Jeff Carpenter is a commercial portrait and headshot photographer, educator, and owner of Readylight Media, a visual media and marketing agency based outside of Nashville, TN. He started his photography career in 2010, shortly after college where he was required to take a photography class in order to graduate. Being a predominantly self-taught photographer, he developed a passion for educating in a way that was simple and easy to understand. His main goal as an educator is to teach the fundamentals of photography and lighting, allowing photographers to absorb information and apply it to their style of shooting. Follow him on Instagram @readylightmedia.
I would describe my style of photography as…
Honestly, I’ve always had a hard time defining my style. I’m constantly trying to push the envelope creatively and I think that makes it hard for me to lock down a specific style. If you look at my work, you’ll probably see a lot of colors, so I guess you could say it’s colorful and clean. You tell me…
What was your first camera, and how’d you get started in photography?
The first camera I ever played around with was a Pentax ME that my dad had. However, the first modern camera I had that really got my career going was a Nikon D3100 that my parents bought me after college. I went to school for audio production, but after I graduated and couldn’t find a job, I started shooting events with the D3100 and that’s where it all began.
Why did you want to become a photographer?
I honestly started photography as more a means to an end after college. I couldn’t find a job in the field I studied, and I was given a camera shortly after graduation. To make ends meet, I started shooting events and networking with people at the events. After dabbling in a few different types of photography, I realized that I really loved working with people and that’s where my portrait and headshot career started.
What’s your most memorable shot or shoot, be it challenging to capture or interesting subject?
I’ve had a lot of really amazing shoots over the years, but one of my favorite shoots of all time was about 4 years ago on a family vacation in Hawaii. I didn’t bring a ton of gear with me (because I was on vacation) but I had a small Lumix travel camera and a single speedlight in my bag. I reached out to a local model and we went and shot at Makaluapuna Point in Maui. My model was a hula dancer by trade, but she had some training in some ballet, so we did some dance poses timed with the waves crashing over her head. The juxtaposition of the power of the ocean and the beauty of the model and pose is something that I’ll never forget.
What image are you most proud of from your photography portfolio?
This is a really tough question because there are honestly so many images that I absolutely love and all for different reasons. When it comes to my creative images, I tend to live by the mantra that the next photo will always be the best one I’ve ever taken. Of course this doesn’t always ring true, but it prevents me from settling into a comfort zone and allows me to always keep creating something unique.
My dream gig would be…
The is another tough one! There hasn’t really been one specific job or gig that I’ve always wanted to shoot, but I think the dream of any creative is to get consistent work that allows us to actually showcase our creativity and talent beyond just doing whatever the client asks of us.
My favorite piece of gear is…
My favorite piece of gear right now isn’t technically gear at all. It’s a piece of software called set.a.light 3D that was created by a company called Elixxier Software that allows me to create realistic 3D diagrams of lighting setups from the comfort of my computer. It’s an unrivaled pre-production tool that I use for almost every shoot!
Do you shoot tethered?
I shoot tethered about 99.9% of the time, even I’m shooting on location.
My favorite piece of Tether Tools gear is…
Right now I’m loving the Air Direct. I’ve been using that for a couple months and love that I can tether without the restriction of a cable.
What’s on your photography gear shopping list?
Over the years, I’ve developed quite a large arsenal of gear, so there’s not really a ton of stuff that I “need” but I have been looking into doing more studio live streams for my education platform, so anything that can help with that process.
The best advice I can offer a fellow photographer would be…
Don’t be afraid to keep creating and trying new things. It’s really easy to get stuck in a rut creatively, but don’t let the fact that you’re not making money on those shoots get you down. Eventually someone will notice your value and pay you to be a creative rather than a glorified button pusher.