What kind of photographer am I?
My Journey through Art Center
These are the questions every creative artist will ponder upon once or several times throughout their careers. What kind of artist do I want to become? And how can I support my life with the medium while doing what I love? When I told my parent I want to become a photographer, we basically flip the house upside down. But hey, I made through an art school just fine. Now, I just have to find more clients! haha..
Today, I was organizing all the photos I took past four years at Art Center. When I was looking at the photos back then and now, I saw my journey I went through. Where I was before, what I was lacking, what kind of photographer I was, and how much I've improved.
In this blog, I want to talk about my journey through my college life and explain how I became the photographer I am today.
1st year at Art Center
When I first came to Art Center, most of my images were poorly lit conceptual photography and event photographs from a high school Yearbook. It was mostly capturing decisive moments and expressing an idea in a trendy way. My main theme in conceptual photography was time. I thought time was lacking compared to how much I want to improve and be at the place I want to be, Life is too short, and there isn't enough time and other idea related to it.
The first year was technical and learning how to see the beauty of light, Basically, appreciating the natural light. I learned how to use film cameras for the first time, 4x5 View Camera, 120 Medium formats, and a 35mm camera.
I fell in love with the mediums but didn't stay with it. Film is aesthetically pleasing with the grains and detailed highlight and shadow but I wouldn't use it for work unless the job requires the aesthetic of the film. I appreciate it to carry around a film camera every day when I go outside but other than that, I rarely use it. Film is more of a hobby for me. Something I will put in the back of my head so I can use it when I need to create certain aesthetic.
At this time, I did photograph people but they were people I knew from high school and friends from the photo department. Getting a model from an agency was something I could never be dreamt of. However, I was still looking for beauty in people but I solely focused on a portrait. I did not consider fashion, only dreamt about it.
On a photoshoot, I was focusing on experimentation and concept. I was not technical but strived to be detailed in every photoshoot.
Then I started taking Black and White photography with the square format. At this time, I was certain that I will take only do Black and White and shoot like Irving Penn. Yes... this was my Irving Penn inspired time.
Irving Penn is an iconic photographer I look up to, even till today. Many prefer Avedon over Irving Penn, because of movement and capturing story within a portrait. However, I prefer Irving Penn because of his graphic composition, simple but sophisticated lighting, capturing beauty in intellectual, and the skills to do both Fashion and Product.
While doing this, I took photoshop class in my first year. Even though my skills were rusty, I learned how photoshop worked. My thought on education is: You apply your learning after class is over. That is when your true learning starts. The classes are there to make mistake and learn from the teachers. I learned good amount in my photoshop classes but I learned more by searching on Youtube after I took the courses.
2nd year at Art Center
My second year at Art Center was more digital than film photography. It was a transition back to digital but with more knowledge than before. I took Architecture, Product, Location, Adv. Product, Photo Production, and Editorial Photography. As a photographer who does only people, these subjects were new to me, but I approached them with an open mind.
Architecture class taught me how to balance a daylight with an ambient light at the location and look out for the weather forecast for the week of the photo shoot. I did not particularly like architecture because of the stress to find beautiful houses to photograph and effort to make the house look beautiful than it actually is. It was a challenge but worth it.
In my location lighting class, I learned to balance daylight with strobe, 12x12 frame, and working on a production book. Location lighting is something I want to get better at because location adds a story to the photograph rather than shooting a model on a colored background. I like to take control of lighting scenario I am in while cooperating with available lights. This is a goal I want to achieve because when I see high-end photographers balancing natural light with a strobe to create a cinematic mood, I want to create the similar effect. I will get to that point one day.
After going through 5 years straight, I took a term off. I was creatively burned out and exhausted from all the assignments from the school. So I took a term off and started looking for a job. Through this process, I learned what the industry wanted, where I am as a photographer, and what I needed to work on. I went to 10 interviews in LA. I even drove from Pasadena to Santa Monica in the morning for an interview. Pretty much drove around every part of Los Angeles, even applied to jobs in San Francisco. I had no luck but toward the end of the Summer, I applied to a small company named Capsule Wallet and got the job. A first real job. I wasn't perfect but they hired and it's been an experience and I still work with them.
