Jim Garner on Why Photography Gear is the Least Important Element of His Success


Jim Garner began his wedding photography career with a basic, shoot-to-disc philosophy. His work-life balance was ill-proportioned and his revenue was nothing to write home about. Then he learned how to tell a story. Since switching to a story-first style, he has gone down a different road to become one of today’s most sought-after wedding photographers. An expert in his field, Jim is not only a popular educator and public speaker, but has also been published in numerous photography industry publications including Rangefinder, PPA and American Photo Magazine, as well as lifestyle and fashion publications like Marie Claire China. To find out a little bit more about this industry influencer, here’s 10 questions with Jim:

Did you go to school to study photography?

I attended 1 quarter at an arts school, however, I dropped out to take a full time job as Director of Photography at a dot.com and have never looked back.


What or who got you started in photography?

My Dad gave me a camera for my 15th Birthday and I became the year book photographer in High School.

What is your favorite photography accessory, other than your camera?

I’d have to say my BODA lens bag. What I carry my gear in allows me to photograph quickly and stay efficient. Since I couldn’t find the right bag on the market, I designed and created BODA lens bags in 2005. Today, I consult with Brenthaven and help them create the best carrying system for professionals.

If you could only carry 3 lenses in your BODA bag, what would they be?

I could find a use for 6-7 different lenses. However, if I could only have three, I would choose EF 24-70mm 2.8L, 70-200mm 2.8L and 85mm 1.2L.


What would you have like to have been if not a photographer?

Probably a chef or another career that allows artistic and creative freedom. We know that each of us has someone or something, which inspires our life and work.

Can you tell us the basis of your inspiration?

People around me are my inspiration. It can be a small child giggling and running in the park or a couple madly in love. Raw human emotion inspires me probably more then anything else. I went into wedding photography because I was so drawn to the real emotion of couples.

If you had to give one piece of advice to a photographer that wants to quit their day job and go full time with their passion, what would it be?


Start creating art and stop just taking pictures. Look at the whole story and capture it. I’m a story shooter and want to give my subjects an experience which leads to the best stories and consequently, art books, which is my main focus for most of my clients.

What are 3 things you wish you had been told before beginning photography?

Don’t shoot pictures, learn how to shoot for art. Don’t ever give unfinished images away. Know the #’s of your business or all you have is a really expensive hobby.

If you were able to sum up your portfolio in just one sentence, what would you write?


What are 3 items in your gear bag that really help achieve your style? Or is there anything in your gear bag that we might not find in another pro’s bag?

My heart, my attitude, my hand crafted concept for the client. Gear is entirely irrelevant.

To learn about all of Jim’s storytelling techniques, watch his upcoming course on CreativeLive.

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Topher Kelly is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and editor at CreativeLive. Follow Topher on Twitter@Topher_LIVE.