of Discipline
Images and Text by Jerry Avenaim

"Jerry Avenaim’s images of supermodels and celebrities have captivated readers of almost every major magazine in the western world. Combining mastery of lighting techniques, psychological skill in guiding his subjects to the limits of their expressiveness, endless energy and abundant chutzpah, the Los Angeles-based shooter has attracted so much coverage in the photo press that when we asked him to dig deeper into some of the famous stories about his career, he replied with a groan. ‘I don’t know what else I can add,’ he protested. ‘If you dig any deeper, I’ll be buried.’ He then proceeded to oblige, surprise and instruct with a stream of new revelations about his beginnings and the turning points of his high-velocity career in fashion, beauty and celebrity photography." -Excerpt from the American Photo Interview.

1 American Idol
Charlize Theron Jerry Avenaim All Rights Reserved

I have found myself thinking about what I've seen over the years pertaining to film and digital photography. We have all seen many discussions in magazines and on the internet pertaining to film We’ve seen proclamations by photographers stating they are “going back to film” or by others singing the praises of digital.

2 Ben Stiller
Brooke Burke Jerry Avenaim All Rights Reserved

I shoot in every format, every camera, film, ISO rating, digital camera or digital backs. I use an old Rolleiflex TLR, a Leaf Aptus Digital back on my Hasselblad H1 and I continue to shoot my Mamiya RZ, or large format cameras. Each tool serves a purpose of what I’m trying to convey in a photograph. By having all of these options at my disposal I am never lamenting going towards the digital media or abandoning film.. 

2 Luke Wilson
Tom Green   Jerry Avenaim All Rights Reserved

However in the end, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the person behind the camera. I know many photographers that if given a pinhole camera can make an amazing photographic essay using just that. It doesn’t matter what you shoot with, what matters is how you use it. I started shooting large format at a very early stage in my career to teach myself the discipline that photography requires. To study my subject, compose my image and when the moment was right squeeze the cable release. This practice has carried over into every format and medium I shoot today.

3 Charlton Heston
Eva Mendes Jerry Avenaim All Rights Reserved

In my workshops for example I see so many photographers use what I call the "spray and pray" method of shooting. And that is holding down the button on their camera and pray one comes out... Many forget there is a person on the other side of their lens.

And to make a great photograph that subject/model needs to be engaged and given direction. It is not enough for one to accept whatever a model is doing and take the picture. That is not being a photographer, that's being a voyeur.

I encourage you to try the technique. If it’s to expensive at least practice the technique of taking pause, studying your subject, engage them with direction and finally make the photograph look spontaneous. Do this and I promise you will see not only a dramatic improvement in your photography but also in your creative process.

2 Amber Tamblyn
Alicia Slverstone Jerry Avenaim All Rights Reserved

No matter what your proficiency, if you are an amateur or professional, remember to have fun, and you will always take great pictures. The best piece of advice I give is to get out and experiment.


Disarming Celebrities | Discipline | Power Lighting on Location | Behind the Shot | Light em' Up | Behind the Cover