Jerry Ghionis

Wedding Photographer
Jerry Ghionis is widely celebrated as being among the top five best wedding photographers in the world. He has emerged as one of the most influential wedding photographers of the 21st century. Inheriting the strong european sense of style and panache that’s synonymous with the Greek culture, combined with the relaxed Australian sensibility, Jerry and his wife, Melissa, are based in Melbourne, Australia and Beverly Hills, USA. Together they travel frequently on international photography assignments and speaking engagements.
“Hard drives are the least glamorous part of what we do, but it’s arguably the most important.”

Jerry Ghionis: Photographic Success Built on Trust

Jerry Ghionis, one of the world’s foremost wedding photographers, started his career in the back of a charcoal chicken-to-go shop owned by his brothers. It was 1997, in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, and Jerry was 18 years old. Interest rates stood at 28 percent as Australia was wracked by recession. The Ghionis family had just lost its long-time home. Young Jerry was about to graduate high school and step into a world he wasn’t ready for and couldn’t afford.

For three years, Jerry had pursued photography as a hobby after his brother had given him his first camera. But he had to decide: Get serious about photography or pursue a career in singing? Deciding to play the odds, long as they were, he opted for the first path, got accepted into a four-year art school, and found an assistant’s job carrying bags for a “real” photographer — a job he endured for two years. That was a year longer than he could bear formal photography classes.

“I had this teacher who would say, ‘I want you to search deep down deep inside your soul and express yourself through the lens of your camera.” I was like, ‘Alright, dude, great. Now how do I do that?’ In that first year, no one taught me how to light a subject or pose a single person. We only looked at past photographers, developed film, and all that kind of stuff. There were no street smarts on the ‘how do I do it’ of photography. I just was fed up. Ironically, the college went out of business, and I think I was the only one out of its 30 to 40 students actually making money from this industry.”

After being a full-time assistant for three and a half years, Ghionis was ready to carve out his studio space behind the chicken business. By the year 2000, he was shooting 100 weddings a year. He convinced his brothers to let him build a second floor over the chicken shop to expand his business. Before he sold the operation in 2007, Ghionis was doing 300 weddings annually, employing 15 people, and “was probably Australia’s biggest studio of our caliber.” As coincidence would have it, Jerry’s brother, who had given him that first camera, got out of the chicken business in 2007 and bought his little brother’s wedding photography business. Free to cultivate a new clientele, the younger Ghionis opened a new studio in Melbourne’s uplands and now only does about 20 weddings per year...averaging around $20,000 per event.

 

Attention to Detail

Ghionis began teaching photography in 2000, and it remains as rewarding and integral to his professional life as shooting. In 2007, he created the Ice Society, a subscription-based instructional photography site. Ghionis also co-founded with his wife a non-profit called Soul Society for caring for third-world children. Most recently, he designed the Ice Light, a portable LED lamp for photography and film work. Between that, speaking engagements, and participation in photography organizations around the globe, Ghionis has earned his place as one of the world’s top wedding and beauty creative pros.

Yet it seems like every photographer starts out shooting weddings. In a flooded market, what is it about Ghionis’s work that allowed him to break out, become an ambassador for the likes of Nikon and G-Technology, and become the most awarded photographer of WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photographers International)? In the end, Ghionis’s success largely boils down to just three things.

First, there is devotion to technical mastery and craft. His first camera was a Mamiya RB67, and every shot was done with a tripod and a flash. Every shot had to be metered. There was, as he says, a mystery and a magic to photography then that has largely vanished now that everyone with a smartphone is a photographer. All it takes is an Instagram filter to mimic the feel of an analog shot that might have taken substantial care and mastery of craft to achieve in prior times.

“I’ve always stayed true to the craft,” says Ghionis. “I’ve paid very particular attention on mastering lighting, posing, storytelling, evoking emotion, and I still have a long way to go. We’re in an industry that is never mastered truly. In the end, though, I believe consistency and longevity are the keys to success, rather than just being a one hit wonder.”

Second, Ghionis has the gift of seeing each scene’s missing emotional ingredient. For sure, his backgrounds are impeccable in their simplicity and texture. From predominantly subdued color palettes, he excels at carving out drama and wonder. After choosing the right lens, optimal exposure, balanced composition, fine-tuned perspective, and nudging with only a suggestion or two on posing, more often than not Ghionis’s models emerge with a breathtaking yet natural beauty. However, after all of the meticulous preparation, the art lies in the nudging.

“I make my couples and families feel like it’s their beauty, not my technique, and to do that I often create the magic. You might be a master at lighting and composition and just technique, but if nothing is happening in front of that camera, then your photographs will be deemed average at best. Sometimes it’s either just making someone laugh, or even making someone cry with a few simple words. I could ask a couple to have a hug, and I’d take a photo of that hug. Or I can with a very soft tone of voice, “Now, I want you to hug like it’s the last time you’re going to do so.” That hug goes from very boring, very predictable, into a very emotional, beautiful embrace that sometimes ends up with people in tears.”

With humor and empathy, Ghionis builds trust with his subjects. He maintains that trust is critical. A subject that doesn’t trust his or her photographer will never share genuine emotion with the camera, and the resulting image will be soulless.

 

Success Bit By Bit

Ghionis stakes his livelihood on trust both in front of the camera as well as behind it. As much as he exercises discipline in capturing images, he carries his craft on into protecting those images throughout his work cycle. “I wouldn’t be caught dead without a backup system,” he notes...and yet he’s come close.

Ghionis works in Australia for roughly four months out of the year. For the rest, he travels in the US and abroad. As a result, he tends to keep all of his work with him on USB drives. These, in turn, get backed up to a mirrored system as well as a RAID storage appliance in Australia. The goal is to have the last year or two of files at hand wherever he might be, in his US home studio US, in his Australian home, and in his Australian studio.

If this seems paranoid, consider that not too long ago Ghionis had one of his USB drives die. It wasn’t dropped or shocked. Just one day, Ghionis went to use it and found the drive dead as a doorstop. He turned to his RAID appliance for a backup of this work, only to find that it, too, had gone belly up. If not for his “backup of the backup of the backup,” he would have irretrievably lost several jobs and suffered perhaps unrecoverable damage to his business.

This near-catastrophe led Ghionis to seek out a more reliable brand of storage that would better meet his future needs. That search led him to G-Technology. Today, Ghionis uses G-Technology G-DRIVE mobile USB drives on the road. He notes that the drives possess the ruggedness and performance he needs while still projecting a professional aesthetic for clients. Meanwhile, his technical experts in Australia are in the midst of deploying a multi-pronged G-Technology implementation that will lean on the higher-speed Thunderbolt interface and tend to Ghionis’s needs for large, long-term storage capacity and easy, fast data redundancy. Because ultimately, all of the photographic brilliance in the world won’t matter if the bits and bytes fail.

“Hard drives are the least glamorous part of what we do, but it’s arguably the most important,” Ghionis adds. “If I lose one wedding, that could literally mean the end of my career. This is true. If I’ve lost it, sheerly out of negligence, I still have to take responsibility for the products that I use. My reputation stands on that drive. One wedding that’s not delivered...I mean, you know the social network. It goes on like wildfire, passes on friends to friends. All of a sudden, people will just not trust you. That’s the thing. You cannot lose their trust.”  

 

G-Team members are leaders in their respective fields who use G-Technology products in their day-to-day work lives.  G-Team members are compensated for their participation.

G‐Technology external hard drives serve as an element of an overall backup strategy. It is recommended that users keep two or more copies of their most important files backed up or stored on separate devices or online services.