When we first evaluated Baltimore-based photographer Justin Tsucalas for membership with Wonderful Machine, we were struck by how energy-filled his images were matched with the uniqueness of his personal style. It was clear that Justin had the potential to be a good fit for WM, but we were concerned about the combination of commercial and retail images on his site. He was showing great commercial food, portraiture, and interior work, but they were mixed in with his wedding and family shots. After discussing this with him, we agreed that a Web Edit was the best course of action to pair down and focus the work he was showing on his site.
We detected hints of youth culture on his original website, but it wasn’t until we started combing through the 1000+ images that he sent that we realized the breadth of the youth culture work he had been shooting was something he could use in a commercial portfolio. At WM, we define the youth culture specialty as “pictures that show what makes teenagers and young adults different from the rest of us in the way they dress, behave and relate to each other.” It may seem like a category that’s easy to write off because clients may not come to mind immediately, but it’s a specialty market that’s perfect for clothing, shoes, and accessory brands, editorials, and corporations that target young, hip clientele (think Dr. Martens, Vice and Urban Outfitters).
We were excited to run with this because Justin’s style is truly the epitome of “cool.” Even outside of the youth culture work, he infuses all his images with his edgy vision. We selected his strongest, most commercially viable youth culture images and sequenced them in a manner that would read like a day in the life of a badass twenty-something, starting with the brighter, quirkier, and more playful shots, then transitioning into the grittier nighttime party images.
We took a similar approach to his food gallery. It opens with fun street food images and then goes into more plated shots and fine dining:
For his portraiture category, we used a self-portrait of Justin and a portrait of his dad (both taken in the same room and pose) like bookends for the gallery and filled in the middle with portraits that were true to his style— starting with the younger subjects and ending with older subjects. For his kids gallery, we relied heavily on color and composition to create a smooth flow from beginning to end. We both felt that including the kids work was important because it would show how his offbeat style can transition into shooting something that’s generally considered to be more idyllic.
When we sent Justin the edit, he was happily surprised that the youth culture work was something he could be shooting for clients and we were both excited about giving it a starring role in his portfolio. We had also originally worked on an interiors gallery but were concerned that all the images read as being from the same shoot, and this was a sentiment he voiced as well. Since it wasn’t the kind of work he was interested in aggressively pursuing, we decided to eliminate it. He opted to create a whole new site for his commercial work with his branding as Justin Tsucalas, as opposed to the Plaid Photo brand that he had been using for his retail work.
Justin has now launched the new website, which includes a blog that’s frequently updated with cool new work, and made a few tweaks to improve his web presence like adding his contact information above the submission form and moving his image galleries to be first in his menu. After all was said and done, we think the edit has been a huge improvement for Justin’s commercial career, and we still have fun looking through his portfolio! Here’s what he had to say about it:
The edit was something I have been wanting to do for a long time. I had gotten in a groove of shooting and producing a large quantity of work but never taking any time to reflect on the direction it was all headed. When the time came to scale everything down I was overwhelmed with the amount of material and fuzzy on what direction I should take my edits. Morgan was awesome in weeding through over 1000 images and structuring everything into compact portfolios. I was pleasantly surprised with the variety of work she chose and her edit has absolutely focused my work going forward.
Check out the video below to see a screencast of Justin’s edit, and to see it in action, visit his website.