All photographs taken by and used with permission from Josh Newton.
In just a few years, wedding photography has evolved from just a way to document a special event in people’s lives to a meticulous artform and a movement. Yet, there’s still only a handful of photographers out there who would actually go that extra mile for their clients, who would go the distance – literally and figuratively – for the happy couples who trust them enough to capture one of the most important days in their lives.
One such photographer is Josh Newton, who may have just gotten uber famous for those now-iconic wildfire wedding photos that went social media viral (the best kind!), but has established his status in the highly competitive world wedding photography long before he took those famous photos. In just over 7 years as a wedding photographer, he’s already travelled to over 30 states and 20 countries to cover more than 120 weddings, filling up his portfolio with photographs that are as romantic and as intimate as the locations they were taken in.
We’re lucky enough to catch him in between his many engagements to get to know the man behind lens and the photographs.
Phoblographer: First of all, kudos for that epic wildfire wedding series! Usually for that kind of shot, people resort to using stock photos and lots of Photoshop magic. How did those photos come about? Was it a split decision on your part or were there a lot of discussions involved?
Josh: Thank you so much!! Really appreciate that. I love what I do and it’s been incredible getting the chance to share my job with the world. And yes, I got a lot of questions about how much photoshop was used and all that, the funny thing was that the photo that went viral was taken on my iPhone 5S! The light that was wrapping around the giant plume of smoke was lighting them really well on both sides – totally unexpected.
When I was taking the photos with my 5Dm3 I was just exposing for the clouds/smoke and brought up the shadows later in LR. We had to come back to the reception later bc they needed time to set everything up, so we went on a little drive and pulled over on the side of the road when we reached that view. I was unsure if they were even going to want/like the photos but they ended up turning out awesome!
Phoblographer: How did you become the successful photographer you are now? And was it a conscious decision on your part to focus on weddings?
Josh: To be honest, I think a lot of my success as a photographer was partly luck and timing, but it was mainly my love for people and making friends. When I started in 2006 the wedding photography industry was still very new, and not a lot of photographers respected or did wedding photography. But after the recession and after cameras on phones / entry level SLR cameras became much more easily available and affordable, the wedding photography industry was flooded with incredible talent and a lot of great people, which made it harder to start your photography business but also raised the bar with wedding photos all around.
When I started, all of my friends from high school and college were getting married, and for the most part I was the only photographer that they all knew. So I got hired to shoot all around the country and really established myself as a destination wedding photographer. Photos had JUST been added as a feature on Facebook as well, and I used that to its fullest ability. It really helped me grow my business and still helps a ton.
There are also a lot of other ways that have really helped my business grow – having slideshows at every wedding of my favorite photos I took that day are HUGE – its always a big hit, I get a big crowd around my laptop every time and almost all my business cards are gone. I’ve even booked 2 weddings during one slideshow!
The second big thing is that I upload those favorites to PASS that night and the couple can download the app and have their photos on their phone that night. Then they can have them available for offline viewing and can enjoy them the whole time they’re on their honeymoon! The other things that have been crucial for my business is having a full time assistant to cull, edit, and upload my photos (the other 1000-1500), who also designs, creates, and orders the albums that my clients get. Such an incredible lifesaver – her email is firstname.lastname@example.org if anyone is interested in hiring her. As a professional, you MUST give some things up and outsource things that you don’t have to do yourself.
Phoblographer: You like to travel to different places to cover weddings. Are travelling and going to different gorgeous locations integral parts of your process as an artist?
Josh: Yes, definitely! Like I said above, I’ve travelled for almost every wedding since the beginning, which has been amazing. I have gotten to meet so many different people throughout the world and have definitely loved getting to photograph in a lot of exotic locations. Is it integral to my process as an artist though? I don’t think so. Not every wedding is in some far off location and some of my most favorite weddings I’ve done have just been in their own backyard or in a field. I love people in general, and it’s my job to document my clients’ weddings and tell their story beautifully no matter where it is.
Phoblographer: Tell us about the best wedding you’ve ever photographed and why it’s the best.
Josh: Asking this question is like asking a parent who their favorite kid is. I love all my clients and all my weddings! If I had to pick one full of good memories however, it would definitely be one that I shot in St. Augustine, Florida. I was with the family for 4 days and enjoyed every moment.
It was only about 40 people or so, and I was immediately invited into their family. I felt very welcome, the couple was so in love with each other, we made some amazing memories together, and the whole weekend left me with such a warm feeling.
The photos I got out of it are some of my favorite to this day, and I loved shooting it and being a part of everything. Another wedding that was a favorite of mine was shot in San Francisco – I spent 5 days with them and it was the same thing. I felt immediately welcome and they invited me fishing, to their 4th of July beach bbq, camping, and everything else that weekend.
Phoblographer: You also photograph musicians. How does photographing musicians and/or album covers differ from photographing weddings?
Josh: Photographing musicians has totally ruined me in going to concerts. I’ve gotten to go on tour with Colbie Caillat, Gavin Degraw, Jason Reeves, Brendan James, and a few others, and its amazing. Getting an onstage/backstage pass is incredible! Photographing them isn’t entirely different.
