“Going beyond the expectations. Also, actively shooting, and making sure that you get the work done on time and done well. “
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: In your early years of high school, were you involved in the yearbook ? What sparked your interest in photography?
ERICH CHEN: I wasn’t involved in yearbook, however I was involved in the journalism. But in journalism I wasn’t a photographer I was a really crappy art editor, which meant I drew bad illustrations to go with articles. I didn’t really touch photography formally until my second year in college. In high school I just had a point and shoot film camera and took photos of me and my friends doing ridiculous things. Think Borat plus Jackass. If that wasn’t bad enough I stored that camera in a fanny pack that I wore almost everyday. I was a crazy kid in high school.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Do you still have photos taken from the early years when it all started? What were your subjects? Are the digital photography pictures online to share with everyone to compare with your photography work today?
ERICH CHEN: Yes of course, for both my film and digital photos. My subjects were everything and everyone. Just like everyone with a new camera, I headed instinctively head straight to flowers and rocks to photography. I remember being proud of those shots because I was in awe of the bokeh provided by this dslr phenomenon. The photos are not online, I never put them up, but I can tell you now I’ve improved a lot since then.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What books did you read at the beginning of your wedding photography career that helped you prepare for today? Title of book, author and price of book please…just messing around, the title of the books should be fine thanks to google search. Do you recall any other resources that you referred to heavily to help you prepare for the wedding photography business? We want to know what the must have resources are to fully equip ourselves when and if we ever plan to take that leap of faith into wedding photography.
ERICH CHEN: For Wedding photography, it was just one book that held me over for a long time. The title is called “Digital Wedding Photography – Capturing Beautiful Memories” by Glen Johnson. It goes over a little bit of everything including: equipment, business models, styles of photography, what to do during the different parts of the wedding, and work flow etc etc. It was easy to read and had a lot of photos (which are important to me.) Online forums were a big help too, I use fredmiranda.com, but there are other ones like dwf that I hear over and over again.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What was your very first professional wedding photography job? Was this purely out of luck that you were at the right place at the right time? How did you get your first wedding photography job? Once you had your first job under your belt was it difficult to get another wedding photography job? What did you do to acquire more work besides providing awesome images?
ERICH CHEN: I think I was just at the right place and right time. As a photographer I’m not sure how much I really believe in luck. But basically, my friend gives me a call and tells me her cousins wedding was that weekend and if I wanted to shoot it. Of course I said yes. I was ecstatic, and really excited. I was only maybe 21 at that time, and I have only been to one, maybe two weddings. Then I started to think about how I didn’t really know how to shoot one, let alone I didn’t really know what they were like. I started to panic a little bit, then a lot. I figured if I brought every piece of equipment I brought I would be alright.
I don’t remember it being difficult to get another wedding. There was always that friend who had a low budget wedding and would pretty much let anyone shoot their wedding and naturally I stepped in and took the initiative. I took very little pay, but I didn’t care it was fun, new, and I was in college so any money was good money.
I acquired more weddings by making sure every client I met with was treated very, very well. In the beginning I didn’t meet very many clients, so every single one was extremely important to me (and they still are.)
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: After your first photography job, What was the next photography gig you obtained and how did you go about your execution? Did you apply all that you’ve learned in all the photography books you’ve read ? Did you buy more photography books or accessed any more photography resources to help you jump to your next big step in the game of photography? What tools do you recommend that are a must have that helped you get to where you are present day?
ERICH CHEN: I don’t remember what next gig I had after my first wedding. It’s been a while, and I had a good number of gigs and some of them were pretty good. I had the opportunities to shoot celebrities and big concerts, and those I got through knowing the right people.
I’m a book lover. I love buying books even though I don’t read all of them. Books helped me a substantial amount, but I feel I learned faster by actually shooting and asking questions to those who were better than me. Really, the only ‘tools’ I recommend are your camera, your lens, and your passion to want to go out and shoot.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What keeps the money rolling? Your brand and reputation in the wedding photography space is possibly a huge factor to your longevity? Am I right? Do you have any recommendations on brand building for weekend photographers trying to get into professional wedding photography?
