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December 6, 2012
 

WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER INTERVIEW – Zabrina Deng of JEZA photography

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Written by: Lawrence
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“1st client was a friend of my friends. They hired us after looking at pictures we posted on Facebook shot from Scott’s China workshop in October 2009. “

ZABRINA DENG

PAST

PHOTOGRAPHYSILO.COM: In your early years of high school, were you involved in the yearbook ? What sparked your interest in photography?

ZABRINA DENG:
I did not hire a professional photographer for my own wedding.  The photographs we received from friends who helped us to take pictures on our wedding day were great group pictures, but they do not convey romance nor tell the story of how our wedding day unfolded. Being a hopeless romantic, not hiring a professional photographer was one of the biggest disappointments for my entire process of the wedding. Ever since then, I’ve been reading blogs on wedding photography and how wedding photos should be captured.  I then stumble across a blog site written by Scott Robert Lim (www.scottrobertgallery.com). Scott’s wedding images are filled with romance, beautiful portraiture of the groom & bride, candid moments of family and many other wonderful pictures captured from every single wedding he posted on his blog. When Scott posted on his blog about his upcoming photography workshop to Beijing China in October of 2009, I convinced my husband Jeremy & I both go along. After coming back from Scott’s workshop in China, Jeremy and I were really inspired and learned a huge deal of information about lighting & posing in the art of portraiture. We then shot our very first wedding as a husband and wife team in November of 2009. That was the kick start of our wedding photography business and have been photographing wedding every since.

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?

ZABRINA DENG:

Sure, the earliest pictures I’ve shot were back in June 2008, I’ve borrowed Jeremy’s DSLR to take picture for my good friends Wendy & Jacky for fun. See link –

http://www.flickr.com/photos/fashiondiva/3403208123/in/datetaken/

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.

ZABRINA DENG:

I will recommend go to art museums for the artistic inspiration. Watch documentary movies of any kind to help increase our sensitive to life. Invest in education, such as taking workshops from photographer masters, attending seminar & conventions, competition to broaden your perspective. 

A few books I’ve read in the past I recommend to business owners of all kinds: 

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Last Lecture: by Randy Pausch
Purple Cow, New Edition: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by  Seth Godi

For those who are in the creative field: 
It’s Not How Good You Are, Its How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden

Like I mentioned before, attending workshop from Scott Robert Lim was one of the greatest stepping stone for us to transition ourselves from hobbyist to amateur, from amateur to professional. Being part of the Scott Robert Photography student community really allowed us to have this strong community and group where we often trade advice in anything photography related online. From image critique before entering print competition, to marketing, lighting techniques, phone skills, even to fish out coupon code for online shopping, we are always active in posting questions & answers for each other. Since we lived in San Francisco Bay Area, we are connected with Scott’s local students here, and do 2nd shoot for each other, I think this is a great way to figure out things together by 2nd shooting. And have this support system so that we don’t feel so lonely to do the things we do – on becoming a wedding photographer full time against our parents will. 😛

Also one particular website I did a lot of research and gotten a lot of help on getting start on wedding photography, was this group on flickr called “SWPB – Starting in Wedding Photography Business”. This group has now changed to “SWPB – Succeeding as a Wedding Photography Business.” I still go read on this group to see what people post and etc. I found this group to be one of the greatest resources to see what the industry peers are doing, especially a lot of them were starting out back around the same time as me (back in 2009). This has been a tremendous free resources where I heavily relied on finding information about the wedding photography biz.

http://www.flickr.com/groups/startingaweddingbiz/

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?

ZABRINA DENG:

1st client was a friend of my friends. They hired us after looking at pictures we posted on Facebook shot from Scott’s China workshop in October 2009. It was $1300 to hire both me and Jeremy photograph their wedding together and we drove about 2 hrs to its destination to for this wedding. Once we had our first job, the 2nd one came from the referral from the 1st job. It wasn’t too difficult back then to get jobs for the rate we were charging. After shooting a few jobs, we had to post images frequently on facebook, our blog, wedding wire and flickr. To have consistent update on our blog is essential to get new jobs I think.


PRESENT

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?

