Artist Interview with John Gillooley
Every other week we stop to celebrate one of our outstanding members who makes it possible for us to bring so many gorgeous photos to you. This is our chance to give you a glimpse into the artist behind the work and to share why we highly recommend them to couples all over the world. This week we’re focused on photographer John Gillooley, from Dublin, Ireland and his soulful, emotional work.
When did your career as a wedding photographer start, John?
In January 2015, myself and my wife Anne Marie were expecting our first child, Max. Tragically, when we were 12 days overdue, we were told that his heart had stopped beating and our world imploded. Weeks later I was made redundant from an IT job I hated and we were left to pick up the pieces of our lives together. It’s difficult to talk about that time of our lives in a few short paragraphs but it was an incredibly hard time and we mourn the loss of Max every day since.
I had studied photography in college way back at the end of the 20th century but had never pursued a career in it as I got distracted trying to be a film composer, a sound engineer, and then an IT professional! Anne Marie had, for years, suggested that I follow my passion and start shooting professionally but I was riddled with self-doubt, fear of failure, all of the usual stuff. After Max died, all of that noise went away and it felt like throwing ourselves into something like setting up a new business would be good for us. In April 2015 we set up “JAM SHOOTS” Photography and haven’t looked back since. JAM = John & Anne Marie. I know, I know. Not a great name, so we rebranded in 2020!
When did you first realize you had fallen in love with wedding photography?
At my first wedding! As above, I had begun photographing semi-professionally from April 2015 but focussing mainly on family shoots. At a stag party (bachelor party) for a friend I was asked, after many many libations, if I would be "bringing my camera" to their wedding. I asked if they had booked a photographer already and they hadn't. This was around 3 weeks before their wedding! So I said I'd love to take their wedding photos. This was only 7 months after we had lost Max so, looking back, I'm amazed we were able to focus on such a task, but it was glorious. Myself and Anne Marie were right in the thick of it for the whole day. I slightly cringe looking back on it, how close I was during the vows but innocence is a wonderful thing. The way we shot that wedding was very close to how I like to shoot today and the feedback we got from our friends was so thrilling. The bride later said she loved them so much they would be one of the first things she’d rescue if her house was on fire. Which is a bit silly considering I have the digitals, but there you go.
I was in love with every step of the process. I adored being able to capture those moments and crafting a story through the curation of images. I loved the emotions the images stirred for the couple, the joy they brought and continue to bring.
Other than photography, what do you love to do?
Since a young age, I've been a cinephile. Cinema has always inspired me. My favourite artist is Stanley Kubrick and I have a possibly slightly unhealthy obsession with his work. At the moment I'm rewatching the work of David Lynch and I'm just revelling in his unbridled creativity. When lockdown ends here I'm asking my barber for the David Lynch cut too.
What should brides and grooms look for when shopping for a wedding photographer?
You have SO much choice it can be overwhelming. Focus on style and make a shortlist. The work should speak to you; if it doesn't keep looking. Imagine yourself in the images you see. Don't get fixated on whether the photographer has shot at your venue before. Experienced photographers can shoot anywhere and will often come up with their best ideas in fresh locations. Once you have your list really whittled down, arrange a call and make sure there's a connection. You really want to make sure you LIKE the photographer and would feel relaxed around them so they can capture you as you are.
What can couples do to prepare for an engagement or portrait session with you?
I just want people to feel relaxed and be ready to have a good time. I want to be able to focus on their connection and their personalities. People ask sometimes about what they should wear and my answer is to wear something you're comfortable in and that feels YOU. While it's best to avoid shirts with distracting graphics or text, for my style none of that matters as much as the connection and the vibe. For Dublin City shoots I do recommend comfortable shoes as we'll be doing plenty of walking :)
Thank you so much, John! We are truly touched by your willingness to share your art and your journey with us. Before you go, can you speak to the photographers in our audience and let them know three things photographers should focus on in their wedding photography career?
1. Customer Service. Get this right first and remember you're in a service industry. Go above and beyond for every client. Under promise and over deliver. Yes, you're an artist. An artist running a client-focussed business.
Yes! This is so essential to understand, thank you for putting it so clearly. Next?
2. Pricing. Once you start making bookings, review your prices constantly. It's fine to start cheap but if you're getting booked easily on the strength of your work, up your prices. Don't fall into the trap of saying "Hey, I must have the prices perfect, everyone is booking me!" Work smart.
3. Make friends. Not just networking. Make meaningful connections in the industry. People you can talk to, complain to, bitch with. These people will be friends for life. They will be there for you if you need emergency cover. They will share leads with you and you with them, and they will help you keep sane when you feel overwhelmed.
Couples, editors, and photographers alike, check out our gorgeous galleries for more photo inspiration, and if you’re looking for the best photographer for your wedding, we’ve got you covered in our hand-picked directory of today’s leading artists.