Based in Sacramento, California, award-winning wedding photographer P.J. Oswald (of Fits & Stops Photography) captures timeless stories with incredible photojournalistic imagery. A self-proclaimed “hopeless romantic,” P.J. strives to give his clients a positive experience that reflects in the photos he takes of them, so that they might “marvel” at how “visibly alive” they were on their big day. Before his shoots, P.J. leans heavily into communication and planning so that his unique style and lighting, editing, and album design skills come together to deliver images his clients will cherish and share for generations. We recently interviewed P.J. in order to learn more about how he got started in the industry, how he developed his style, and other interesting bits that we think will help our community here grow as photographers.
Welcome to the Featured Artist Series at The Photo Argus, a place where we feature the stories and work of incredible photographers from around the world. Many of these features are from the best wedding photographers over at Wedding Maps. However, we also feature photographers in other genres as well. If you’re interested in being featured, please contact us.
What’s in P.J.’s Gear Bag?
- Nikon Z 9
- Nikon Z 6ii
- Nikkor 85mm f/1.8
- Nikkor 35mm f/1.8
- Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8
- Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8
- Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8
- Nikkor 105 f/2.8
- Godox AD200 speedlights (Flashpoint Evolv 200)
- Manfrotto tripod
Let’s get it started!
What is your favorite camera lens and why?
My Nikon 24-70 lens is my go-to. It’s the one I can rely on to work in any situation, whether creating dreamy close-up portraits or wide-angle environmental portraits at alpine lakes. And though the bokeh isn’t quite as creamy as a prime lens, the instant autofocus makes sure I don’t miss a moment.
How long have you been a photographer? What got you started?
I’ve been a photographer for 9 years, ever since I begrudgingly bought my wife a DSLR before a family vacation to Scotland. I had no experience with cameras, and no desire to learn how to use one. But when I found myself roaming around Edinburgh with a camera in hand, I fell into an unexpected love affair with photography. What began with passionately blogging about my rookie photos eventually turned into a career as a wedding and portrait photographer.
How did you establish and define your shooting and editing style?
I learned at my very first wedding in the foothills of Northern California that my photos turned out far better when I became a fly on the wall, and gently prompted subjects rather than directed them. That was my introduction to a photojournalistic style. It was later, when I cut my teeth on Lightroom tutorials from SLR Lounge that I benefitted immensely from to tutorials about off-camera flash, as well as seeing the appeal of an editorial style of posing when opportunities arose. This has caused me to look for ways to move through a wedding day like a journalist/ninja, while occasionally shifting into editorial mode to help my couples look as flattering and epic as possible.
What is the best part about being a photographer?
I’m absolutely energized by meeting couples from around the world, unearthing what makes them tick, and helping them to let their guard down during one of the greatest days of their lives. Not always an easy task, but a worthy one. And I also get a kick out of photographing weddings at locations I’ve never before been, as it forces me to exercise my inner improv artist.
What is the most challenging part of being a photographer?
Marketing: I can’t live with it–can’t live without it. I’d love to simply connect with people and photograph their stories as creatively as possible. But I suppose that marketing is the necessary introduction to initially meet all those great people.
Who are some of your favorite photographers?
Joe McNally, Pye Jirsa, Christian Cardona, and Max Rive.
What are your sources of photography inspiration?
Going on vacation causes me to think differently about aesthetic, light, and landscape if for no other reason than leaving what’s familiar. Seeing a well-shot movie causes me to think about what angles I might crib for my own work, or what color-grading might look great. Minimalistic design and graphic design also help me think about how to isolate my subjects within a photo and ensure they are framed in compelling ways. And following more talented photographers on Instagram is helpful too … at least until I’m mired in envy.
What do you think your keys to success are in this industry?
Emotional intelligence and love for people are the beating heart of my work. Though robots with world-beating AI will someday be able to take excellent photos (okay, I’m a sci-fi nut), it’s that person-to-person connection that’s so crucial to bringing out the best in my couples. Even if I were at the top of my editing and composition game, it would all be for nothing if I weren’t able to cause a person to feel valued, understood, and special. The photos I take benefit from my desire to set my clients’ emotions and expectations first.
Other than your wedding work, what type of photography is your favorite and why?
Landscape photography is where it all started for me, and landscape photography is what fills my sales. Though it isn’t a part of my business, it’s the release of getting out into gorgeous parts of the world–rain or shine–that feeds my inner introvert. And I find that it is often the draw of photographing diverse landscapes that determines where I go with family on our vacations. It’s a worthy excuse to explore, and a beautiful opportunity to reflect.