Jonathan Harper’s passion for cars really shines through in his photography. His ability to capture the atmosphere of a location and the authenticity of the vehicles in his photographs is what I admire most about his work. Only someone with a true love for cars could produce such evocative, captivating and genuine images. JBH is definitely someone I look up to as a photographer, and for this reason, I thought it would be a great idea to interview the man himself.
In this interview, Jonathan talks about how he got into photography, his favourite shoot locations, what equipment he uses and much more. Enjoy!
How long have you been a fan of cars?
Ever since I was very young. I’ve always been obsessed with cars, my parents say just about from when I was able to walk I always had some kind of little toy car with me everywhere I went.
How did you first get into car photography?
When I finished college with a degree that had nothing to do with cars or photography, I got an internship at Classic Car Club Manhattan. I started taking photos of their incredible fleet cars with the only camera I had at the time, a BlackBerry Curve.
I visited your website and noticed that you also write. How did you get into writing about cars?
My father is a freelance writer and journalism professor. I grew up with him editing every single school paper I wrote. I hated it at the time but it turned me into a decent writer. It also helps I still send my dad my stories to edit before I publish them.
When I look at your pictures, I feel like I am there. The atmosphere of the location comes across really well. It gives character to your photos. What planning goes into achieving this?
I work hard to portray cars in a visually stunning way but also make them look realistic and not overly “photoshopped”. Yes, I do use a lot of Photoshop in some of my images but usually just to give that car a “real” look. Planning-wise I usually like to start with somewhat standard angles to cover basics of the car and then move into various details and other creative styles.
What is your process for finding/scouting shoot locations?
I drive a lot on the weekends up in the canyons around LA county so those are really my favorite locations. Some of my favorite shoots have been on a mountain pull-off at sunrise or sunset. If I’m not able to physically visit the location beforehand then I’ll use google maps and street view to get a sense of the location.
What made you decide to start an Instagram account dedicated to car photography?
Really just my love for cars. First and foremost I’m a car guy. I love to drive, and starting an Instagram account is a good way to share my adventures while also marketing my business.
Do you ever just go out car spotting or do you only work on arranged shoots?
I go to local cars and coffee events almost every weekend. I always have my camera with me and I always shoot some photos but I usually just put car show photos on my IG story. Only if I spot something really stunning will I post it on my actual page, otherwise it’s just the pre-arranged shoots getting posted.
What photography equipment and editing software do you like to use?
I quickly realized how much I liked taking car photos when I was working at Classic Car Club Manhattan five years ago and advanced quickly to an iPhone, and then a Samsung with a swappable lens, and on to my current platform the Sony A7 series fully-frame mirrorless DSLR. I currently shoot with a Sony A7rii. I have a strobe light I use as well as an LED light wand for various lighting effects. For editing I use a combination of Photoshop, Camera Raw, and occasionally Lightroom for less heavy edits.
What piece of advice would you give to anyone out there thinking about becoming a professional car photographer?
If you really want to advance your craft stop shooting car shows and find literally any car to practice shooting. Take the car to a place you chose and make lighting and composition decisions. This is how you become a better photographer, not snapping the same crappy detail shot that ten other spotters also shot at that same show.
Who is your favourite photographer?
Tough to say a single favorite, I’m a big fan of anyone doing good work. I take a lot of inspiration from seeing what other people are doing, and so looking at and appreciating other photographers work is something I’m always doing on an ongoing basis.
Name a few of your favourite Instagram car photography accounts?
Lastly, where can people find out more about you and your photography/writing?
I would like to thank Jonathan for taking the time to speak with me. Be sure to check out his website/social media pages and give him a follow!