John Kingston: The Psychology of a Lifestyle Portrait Photographer


All images by John Kingston. Used with permission.

When it comes to lifestyle portrait photography, photographer John Kingston is one that lives the dream of many. He gets to travel, come up with creative concepts, work with cool people and use his creative vision. Lots of his work finds a way to combine landscapes and portraiture into one, and beyond that he’s also incredibly conscious of color palettes.

In fact, John really isn’t a fan of blues.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.

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John: Well I got into photo by running out of art classes to take junior year of high school. I was heavily into painting and what not. (I did a lot of graffiti back then) so I was always in the art rooms trying to avoid any other classes, ha. My teachers suggested photo after I ran out of classes to take. Then from there I knew what I wanted to do the rest of my life!

Phoblographer: What made you want to get into portraiture?

Nikki Howard0230

John: Shooting friends was always the easiest so I did that a lot. and over time traveling and what not I did more landscape stuff but I will always love portrait work cause it’s definitely a favorite since I started.

Phoblographer: So walk us through a typical portrait session. Is there storyboarding involved for you? Is it spur of the moment? How does your creative mind come up with concepts and ideas that don’t really tend to repeat?

John: It depends on what I’m trying to do, but to use an example my favorite type of portrait work is environmental. so i usually start with what they bring style wise. then i pick a awesome backdrop to put that person in. Sometimes it can be entirely spur of the moment. but over time I’ve tried to plan my shoots out a bit more so its well thought out and whatnot.

Phoblographer: Much of your portraiture is very environmentally encompassing. They’re not environmental portraits but you’re very much trying to give the viewer a sense of the person in a location. What motivates you to stick to this?

John: I think it has a lot to do with combining landscape photography with portraits. Visually it’s very complimenting most of the time. So it’s fun to take two different things and put them together.


Phoblographer: Which photographers influenced the work that you’ve done, and how do you feel they’ve done so?

John: I don’t really follow many photographers. But I love Ansel Adams, he’s the king of landscapes. And fashion wise Mario Testino is a favorite. His work is so inspiring. I have many coffee table books. Id love to shoot more stuff along the lines of fashion.


Phoblographer: What do you feel is very important for all of your images to have for it to be a Kingston signature photo vs someone else’s? To that end, as you’re editing the images, what do you try to ensure each photo has?

John: I hate blues, I think a lot of my images have very minimal blues haha. It might not be super noticeable at times but I almost ALWAYS turn those down. But also I love lines in images so I always try and get those vanishing lines.


Phoblographer: How do you go about figuring out which images you should share on Instagram?

John: I actually just go for whatever looks cool out of my sets of photos. I don’t really have any process on IG, just post and let it do its thing!

Phoblographer: Talk to us about the gear that you own. How does it help you to achieve the creative vision you’re trying to put forward?


John: Well digital is very manipulative so it’s an easy and cheap tool. But with Film I don’t touch a thing. maybe edit out dust or whatever. but I purposely don’t retouch any film photography. I definitely am a advocate of you pay for what you get. For example I was using alien bees for lighting and finally went to Profoto. huge quality difference. and you can see it. you just need to find what works best for you.





Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.