Also, in the beginning of that Summer, an agent from a model agency emailed me for a test shoot. I think he got my email from a mail I sent to the different model agencies for a photoshoot I did in the location lighting class (2 months back). I never worked with an agency, so I had no idea how to approach. I went into their office on La Brea for a meeting. Showed my portfolio and everything I had. Then he said he wants me to do a test shoot with a model. So he gave me few weeks to make a team and a mood board what I want to do. He helped me through the process. Thanks to him, I learn how to make a mood board and a call sheet. He believed in me and my vision. It was my first time having a team. I had an assistant and a make up artist. It wasn't a full team, but it was something. One baby step at a time. Everyone was great and helpful to make the photoshoot happen.
In Fall of 2016, I took Editorial and Photo Production class so I can learn more about editorial side of fashion, learn pre-production part of the photoshoot, and work with images in a layout. I would say, this was a time when I started to delve into fashion photography. I took more interested in fashion rather than capturing a portrait. I still had the mind of a portrait photographer, so I shot vertical photographs most of the time and focus on the upper body. I struggle with posing a model and trying to make the cloth stand out. I was getting ahead myself but knowing where I want to be made me want to try harder on every shoot.
I also took two product photography classes to learn more about lighting in the studio but I started to like it more than I thought I would. In the beginning, I didn't get what I was doing; what each light was doing for what reason, and had a hard time trying to light certain products. I still have challenges but I learn on each set by experimenting several options and previous experience I encountered. I am still learning but I will say, I am better than where I was a year ago. My lighting became much stable and controlled. I could think in the back of my head, how the product is going to be lit and what process I have to go through to get the shot I need, both pre-production and post-production.
3rd year (Last year)
On my last year in college, I took fashion class and food class. I am guessing you guys know why I took fashion class, but food... I just took it for fun. However, I made a good connection with the teacher and he helped me tremendously. In my food class, one lesson I got out from the class is that background matters... A LOT. Prop and light can do so much but it cannot support a story by themselves. Finding the right background will set the mood of the story. After taking that class, I've been searching for good backgrounds and rustic items.
I took an internship at a startup magazine called Entity Mag. It was more of an in-house photographer job than an internship. I was there from Spring of 2017 to Summer of 2017. Now I work as a freelance photographer for them when they are in need of a photo shoot.
Now, to fashion photography. I learned about my style. How I photograph fashion. I learned this not too long ago because an agent from Oprah booking agency came to our graduation speed dating session. He said my work has a unique perspective and shows beauty through angle and color. I learned how to shoot models at an angle in fashion photography. I was bored of looking at models just standing there and looking pretty. I wanted to elongate their body to the extreme and make them look taller and distorted. Just like how Tim Walker does to his models. I always try to look for those angles in every shoot. Some people may not like it but I think it is unique, looking at shapes and form through body shape. It doesn't come all the time, but I do try.
From where I am right now, I want to elevate my fashion photography by shooting on location, working with a wardrobe stylist, and controlling light with ambient light. It will be a challenge to find my style, but I found my angles. :) Baby step at a time.
So. What kind of photographer am I?
After three years at Art Center College of Design, I decided to become a high-end fashion and luxury product photographer. What? Product and fashion? There were some mixed feeling from the professors I talked to. Some were for it and most were against it. These were two different types of field in photography. Most of the photographers go either with fashion and portrait, product and architecture, or food and portrait. Not product and fashion. However, I think product and fashion go hand in hand. I guess it's because I see them both exquisite in a commercial way. I shoot my photos to sell the clothes and product in an artistic way supported by a unifying concept, color palate. composition, and mood.
I want to become a commercial photographer who works for luxury clothing and accessories like Miu Miu, Chanel, Gucci, Burberry, Valentino, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Ralph Lauren, Dior, Sephora, Prada, and lists go on.
Thank you for reading this long blog about my journey and your support. :)