Richard Photo Lab

Richard's Photographer Spotlight: Jana Dillon

Get to know the lovely Jana Dillon in Richard Photo Lab's Photographer Spotlight!

Since a young age, Jana has seen many sides of the world—born in Thailand, she has called France, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and now Hawaii, home. As a fine art wedding photographer, Jana brings an exceptional view to film imagery that is both sentimental and picturesque.

Richard is chatting with Jana about her global inspirations, passion projects, and the unique properties of her favorite cameras, today on the blog!

Richard: What first sparked your passion for photography?

Jana Dillon: My love of documentary photography was deeply influenced by my childhood. When I was young, my biological father passed away before I turned four years old. Thankfully, he had a great camera and took many photos that were printed and well-preserved in boxes and albums.

As I grew up, I loved looking through these photos and felt as though I was able to connect with him by looking through them, because it allowed me to see what he saw and experienced. I was given the amazing opportunity to get to know him through his photographs! Because of this, I learned very early on how important and powerful photography was.

Richard: Making the leap from photography as a personal passion to a paying gig is a big one... how did you decide to pursue it as a career?

JD: When I was 15 years old, I lived in Pakistan for nine months. I was in the middle of the desert, away from big cities, and had a hard time coping with my surroundings. I started to borrow my mom's point and shoot 35mm film camera to bring with me on each of our trips out into the city. I photographed farms, the women in public, the mistreated animals, the open markets, and even slaves.

At first, I might have used the camera as an object to hide behind, but I quickly bonded with my camera as a way to not only help me connect to my surroundings, but to help give myself a voice to express and share what I was experiencing. In trying to capture the things I saw and experienced through the camera, it gave me something to look forward to. Taking the rolls of film to the small dusty labs around town and getting back the prints and negatives brought a great sense of pride and joy.

After living in Pakistan, my mother and I went to Thailand, and I continued to photograph my experiences where I was inspired by the people, culture and spirituality of the country. It was clear after my time spent in Pakistan and Thailand that I was going to pursue photography as a career, so when we returned to the states, my mother gifted me my first SLR film camera, a Nikon FE that belonged to my biological father. I self-taught myself how to shoot the camera through high school and then attended the Ringling School of Art and Design to study photography. From there, I assisted many photographers through college, and then started my own company in 2007 after I graduated with my BFA.

Image by Jana Dillon

R: When you aren't shooting for clients, what do you LOVE to photograph?

JD: When I am not shooting with clients, I am doing underwater photography in the ocean capturing wildlife, landscapes, sports or fashion. My dream is to one day contribute more of my underwater photography skills to ocean conservation projects. I have also been very fortunate to volunteer my photography services with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.

R: How do you find a balance between being creatively fulfilled and being able to pay the bills?

JD: Spending time in nature, camping, hiking, adventures, traveling, ecstatic dance, daily spiritual practices, drumming circles, meditation, waterfall hunting, being in the ocean, watching sunsets at the beach, playing with my dog, cooking healthy meals, meeting new people and going out to socialize have all been wonderful outlets to help me stay grounded and refreshed.

I'm a real closet hippy who lives in the jungle of Maui, so outside of my professional persona I take a lot of time to cultivate and get in touch with my primal nature.

Image by Jana Dillon

R: What is your favorite camera and why?

JD: For shooting weddings, I love my Contax 645, Lecia M4-2, and Canon 1V.

My Contax 645 is easily the one camera I could rock all day, if I was only allowed to choose one camera to shoot with. Other than the fact that you're shooting medium format, the combination of the Zeiss glass and the intuitive layout of the camera allows me to capture high-quality photos as a professional. When combined with other cameras in my bag, it is the go-to camera to capture all of the main highlights of the day.

My Leica M4-2 is quickly becoming a new favorite at weddings! I love the Leica lenses and how they compliment the Zeiss lenses that I use on my Contax 645. I love how lightweight and free flowing it allows me to be in candid and documentary moments while shooting black and white film. Stealth mode!

My Canon 1V offers the speed to capture things fast as they spill out in front of you. I especially love it for macro shots while getting ready, fast moments during the ceremony, and capturing in between moments in a documentary style. I especially love to load black and white film in my 35mm cameras while shooting color on medium format film with the Contax 645. It brings a beautiful blend of images to help tell the story in different perspectives.

For underwater photography, I use my Canon 5D MKII with an Aquatica housing. Shooting digital out in the open ocean allows me to do long distance open ocean swimming so I can go out into the water for extended times without having to reload a new roll of film, and the dive housing can handle deep sea diving for scuba dives..

Image by Jana Dillon

R: What's your first memory of shooting with film? Why do you continue to shoot it as a pro?

JD: My first memories of shooting film are from my childhood, when I did a lot of road trips with my parents and I was given lots of disposable cameras to capture our journeys. I loved taking photos of the scenic views that I saw outside of the car window and capturing the most exciting parts of my weekends and vacations on camera to share with friends at the end of summer.

As a professional, I love photographing weddings with film for the full, soft colors, smooth rendering of details, texture of the grain, and perhaps the sentimental value. Working with a variety of cameras and film allows my work to offer a unique fine art approach to capturing beautiful moments that unfold. For instance, it allows me to slow down and connect with clients while shooting so that I can allow genuine emotions to naturally unfold in front of my lens. And most importantly, I love the fact that shooting film and working with a dedicated professional lab allows my work to have a consistent look that helps to keep my image branding strong and reliable for my clients.

R: Why is it important to have continuous communication with your lab(s)?

JD: Each and every lab is run by different people. It's the people that you connect with who help create a constructive dialogue to understanding how to create a final outcome. When you put the powerful minds of a lab expert and a creative photographer together, you can accomplish any kind of output. I like to see it as a collaboration, because without my lab I would not be able to offer a consistent look and quality to my clients.

R: Do you have any pre-shoot rituals?

JD: Before shooting a wedding, I have my morning day rituals which include drinking hot tea, spending time with my dog, making a hearty breakfast or lunch, and then listening to my favorite songs in the car while driving to the location (to get me into a certain mood and vibe that I want to bring with me to that wedding). Sometimes it's mellow, like Ben Howard; other days it's really energetic and upbeat, like Odesza.

R: Let’s play a game of “Either/Or”! Savory or sweet?

JD: Savory.

R: Chocolate or vanilla?

JD: Vanilla.

R: Dogs or cats?

JD: Dogs.

R: Urban or rural?

JD: Rural.

R: Warm weather or cold weather?

JD: Warm weather.

R: Biggie or Tupac?

JD: Biggie.

R: Early bird or night owl?

JD: Early bird.

R: Crossword or Sudoku?

JD: Sudoku.

R: Breakfast or dinner?

JD: Dinner.

R: Batman or Superman?

JD: Batman.

R: Historical Non-fiction or SciFi/Fantasy?

JD: SciFi/Fantasy.

R: Comedy or Drama?

JD: Drama.

R: Truth or dare?

JD: Dare.

Image by Jana Dillon

R: If you weren't a photographer, what would you be when you grow up?

JD: A spiritual coach and motivational speaker—to help individuals and small business owners discover the importance of how a positive foundation in your personal life helps to create the building blocks for a successful business that is both balanced and fulfilling.

R: What song/music do you listen to to get pumped up?

JD: I am admittedly a sucker for electronic dance music like CloZee and Odesza.

R: If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?

JD: To breathe underwater.

R: What is your favorite word, and why?

JD: "Aloha", because it's not only used for greeting and partings, but it is also an expression of love, affection, and pity. Aloha is not only a word, but It is a way of life.