Style Photography - Jerry & Melissa Ghionis

I am sitting here trying to put some words together to describe the week that just went past. I’m struggling! After all, this week has been no ordinary week for me let alone another one like it in the past.

In any profession there are those people that simply shine way above the rest. The ones that lead, inspire, motivate, and are so way ahead of the pack that all you can do is stand back and marvel at what they do. Genius. Extraordinarily talented. Truly gifted.

Well this week I was fortunate to meet such a person, but not only meet him but spend a whole 5 days with him witnessing, listening, learning and trying to absorb as much as possible as this was truly a lifetime experience.

Who can actually confess that they have attended a workshop where you laughed so hard it hurt, cried so much that you were reaching for tissues, learnt so much that your head was spinning with excitement about the knowledge you just took on board, felt so good that you thought you were on clouds, excited so much that you wanted to scream from the rooftops? Well this is all me in a nutshell.

As a professional photographer who works mostly within the wedding industry Jerry Ghionis is in my opinion a true Master of the craft. Don’t take my word for it; named Grand Master of WPPI in 2014 his awards cabinet is bigger than my local trophy shop.

For many years now I have been a massive fan on many fronts. His photography is classic, clean and truly breathtaking. So good are his images where one could easily purchase one of his signature photographs, place it in your lounge room and even though it is someone else’s wedding, it doesn’t look out place. It’s not a photograph, its timeless art.

Meeting Ghionis on Monday for the first time he immediately makes you feel like you have known him for years, you are mates who have this passion for photography and you get together to talk about what you love. He genuinely wants to know you, who you are, what you do. There is no pretentiousness, no chest beating, no down looking. Any nervous energy I had for hours prior to walking in immediately disappear overtaken by feelings of closeness, friendship and family. And that’s exactly how Ghionis has treated each and every one of us, all 16 who were fortunate to be there We were family!

We all nervously, and in my case sheepishly, project 15 images of our work to Ghionis and in front of our new ‘family’. There is a reason why we all feel this way. After all, we were about to be critiqued by a Grand Master, one of the very best in our generation. It’s like having Michael Schumacher taking you for your first driving lesson, Picasso showing you how to hold a paint brush for the first time, Mozart sitting by your side as you attempt to play the piano for the first time. Yes, we all know how to hold a camera and how to take photographs, but in reality, do we really know how. In a genuinely warm and sincere way, and with respect, he treats each image as to what it is and provides feedback that doesn’t offend, but encourages you to keep going with some fine-tuning and knowledge that will be presented during the workshop

I walk away from this first day with feelings of hope and excitement counting the hours when I will return for day two.

On the second day we cover 5 basic rules, the formula, which Ghionis implements before he presses the shutter button on his Nikon D4. But before even the formula is taught we are told that we need to slow down, a theme that resonates amongst the family of fellow attendees and especially me.

Often it is said that a beautiful photograph is well composed, well lit; and this is our next stop. Light. Lighting can make or break a photograph and Ghionis’s images ooze perfection when it comes to lighting. If he can’t find the light, he creates it and we are all introduced into the world of light. He follows this up by taking our hand and walking us through the art of posing, the fine refinements which takes a good photograph and makes it spectacular. He directs us to view our subjects through the eyes of loved ones and emphasises to make every photograph we take a true representation of beauty, no matter what the look or size of the individual we have in front of the lens. Never in my life have I felt such care and responsibility for what I do behind a lens. As Ghionis explains it further, we capture an image that will be a legacy for generations to come.

We spend the rest of the day taking photographs of models using all the knowledge and techniques presented during the day. We each then spend 10 minutes on our own posing and lighting our subjects to create one image, worthy enough to show everyone on Wednesday morning.

As a family we go out to diner together, each of us discussing amongst ourselves our personal disaster stories during our individual shoots and what we should have and could have done better. We are all nervous for what’s to come during the critique session on the next day. Dinner is finished and with hunger to learn much more we walk the streets to understand the art of lighting in the dark. Truly we are all mesmerised as to how effortlessly Ghionis shows us his techniques and the breathtaking images he produces. I would have paid for the whole course just to learn that. We end the night with an ice cream, what a day!

