Livestock Interview with Photographer Jan Sonnenmair


Jan Sonnenmair is a documentary photographer who strives to tell stories through the lens of her camera. She also teaches iPhone photography. Livestock sat down with Jan to ask why she decided to pursue a career in photography, and to find out how to take better photos with your smartphone.

What originally led you to a career in photography?

I believe a passion and drive to tell stories and explore the world led me to this career along with a very strong visual sense.  I started in high school as a very introverted person who found a way to be a part of the activities but not be the center of attention.  It was a perfect connection for me.

As a documentary photographer, what are you most interested in capturing with the camera?

People and their stories.  Those quiet moments that connect us all and define our lives.  Sounds lofty, but I really want to make sure,  as much as I can, that the true nature of my subjects stays the most important thing.  I work a lot in Latin America and on issues surrounding the Latino community as well as working on stories about children.  Passion is important with documentary work.  To totally commit for the long term, it has to be something that sparks an interest in your heart.

You also teach iPhone photography. Do you find that people oftentimes underestimate just how powerful the camera on the iPhone actually is?

The iPhone or the smart phone/camera is an exceptional tool as well as being a curse at times.  It is a camera we have with us at all times so some amazing moments can be captured.   BUT, and it’s a big BUT… if people are counting on the images they take with their device and they do not learn to take good quality images they will we disappointed in the future. If their family photos or vacation photos are not good or are too low res to print they will be hard to save for future generations.

If you could pass along one tip to those that take a lot of photos on their iPhone, what would it be?

Learn to take the highest quality images with your device (iPads and tablets have AWFUL cameras) and then create a workflow where you are backing up your images at a hi-resolution.  Pay attention to the same things you would with a camera… lighting, composition, clean backgrounds and moments.

Lastly, how has your professional photography informed your personal photography?

It all blends in as one.  I have used my personal photography as stock that is licensed for companies… I see a great moment with great lighting and I have to take a photo.  It has become my nature at this point.

To learn more about Jan and see more of her work, click through to her website.