© James Douglas Commercial Photographer Cleveland Ohio Portrait Photography -

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst”


James Douglas Shields (or simply “J”) is a portrait photographer based in Cleveland, Ohio.

He attributes his love for photography to his family’s business. Growing up in Maryland surrounded by the iconic imagery of TIME, LIFE, Newsweek, and National Geographic  started a deep infatuation with photography that he would come to truly understand later in life.

James took his love for the camera and combined it with his love of snow sports and spent years chasing winter storms around the globe. (Which would later be a useful life experience for living in Cleveland during the winter months.) Working for companies such as K2, The North Face, Patagonia and Oakley satisfied his need for adventure and action, but he found himself hungry for a place to call home.

In 2009 he opened his first studio in downtown Manhattan, focussing on advertising and fashion work. Partnering with agencies like Ogilvy and Mather and other boutique PR firms as both a photographer and creative consultant opened up doors to collaborating with such clients as ESPN, Target, H&M, Unilever, AXE and Comedy Central. His portfolio during this time encapsulated everything from complete ad campaigns to single in-store artwork.

Somewhere along the way James met and fell in love with Erica. The two dated and lived together in New York before moving back to Erica’s hometown, Cleveland. James, new to Northeast Ohio and particularly Cleveland’s industrial-turned-domesticated hub of music, art, and culture, immediately fell in love with the city’s people and set out to capture the revitalization of his newfound home. Setting up shop in a refurbished factory loft, James’ studio space is now home to a solid inner circle of renowned creatives, friends, and anyone interested in “talking shop” over a beer or glass of whiskey. His popular “Dark Portrait Series” is an intimate look at the individuals shaping the Cleveland creative landscape, and perhaps showcases James’ greatest talent: His love for the people who come into his studio and leave as friends.

James believes photography is both an art and a business, and much of his time in the studio is dedicated to working on charitable campaigns and initiatives. He strives to help other artists understand their value and find their niche, often employing interns from a variety of backgrounds and with various areas of interest. Collaboration is a fundamental cornerstone of The James Douglas Studio, and James readily welcomes working with others as a means to learn and grow as an artist. At the end of the day, he loves what he does, and believes in one mantra that proves his passion for his art form: “If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.”

– Written by Maddie Gaither
– Studio images by Jason T. Crocker

Walk into James’ studio in downtown Cleveland and a sandy-colored pup named Ginnie greets you. With high ceilings and incredible views of downtown, the space feels inviting and warm, and minutes won’t pass without James offering you a beer or glass of whiskey. Unabashedly fond of country music and less appreciative of shoes, James loves having people over to his sacred man cave. Just remember: a 6-pack gets you in the door and you’ll leave as a friend.
© James Douglas Commercial Photographer Cleveland Ohio Portrait Photography -