Photographer Chris Cottrell – Headshot Specialist
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Photographer Chris Cottrell – Headshot Specialist

- edited by: Glenn Shuck

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Chris Cottrell is a Jacksonville, Florida-based professional portrait photographer. He obtained a Graphic Arts Degree from Brunel Technical College in the United Kingdom and he has been practicing the art of photography professionally for over 20 years. His experience ensures you receive the beautiful images you are seeking.

He has been published in various magazines including WNC magazine and Jacksonville Magazine and has won awards for his work. He is a Professional Photographers of America (PPA) Certified photographer, a hard-earned accolade ensuring high standards of work for his clients.

He specializes in Professional Headshots, Business Portraits, and Lifestyle/Branding photography. Chris also enjoys family, mother and daughter portraits, and a few select weddings and engagement photo sessions. He is secretly very happy if you include your dog in your family photographs! 

Meet A True Professional – Business Portraits

Hi Chris, so tell us what part of First Coast do you reside now and how long have you lived there? 

We lived in Ponte Vedra Beach for almost 25 years with a short stint in Atlanta Georgia in between.

Why did you get into photography? 

I’ve always had a creative streak in me and when I first photographed an old building in Cornwall, in the Southwest of the UK with a disposable film camera and loved the results I was hooked! 

What photographers are your biggest influences? How did they affect who you are and how you create? 

Steve McCurry for journalistic photography, there are so many great photographers. Some of the great landscape photographers like Adams. I think that artists in all mediums have influenced me and I respect and love those different visions. 

How long have you been shooting? How do you feel you’ve evolved since you started? 

I got my first professional gig in 2001. It was for a restaurant’s brand new website. I had a great time, they loved the photo and they remain a super popular and busy restaurant even after all these years. Since those days I’ve really focussed on portrait work and studying light and how light works on my subjects. As always I remain committed to creating the very best quality possible and surprising my clients as to how good they really look. I continue to move with the technology, which is phenomenal, and use it to create the very best versions of my clients possible. 

Tell us about your photographic identity. You know you as a person have an identity that fundamentally makes you who you are. Tell us about that as a photographer: 

As a photographer, I understand how camera-shy we can be and always keep that in mind when photographing clients. My ability to make people feel comfortable in front of the lens is really part of who I am – it’s in my DNA! I think when people feel like they belong in front of the camera and feel so good about how they look that’s the magic. I am a relaxed, laid-back person and over the years have learned to look at a person and then create an image of them that they love.

Tell us about the gear that you’re using. Please give us a list of reasons why you choose it. Please be descriptive. We want to know how it helps you translate your creative vision: 

I’m a Nikon user! Long story, but when I first started to shoot film way back I used Fuji Film Cameras as they sounded a lot like Nikon, had the same lens mount, and were a fraction of the cost. Now I use the new Nikon Z series of Mirrorless cameras and lenses and once in a while I go back to my older, but incredible DSLR Nikon D series cameras often for fun, but sometimes for a specific client need. 

Natural light or artificial light? Why? 

Both. I believe as a photographer and creative I need to assess what’s available and either use it or add to it. I use lots of lights in the studio and also on location either outdoor or at a client’s site. 

Why are photography and shooting so important to you? 

Photography gives me a creative outlet and the ability to show a different perspective. I love to shoot for myself on the beach or in the mountains and look for different ways to show the viewer a perspective they may not have seen or considered before in a landscape, beachscape, and the details within those scenes. 

Do you feel that you’re more of a creator or a documenter? Why? How does the gear help you do this? 

I think I’m more of a creator as I specialize in Professional Headshots and Portraits. I always ask my clients what the objective or intended use of the photos is. My client’s objectives are how I create the photo – always with the end in mind! Sculpting shadows and light along with posing and expression coaching are some of the things that go into creating portraits. 

