Interview with Jose Villa – presentation and client communication are key

As creatives, and as human beings, it is of utmost importance to remain kind, humble and open to learning. This allows us to recognize that there’s always room for growth, regardless of our skill level and experience. It keeps us grounded and helps us become the best and strongest versions of ourselves. It also allows us to foster genuine relationships with our friends, clients and peers. Jose Villa is a person who embodies these qualities.

Named one of the most influential photographers of the decade by Photo District News, Jose Villa, has been swooning us for years with his brilliant photography and unique style. No wonder he’s followed by almost half a million people around the world.

“Presentation is key as well as client communication. Regardless of the client, they should always feel like they can communicate with me and that I’m accessible.“ shares Jose.

Read the entire conversation to learn more about what helped Jose Villa gain confidence and build his brand, what’s his opinion on following trends, and staying relevant in the ever-changing photography industry.

What’s something that many people don’t know about you, yet it essentially impacts your values and what you stand for?

I was born in Mexico and my parents moved here to better our lives. Growing up on a ranch and seeing how hard they worked instilled that same work ethic in me. It also gave me an appreciation for my culture. I feel like I have come full circle now that I do weddings and workshops in Mexico and I love that I get to share that part of the world through my lens.

How did your wedding photography journey begin?

In high school I took a photography class with a wonderful teacher, Mr. Burton. From there I went to Brooks Institute. Originally, my first interest in photography was portraits, with a focus on fine art. From that experience came an opportunity to photograph a wedding and I almost declined due to the pressure of shooting an event like that. I decided to take a chance and go for it but I told the client I wanted to be a fly on the wall. That first wedding started my photo journalist approach to weddings and it just grew from there.

How did receiving ‘No’s’ shape you into the professional you are right now?

I’m naturally a pretty competitive person so when someone would tell me “no” it didn’t deter me. Instead it motivated me. In the beginning, most of my “no’s” were from people in the industry itself, not clients. Finding my own niche at that time helped me succeed with or without industry support. As my clientele grew, so did my support in the industry.

Jose Villa - Bride in a Parisian Palace

What’s one early mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?

There was this amazing Asian tea party that I was hired to photograph. It was such a beautiful display of culture and everyone was wearing bright red clothing. Because it was in a dark setting, I made the choice beforehand to photograph the event in black and white for the necessary camera speed to meet the environment. When the photos came back it made me realize that I had to look at so much more than the logistical and technical aspects of photography. I also needed to take into account the cultural norms of my clients and the colors that play a huge role in these types of ceremonies.

How did you build your confidence as a photographer?

Confidence is something you have to work at, especially in the beginning. As you gain experience it gets easier but I still have moments in certain settings or with certain personalities where I lack confidence. What intimidates me more than clients is the large grandiose events I often photograph. When I walk into a huge event with tents and decor that took so much time and so many hands to build, I want to give that entire creation justice. I have photographed some of the most expensive weddings in the country and I am still amazed every time I get the opportunity to capture these amazing designs. As my portfolio and reputation grows, I have to build up my confidence to meet the expectations of the venue and the client.

Jose Villa - Intimate Wedding in Paris

Is Jose Villa the artist, and Jose Villa the regular individual - the same person? Or two different identities? If so, how do they coexist?

In the beginning, I think I tried to be someone I wasn’t because I had insecurities. Over time and through hard work, I have merged myself into Jose Villa the photographer and person. I try to be myself whether I am with a high end client, a vendor, or locals in my town. My goal is to always present my most authentic self and that only gets easier over time.

Why film photography and how does it impact your art and vision?

I use both film and digital in my photography. Although I am most known for film, I find digital lends itself best to the fast paced environment of weddings and events in today’s world. With the need to publish photos almost immediately for press and social media, I am not afforded the waiting period it takes for film printing.

Digital is almost instant, after editing of course, but it also allows me to incorporate film by using my presets. There will always be something magical when I have opportunities to shoot film and it will forever be my passion.

How do you keep being competitive within the new wave of photographers?

You have to truly stay relevant in the industry at all times. That means keeping up with content on social media, press, and publications. Social media also helps to know what is relevant and what people want to see. I continually build my brand and try to stay fresh, especially with young people, through my posts and what I publish. I also apply that approach with my workshops.

What are your thoughts about pivoting based on trends versus sticking to your style as a long term game?

I have definitely jumped on trends to keep up with what is going on in the industry. An example of that is adding equipment such as a drone. I now have someone on my team that operates the drone for my larger events. Sometimes it takes a bit of convincing for some clients, especially when we want to operate it indoors, but it has really paid off so far. The images from the drone really encompass the vastness and amazing detail of the work put into an event. I love that we can capture all that entailed to make the vision of an event come to life.

What is your experience of working with Client Gallery from Pixieset, and how does it benefit you and your clients?

Pixieset is visually beautiful. It is clean and aesthetically feels like an extension of my brand through its customization features. I love that I can present something to a client and absolutely feel confident about it. The platform is so easy to navigate on desktop and mobile as well as adjusts to the screen. I have worked with a lot of platforms and nothing surpasses Pixieset Client Gallery.

Jose Villa Client Gallery

What are the most critical touch points for providing a spotless experience?

Presentation is key as well as client communication. Regardless of the client, they should always feel like they can communicate with me and that I’m accessible. The delivery and way I talk to clients is so important. You want clients to feel comfortable with you so that they have natural smiles and are relaxed in their photos. Making connections and having that communication will always help my end result.

Do you feel more pressure due to your ever-growing community on social media?

Yeah, for sure. It goes back to me being competitive as I always want to strive for the next step and continue to grow as a person and photographer. I want to have consistency in my work and what I present to the public as well. I am my own toughest critic so if I don’t feel like I am meeting my goal, I push myself really hard to get there. Social media fuels my drive but also pushes me out of my comfort zone at times. Sometimes you need that outside pressure to keep moving forward and to stay relevant in the industry.

If your entire legacy was one single shot, which one would that be and why?

How do I choose just one? If it was from my personal life it would be of my husband, Joel, and my two kids, Joaquin and Julianna. Probably somewhere on our ranch with the vast oak trees in the distance. If it is from my career goals then it would be the shot of Priyanka Chopra in her red wedding dress as she is walking down the steps to her ceremony. It is one of my all time favorite wedding shoots mostly because of the cultural value of what was happening at the event. Yes that photo gained notoriety, but for me it was so regal and embraced her Indian culture. The colors, the dress, and the feel of that event truly inspired me as a photographer and person.

Jose’s perspective on life and craft is an excellent source of inspiration for both beginner photographers and industry experts. Placing his values at the forefront of his work and maintaining a down-to-earth mindset in such a competitive and demanding niche, make Jose Villa the perfect person to look up to and learn from.

Need more inspiration? On our blog we’ve gathered stories from amazing photographers from all around the world. Kendall Aubrey highlights that everyone can benefit from the right mentor. Chloe May describes how having a team of photographers allows her to offer better client experiences. André Morgan shares how his sports photography work contributes to a good cause. Elizabeth Messina talks about the way her beliefs influence her unique approach to portrait photography.

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