A lot of photojournalism, crazy lighting, not being able to tell them how to pose, etc are all skills I use on weddings. There are obvious differences like not having a timeline or certain planned events, but photographing musicians is definitely difficult. For album covers, if the artist doesn’t know who they are or what they want it can be somewhat difficult. If they do know what they want and their vibe is the same as mine (laid back, fun, relaxed), the time I spend photographing them is some of the most inspiring and incredible shooting experiences I’ve ever had.
Phoblographer: What’s your go-to gear? What are in your camera bag?
Josh: I shoot with a 5DM3 and have a 5DM2 as a backup. I have a 14mm 2.8L II, 24mm 1.4L II, 24mm 3.5L T/S II, 50mm 1.0L, 50mm 1.2L, 70-200mm 2.8L IS, and a Canon 580EXII. Because I travel so much for every wedding, I’ve bought a bag that was definitely not meant for camera gear. It fits all of my gear, a suit, some exercise clothes, and my laptop/ipad/chargers/etc in a zip off backpack that I can put underneath my seat. It rolls so I don’t have to carry all that weight on my back, and it fits even in the puddle jumper MD-80s. It’s an Osprey Meridian and its definitely one of my better purchases!
Phoblographer: You support a number of non-profits. Tell us about your work with them.
Josh: I have worked with a lot of non-profits over the years, and its definitely the most fulfilling thing that I do. I LOVE weddings and they are incredible, but it’s like eating the best dessert every weekend. It’s everyone’s happiest, best, prettiest most memorable day – and life doesn’t always look like it does on your wedding day. As a human, I have to do work that fills a different part of my heart. A lot of it has to do with my faith, but I’ve gotten some pretty sweet opportunities as well.
Josh: I went to Haiti with Discover the Journey, CNN, and Soledad O’Brien right after the earthquake in 2010 (you can find all the videos on my vimeo), I’ve gone to rural parts all over Uganda installing and photographing water filters, I went to Guatemala with 100 medical professionals that performed countless surgeries and medical procedures for free, I’ve visited orphanages all over Asia, I have worked with and supported International
Justice Mission in multiple countries, I have done events and supported for Not For Sale, and I have recently started a small movement called “Passion Projects.” Josh: I have seen so much pain and suffering in the world, and I can’t just stand back and do nothing. What to do though is a huge question to answer. I don’t know what that answer is, but I’m working really hard to try and find out. I want to create supportive, self sustaining, empowering, and lasting jobs for people that get them out of the horrible cycle of child slavery, sex trafficking, poverty, and corruption.
I know I won’t be able to change the entire world, but I feel called to do what has been put in front of me. I think it starts by first being a friend to people who were born in less fortunate circumstances – not as someone who has more or who has mere sympathy, but as someone who wants to love and support a friend. I think it starts by first asking what you yourself are passionate about, and then helping others that want to do the same thing.
Then you develop what you love so that you can come underneath others and help them achieve their own dreams. I want Passion Projects to inspire photographers to use their gifts to serve others – and I’m really excited about where it’s going.
Phoblographer: I love your website. Not only do you show your amazing portfolio, you also include bits like travel advice, quotes, and a recommended reading list. There’s even a section in there called “Random Photos of Me Doing Things I Love”. Do you feel that offering more of yourself to your fans and followers is an important part of your work?
Josh: I would definitely say that including a lot more of a personal touch on my website has attracted a certain client and a particular kind of person. I sometimes don’t know how it all works, as all my clients are amazing and I get along with them so well, but I find that the more personal my Facebook, instagram, blog, and website is… the better it is for everyone involved. My clients know more of who they are hiring, what kind of photos they’re going to be able to expect, and everyone is happy in the end.
Phoblographer: For our readers who are aspiring or want to become wedding photographers, tell us what it takes to be a really good and successful one. What would be the best advice you can give them?
Josh: I mentioned a lot of things above, like the same day slideshows at the reception, instant uploading to PASS that night and installing the app on their phones, tagging on Facebook and promoting on Instagram, and making sure you have a good blog post with all the proper SEO written into it. Submitting to wedding blogs isn’t everything, but it has definitely helped my business to do so.
The main thing I would say is to do things that inspire you, that make you come alive – and document it / share it with the world. Then people can join you.
Phoblographer: What’s next for Josh Newton? Any new projects we should keep an eye out for?
Josh: There is a lot on my plate right now to be honest – but it’s all amazing stuff! I’m going to have my pilots license in 3 days and that’s been a lot of work but one of the most fun things I’ve done. I have a lot of really incredible weddings this year, but two destination ones are an Indian wedding in New York in July, and a destination wedding in Greece in September – can’t WAIT for those shoots. I’m also starting to work for a technology company doing a lot of work with their community of photographers, continuing the online magazine they’ve started, continuing education and teaching photography through them, and helping out with design, marketing, business development, and their conferences/tours.
I also just got engaged!! So I’m planning my own wedding on top of it all, and learning out to be a better fiancé through it all. I’m planning a lot of different Passion Projects throughout the US (local and international) and I’ll be taking another team to Haiti next January. I am SO excited for that.