ZABRINA DENG:
I believe having great images and consistent style was our way of branding. We are still not making enough as in comparison of what we were making back with an office job. But we live a life with freedom and passion. We feel so alive and extremely happy with things we do (not having to go to an office job!) even though the money is still not rolling at this point, we have faith that by staying true to our passion, producing excellence in our craft, our brand will get noticed. I don’t mind to stay hungry, so that we’ll desperately do whatever it takes to make it. For weekend photographers trying to make it into professional wedding photography, photographing people has to be your true passion to make it.

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?

What we bring for wedding assignments: 
Nikon D700
Nikon D600
Nikon D300
Nikon D300s
SONY NEX5 & NEX5N

Camera Bag – Think tank Airport Take Off
Lens: Nikon 24-70mm F2.8; 50mm F1.4; 80mm  F1.8; Sigma 30 mm F1.4; Sigma 24-70 F2.8; SONY NEX 16mm F2.8
Lighting:
Nikon Flash SB800 x 3;
SRS Strobies 130 x4;
SRS Killer Video Video Light x2;
SRS Tiny Triggers x 2 sets
CTO Gel
Manfotto Light stands x 3
What we bring for engagement session:
Nikon D700
Nikon D600
SONY NEX5N
Nikon 24-70mm F2.8; 50mm F1.4; 80mm  F1.8
SRS Strobies 130 x4;  SRS Killer Video Video Light x2; SRS Tiny Triggers x 2 sets
Manfotto Light stands x 1

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.

ZABRINA DENG:

Paris Mon Amour – Engagement Session of Ana Paula & Nadjim in Paris 
http://jezaphoto.smugmug.com/EngagementSession/Paris-Mon-Amour/17106790_ZXLGXV#!i=1296288369&k=ZCXWTNw
One of my favorite session of all time were from photos we’ve took of Ana Paula & Nadjim, a local parisian couple we photographed them around the entire city of Paris. I’ve always enjoyed watching french films, and what makes french film so romantic was their lighting & the mood of those movies. So after I’ve met Anna Paula & Nadjim in Paris over coffee, I know I have to design a session for them to be very “French”!! We love this session because it was very spontaneous. We use what we see along the street as props, the tourists, the cafes, the city lights. It was our dream to photography a stylized shoot similar to clips we’ve seen from french movies. I think this session was well accomplished of what we wanted to convey in an engagement session: the romance, the Parisian way of living, the fashion style, the culture of wine & cusine, art & music, the careless attitude, love like there is no tomorrow & dance til the sun rise by the Eiffel Tower.

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?

ZABRINA DENG:
We have photographed engagement session all over the place. From local assignments from San Francisco City Hall to financial district, to Golden Gate park, Chinatown, wide open field, unique hotels. There isn’t any particular favorite spot sort of speak for us because we like to custom design each individual couple’s engagement session. We go wherever makes most sense to photograph them depending on how we want to tell their story. However, I do have 3 favorite engagement/pre-wedding session of all time:

Shanghai –
http://jezaphoto.smugmug.com/EngagementSession/Shanghai-engagement-IMMORTAL/21295706_z5TnsW#!i=1695683973&k=nnj4RVL

Florence Italy –
http://jezaphoto.smugmug.com/EngagementSession/Karen/26248685_sXx6Lq#!i=2185172925&k=HMMDjzB

Paris –
http://jezaphoto.smugmug.com/EngagementSession/Paris-Mon-Amour/17106790_ZXLGXV#!i=1296288369&k=ZCXWTNw

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?

ZABRINA DENG:

Recently I’ve photographed an editorial for a hair accessory brand name “Poppyheart.” It is my wish to do more fashion editorial photo shoot outside of the wedding photography. At this point, I’m trying to figure out how to diversify too because I do love Fashion photography.

http://jezaphoto.smugmug.com/Fashion/Poppyheart/23995934_sjsg5q#!i=1947743915&k=mmV7gcB


FUTURE

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?

ZABRINA DENG:
My immediate goal as a wedding photographer for 2013 is to fill up more for destination engagement and pre-wedding photo shoots. We hope to go to Europe twice next year and once to China and our goal is to shoot around 4 sessions per destination.

