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Many times, the people that work behind the scenes making the scene rarely get recognized for their work. SociaLifeChicago will spotlight the amazing people that make you and your event look great.
Chicago based photographer Jeff Schear is synonymous with great events and event better pictures not only here in Chicago, but nationally and internationally. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jeff on a rare day off (he had most of that week off, his first in quite some time). Public Hotel library was the perfect setting to sit down and get to know Jeff Schear the man behind the lens.
Jeff Schear in 3 words: Trust, Insane-Hardwork, Professionalism
How did you get started in photography?
I started when I was in high school in Cincinnati,OH. I took a photography class and the teacher took notice of my talent and I found something that I wanted to do.
What educational path did you take to your current career?
I originally enrolled at the Brooks Institute of Photographer in California but my mentor-who is a cinematographer in LA, who I still keep in touch with, steered me towards photography.
I applied to Ohio University school of visual communications and received a Bachelor’s in Visual Communications with emphasis on commercial photography.
What brought you to Chicago?
After college I knew I couldn’t reach the level I wanted to reach in a small city. I came to Chicago in 2008 a small fish in big ocean. I didn’t have any contacts or knew anyone here. I moved into a studio apartment and the journey began My first assignment was a shoot for a jewelry store on Wabash. After a grueling day the owner told me my photos were crap.
Yea he said I think your work sucks but I would be willing to give you a reference on how hard you work. The funny thing is that jewelry store is no longer in business
What excites you about what you do
Meeting incredibly famous people in a personal environment. My goal when I shoot these celebrities and clients is to be so professional that they let their guard down.
I am the photographer for Dwyane Wade’s Wades World Foundation. One day I was sitting in a room with his close family and friends eating and talking and I thought to myself, how did I get here? I’ve been incredibly lucky and I am very grateful for it.
What advice can you give to photographers starting out that might be looking to follow your career course?
I am hustling everyday. I would tell them to be relentless and to always be on your grind. If you are not staying up for days at a time to hone your skills and sharpen your brand you are not working hard enough.
They say 99% of photography graduates fail. Photographer is more than art it is a business. I have a commercial sense of what my clients want and do what I can to deliver. Don’t burn bridges, don’t mix work and play.
Also know that because another photographer is different does not make them better or worse;We all find our niche and we are successful in it. Follow your dreams. Failure is so much better than living your life wondering what could have happened
Jeff Schear the brand?
My brand is Luxury. I’ve worked with brands such as: Hermes, Gucci, la Perla, Agent Provocateur, Estee Lauder. I come dressed professionally for the client. I was at New York Fashion week in the fall shooting for Gucci. Most people will think I’m schmoozing with models buts it’s a lot of pressure.
I see myself as a businessman that’s passionate about what I do.I try to go above and beyond my responsibilities for my clients. I am dedicated to not wanting to be average and to be the best. I didn’t come here to be average, I came here to be the best. I am represented by Getty Images.
Challenges that you face?
It is a very challenging job and the pressure is immeasurable. If you miss a single shot, it could be the end of your relationship with that client. Being under extreme amount of pressure and coming through is what drives me. I stay up to make sure when I turn in pictures to my client each one reflects me and my hard work. It’s really hard to have a social life or a relationship at this point. What I do is not a full time job it is a lifestyle.
Are you dating?
I’m single right now. It’s really tough to have a relationship when you are continuously working. I want to eventually have a family and kids someday but right now I’ve had to pick my career over certain things.
If you weren’t in photography what other career could you see yourself in?
I would be doing something creative. I am a 6th generation entrepreneur and I would want to work for myself, I’d probably do something in marketingMarketing. I would want to do something that fulfils me. I just don’t want to wake up at age 40 and think what have I done with my life? *laughs*
What would your dream shoot look like?
A private party and you had to interact with a lot of different personalities and professional levels. I would brign together guests like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston(just her), professional wrestler Ted Dibiase. I’d like to mix A-list with regular people just to see how they will interact. We see them but we don’t really know how they click with others.
My worst work story has to be the Jewelry shop gig. I was right out of college and they teach you what youre supposed to do and when you get into the real world it is nothing like that at all. The jewelry store owner was so hard on me and he made me come back the next day to shoot it and they ended up using all the pictures I took. Don’t be afraid to save your self respect over a few dollars.
Never be afraid to say NO
How do you deal with hard to please clients?
I try to remember that you will run into people that you won’t make happy all the time. You have to be polite, move on and all cost protect your brand and self respect.
Coolest career moment?
The best breakthrough career wise for me was a Michigan Avenue Magazine cover shoot( Sept 2008) I assisted on their first fashion spread and I hadn’t eaten all day and Julie Benseman(Niche media Fashion Editor) was making sure I was ok and she introduced me to Amy Christenson who asked me to shoot the launch party feteing Cindy Crawford. It provided an epiphany that it was something I could do and wake up every morning and love it.
What does 2012 look like for Jeff Schear?
I will be going back to NY for Fashion week. I am working on expanding my staff due to demand, so I have taken on a second shooter. Corey shadowed me for a couple of assignments so
How do you get people to pose for you?
I interrupt people for a living. I cant be afraid to walk up to someone and ask to take their picture. If they see that you take what you do very seriously they will work with you to get that right picture.
Where do you see yourself in 5yrs?
A lot of people tell me that I should move to New York but I’m not going to; you dont need to move to NY to become a success story. There’s plenty of opportunities here in Chicago and amazing jobs, you just have to establish a level of respect and trust. My goal is to dominate the market here in Chicago. To take on and mentor more photographers, do more videos and offer more services. Published in Vogue and Playboy-still life for an event. Working more internationally.
Best way to reach you: firstname.lastname@example.org
What are your insturment of choice?
I always come to a shoot/event with two cameras. Canon EOS 5D Mark II, three 580 flashes and great business insurance.
Do you usually know the guests in the room when you are shooting an event?
I like to photograph everyone to make them feel special, I don’t just seek out the “most important people” in the room. There are people I know I should photograph based on the client/agencies request but I like to get everyone.
sidebar: The only time I’ve ever been nervous was when I covered Emmy Rossum at the Michigan Avenue Magazine cover party at Harry Carray’s, I’ve had a crush on her for such a long time. As much as I wanted to get a picture with her I didn’t do it, kept it professional.
Parting words: Follow your dreams. Failure is so much better than living your life wondering what could have happened Dreaming shouldn’t go out of style
Here are some of Jeff’s works
All images copyright Jeff Schear 2010-2011. All rights reserved
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