James Santiago: the fashion photographer who creates art through photography

James Santiago is an intuitive photographer with a keen eye in seeing photogenic potential. His work is influenced by day dreams and cinematic imagery. Fashion photography is a more challenging art form than other forms of fixed subject photography.
Modelmanagement.com asked him some questions about his work and projects.



ModelManagement: Where did your passion for photography come from?
James Santiago: My passion was purely developed from my passion with the fashion industry. I was an agent for a while, after being a model myself, and the pictures that the models had presented often disappointed me. They would often bring photos taken by “a friend” who is a photographer. So I just started taking the pictures in the style that I needed in order to push their careers forward.

MM: How would you describe your style?
JS: I always say that my style is influenced by daydreams and cinematic imagery. That fine line where “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” meets school summer break. I know it probably makes no sense to some, but it is difficult for me to properly explain in words.


MM: You focus on Fashion Photography, which shootings do you like best? What is the most important thing during a shooting for you?
JS: Direction is the most important thing during any shoot. The model cannot see what she is doing and how she looks in the viewfinder. And she cannot tell that she needs to lift her chin up and relax her mouth and not tilt her hear like she is taking a snapshot for her Facebook timeline. I think many photographers, though they may have studied many hours to lean what f-stops, focal lengths, and shutter speeds are, don’t direct a shoot very well for the model to have marketable photos. I feel like every time a new model is told by a local photographer to put their cowboy boot on the wood fence, grab their cowboy hat that they won 6 years ago at the county fair, and give a Teen USA pageant smile, a Victoria Secret Angel looses a feather from her wings.


MM: You did an editorial for H&M and American Apparel; can you tell us a little more about it?
JS: Well, the project was working with new faces that were building their books. The girls were from mother agencies from different parts of the US and Canada. It was quite smooth trying to coordinate 7 girls, a stylist, a makeup artist, and the yacht owner to be on time at 8:30am. One of the models wanted to change the shoot to another day because she was sick (to tired to wake up). But she ended up getting there on time. And one girl got motion sickness. But it went pretty smooth considering.


MM: Where do you get your inspiration?
JS: I get my inspiration from grumpy models’ attitudes. Most of my best work is when a model has had a bad day, a break-up, or is hung over. It might sound strange to people not in the industry. But they are easier to shoot, as they are not focusing too hard on their posing. When a model tries too hard to pose it just looks fake.

MM: Can you share some tips and advice for young photographers who want to start a professional career?
JS: Stop reading blogs and go shoot! There is no better teacher than experience. And don’t go buy expensive equipment until you are sure that you want to invest in photography as a career.


MM: Nowadays Social Media is important for every business. I can see you have 15K on Instagram. According to you, is it an indispensable tool to be known and to show your work?
JS: Social media is similar to social life in where you have to speak up in order to be noticed. The unfortunate part is trying to understand how social media marketing and technologies works for some photographers. And just like real life you have to put yourself out there to be seen and not everyone will be popular. It’s the added difficulty to the industry and just because someone goes to school for photography does not equal success. Patrick Demarchelier did not study photography. Point made.

MM: According to you, how is Modelmanagement.com different to other websites to find models? Would you recommend it to other photographers?
JS: It has a clean easy to use interface with loads of data, stats, and learning materials for models to learn from.


MM: What are the benefits of having a Premium Pro membership on a Modeling Community such as ModelManagement.com?
JS: More exposure. That is the main point. This industry pivots on exposure. Even the term Go-see solidifies that point. If you are not seen, you are not considered. But everyone needs to do his or her homework. Just because you have the look, one agency may not take you because they already have two girls just like you. They don’t want to saturate their board. So try another agency or even return to them after a time. Maybe that model moves off or starts demanding so much more money that the will need your look on the new-faces board for the boutique clients. Just don’t get discouraged.


MM: What are your next projects? Can you tell us a little bit about them?
JS: I have one project coming up soon which stands out. I will be shooting soon with a Jennifer Lopez look-a-like from Kuwait, which Jennifer, herself, follows on Instagram. So I am sure I want to shock and awe Jennifer as well as the look-a-like and the fans.

Visit James’ profile and website to see the rest of his work.

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