Jason Carroll: Carrying on the Legacy of Monsour’s Photography

JAM: How long have you been in the business?
JC: I am actually quite a newcomer in the photography business, I began pursuing photography seriously about three years ago. A lot of people advise me not to admit that, but I’m not ashamed of it! I have worked incredibly hard in those three years along with thousands of hours each year of studying master photographers and their techniques, lighting, posing, etc. When it comes down to it ,I believe that people will be more interested in the beauty of the art that I create rather than how many years I have been doing it

JAM: What did you do before you became a photographer?
JC: Ha ha, oh man, well a lot, actually!  My career for close to 20 years has been as network engineer and consultant; before that I was an industrial electrician and instrument technician.

JAM: How did you come to take over Victor’s business?
JC: That is an interesting story. My first year of photography, I worked for a great photographer and mentor Daniel Edwards who is now the digital media manager at Waitr. During that time, we had several discussions about how Monsour seemed to dominate the premium photography market. We wanted to somehow reach clients like his because we knew that we could create imagery that would be modern and exciting for them and most importantly, that demographic actually appreciated and could see the difference between the current status quo photography and real premium photography.

In one of our discussions, I remember saying that we should focus on creating amazing photography and just slowly grow into the market. Then, when Victor retires, there will be a vacuum that we can easily fill. (Wow, little did I know!)

Premium photography is extremely popular in portrait and bridal markets due to Facebook and Pinterest, and it doesn’t look like that will change, Premium photographers are constantly raising the bar on what a high end photograph is to separate themselves from the massive number of amateur natural light photographers working as professionals and flooding the market with inexpensive and admittedly decent work.

Because of this, many potential premium photography clients are surprised at the investment required to create these “Pinterest-worthy” photos because they assume that it will not be much more expensive than the girl down the street that charges 100 bucks for a disk of images. The reality of premium photography is that many hours of planning, experimenting, and editing are involved sometimes in producing just a single amazing photo.  There is an ever-shrinking number of photographers today that can produce or even understand classic portrait photography using studio strobes.

I had literally just started studying studio portraiture when Victor’s wife Tamara called and asked to meet with them to discuss the possibility of purchasing the business. I am not gonna lie; I was extremely surprised. A few days later, I sat down with them at a local restaurant. We discussed Victor’s recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and the necessity for him to retire. They were looking for the right person to take over the clientele and business. With only a year of photography experience under my belt, I was extremely unsure of whether I could even come close to being able to run one of the most well-known and respected photography studios in SWLA, But as a die-hard entrepreneur an budding photographer, it was honestly an opportunity that only comes by once in a lifetime. So we agreed on the terms and I purchased the business from him after about two months of negotiations.

JAM: Was it difficult?
JC: That would be an understatement! Not only was I studying night and day to increase my photography skills, I was also learning the processes that were already in place in the business. I literally had to hit the ground running. The past two years have been extremely rewarding but still very difficult as I have literally spent every penny I made forging Monsour’s into a sleek, efficient and modern photography business with low overhead and extremely high quality products.

JAM: What type of photography do you enjoy doing the most?
JC: That’s a hard question. Landscape photography is the most relaxing and I really enjoy finding and photographing a great landscape. I also love the excitement of a great wedding. But I think I probably enjoy my masterpiece-styled sessions the most. Not only are they an artistic challenge, but I get to take my time with my client and really work to create something unique and captivating.

JAM: What makes your work different from the rest?
JC: That’s a good question. I think what sets me apart is that my obsession with being unique has made me into somewhat of an enigma as a photographer. Most photographers will eventually find a “style” or “look” that they stick with, with the logic that if you stick with the same thing, you can get really good at doing that one thing. To me, that is way too one-dimensional! I study new photography styles and lighting every month and I have a squad of models that work exclusively with me to test new ideas and create new looks. My commitment to always learning ends up making me really good at a lot of different types of lighting and photography styles. My clients love this because I am not limited to any one style and I am not afraid to try something I haven’t done before.

JAM: What tips do you have for brides to make the most of their photos?
JC: First, don’t waste your money on cheap wedding photography! One thing I will guarantee you is that all those beautiful photos you pinned on Pinterest are not done by an inexpensive amateur photographer! If you spend thousands of dollars hiring professionals to make everything perfect for your wedding day,  why skimp on photography?

Next, don’t pass on your bridal session! Your wedding day will have some beautiful photos of you in your dress, but bridal sessions always capture the best angles and beauty of your dress!

Finally, print the best photos and put them in a frame or album somewhere! There is nothing like having real physical versions of your favorite images hanging around your home.

JAM: What have you learned since taking over the business?
JC: The most common frustration that people have with photographers are confusing or non-existent pricing information, and an excruciating amount of time to deliver the finished photos. For me, the past two years have been about developing a new kind of photography studio for our area, with online quoting, contracts, and invoicing that is as simple as you could wish for. We have streamlined our workflow to handle as much as 20 thousand photos per month (very useful during the Mardi Gras season!). I have also publicly posted my pricing so that prospective clients can explore their options and develop a budget for their photography. I am also pleased to say our online booking is probably the easiest and fastest in the area, allowing prospective clients to pre-book online and often receive a phone call from me within the same day to discuss the details and confirm their appointment.

JAM: What are your future plans?
JC: With a good system in place to support the business of photography, I will be moving my focus to more creative images and bigger style sessions. I will also be introducing some exciting new premium products like my hand-embellished acrylic masterpiece portraits.

JAM: Anything else readers should know about you?
JC: If you don’t care about your photography–and I really mean this–please don’t try to hire me! I care too much. I will literally kill myself trying to get you involved and engaged in your photography because that is where my best images come from. People who just want to get it over with are just wasting their money on me. If you really love photography, if you imagine yourself sometimes to be a little more fantastic, or impressive, or exciting, if you dream of being a princess or a ruffian or if you just want to look impressive as heck… I am your photographer.

To book the wedding or the photography session of your dreams, go to www.monsoursphotography.net or find him on Facebook!