ERICH CHEN: Going beyond the expectations. Also, actively shooting, and making sure that you get the work done on time and done well. In this industry I believe the brand is you. It’s your personality and your work. It’s cliché, but be true to yourself and others. I believe if you’re funny, then you should be funny. If you’re creative, then be creative. Bring out your strengths, and your confidence. It lets people know they’re in good hands.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What is currently in your photography bag? Please be as detailed as possible for those starting out photographers that want to be just like you. Are you mainly doing digital photography? From your photography equipment arsenal, what do you bring for your photography engagement sessions? What do you bring for your wedding photography sessions?
Canon 5D II (still being shipped to me)
Canon 5D Canon 40D Canon 24-70 f2.8 Canon 70-200 f2.8 Canon 17-40 f4 Canon 50mm f2.5 macro
Canon 50mm 1.4 (favorite all around lens) Canon 85mm 1.8 (favorite portrait lens)
Canon 580 EX
Canon 430 EX Video Light Omni Bounce
All digital baby.
For engagement sessions I like to carry light. I actually hate being boggled down by heavy equipment. It’s usually a 5d, a 24-70 2.8L and a 85mm 1.8. For wedding photography it’s usually all of the above.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What is your favorite image in your current photography portfolio and why? How did you approach the photographic execution? Give us a glimpse on how you construct an image from scratch.
ERICH CHEN: My entire photography portfolio is actually really vast, so I’m going to make this easy on myself and just pick one out of my wedding photography. My favorite shot would probably be a recent one of a bride and groom walking down a hill with really dramatic overcast. A lot of people think overcast isn’t good, but I think it’s fantastic. Anytime I see any kind of clouds in Los Angeles I get excited because most of the time it’s just smog. So this photo is really simple actually, but it’s so beautiful to me.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Do you have a photography studio? Is having your own photography studio space essential for a professional wedding photographer? Has any of your photography engagement sessions ever take place in a studio? If not, where do you mainly photograph the engagement sessions? Could you reveal to us 3 of your favorite locations and why?
ERICH CHEN: The world is my studio. I love shooting in natural light, in rain, in the dark, and whatever nature wants to throw at me. I think it’s a lot more interesting, challenging, and rewarding then shooting in an indoor studio all the time. None of my engagement shoots have taken place in a studio, yet. I recently had the request for one. All my engagement sessions have been outdoor, and it’s been great. I think people are more comfortable out in the open whether it be a beach, downtown, or in nature.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What types of commercial gigs are you currently involved in now and how did they surface? What are your recommendations on how we photographers diversify our wedding photography offering to the marketplace?
ERICH CHEN: I shoot a few events, concerts and fashion. One of my more current and exciting projects is a shoot with papayaclothing.com which is a company that is both nationwide and worldwide. In fact, there’s a papaya store in my local mall, and it’s kind of cool just walking in and seeing my work in the store.
Find what you’re good at and expand on that to diversify your offerings to the marketplace. Then find out what kind of brides and grooms like and then target them.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What are your immediate goals as a wedding photographer? Are you planning on releasing any how-to books? What are your recommendations to people thinking about starting a photography book?
ERICH CHEN: My immediate goals are to book 50 percent amount of weddings I booked last year, I think it’s a challenging yet realistic goal even though I raised my prices. I don’t think I’ll be releasing any how-to books, at least not in the near future. Quite frankly, I don’t know if I have the patience to write something like that. If I write anything it will probably be short tutorials.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: A lot of professional wedding photographers are starting to run workshops. Will you start offering workshops in the future?
ERICH CHEN: I’ve actually taught three workshops already, and I’ve taught two years of middle school photography. I definitely will be offering more workshops in the future, they’re a lot of fun for me and for the people who attend them. And even I learn a thing or two at my own workshops, because there’s always something that I can learn.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: I am sure you’ve read many articles discussing how in the future videography and photography will be one? What are your thoughts on that and how will you evolve to the new morphed medium?
ERICH CHEN: I actually haven’t read that many articles about that, but my dad will tell me about it. He tells me I should learn videography, but I am uncertain about it, mainly because I haven’t tried it and my 5d II hasn’t shipped in yet. If I’m comfortable shooting shooting photo and video at the same time, I could probably see myself doing some fusion. When I look at a scene with a bride and groom, I actually think of the scene as if it were a movie. Recently I saw this business card of a videographer that says “If a photo is worth a thousand words, how much do you think 30 frames a second is worth?’
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Thank you again for your time and giving back. What would you like to leave for us photographers to think about when moving forward with wedding photography for the future? If you have any words of wisdom will be appreciated.
ERICH CHEN: You don’t have to be the best photographer, you just have to be better than your last shoot.