Wednesday morning the images are on display and Ghionis once again patiently walks us through them. Reality is we are all left with positive feelings to what we created the day before.

If one looks at any of Ghionis’s images there is so much emotion on display. You feel like you are there, that very moment when the shutter was released and the image was captured. I have often wondered how he manages to do this. Was it luck, was it fake? Step by step he exposes his techniques and phrases he uses to evoke emotion to us and there are moments where I look around the room to make sure that I wasn’t the only one with tears in my eyes. That very moment as my eyes swell, as the tear starts to run down my cheek, that’s when you hear the sweet sound of the click coming from Ghionis’s D4. It’s the same click I hear when our heads roll back with laughter and the same one when we all feel warm and loving and have goose bumps running down our spine. The man is a genius.

We test what was taught for the rest of the day by taking our models out, but this time we shoot in completely different lighting conditions. The sun is out and is completely different to the previous day where it was overcast. It was as if Ghionis had placed his order for one day overcast, the next day sunny. The day challenge for us once gain was to obtain one photograph during the 10 minutes allocated to us to come up with an image which showed techniques learnt during the day for the next days presentation.

After the critiques, Thursday was jammed with photography business gemstones. The discussion took us from the art of album design, album order sessions, up selling and pricing our work and ended with branding and marketing critique of our current material. Some of us, including yours truly heard some brutal words about our current marketing approach and how we should go about fixing it. We weren’t used to such criticism however we had the best in the business and we were openly receptive. At the end of the day our business had to portray elegance and luxury to emulate the work we were producing. As a photography business owner I truly cannot express how valuable this day was. You could spend years learning this material but in a single day, Ghionis walked us through the complexities with so much ease and with so much simpleness.

The final day arrives after having dinner all together the previous night, and we all come to the realisation that we are nearing the end. We don’t want this to end but we all know that now we are armed with so much enthusiasm, so much knowledge that we can’t wait to go back to our business’s and make a difference. But wait, Ghionis has a few more cards up his sleeve.

We go through the art of marketing for our business, types of marketing, and how to control our business with the day-to-day activities that take place. The final gem and most important of them all is then unleashed. Ghionis walks us through our perfect day and what it would look like. He puts everything in perspective in relation to our family and work life balance and you can hear a pin drop as we are all fixated to his every word.

This is a great opportunity for me to bring in Melissa Ghionis to these words that I am writing. Melissa is Ghionis’s wife and her passion and enthusiasm is simply infectious. From the very moment I signed up to this workshop to the last hug given to say goodbye after the workshop Melissa has been incredible and graceful Throughout the entire workshop Melissa is there offering assistance, organising and contributing her thoughts and knowledge, and let me tell you, she has tonnes of it. Often Ghionis will bounce things off Melissa and vice versa and you cannot but notice how much these two people love each other, know each other and respect each other. The chemistry between them is dynamic, real and absolutely genuine.

During the week I made 17 friends of which I know we will all keep in contact and encourage each other to greater success. The epiphanies we all went through during the week to be better photographers and above all else better people and better partners is a valuable lesson learnt during the workshop.

The final word must obviously go to Jerry Ghionis. He was truly humble and amazing; how else can I describe him? To pour his heart out to us, make himself vulnerable and at the same time treat us as his best friend and share with us his every bit of knowledge and experience of how to successfully create and run a photography business, how to create better images and how to guide us in creating legacies for our future clients is something which my humble vocabulary can not put to words. No matter what the financial cost is of this workshop I can honestly put my hand on my heart and say that I would gladly pay double for what I got out it.

I can’t wait to meet my next client, shoot my next wedding and create legacies for them.

From the bottom of my heart… thank you Jerry & Melissa Ghionis.