Blending One Medium Into Another: An Interview With Beauty Photographer Jon Sams

As an artist, you always want to be learning new things. Incorporating different mediums into your art is the best thing for growth. Jon Sams, an LA-based beauty and portrait photographer, found a love in makeup. As a photographer and a makeup artist, Jon has collaborated with James Charles, Jeffree Star, Morphe Brushes, and so many more talented creatives.

So what did we talk about in our interview? Read below:

The Art of Beauty Photography: An Interview With Jon Sams

Tell us about your relationship with makeup and what inspired you to do beauty photography. 

For me, photography is the perfect blend of science and emotion, and beauty photography is kind of the peak of that. There’s so much technique and math that goes into crafting a beauty image while still allowing for creative expression. Makeup first caught my eye when I watched the first few seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I didn’t know you could use makeup to change someone’s bone structure, let alone tell a story, then I realized how connected the concepts of makeup are. On top of that, there’s the collaborative aspect of working with the model and makeup artist to decide what you’re trying to say or what you want to give.

Beauty photography ended up being a culmination of so many things I love. I get to nerd out on technical aspect while working with talented people and serving a look.

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I’m so incredibly proud, as a queer man, to have been able to direct the video content for @morphebrushes pride release. I’m proud of each person who worked on, pushed for and celebrated this project. I’m proud of each member of our pride tribe for having the courage to stand up and share their story. And I’m so proud to work with a company that empowers queer voices to speak for themselves, gives them a platform and focuses on charity. Pride month is going to be incredible, get ready. #makelifecolorful #pridemonth #pride2019 — Repost: Community. Artistry. Self-Expression. We are bringing you the PRIDE Live in Color Collection to celebrate all the bold, brave, LGBTQ+ babes & allies who inspire all of us to let our true colors shine. 🏳️‍🌈 100% of net proceeds from this collection will be donated to @TrevorProject during our pride celebration to help fund 24/7 suicide prevention & crisis intervention services for LGBTQ youth. 🏳️‍🌈 PRIDE Live in Color Collection Launching 6.5.19 | Full Collection reveal tomorrow 6.2.19 ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜 #MakeLifeColorful

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When did you first get into photography and what do you use to shoot? 

I really began to get into photography in the 9th grade and at the start, the only camera I really had access to was an HP PhotoSmart C935 that my family received with the purchase of a printer. It was a point and shoot, had 5.3 MP, and was indestructible. At the end of the world, there will be Nokia candy bar cellphones and this camera.  Honestly, it was perfect for starting out, especially when I didn’t know anything. I wasn’t able to take any photography courses until college, so it let me carry a small camera around to play every day.

My first “real” camera was the Canon t3i, which I loved, and I’ve been Canon loyal ever since. My current setup is the Canon 5dsr.

Who or what inspires you? 

I’ve always loved fashion photographers. I feel like fashion and beauty photography both give you the license to be a bit more wild with your color schemes and concepts.

Honestly, inspiration can come from the weirdest places. I’ve looked at makeup products and got ideas, listened to podcasts, watched movies, read books, and listened to music. Part of being able to put out interesting content is in viewing it. Look at what other people are doing and imagine how you would have done it. 

How do you balance your work life and your personal life?

To be honest, there’s not a TON of balance, I feel like that’s part of the deal though when you make your passion into your job. I don’t have a hobby because there’s nothing else I’d really rather be doing. The end of 2018 and the start of 2019 has really been eye-opening for me about over-working and being creatively exhausted.

My phrase for the year is “You can’t pour from an empty cup” and I think that’s especially important for creatives to remember. As artists, we put not just our time and energy but also our emotions into our work. You need time to be able to get back to 100 and that’s not only okay to do, but necessary. No one wants to burn out. I’m starting to actively remind myself to schedule time for friends, time for breaks (which are so important), time to call my mom.

Any advice for your younger self or other creators who are following in your beauty photography footsteps ? 

Challenge yourself, experiment with your style, try things until you find what you love. Push yourself to shoot something other than your style. Go to museums, ingest all forms of art. Buy magazines, rip out the pages you love, and grab a magnifying glass to try and figure out how they lit the shot from the reflections in the models’ eye.

One of my favorite things to do when I need some inspiration is to go walk through a book store, grab anything that catches my eye and take a picture of the things I can’t stop looking at. Collaborate with a friend. Surround yourself with people who push you to be better, to try harder. Do the things that feel scary.

What do you hope to accomplish by the end of the year? 

I would love to find the balance of working on larger beauty campaigns while taking on collaborative projects with a few artist friends. There are so many things I’ve worked on in the past few months that I’m excited to share with the world and I hope it helps me continue to grow my career in this direction.