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I love to learn in any capacity I can, and I believe it is important to pass down that knowledge. I’ve had the opportunity to lecture and teach photography at Brooks Institute, Michigan State University and online. Below is an archive of some of those lessons. 

If you’ve been following my Instagram Live video feed, you can download my reference documents from my “Camera” workshop here:

Photographer James (J.R.) Mankoff earned a bachelor's degree in fine art from Michigan State University's College of Arts and Letters in 2005. James returned to campus in October 2014 to speak in the Department of Art, Art History and Design's Guest Lecture Series. He also conducted a weekend-long student workshop on professional photography techniques.

During his visit, MSU Alumni magazine wrote a Profile piece and Muse's magazine interviewed him for an upcoming issue.

View MSU Alumni Profile: here
View Muses interview: here

Creatr was a live-stream session where professionals could share their creative knowledge, industry insights, skills, and inspiration within a variety of creative fields.

Episode 1: About me

Episode 2: Cohesive style and how to find it

Episode 3: Connecting with your subjects

Episode 4: Personal Projects

Episode 5: Producing a photoshoot

Episode 6: Lighting Theory - Umbrellas

“Breaking Through”: Branding in the Digital Age at the V.F. Social Club


J.R. Mankoff is rapidly becoming his own brand as well: starting as an assistant to the likes of David LaChapelle and Norman Jean Roy, Mankoff has grown into a photographer whose work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous others. For the second half of Wednesday’s double bill, a presentation called “The Right Light: Creating the Perfect Shot,” Mankoff walked the Social Club gathering through the art of setting up, composing, and completing an image in his particular style.

Mankoff’s first rule is to be open to many different influences beside photography itself. As he explained, he spent a lot more time on art blogs than reading fashion magazines while trying to nail down his own aesthetic. Next was the idea of giving oneself a wide amount of time–and film–with which to find a comfort zone with the subject, as well as space to experiment. “The first 30 or 40 frames I shoot are throwaways, whether it’s a model or celebrity I’m shooting,” he revealed. “I’m just giving them a vibe in the first 30 or 40 frames so they can get comfortable with the way I’m shooting.” Once the subject is relaxed, “then a real emotional connection comes through.”

And that connection, Mankoff insisted, is what the perfect photo is all about—no matter what kind of texture, setting, or lighting the picture actually has. “The eyes sell the image,” he said, using an especially compelling shot of Bryan Cranston as an example. “If the subject is going to look into the camera and confront you, but can’t sell the image with their eyes, the whole thing falls apart.”

See the whole article here

All images Copyright James Ross Mankoff 2024