Photographer Jonathan Pearce: ‘I love to make my images dark and moody’

Jonathan Pearce is a security engineer, automotive photographer and father of three based in London, UK.

We have been fans of Jonathan’s photography for quite some time and following his successful submission to 100 Days. 100 Commissions, he spoke to us about his lifelong passion for cars, how he got started in photography and what he loves most about shooting at night.

You work as a Security Engineer by day and a Car Photographer by night. How did you get into the world of photography and when did it become more than a hobby for you?

I started working in London eight years ago and would see supercars parked on the street, back then I would get a quick snap on my phone. I bought my first DSLR in 2014 when my daughter was born because I wanted to get better photos to look back on when she’s grown up.

I would take my camera everywhere I went and then started to take better pictures of the cars I would see. I’d say I really started to put more of an effort into when I started to get a small following on social media. And now it’s my passion.

Do you remember your very first professional shoot?

Yes, I remember getting my first paid shoot for Mansory UK who had this incredible Bugatti Veyron, which was just insane when I think about it.

How did you master the technical side of photography? Are you self-taught?

I’ve learned by watching a lot of YouTube and just going out and practising to see what works for me.

Have you always been passionate about cars?

Yes always, I’ve still got a Ferrari F40 toy car that was my favourite as a kid. My son now plays with it.

What is it that appeals to you about night-time photography?

I love night-time photography as it allows me to control the light in the scene and love that I can make my images dark and moody. Also, there are not many people out when I shoot so I don’t look like a weirdo waving a light around.

“I love night-time photography as it allows me to control the light in the scene and love that I can make my images dark and moody.”

Can you give us a little insight ‘behind the scenes’ on a typical photoshoot with you?

I like to plan a head both the location and image concept. When I get to the location I’ll look for the composition I want. I start by taking a base shot, then get the shots with me waving my lights around. I’m very much a run and gun guy as I normally have very little time with the car, but it lets me get the most shots in different locations.

“I’m very much a run and gun guy as I normally have very little time with the car, but it lets me get the most shots in different locations.”

What are your usual post-production steps for retouching your images?

I like to keep it as simple as possible. I’ll stack all of my images and align them, then I’ll mask in the different parts to create the image I want and remove anything I do not want in it. I will add a curves layer for contrast and finally, I’ll colour grade it by using a gradient map.

How have you found working with Affinity Photo?

At first, it was a little tricky as I’ve been ingrained with another software for so long. But it’s pretty easy to use, and it has everything that I used in my old software.

You recently won an award—Newspress Automotive Photographer of the year 2020. Could you tell us more about that and the entry you submitted?

I submitted three images that won the award. One of the Porsche 992 shot in London with Canary Wharf in the background. Another shot with three Triumph motorcycles with Tower Bridge in the background and a shot of a private client’s two Ferrari’s. These were my favourite shoots of the year and I loved how the images turned out.

You’ve worked with some of the world’s most iconic car and motorcycle brands. What has been your favourite project so far?

It would have to be the Triumph shoot I did. It was for the launch of their new London showroom and the brief was to get as many shots around London as possible. The team picked me up around 21:30 and we rode around London getting the bikes into locations you just cannot get cars to. We had to work fast before being kicked out of some of the locations. By the time we finished, it was 05:30 the next morning.

Do you have any favourite photographers whose work you admire?

I have always been a fan of Richard Pardon. He is a master when it comes to automotive photography.

What would be your ‘top tips’ for someone just starting out in automotive photography?

Reach out to people who inspire you and ask for advice. Watch a lot of YouTube and practise, practise, practise!


To see more of Jonathan’s amazing photography visit his website and follow him on Instagram.