September 20th, 2017
Jesse Gussow

Thanks to social media sites such as Instagram, you can find more and more Portrait Photography. Photographer Justin Hawkins specializes in Portrait Photography. I’ve been a fan of his work for a while now. I love how the background colours help to accentuate the subject; it looks so natural and perfect. He’s easily one of my top ten favourite Portrait Photographers and the fact that he’s local, too, is super cool!


Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario.



How did you get started in photography?

I was watching TV one day and a commercial came on for the Canon Rebel XTi. I was looking to buy any camera at that point, and thought it would be cool to own a DSLR that would take great photos so I went out and bought it the next day. I didn't really understand the complexity of using a DSLR prior to buying it, so I played with it for a few months and let it collect dust soon after. Fast forwarding a couple years, my friend bought a DSLR and encouraged me to go out and shoot with him, so I picked up my camera again - he got me shooting in full manual mode. I started reading up all about photography and eventually got my start in landscape/cityscape photography in which I developed a small Instagram following. After about a year I switched over to Portraiture Photography and I've been focusing on that since.



What's in your camera bag and why?

My DSLR (a Canon 5D Mark II. Still have the Rebel as my backup), 2 lenses, 2 small flashes, 3 flash triggers, a few memory cards, a small softbox, various colour gels, cables, a circular polarizer, business cards, batteries, tape, pens, twine, and a few breadcrumbs.

I'm a minimalist when it comes to photography, so I don't need all the bells and whistles of high-end equipment. I'd rather open up my backpack and get to shooting right away than spend half an hour fumbling around and setting up an extravagant setup.



How would you describe your photography style?

Simple and clean. I like my photos to be crisp, sharp and really pop. However, when I'm shooting boudoir, I will go out of my norm to use moody natural lighting and shadows.



How has your photography improved from when you first started to now?

I've definitely seen a huge improvement over the past few years. At the early stages I would just play around with my lighting until I got something that looked decent, whereas now I understand how to shape light, spot important details, retouch photos and how to pose models.



What is an idea for a shoot you have, that you haven't done yet?

I'd like to do more Playboy inspired shoots, sports themed glamour, and just anything involving really unique locations.



Where would you like to see your photography?

My dream is to have my work displayed on store shelves worldwide. To be more specific, I would love to see my work in any international edition of Maxim, FHM, GQ, or Playboy.



Do you prefer traveling via plane, boat, car or train? Why?

Car for sure. I love driving and taking road trips with my favourite tunes playing, so it's a huge stress reliever for me.



What other jobs have you had aside from being a photographer? What was the worst one?

I got my first couple jobs as a paperboy at 10 years old, which I would do every morning before school. Since then I've worked at a dry cleaners, golf course, and as an Uber driver. The dry cleaners was hands down the worst.



Do you edit your own photos? If so, what program do you use?

I do edit my own photos. I use Lightroom for cataloging my photos and making small adjustments, and Photoshop for about 90% of my workflow.



How long does a typical shoot take, including editing, if you do that as well?

It really varies. It could be anywhere from 3 to 15 hours total. Maybe more, maybe less. Depends on the client's needs. What most people don't understand is the behind the scenes work going on. The pre-shoot booking process, location scouting, travelling to and from the shoot, the shoot itself, and the editing process which is where I spend a good 60% of my time.



What inspires your photography?

I've been following some of the top photographers in the industry for years now, so I'm always getting inspiration and new ideas daily. Whether it be lighting, posing, wardrobe or whatever. I believe in always learning and to never hit your peak.



If you could do a shoot with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

Don't even think I could answer that, my list is could go on for days. However I will be attending the International Bikini Model Search this November in the Bahamas, so hopefully I'll be able to scratch a couple names off the ol' list.



What's the biggest advice you'd give to other photographers starting out?

Invest in your education, and not in your equipment. Find international photographers you look up to and attend their workshops, purchase their online tutorials or whatever you have to do.

The biggest mistake I've found is that many beginner photographers will attend multiple local workshops from a single photographer, yet their work will not improve. Branching out and finding the best of the best will put you ahead of the game in a short amount of time.



Do you prefer Oreo or Fudgee-O cookies?

Double Stuff Oreos for sure.


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