Interview: Jeff Zoet (Episode II)
In a galaxy far, far away… there lived a photographer named Jeff Zoet. And in order to bring balance to the Force, and because he is a good guy, he agreed to be interviewed by this Jedi warrior wannabe! Glad that all of you enjoyed the first part of this interview… and as a special treat, Jeff has given me the exclusive on the below photo… Yep, never seen before till here!
So without further adieu… Episode II!
What’s your current setup (ie camera of choice, computer of choice, editing software, other fun toys you love)?
For my cameras, I’ve always been a Canon guy. Had a couple back in the film days, and just grew up with them as they entered digital photography. Always loved using them, and prefer them even after playing with some friends’ Nikons and other brands. For computers, I have been using Apple for about 12 years now. I currently have a 15 inch Macbook Pro that I edit on, since it seems like I’m always on the move and have to work where ever I am. I use Windows all day at my day job, so I am very familiar with that too, but it’s no where near as enjoyable as a Mac. And then for software, I stick pretty much with Adobe products across the board. I use Photoshop and Bridge for photo editing (really need to try Lightroom one of these days), and keep busy with After Effects and Premiere Pro for my other work. My lighting gear consists mostly of Alien Bee lights and a variety of accessories including Pocket Wizard wireless transceivers, which I don’t think I could ever live without.
Some of my favorite shots of yours of late have been your movie inspired themes. What led you to pursuing this project theme?
I’ve always been a fan of all things pop culture. When it comes to photography, I like to do what inspires me, and movies are definitely on the top of that list. I feel that my skills at Photoshop, as well as photography and lighting are finally to a point where I can take on more complex projects. But I also have another motivation for the sudden burst of these types of shots. I’ve recently launched a new website called becomepopculture.com where I encourage everyone, not just people who consider themselves models, to make the leap from just being a fan of pop culture, to becoming a part of it themselves. I really enjoy taking these types of shots, and hopefully it will appeal to a wide range of people looking to escape from their every day life for a bit.
So far I think I have seen Flashdance, 300, Wonder Woman, Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider, and Star Wars. Did I miss any?
I think that’s all of them to date, minus the original titles I’ve done (like Hell Hath No Fury, The Garage, and Dangerous Curves… just to name a few)
Any sneak peeks on the next movie that you will tackle?
There’s always a bunch brewing in the back of my mind, but some concepts that are currently “in pre-production” if you will, are 3 more Star Wars characters (yeah, I’m obsessed. I know), and I’ve also been working on a Ghostbusters shoot. Just still trying to find a location that will work for that one! (if anyone has access to a unique older looking library that I can shoot in, let me know! Haha.)
I personally am a big movie nut. Also a super hero nut of sorts. So in your expert opinion, what has been the greatest super hero movie to date and why?
I’d have to say that the first X-Men movie has been the best, and most important comic inspired movie to date. Prior to that movie, there was only a small niche of people that would be interested in watching films like that. That resulted in not as many people taking it seriously, and studios not willing to spend the money on them, or attempt to find some realy talented people to make them. But X-Men opened the flood gates to a wider audience to appreciate them, and helped push the visual effects to near perfection. An I’ve been enjoying watching some of my favorite characters finally make it onto the big screen… most importantly Spider-man. Loved Spidey since I was a kid, and he will always be my favorite. In fact, watch out of a little Spider-man influenced self portrait in the (hopefully) near future!
What is your take on the landscape of being a photographer in Pittsburgh?
Can’t compare it to other cities, but I think it has potential. I’ve been spending most of 2009 bulking up my portfolio with the types of shoots I love to do. So 2010 will be the test to see if I can make the leap into getting some more work published. At that point, I’ll have a more decisive answer to that question.
Your wife is featured in several of your photo shoots (like in 2 of the 4 photos above). How long have you been married? Has she been a willing participant or just prefers you shoot her instead of other lovely ladies?
Monica and I were married October 11, 2008. So at this point, just over a year. We’ve been together since 2004 though, so she has seen the start of my photography career leading up to it’s current state. She has always been my biggest supporter and number one fan. When we first met, she wasn’t a fan of having her photo taken. But as time went on, she has enjoyed it more and more. All of the shoots that she’s been in over the last two years has either been a joint idea, or something I thought she’d be perfect for and asked her to do before approaching anyone else for the idea. I mean, come on… she’s hot! Who wouldn’t love to work with her!
It looks like you have all of your social media outlets covered (Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, blog). Do you use these social media/marketing sites often? Have you found them to be effective in promoting yourself and landing more work?
Haha… often? That’s an understatement. I can’t even imagine starting up this side business with all of the outlets that we have today. We are definitely spoiled. When starting out, I got almost all of my paid work from people who contacted me on myspace. Now I get most of them through Facebook, or from referalls of friends who know of me from Facebook. I find that the easier I am to find online, the better chances I’ll have of meeting new clients. Of course having a unique last name helps too. I mean, if you type just my last name “Zoet” (pronounced Zoot by the way) into Google, I think I’m the third listing. So yeah, I like having a large web presence. I also try to have links on my sites to all of the others, so people can bounce around to see the different things I have online.
What are some of the intangibles that you think it takes to be a good photographer?
Just an overall understanding of light, composition, contrast, depth, scale, and being able to answer the question “why did you do that”. There’s a reason behind almost every little detail of my shots. If you don’t know why you are doing certain things, then you won’t know how to correct them and make them better.
Any advice for those that would like to take their photography to the next level?
Just figure out what you want to achieve and do it… whether it’s popular or not. Don’t let excuses like not enough time, or not enough education get in your way. You want to do something bad enough, you make time for it. You don’t know enough, get online and research, or go to a book store and look up something you want to learn. Too many people have the mind set of “One day I’m gonna do this” when I prefer the approach “Look what I’ve accomplished so far”.
Future goals or lofty dreams of your future in photography?
Just hoping to start getting published more in the next couple years. Maybe start doing some shoots with those bigger budgets I mentioned so I can really let the ideas fly. Besides that, just making sure that I’m enjoying myself and pushing to get the full potential I have to create art.
Anything else you want to share?
Whew. No, I don’t think so. Haha, I think I covered almost everything there. Now get out there and accomplish something people!
THANKS AGAIN JEFF!! Hope you all enjoyed this second part of the interview! Comments always appreciate and don’t forget to drop Jeff a message or check out his other work at http://www.jeffzoet.com Next up is a video compilation on Friday of one of my recent photo shoots and some tips on location scouting for a photo shoot. A post next week with some book recommendations, and a little insights into camera shopping for Black Friday! Also have the next 3 interviews lined up which I am excited to share!!