Jess Lowe – Headshot Photographer – Best Of Belfast Podcast Interview
In this month's show, we sat down with Jess Lowe, a local headshot photographer with a passion for capturing the portraits of local entrepreneurs, creatives and business owners.
Jess is one of our city's best headshot photographers, and we have been so blown away by her work over the past few months and the process of her craft that we had to get her on the show so we could find out more.
In this episode, you'll hear Jess Lowe discuss her journey to self-employment, how she got into photography, who her clients are and how websites/social media pages have become the new shop window.
Check it out!
Please note: the written version of our shows gives a brief overview of the full interview. To make sure you don't miss out on all the good stuff Jess had to say be sure to listen to the show by clicking the relevant link above.
If you had one lift ride up with Liam Neeson how would you introduce yourself?
Well hiya Liam!
I'd probably shake his hand because I shake everyone's hand,
I love making the most of what Belfast streets and spaces have to offer visually... the best of Belfast.... but I also really enjoy going to photograph people in the environments where they create, craft or work.
When someone comes to your website or social media page, they want to see who YOU are.
People are nosey; they wanna know who you are, what your story is, how you started what you're doing...
That's why I think good quality headshots are so important because it's the first thing people see when they are checking out your business, blog or brand online.
People also trust you when they know you're a real-life human being and not just some sort of online brand or robot.
You've branded yourself as a headshot photographer for local entrepreneurs... tell us about that
Basically, it was to show small businesses that they can do it too.
It's not just for Hollywood actors or the big corporate dogs in ivory towers; it's for everyone.
I want people to stand proudly behind their products/skills, and I want them to have the best photo possible to help communicate that.
Who have you 'shot' in Belfast so far?
Authors, journalists, bloggers, vloggers, podcasters, artists, architects, pretty much anyone who needs a photo of themselves.
I've also had a lot of fun telling the stories of local 'influencers' like Dillon Osborne, Galsgoss (Aslin Gallagher) and Chris Gillespie.
How did you get into photography?
It was by accidentally really.
My wife Karolyn bought me my first camera... a wee Canon 400D with a kit lens.
Honestly I never really picked it up much, but while I was playing around with the Canon, Karolyn had gone and set up her own wedding photography business.
I would help her out with the weddings, mainly just taking care of the gear but one time there was this FULL ON wedding, and she needed a second shooter.
So I gave it a go and just absolutely fell in love with it. Plus some of the photos even made it out into the final set!
If you think about it, all throughout a wedding there are some significant shots that people want to look back to for the rest of their lives, and you only have a couple of seconds to capture them!
On the back of my success in wedding photography, I started to think about other opportunities to explore my craft and my passion.
A good friend of mine called Lyra Mckee reached out to me and asked if I would take her headshot.
Lyra is a journalist and she needed a professional headshot photograph for the wee square photo at the bottom of her articles.
I enjoyed that experience so much that I decided I wanted to pursue it further.
Headshot sessions are a much more intimate and slow-cooked process than a wedding shoot, and I love to get to know the people I make portraits for so that I can tell their story visually in the best way possible.
Why do you think people don't like photos of themselves?
Because people don't like being judged.
You just need to be proud of who you are and what you've done... and what you're going to do in the future.
It takes a lot to push yourself out there and say,
I CAN DO THIS,
I AM GOOD AT WHAT I DO,
PEOPLE WILL PAY ME FOR MY SKILLS/SERVICES.
It's the only way it will ever work.
Plus because your online brand is the new shop window, it's so important to put time and energy into making it look the best it can be.
What'ya mean 'shop window'?
Ok, so 50 years ago, most businesses were on the high street.
You'd go in and chat with the owners, ask for a quarter of sweets or half a pound of beef and then wish them a nice day.
The best way to describe it is that your website is like you standing at the till in your shop, waiting to serve customers.
If you can have a photograph of you on your best day, with your hair done, wearing clothes you feel comfortable and confident in, then you can be satisfied knowing you're putting your best foot forward for every person who lands on your website or social media page.
Jess Lowe what would you describe as your greatest challenge?
I would say speaking up and putting myself out there.
I'm quite softly spoken, but I think it helps me put my clients at ease (cause I'm not all shouty!)
Plus, like most people from Northern Ireland – I always feel like I could be doing more or have done better at a job in the past.
For some reason, we have this chip on our shoulder that continually drives us to do more.
It can be tough to sit back and be proud of what we've created, but we must try.
On the back of that, what would you define as your greatest success?
Honestly just doing what I'm doing: working for myself.
I come from a background of waitressing and admin jobs. Being chained to a desk and constantly having to ask permission to do anything was deadly.
Now I love getting out and about in the city and sure – while I still spend a lot of time at a desk – it's on my terms while doing something that I love.
In the midst of all the freelance hustle and trying to build a successful career it's important that we don't lose sight of that.
Dream photoshoot location in Belfast?
Already done it: Titanic Drawing Rooms pre-renovation.
Canon 5D Mark 3. 50 mm lens or 85 mm. Rarely I'll use a 35 mm, but that's only for really wide shots.
I shoot with one body because rocking up with multiple cameras on a holster is either intimidating or too much like a western (or both!)
We also use wee silly things like prisms, the ring of fire (copper wire)
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into photography?
Just shoot. Shoot whatever you can as much as you can.
Don't worry about having the best gear. Just do the best with what you've got and start to level up the tech once you have the means to do so.
Don't be afraid to experiment.
Don't be afraid to learn from other photographers who inspire you and whose work you love.
But yeah. Get out there and get shooting!
If you could take 'wee' Jess Lowe out for coffee when she was 16 what advice you give her?
Everything will be ok.
It might be difficult for ten years, but in the end, everything will be ok.
Jess Lowe, how can our listeners connect with you?
Like everyone else, I am everywhere!
I'd love to hear from anyone who has any questions or is thinking about updating their headshot photos.
Working with local folk from all different types of industries and backgrounds is my passion so don't be afraid to reach out.
Thanks for having me on the show!
The Best Of Belfast Podcast
Thanks so much for checking out this month's story.
New stories go live on the 1st of every month.
We'd love to connect with you on your favourite social media platform or get to know you even better at our next meetup (events where we bring the online community into the real world.)
Other than that, thanks so much for checking out this month's show and until next time...
All the best!
- Matthew Thompson