Cali Photographer Tim Jahns Brings Beauty Into Focus


Tim Jahns (OMP Member #4467) has, in his own estimation, been a photographer for “a long time — let’s say over 25 years!” But he admits his work has gone through different stages and changes over that time. One thing is certain — his eye for beauty has remained consistent throughout.

He got his start in photography through a friend in Santa Barbara who was a serious amateur photographer. “My friend had a good 35 mm camera, and I ended up buying the same kind of camera and playing around with it, learning to see the world through the lens. In that early stage, I was shooting a lot of black-and-white film, processing and printing it myself in a darkroom. I took a couple of classes at the city college, but also had a darkroom I shared with two other guys in the converted cellar of a house.”

While he appreciates a variety of photographic styles, Tim’s favorite images to shoot are what he calls “abstract fine art photography” and a hybrid style of “fashion/fine art/glamour” that he has been perfecting in recent years. Speaking of perfection, his imagery of his main muse Elyssa (Model #18537) has been so successful that he turned it into a book project — check out the online preview at www.Elyssabook.com. “My big personal project over the last year or so is my book concept built around images with Elyssa. It’s a project that’s been very rewarding for me. I’m done with most of the shooting I wanted to do for the book, so I’m concentrating on editing and finalizing the images I want to use in the book, and working with a company that will help with the preparation of it to get to publishers in a more final, print-ready form. I’m finding that I have more I want to do than I originally thought in the way of post-production. That includes some manipulation or enhancement that is fun but takes more time after the shooting itself.”

Working with one model has helped the photographer develop a strong creative collaboration. “Elyssa has such a unique look and presence, with such an amazing long body and incredible legs, that it’s always inspiring to work with her. I want to find the most interesting locations, wardrobe and styling opportunities to use with her, something I started to expand more in the book project. She’s the only real “muse” I’ve had in that sense, so I feed off of her physical qualities and her energy. I tend to look for locations where I can place her and know she’ll make the scene by being in it. She takes direction well but can also come through with some creative choices in her poses, angles and that sort of thing.”

Before any shoot, Tim prefers to cover a lot of details. “If it’s a glamour or fashion shoot, I go over wardrobe, hair and fingernails, location plans, and the kind of images I plan to shoot. I try to find out what ideas they might have and what they’re comfortable with. I also make clear how long the shoot will be, so they know the commitment they have in time and energy. During the shoot, I work with the model to find the best wardrobe choices and describe what I’m trying to achieve. It’s always a combination of setting the stage, placing the model and giving general directions, then hoping the model will go with it. It’s best if the model will start to move spontaneously and expressively, playing off the mood of the location and the styling. Finding the most interesting location areas to work with, and placing strobes or working with available light are also crucial. If it’s a kind of standard or formula lighting set-up, that’s routine. But if it’s more experimental or free-flowing, that’s even more interesting for me to develop the lighting and mood. That helps me present the model looking her best and creating a stronger image.”

Another photographer initially recommended One Model Place, and before long, he was a habitual user of the site. He relates, “OMP is definitely habit-forming in the early stages. It’s obviously helpful to have a representative portfolio in a major clearinghouse of models and photographers, and access to a huge talent pool like OMP. I work with many established professional models who I find in various sources including agencies, but I count on OMP for discovery of both emerging talent and some undiscovered models who are out there but not always working the mainstream.”

In addition to his book project, Tim’s been teaching workshops lately for places like Samy’s Camera and Calumet, with a focus on glamour. And he continues to work on his “bread and butter” projects including calendars, web productions, stock, and other markets. “I’m trying to expand both the markets and the styles of work, and trying to reach back to my fine art roots a bit more. I’m starting to pursue more gallery exhibitions and magazine publications again and go after markets that feature more of that type of work.”

While he thinks that quality equipment is important, Time feels that sometimes it gets over-emphasized. “The camera I use most these days is the Canon 5-D, which is fine for most of what I do, but occasionally I’ll rent something for more specialized projects. I’m big on zoom lenses, even with the inevitable compromise you usually have to make in optical quality at certain points. I have a bunch of Calumet Travelite monolights for most of the strobe lighting, plus a ring flash and a couple of special lights or modifiers. My computer is a mid-period iMac, and I have a host of external drives for all the storage and back-up. Of course, Photoshop and Lightroom are extremely important software tools.”

Tim doesn’t travel nearly as much for work as he used to or as much as he’d like. “Being in the LA area, I have a pretty good pool of talent for models, makeup artists, assistants and all the equipment needs. I do have a lot of models coming in from other parts of the country, so the talent usually comes to me.”

He offers some practical advice do you have for photographers just starting out. “Learn the craft first, and network like crazy. Have fun with photography before you have to think too much about making a living from it or other things that can stifle your creativity. Develop a style of your own without trying to mimic what others do, unless it’s just to educate yourself about lighting and other elements before you find your own vision.”

And one thing he himself could use some advice on is undiscovered L.A. locations. “It’s become more challenging to find great locations to shoot, especially upscale homes and other interesting spots with a stylish quality that don’t want a fortune for the location fee. So if you’re in Southern California and have an idea for a good location, I’d be happy to hear.”

Image of Elyssa OMP Model #18537 by Tim Jahns OMP Member #4467

This entry was posted in California, Elyssa, Tim Jahns, fashion, glamour. Bookmark the permalink.

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