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{low down, throw down with justine ungaro}

i am madly in love with justine's work and all that she does.
my heart smiles when i look at her photos.
they make you smile...they make you feel.
her photography is real, timeless and just drop dead gorgeous!!

and justine is just as kind and beautiful as her work is.
if you know her, i know you are already in love with her....
if this is your first time meeting her, well get ready to fall in love!!!

i'm happy to introduce you to justine ungaro....

Name: Justine Ungaro
Business name: Justine Ungaro Studios
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Website/blog: http://justineungaro.com, http://justineungaro.com/blog

Tell us one sentence to describe your photography:
Clean, Modern, Classic.

What's one thing that everyone should know about you?:
I live on the west coast but a lot of my business is still in Washington DC so I fly back and forth a lot. I think a lot of people are confused as to where I actually live.

How long have you been doing photography and how did you get started:
I have been earning my living full time as a photographer for 8 years now although I started shooting a little bit as a teenager. My mother was a wedding photographer from the mid-80's until I took over for her at the end of 2002 so I learned somewhat gradually over the course of a number of years.

If they made a movie about your life, what would it be titled and who would play you? Hmm, that's a tough one. I'd say I'd be played by Rachel Weisz and what would it be called...maybe "Up In The Air - Part 2". Different premise though.

What is your best post processing tip?:
Try to avoid over-processing anything that you want to have real longevity. Wedding albums/ wall portraits for your clients are likely to stand the test of time if they aren't too too trendy. I prefer to stick to natural color and classic b&w for my images. This doesn't mean you can't have some fun with your processing but think about where your images might be down the road. I prefer for mine to be timeless without an obvious date stamp.

What is your best tip for getting great lighting in photos?
One look that I love that's easy to get is to let the sun backlight your subject and place them somewhere that you can get some of that light reflected back onto their faces. Like a light-colored building or driveway. It's soft, beautiful light and is very flattering.

What does beautiful mean to you?:
The older I get the more I'm able to appreciate individual beauty in all sorts of people, even if someone might not consider them to be classically beautiful. I think physical beauty lies in all of the interesting facets which make each person unique. Someone might hate their own nose but I might find it beautiful because it makes them striking or interesting to look at. I think that inner beauty is the ability to be kind. If I've learned anything in life so far, it is to try very very hard to be kind to everyone. It's not always easy to do but it's a simple enough rule to try to live by.

If you could photograph anyone living or not, who would it be and why?
I think maybe my great-grandmother Maime. I met her once when I was 11 years old when we visited her in England. My mother took some beautiful photos of her on that trip. She was 93 and had the most amazing, sweet, wrinkled, interesting face. She was also screamingly funny. I feel like it would be more important to me in the long term to photograph someone who was meaningful to me as opposed to a stranger or a celebrity.

Explain to us your dream vacation?:
I would love to pack up my husband and go to Morocco where my mother grew up. We vacationed there for a month about 10 years ago but my interests were different then. I'd love to just lounge and eat and drink mint tea and lots of wine. Walk through the Souk every day shopping. Travel the country by train and see all of the cities I've yet to visit.

What type of sessions are your favorite (children, newborns, weddings, senior....) and why?: At this point I just love shooting weddings. Maybe it's because I got married myself 2 years ago so it's easy for me to get into the brain of my brides. I just love the romance and the relationship I develop with my clients. I love that they trust me so much.

What equipment do you use and if you had only one lens to use...what would it be?:
I use all Canon gear. But I'm a lens junky, I bring 9 lenses to every wedding and I'm always collecting more. My favorite lens varies from job to job but if I could use just one lens it would probably be the 35mm 1.4...which surprisingly I don't actually own just yet. Come to think of it I should probably just go ahead and buy it.

What is your most embarrassing moment?
That would definitely be at summer camp when I was 14. The girls in my cabin were constantly playing pranks on one another. My mother was teaching photography at our camp that summer. When I woke up one morning and ventured out to the flagpole where we would meet every morning, I looked up and there was an enormous sign at the top of the flagpole which read "Justine's Undies" and all of my bras and panties were hanging from it. If that wasn't bad enough already, my mother was front and center with her camera laughing hysterically and documenting the whole humiliating experience so that I would remember it clearly forever.

If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice when you were starting out in photography, what would it be?
Don't try to hard to force a photographic style on yourself, it decides itself in time.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?:
I really have no idea. I would love to be working more on personal projects and showing in galleries. Traveling a lot.

What song inspires you? You know the one that can lift your spirits no matter what:
It's incredibly silly and cliche but Don't Stop Believin' by Journey always brings a smile to my face and gets me off my feet. Really just about any ridiculous music from the 80's makes me happy.

What is the all time best book you've ever read?
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

If we surprised you at your house today, what would be the first thing we would notice? That I am messy and have way too many Apple products.

What are your top tips for great marketing and getting your name out there?
Word of mouth marketing is always the best, invest your time and money into getting referrals rather than advertising. Developing a recognizable style sets you apart from the masses and makes it possible for you to set your own rates rather than competing in the middle.

Who is the first photographer that comes to mind and why?
Richard Avedon. I just love his work, always have. It's just so quietly enchanting.

And lastly.....when we started the maternal lens, all of us filled out this questionnaire and shared our answers....now it's your turn :)

What is your favorite word? Lovely
What is your least favorite word? Snapshots
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? My post-earthquake volunteer work in Haiti has definitely been the most personally gratifying thing I've ever done that satisfied me in all 3 of these ways at once.
What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Staying in one place for too long.
What sound or noise do you love? The sound of my puppy's feet as she runs all over the house.
What sound or noise do you hate? Crackling knuckles
What is your favorite thing to say when you get mad? Usually something too inappropriate to type here.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Filmmaking
What profession would you not like to do? Nursing Aide
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? This is a hard one for me to answer since I'm not religious but if I had to answer I'd say "It doesn't matter what you believe, it just matters that you were kind."

thank you so much, justine!!!


  1. LOVE her work! Wow! I must live under a rock because until now I hadn't heard of her. I am now an instant fan!!

  2. shes beautiful inside & out. Were you the cool kid at school? what refreshing work.

  3. Thank you so much ladies for the incredibly sweet words & for asking me to participate! We must "throw down" in person one of these days. xo

  4. Simply divine! I am speechless...

  5. Anonymous10/07/2010

    Justine, your photography is captivating. I love everything I see and your answers are wonderful. Off to check out your blog!
    --Amy P.

  6. Great interview Justine! Just so everyone knows, she's even more lovely in person. :) I hadn't seen the pic of the two boys before and it made me chuckle. Your ability to capture the moment is truly a gift.

  7. Great stuff! Love the tips!

  8. i loved what you said about your great grandmother, about kindness, about Morocco, and of course I love your photography! But I'm biased, as your mother.

  9. I am so proud of my incredibly talented and wonderfully kind big sister!

  10. Gary Kordan10/11/2010

    I just learned so much about my wife.
    I need to stop cracking my knuckles.


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