Wedding photographer Jay Cassario has had a fascinating career. In a prior life, he was a bodybuilder, and then became a network engineer for one of the world’s largest cable companies before finally quitting that job to become a full-time wedding shooter. These days, Jay is a partner in New Jersey-based Twisted Oaks Studio, although he also makes his way into New York City sometimes, where we’ve met him for coffee near our offices. Read on to learn more about Jay Cassario in today’s Photographer Profile.
ONA: How did you get into photography?
JC: My mother was a wedding photographer, so photography was something that was part of my life for as long as I can remember. While in my 20s, I pursued a career in the fitness industry, where some of her images of me ended up in fitness magazines. As I hit my 30s, I started borrowing my mother’s camera for different things and photography quickly became something we were both passionate about and a great way for us to strengthen our relationship. Two years after my love for photography began, my mother suddenly passed away while on a family vacation on the morning of New Year’s Day 2012. Photography helped me get through the first year, and it pushed me to turn it into something much bigger. I shot my first wedding a year and a half after she passed. Four years after that, my wife Sandi and I merged our already successful wedding photography business with another photographer’s, creating Twisted Oaks Studio. Last year, we hired two additional photographers. My mother never got to see any of my photography career, but she had a huge impact on the success that I’ve seen and her camera that I used to borrow sits on my desk as a reminder of where it all started.
ONA: What camera do you shoot with? What is your “go to” lens of choice?
JC: I shoot with a wide variety of gear, mainly because I have yet to find the perfect all around system for my shooting style. I shoot Nikon, Canon, Pentax, and Leica cameras and lenses, film and digital. I guess I fit into that hybrid photographer category since I do shoot both film and digital, but I do shoot more digital. My favorite setup to shoot with for just about everything is my Leica M (240) with the Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH. My favorite Nikon setup is the Df and 58mm f/1.4G. My favorite Canon setup is the 6D and 50mm f/1.2L. You can pretty much guess by now that I absolutely love shooting with the 50mm focal length, which I usually like to pair up with a 35mm or 24mm f/1.4 lens. As far as film goes, I have found a medium format system I absolutely love and trust, the Pentax 645N.
ONA: What sort of project drives your creativity? And what is your dream project?
JC: Being that I’m a full-time wedding photographer, and I absolutely love what I do, the biggest driver of my creativity is a bride and groom that give me full creative power on their wedding day and leave everything in my hands. This used to be something that would cause me anxiety early on in my career, but now I absolutely love it that way.
ONA: What is the hardest thing about being a photographer?
JC: The hardest thing about being a full-time photographer and owner of a multi-photographer studio is juggling my time between business and family time. I have a son that just turned one this past September, and it can be difficult at times to remember that family comes first, not business. After this first year of being a father/photographer, I’m finally starting to get a good schedule. The hardest thing now is traveling for weddings and workshops, having to leave my wife and son, it’s becoming more and more difficult.
ONA: Describe your style of shooting.
JC: I guess you can say my style of shooting has changed a lot over the past 5 years. One of the biggest compliments I can hear is when someone says that they can recognize my images right away from their unique look. I like my images to tell a story, to show emotion, and for images to really show the personalities of my clients while adding a touch of artistry and creativity. Shooting more film these past couple years and adding the Leica rangefinder made my slow down my process and really think about each and every image I take, no longer trying to fire away dozens of shots, hoping to capture one perfect image.
ONA: In one sentence, what advice would you give to a photographer just starting out?
JC: My advice would be to simply shoot as much as you possibly can, and then shoot some more.
ONA: How did you hear about us?
JC: I honestly don’t remember where I first heard about ONA bags, I have been a fan for years now. Being a writer for SLR Lounge and Shotkit, I get to see a lot of bag reviews, so I’m sure I saw something that caught my eye.