PHOTOGRAPHYSILO.COM: In your early years of high school, were you involved in the yearbook ? What sparked your interest in photography?
TAURAN WOO: Actually, when I was in high school I was obsessed with being a comic book artist! I think my idea of a dream job back then was working at Marvel Comics and drawing Spider-man! Well, at some point I sort of let that dream die, and studied Graphic Design instead. I did get my feet wet with photography when I was in college and more in art school, but I never entertained the idea of doing it professionally until many years later. I started in the wedding industry in 1997 as a videographer, and one day during a wedding, my eyes began to wander from boredom. I looked over at what the photographer was doing, and from my years of experience of working with other photographers, I knew his photos weren’t going to be very good. I remember thinking to myself, “This guy sucks! I know I can do better than him!” From then on, I was focused on how to get out of the video business and into photography, so I could do the things I knew I was capable of. From that moment on, I needed to know everything there was to know about photography! I was so naive! haha
PHOTOGRAPHYSILO.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?
TAURAN WOO: I only have a handful of my early stuff, it was quite a long time ago! This was pre-digital age, pre-Photoshop even! Mostly shots of my friends, local events, even a house fire in my neighborhood! I can honestly say they were all crap. Every once in a while I run across something I did long ago – I may put it on Facebook, just for laughs.
PHOTOGRAPHYSILO.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.
TAURAN WOO: There are a LOT more resources out now then there were when I started out, but I did buy some books by Bill Hurter, which were really helpful. He has quite a few books available through Amherst Media that I bought right at the beginning, really great stuff. As far as recent material, Susan Stripling has fantastic material on just about every gamut of wedding photography in her Think Book, everything from shooting to business. I’d also recommend Roberto Valenzuela’s Picture Perfect Practice, a great resource for developing your photography skills, and a book called This Modern Romance, co-written by Stephanie Williams talking about engagement photography. If you’re not already watching CreativeLive, you need to be taking advantage of that amazing resource right now!
PHOTOGRAPHYSILO.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?
TAURAN WOO: When I started my business, I met a young couple who believed in me and were willing to give me a chance. After their wedding, finding work within their network of friends was really important in the early stages of my business. I’d say this to young photographers: if you aren’t getting more work from the network of your past clients, you’re doing something wrong. I’ve never done any print or web ads up to this point because I’ve had the benefit of some strong referrals throughout the years. Thank you to all my past clients who have mentioned my name to their friends!
PHOTOGRAPHYSILO.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?
TAURAN WOO: After my first job, I started getting contacted almost immediately by potential clients. I was very reasonably priced for my skill level and was able to book about 22 weddings the following year, and 40+ the year after that. I did buy more books and material after that, and actually I still do to this day! Once you get a general feel of the industry, there are going to be certain people whose work, personality, and business model resonate with you – I’d recommend seeking out one of these people to mentor you. Of course I’m a big advocate of workshops – there’s nothing more fun than traveling outside of your immediate area to learn more about something you’re passionate about, meeting other creative people who are like-minded, and making friends!
PHOTOGRAPHYSILO.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?
TAURAN WOO: I’ve been fortunate to have been able to do this for over 8 years, despite having made (and continue to make) mistakes and missteps in my business! However, I do firmly believe that treating people right, giving them your all, and making wise investments into your business is going to give you a firm advantage to lasting in this business. Amaze people with your work and with your service!
PHOTOGRAPHYSILO.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?
TAURAN WOO: Well, these days I’ve got my fingers in a lot of pies! Haha! Here’s what I currently carry in my bag(s), but I love modifying things all the time, and I’m a sucker for a new gadget!
Wedding: (digital bag)
Canon 5D mkIII x2
Canon 85mm 1.2/L
Canon 50mm 1.2/L
Canon 24-70 2.8/L
Canon 70-200 2.8/L IS
Canon 100mm macro
Phottix Mitros+ flash x4
Phottix Odin controllers
Magmod flash modifier + grids
Phottix shoot through umbrella and mount
Lastolite extension pole
Cheetah C-8 Stands
Hold Fast Moneymaker camera strap
Hold Fast Romagrapher Camera bag
Think Tank Airport Airstream roller bag
ONA Union Street bag
I also have my film gear, which I use for engagement sessions and sometimes at the wedding as well:
Contax 645 + 80mm
Kodak Portra 400 & 800
ONA Brixton bag
PHOTOGRAPHYSILO.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.
TAURAN WOO: One of my favorite images that I use to promote my business even today, is a shot of a couple running along the beach stirring the birds that were resting on the sand to fly up – I use it on the front page of my website! I guess it represented a lot of things to me, and I’m proud of the result and the whimsical and romantic feeling it conveys. I got the idea from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” where Sean Connery had scared the birds with his umbrella. As I cautiously navigated around the birds from the other side, I instructed the couple to, on my signal, run at the birds and get them to take to the sky. The lighting was amazing that day, I was satisfied with my composition, and everything aligned. It was possibly the first time where that happened, and it gave me the courage to take more control of my imagery and trust my vision.
PHOTOGRAPHYSILO.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?
