Jonathan Grado is the Vice President of Marketing for Grado Labs, and if he wasn't making headphones he'd be taking a lot more pictures. Brooklyn born, Jonathan is the third generation of Grado in its six-decade history, being called the “second-in-command” by Esquire. He's spoken at TechCrunch Disrupt and has brought the Brooklyn company to Mashable's Top Eight Most Social Small Companies in America.
He’s a nap enthusiast, once worked in an amusement park, uses songs as a unit of time, and will give full access to his wallet for a good peanut butter cookie. Keep up with him on Instagram and Twitter, and check out his photography, among other things, at www.jonathangrado.com.
DOMINIQUE JAMES: How did you get started in photography?
JONATHAN GRADO: There were a few people who helped me get into photography. I remember growing up and seeing these really old cameras my grandfather had and always thinking, “I have no clue how this works, but I want to find out.” My mom is also skilled when it comes to drawing, painting, helping with 4th-grade art projects, and more. I, on the other hand, can barely draw a stick figure. I always wanted to create something with her, so I always ended up taking a wind-up film camera and taking photos of my mom's artwork. Lastly, my uncle was the person who introduced me to Adobe Lightroom and I’m not sure how I ever got anything done before that. I don’t think I’ve closed Lightroom in four years (an exaggeration, but still …).
DJ: What kind of pictures do you like to take?
JG: When I was four, I took a portrait of my dad when he was shaving his mustache for the first time. Up to that point, I had never seen him without one, so it was a big moment even though I don’t remember taking the photo. But anyway, in high school I saw the photo again and I started getting into portraits. Since then, I’ve traveled for work a lot more and have taken a liking to landscape photography. So portraits are always fun, but I can’t pass up a good landscape. Other than that I do all of the Grado photography too, so lifestyle product photography has kind of fallen in my lap. It’s one of my favorite things to do, though — a nice change up from portraits and landscapes.
DJ: Who or what would you consider as influential to your photography?
JG: For photography inspiration, I’ve always admired Henri Cartier-Bresson, Vivian Maier, and Garry Winogrand.
DJ: What’s your favorite camera and lens?
For the past year and a half, my daily camera has been a Fuji XT-1. I love it, it almost never leaves my side. I switch between the 14mm, 23mm, and 56mm (that f/1.2 in the 56mm is tough not to experiment with all the time).
DJ: How you edit and enhance your pictures before showing them? What is your post-production process like?
GJ: I import the photos into Lightroom and then lose track of time. When I first got Lightroom years ago, I would just click Auto and say, “Wow, job well done.” Then I started messing around and experimenting with all the sliders, lens correction, VSCO presets, and more. I go back to old photos now and wonder how I never noticed the white balance was off, or how cropping just a bit off would completely change the focus of the image. It’s funny how the more familiar you get with the software the faster you work, but you still end up spending more time in there since you’re always learning new techniques.
DJ: How do you share your pictures and to whom?
JG: I have photos from Lightroom publish to a bunch of different folders that act as albums that sync to my phone. Presets also speed up the process with special sizes, resolutions, and naming schemes for photos either for my phone, gradolabs.com, Grado emails, social media posts, and more. At this point, it’s all so streamlined for me it’s just second nature (someone else who sees it though might have a confused look on their face).
DJ: How do you store or archive your pictures?
JG: Lightroom acts as my main hub, and every photo is stored locally on my laptop (backed up frequently, of course). No need to keep all my photos on an external hard drive yet.
DJ: What do you think of today’s state of photography?
JG: Photography is more accessible than ever before, and that can only help the photography community grow. I've made great friends through the likes of Instagram. Once I started following people who didn’t just post blurry food photos I found some great photographers, old and young. Although I do know a few people who aren’t too keen on that. For example, one friend who is a classically trained photographer isn’t getting as good of jobs as his friend who started taking photos with his phone one day recently. He quit his job as a mechanic and now does travel photography. That’s great that it all worked out! I’m not a professional photographer though it’s just a passionate hobby that I enjoy and that helps Grado, so I can’t really put myself in either of their shoes.
DJ: What is that one all-important lesson you’ve learned when it comes to photography?
JG: Patience. It wasn’t like one day I woke up and everything was easier. Over time, I noticed I would naturally frame subjects a little better, or I’d go from taking a hundred photos of the same thing to maybe ten or twenty. Slowly but surely I became more confident in my shooting, although sometimes I still tend to overshoot. Going back and forth between two hundred extremely similar photos is always the highlight of the day. I’m surprised I haven’t worn out the left and right arrow keys yet.
Notes: All photographs on this page, used with permission, by Jonathan Grado. Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. For the complete set of interviews and photographs of all the amazing photographers featured on this blog’s exclusive Q&A, please click here.