JT portrait of a woman looking at the camera, lit by pink neon

JT defines himself in one word: Creator. Creator encompasses all of his skill sets: photography, filmmaking, motion graphics and 3D animation. “All of these mediums have a certain reciprocity with each other, allowing me to solve creative challenges in unique ways,” he explains.

JT has been a shutterbug since the age of 5, learned the basics of photography in high school and bought his first DSLR in 2009. After receiving a BFA degree, he enlisted in the Air Force where he’s been a military photographer and videographer ever since. JT attended the prestigious Syracuse University Military Photojournalism course at the Newhouse School in 2018, and credits it as a creative turning point for his photography.

JT portrait of a woman with orange and green neon

Color theory and harmony

JT’s imagery is a journey of experimentation with Light and Color searching for the harmony between light, color and subject, that the viewer connects with.

“A solid understanding of color is crucial. Color theory—understanding complementary colors and how certain hues evoke specific feeling or emotion—is at the core of my work.”

However he often experiments in B&W, seeing the light without the distraction of color.

“Only after seeing exactly how a modifier or technique affects the light source, will I begin to add color back to the images.”

“I really love the color vibrancy that I’m able to pull out of the Z 6 and Z 7—my style really depends on a solid representation of what I’m seeing with my eyes.”

JT portrait of a couple, taken lit with neon signs

Neon as light source

JT often uses neon signage as a light source for portraits, for the soft and flattering, saturated quality of light they emit.

“I love the way colors interact with each other and my subject. It’s a specific harmony that is difficult to recreate with other light sources. I gravitate towards certain hues, seeking out certain signs.”

You want to stay away from single-color lights because more often than not, the look will seem as if your white balance was incorrect. Instead, seek out lights with strong complementary colors that both stand alone and blend well, for example Blue + Red = Purple.

JT has his own “neon studio” with a handful of signs he’s collected which make it convenient when shooting in winter (too cold to be outdoors) and sadly (for neon fans) as more and more companies migrate from neon to more efficient LED lighting.

JT has been lucky in that most, if not all of the individuals he’s worked with for these types of portraits have specifically reached out to him because of his style.

“I try to utilize the light, color and composition to put my model in a surreal neon world with minimal need for post-processing. There’s always a balance of using the light to emphasize characteristics of the model and not have it overshadow them.”

JT photo of the reflection of lights in a puddle on a wet street

Designing the shot

Designing the shot begins with the light. Once JT sees how the light and color will interact with skin tone, he then moves on to posing his subjects and deciding on the camera angle.

“As much as I love neon lighting, I utilize everything in my tool kit from LED light panels, Speedlights and gels, strobes and soft boxes, and of course natural sunlight. I believe it’s important to be a well-rounded photographer that can make great imagery in a variety of conditions.”

"My photography for the Air Force and Space Force has greatly influenced my run and gun shooting style, and where my ‘RunNGun’ YouTube name originates. Found-light is a light source I don’t have to carry around in my bag, which is why I love on-location neon signs, allowing me to shoot and move quicker. I can utilize techniques I’ve learned to turn any lighting situation into a good image."

JT’s experience has given him the ability to use whatever light is available to him to craft the best photograph possible. Whether that’s natural light, the light from a cellphone, a Speedlight or a pro studio strobe and softbox.

“I believe it’s crucial to understand the qualities of light: intensity, color, hardness or softness, and direction. When you learn what makes hard light vs. soft light for example, the possibilities become limitless on what you can create.”

JT photo of a metallic looking skull, lit with neon lights

Pay it forward

JT started his YouTube channel in early 2017 as a way to pay it forward. JT says teaching inspires him: “It challenges me to be a better photographer. The more I teach and share what I know, the more I’m motivated to learn.” Check out his RunNGun YouTube Channel for videos on topics like: photography hacks, simple editing tips, winter photography tips, light painting, editing amazing time-lapse videos and much more.

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JT is currently a Colorado-based photographer who’s been shooting professionally for 12 years. In 2014, he graduated from Northern Michigan University with a BFA in Design and Animation; and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force as a Still Photographer. JT is the lead U.S. Space Force video director and photographer, leading a small Space Operations Command production team. In his spare time, he teaches photography on his YouTube Channel and actively tries to improve his storytelling with a camera. Photographers who influence JT include Joe McNally and Gregory Heisler.

Check out JT’s work on Instagram
Go to JT’s YouTube Channel