What’s typically going through your mind when you create images? Tell us about your processes both mentally and mechanically? PLEASE BE DESCRIPTIVE: 

Mostly I think of how the viewer will react to the image in front of them. In the majority of cases, the image I create might be the first time a prospective client, customer, employer, or casting agent see’s it, so the image, has to connect immediately. I create portraits that I hope the viewer perceives as three-dimensional although we are working in a two-dimensional medium. I often say “I want the viewer to feel like they can almost talk to the portrait or headshot”.

Please walk us through your processing techniques? 

Clients most often book me from my website. I send them lots of resources and schedule a time to speak on the phone prior to their photo session. Our phone call is an opportunity for my new clients to ask questions as well as for me to discover their preferences, objectives and backdrop choices, etc. I shoot tethered to a computer which means you can see the photos pop up on a monitor as I shoot. After the photo session my clients select the photo they would like me to retouch ready to post up on social media, LinkedIn or website profiles, etc.  It’s similar for my corporate headshots and staff photo clients too. Delivery of digital headshots is via DropBox or email whichever is most convenient for the client. 

What made you want to get into your genre? 

My curiosity about the great masters like Rembrandt and how they light and painted their subjects really drove me to portrait work and still does. I love to, just like the masters, light my subjects to bring the viewer’s attention to their faces, more specifically their eyes., then smile and not to the background or wardrobe. 

What do you think is the most important component to producing great results? (camera, lens, light, editing, location, artistic vision, etc.)? 

There are a lot of things that go into producing a portrait, but I think creativity is important. Education, knowing how to use the equipment and technology available, and staying on top of the tech learning curve.  The saying “It’s not the camera it’s the photographer” is true to a certain extent, but we are now in an era, I believe, where the photographer has to deliver images that use the current technology. For instance, a 15-year-old camera will produce pixels that are not of the quality that’s acceptable nowadays, a little like a 15-year-old car doesn’t have the technology and handling of a new car – hope that makes sense! 

What outside (non-photographic) influences (if any) shape your photography? 

My wife! Her creative vision which she inherited from her father is amazing. She often see’s things when we are out walking around that I didn’t and points them out giving me the opportunity to photograph from an artistic perspective. 

What is the goal of your photography? (A business, just to share on social media, gateway to adventure, etc.)? 

The goal is always to amaze my clients! If the photos are for a client’s personal use I would love for them to always feel good when they look at their photos. For my corporate clients and business clients, the images I produce must work for them either to get the job, contract or simply be photos that work for them 24/7/365 in helping gain new business, etc. 

What is the best way for photographers to network? 

Not sure, probably the best way and the way I’ve met many great photographers over the years is through PPA (Professional Photographers of America). Also, LinkedIn has connected me with many photographers. 

Do you shoot with your editing style in mind, or do you edit based on the shot that you got? 

I strive to shoot portraits that require minimal retouching, that said I understand that on photo day pimples, clothes, etc do come along for the photos so I retouch to make my clients look like the person that friends, colleagues, etc. see every day.

Do you enjoy books? If so, any specific genre? 

I love adventure and spy novels! I recently read a more technical book about DNA etc which I also found fascinating. 

What is your favorite photographic accomplishment? 

Becoming a Certified Professional Photographer with PPA. It’s a tough exam and tough to have experts critique your work, but I felt the credentials are so important. Although it doesn’t mean a photographer is good or bad it does mean the CPP photographer is held to a high standard and there apparently is less than 10 percent of Professional Photographers who have any kind of certification. 

What advice would you give someone who just picked up their new camera on how to get started?

Today I would advise learning business and marketing along with learning to be a great photographer. Too many times exceptional creatives are overlooked because of a lack of marketing and business savvy. 

If you had a question you would like to ask another photographer what would it be? 

How can I help you get to where you want to be with your craft? 

What’s the best thing for you about living on the First Coast? 

I love the more relaxed, beachy feel of living here. The busy and complex living in Atlanta really makes me appreciate the First Coast. 

Is there anything else that you want to tell everyone? 

Thank you, the First Coast Community for supporting my photography over the years. 

How can we see your work?

Social media: LinkedIn –    
FB – 
IG – @cottrellphotographers Twitter – @CottrellPhotog 

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