TAURAN WOO: I have office space where I meet clients, but not a studio. I do find the need to shoot studio photos sometimes, and I will usually either set things up on location or at my house. I don’t believe it’s essential for a wedding photographer though, unless they’ve built in a product in their repertoire that requires it – I’d say most don’t know how to use the lights anyways, so it’s a no-brainer. I do some corporate headshot work, families, school photos and some fashion where I need the lights and convenience of a studio atmosphere. Not surprisingly, I do almost all of my engagement work on location, and we’re very lucky here in California to have such a variety of choices when it comes to locations. When asked where my favorite location is, I usually say that it’s “somewhere I’ve never shot before.” There are some very popular locations that we all use a lot, and I actually find it easier to approach a location with fresh eyes than risk repeating myself on something I had done earlier. If I have to answer the question though, I’d say, Paris, Australia, and Maldives. There, I said it – someone hire me to go there please! haha
PHOTOGRAPHYSILO.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?
TAURAN WOO: The advice I can give to photographers who are looking to expand their sphere of influence is to get to know more influential people! Almost all of my peripheral work has been an outgrowth of a friendship or a casual relationship. I’ve done work for actors, musicians, athletes, magazines, restaurants, non-profits, video game companies, other corporate work, all from connections that were not related to weddings. Learn to talk to people, be friendly, and when the opportunity presents itself, mention what you do! You may be surprised at what opportunities come your way when you share something about yourself with someone, and to get to know them as well! Are you a shy person and find it hard to start conversations with other people? You’re probably going to have a hard time, that’s the truth.
PHOTOGRAPHYSILO.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?
TAURAN WOO: I’m just like everyone else, I’m trying to figure out the next thing! I’m still in weddings, and I plan to continue to strive to give folks the very best photography in the world, combined with the finest quality and service. I never considered myself a person who would enjoy running a huge multi-photographer studio. I love doing all the creative work, and I don’t think I’ve ever shown any talent at being a manager. However, I am considering expanding a bit and streamlining my own role in the company. I’m also planning to develop some of my own personal projects, and of course some teaching material. I do mentor young photographers and enjoy that very much. I’d love to reach more people who are in need of a teacher willing to show them all the essential skills they are going to need if they want to have a thriving photography business.
I don’t have any immediate plans to put my teaching into print form, but it’s certainly part of my long-term plan. If there is someone out there thinking of publishing material on the subject, I would definitely recommend that they first off, make the book relevant and appealing to young people entering the industry. I think most of the openness to learning and enthusiasm lie in that group. People who have been in the industry awhile tend to be set in their ways, and many of them think they know it all already, so they’ll never buy a book from you! Also, do your research and get your facts and technical stuff right, because with social media, people tend to be vicious and will tear you apart if they smell a fraud.
PHOTOGRAPHYSILO.COM: A lot of professional wedding photographers are starting to run workshops. Will you start offering workshops in the future?
TAURAN WOO: Haha, true! Actually I’ve already given two: one in China, with my good friends Scott Robert Lim and Zabrina & Jeremy from JEZA photography, and one in San Francisco, again with my friends Zabrina & Jeremy. I do sincerely feel that workshops are still the single best way for aspiring wedding photographers to quickly gain the knowledge they need, help them gain the experience they require to build their confidence when they encounter a real-life shooting scenario, and meet with other photographers and vendors who will be an integral part of their network. I do have another one planned, either later this year or early next year – it’s gonna be special, stay tuned! I’ll be making all workshop related announcements on my Facebook page www.facebook.com/TauranPhotography
PHOTOGRAPHYSILO.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?
TAURAN WOO: It’s really important to keep your finger on the pulse of the current tastes. A lot of established studios bit the dust because they stayed with the status-quo and kept doing things as they had always done them and simply weren’t flexible enough to learn new things, change their style, or adapt to modern tastes. I believe that photography is always evolving, and the market will show us if we need to incorporate a new medium into our products. On a personal level, I’m still a student of photography. It’s my love, so I spend most of my time with the still image.
PHOTOGRAPHYSILO.COM: Ok so thinking about the future and how it is very important in any endeavor especially the professional wedding photography business. What do you suggest wedding photographers do in the future to solidify their presence in the photography industry? What will you do to ensure that you remain on top, not taking into account your photography niche?
TAURAN WOO: There are those who think that being a really good photographer is enough, and there are those who think that being a really savvy businessman is enough. Well, to be honest I’ve seen some people with mega talent barely have enough to rub two pennies together, and I’ve seen some embarrassingly untalented photographer wannabees making some very nice money out there.
PHOTOGRAPHYSILO.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.
TAURAN WOO: To those just starting out: I’d say to find someone who you admire and learn all you can from that person. There’s nothing more helpful than a mentor to accelerate your success than someone who has already done it! To those who have been at this a while: just because you’ve achieved success in the past years doesn’t mean that you can continue doing the same things and the business will still continue to roll in. Keep innovating, tweaking, and improving the way you do things, and keep your outlook on the business fresh and aware of what’s going on today! To everyone: We all got into this business because of the camera, so keep your love of photography alive, keep growing in your creativity, encourage and contribute to the creative community and you will prolong your passion for your photography business!