Not planning to release any how-to books because we are terrible in writing.

PHOTOGRAPHYSILO.COM: A lot of professional wedding photographers are starting to run workshops. Will you start offering workshops in the future?

ZABRINA DENG:
We are currently offering a three day Wedding & Engagement workshop along with Tauran Photography on December 7 – 9 in San Francisco. See this link for more info.

http://www.jezaphoto.com/2012/11/jeza-x-tauran-san-francisco-wedding-photography-workshop/

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?

ZABRINA DENG:
As the technology being so advance everyday and the camera can do a lot of work to take a well exposed picture. As well as fast lens and new camera technology can catch million frames per second. I’ve seen new photographers in the industry shoots like machine gun, try to catch every single moment whether it’s good, bad or ugly. This method requires a enormous size hard drives as well as labor intensive for the post-production to choose the right picture. And the capability of extracting frames from HD videos can enable more moments captured by the video than still photography. I think in 5 years photographers who shoot 100% pure wedding day photojournalism may face huge challenges of videographers coming into the market. Those photographers who do both portraiture & photojournalism have longevity over the technology challenges. I think to take a portraiture of someone using the right lighting, the right posing, us saying the right words to lead the subject to convey the right emotion, to create certain mood is not something can be replaceable by camera.

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?

ZABRINA DENG:
The wedding clients only get pickier when choosing a photographer because we have more supply (the photographers) than demand. The strongest and the most unique business will survive in such large competition. I think being in a photography business keep us always in the competitive edge by being more creative. With more and more new emerging photographers coming into this business charging lower prices and providing more products to their customers, the only way to keep ourselves to have the market advantage is to keep producing creative and excellent work. Such as by entering various worldwide photography competition, and to photograph our own personal art projects will keep our passion for photography alive.

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.

ZABRINA DENG:
Having something unique and stay true to yourself is the key factor of success.

About Zabrina Deng:
Zabrina Deng is a Northern California based Asian American photographer that has traveled the world capturing couples sharing their moments of love, joy and romance.

She was born and grew up in GuangZhou China and currently resides in San Francisco bay area with her husband and fellow photographer, Jeremy Chan. Together, they have a successful award-winning wedding and portrait photography business, JeZa Photography. JeZa Photography was named one of the 30 Rising Stars of Wedding Photography by RangeFinder Magazine November issue of 2012. 

Zabrina was mentored by renowned master photographer Scott Robert Lim. Zabrina has won over 30 international awards and accolades. She is the first Asian American female photographer has received two International the Year awards: International Photojournalism Image & Wedding Image of the Year at 2012’s WPPI award ceremony Las Vegas; she also has won five 1st place and two 2nd place in International Wedding & Portrait Photo competition (WPPI) in 2011 & 2012. 

Her work has been published numerous times in magazines and publications internationally. Such as Master Photographer Vol1, Vogue Italia, Elle Wedding, Cosmopolitan Bride, Today Bride China, Digital Weekly Magazine, RangeFinder & many more. 

Zabrina has a keen sense of style and strives towards perfection of the smallest details that will bring out the beauty of her subject. Her work is inspired by love, faith, relationships, and a strong and unique style derived from her passion of fashion and culture. She loves to shoot on-location and thrives on capturing the beauty and affection between two people in her lens.

Stockpile of all things PHOTOGRAPHY geared for men.
Zabrina Deng of Jeza Photography Interview
portrait photographers based in San Francisco Bay Area. We have been named as the 30 Rising Stars of Wedding Photography of 2012 in RangeFinder Magazine November issue. We are also two times international image of the year & five times 1st place winners of Wedding Portraits and Professional International 2011. On top of our numerous achievements in 2011, we are also the processor over 30+ award winning photos of WPPI 2010 & 2011.
5 / 5 stars

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About the Author

Lawrence
Lawrence Atienza is a Jack of all Trades and Master of ALL. Whether it be in the realm of Advertising/Advertising operations with over 10+ years of experience to dabbling in the creative realm of photography and founding/writing for http://www.PhotographySILO.com, Lawrence Atienza gives his all. You can find him on Google+,Twitter and the major social media outlets.



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