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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Making One Moment Last Forever

          Many of us enjoy taking pictures and some of us are pretty good at it.  But when you get to the professional level of photography some real craftsmanship and a good eye for the right shot becomes essential.  Today we are going to visit with Juan Velez, a burgeoning young photographer who has been making a name for himself in Southern California with his sports photography.

           For the past few years Juan Velez has been the official sports photographer at Cerritos College  in Norwalk, CA.  He also has contributed to The Daily Titan, the newspaper for California State University in Fullerton; the California Community College Athletic Association; and The Press Telegram newspaper of Long Beach, CA.   Juan also has done photo portaits, wedding photography, and candid shots at group events.  I wanted to get some of Juan's thoughts about what he does and what the future may hold for him and photography in general.

How did you get started in photography?

In high school, I was a yearbook editor-- my job was to edit pictures and so on. One day I decided to go shoot football photos and what an experience that was. I almost got taken down by a quarterback because somehow I was in the touchdown zone. Luckily for me he landed on my feet. He was a friend and just smiled and asked if I was OK.

What has helped you the most to improve your photographic knowledge and skill?

Shoot, shoot, shoot-- I learn something new in every shoot such as don't shoot this, make sure you have a flash with you, etc. Many boo boo's have made me learn more than what I could ever imagine.

What do you like best about photography?

What I like about photography is the sense of freezing time and making one moment last forever, especially those special moments such as a touchdown, a kiss, babies first walk...any special moment in time.

What are you favorite photographic subjects?

Athletes would be on top of the list since I have dealt with them for the past several years! Their drive is awesome, and their inner focus is amazing to me... not to mention the amount of skill they have.

What person, place, or thing would be your ultimate photographic subject?

Tennis is my second hobby and I believe that shooting great tennis players such as Nadal, the Williams sisters, Federer, and my personal favorite Andy Roddick would be the high light of my photography career.

      Do you have a favorite photographer?

Brad Mangin  is a sports photographer who shoots amazing baseball shoots. He has shot for Sports Illustrated, major league baseball, and so on... To shoot like that, truly says something about you.

Do you have a favorite photography website?  - where photographers can get critiques on their pictures and ask questions to other photographers.  Also, -exclusive membership for sports photographer.

   What equipment are you using now?

Canon EOS mark 3- shoots 10 pictures per second (the fastest SLR camera since July 2007)

Canon - EF 70-200mm f2.8L IS USM Autofocus Lens

Canon - EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM Autofocus Lens

What about photography in your future—career, business sideline, or hobby?

I want to become an even better photographer. I would like to one day shoot for Sports Illustrated magazine.  Little league and weddings--things like that--are all ways to pick up money on the side or full time til that day comes.

What new technological developments in photography do you foresee in the future?

Well I have seen such great things appear this year that I don't know what else they will do... there are special cases that allow photographers to go underwater with our cameras and shoot aquatic pictures. We have Wi-Fi transmitters that allow people to receive the picture as we take them. we have small laptops made for photographers to see and submit pictures. I would like to see stronger flashes.

How hard is it to get booked for photography shoot jobs?

          That is one of the hardest things to do because everyone wants to see your portfolio and it all works in different ways. If people hire you for a wedding, they don't want to see your sports shoots, they would prefer to see your candid shoots-- like dancing shots or wedding pictures. As a photographer, you must be willing to research and find things that can help you stand out. Learn about businesses that make things like glass pictures so that you have something special to offer clients.
          I prefer to test the photographer and see how great his/her answers are. For wedding photographers, take them to the beach or someplace like that to see how they work. If they know what they are doing, you will have some great shots.  If you come out looking like a shadow but the background is well lit, then you know that the photographer won't be the one for you.

Should the professional photographer sign contracts with clients or just shoot pictures?

I have developed a contract for shooting little leagues and or weddings. I believe people are entitled to their privacy and most importantly, photographers get into huge problems when printing and advertising with pictures that the party did not want publicly released.

        Some additional advice Juan offers to photographers is that they need to stand out as much as possible.  There is a great deal of competition in this business from other highly skilled professionals so it is important for the professional to gain name recognition.  And a word of advice to clients hiring a photographer:  High-tech expensive camera equipment does not make the photographer.  You can have the best equipment that money can buy, but if you don't know what you're doing then it really doesn't mean that much.
For more about Juan Velez and his work visit his website, or read Juan's blog at

           A note to those of you who enjoy reading interviews and stories about people.  I have some good ones scheduled in the upcoming weeks on Wednesdays.  If you are not signed up to follow this blog yet please do so now.  Just click on the "Follow" icon in the Birdwatchers section on the right hand side of the page and then sign up for a Google account or sign in if you already have one. I would love to see your name on the followers list!  And I post articles daily besides the interviews on Wednesdays.
      Next Wednesday I'll be talking with a fantastic musician by the name of Sebastian Sidi.  You may have seen his spectacular music special on PBS.  If you are not familiar with Sebastian already, please give me the honor of introducing him to you next Wednesday.

All of the above photos are by Juan Velez


  1. Great action shots, Sports like soccer offer great opportunities: action, lots of color, and no helmets to cover the heads.

    Stephen Tremp

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Good interview! I learned a thing or two. I'm looking forward to next Wednesday's interview! Since I do so much genealogy, I always take a camera along. Especially for reunions and graveyards. I'm a passable photographer, nothing fancy. One of the hardest photos to take is that of a headstone, especially the older oner. You have to get the light just right or you won't be able to read what's carved in the stone! Good post!

  4. Great that you got such a good interview. Pictures like that do make time stand still.

  5. Before, it seemed like we hired photographers a lot more often. Now, with printers becoming more user-friendly, we are starting do do a lot of our own stuff. I was just wondering if you had any comments on this issue. How can this help/hurt photographers who are trying to make a living?

  6. Thank you all for the comments.
    Diana, I believe Juan Velez has answered your question in depth on his blog post today:

    See if that answers the question.

  7. That was a great interview! Juan is actually shooting my wedding in December so make sure to keep an eye on his website! He is a great photographer...I've seen it first hand.

    ~ Ada


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