Guess what? What? I had a photoshoot for myself done! I know right, me? In FRONT of the camera? I actually think it’s a great exercise for photographers to go through – get in front of the camera, so that you better understand how your subjects feel! My own in(SCP)iration shoot was a collaboration between me and two of my second shooters – Tammy Hui did the shooting, and together with Emily Ku and me, we collaborated on the art direction together. I styled the shoot myself and edited the photos, that’s why with so many authors I decided not to watermark these (besides, who would be silly enough to steal a photo of me? haha!). Danielle Ross did my makeup and I got my hair cut at Hair Adventure. I’ll share with you guys the whole story.
Anticipation. Oh gosh, I had no idea just how MUCH anticipation goes into these shoots, now I know why all my clients walk in so nervous / excited! My original vision for my in(SCP)iration shoots was that they would CELEBRATE you, the subject, at that moment in your life, a time capsule into who you are and your fashion, style, and personality. I created this line almost as my answer to the popular “glamour shots” that come out of Asia, the ones that are over-photoshopped, over-posed, where they make our skin super-white and have their own strange wardrobe to pick from. The only time I had a photo session like that done was back in 2005, and I hated it so much because I did not look like myself – I did not feel that it was a genuine portrait. I crafted this line of photo sessions to empower you, all you have to aspire to was to be the best version of yourself. So dear readers, if you want Asian studio glamour shots – either from lifestyle photography or from wedding photography – please don’t inquire with me, I’m not that kind of photographer, and I don’t mean to alienate a large number of Asians who respond to that photography, style is personal, but you’d waste your time trying to force me to photograph like that.
As for planning for the shoot, it was tough! The dress gave me the most headache! It was way too large when I bought it and I stupidly took it to a dry cleaner to get altered. She messed it up. This weekend I finally found some time ad frantically ran out to Even, who specializes in bridal alterations, out in Newton (thanks Samantha for the rec!). She turned the dress around quickly and though I did pay a steep price, at least it now fits perfectly. Then came the shoes. I have a personal appreciation for beautiful and daring shoes but actually most of the shoes I own are rather plain and tattered. So I bought these fabulous pink shoes off of Zappos, but had to try twice because the first pair was too small.
I originally wanted to go out deep into the suburbs for this shoot because I found some amazing spots, but we knew with the state of traffic here it was not going to be a possibility. It was certainly a bummer not to go to my #1 location, but we made #2 work. In retrospect that was also a great lesson – that one needs to be flexible and reasonable.
The makeup! Wow, I can’t stop singing the praises of Danielle. She has so much experience and really is an artist. She came to apply my makeup at 1PM, I didn’t have the shoot until 6PM, and the makeup did not smudge at all nor did any lashes fall out! She worked to enhance my Asian eyes, and I know a lot of Asians fear that American makeup artists won’t understand how to make our eyes look bigger (key: Little to NO eyeliner on the bottom lid!) She works so fast, she is punctual and made me feel completely fabulous, and she is so reasonably priced. Ladies, if you’re not used to wearing a lot of makeup like I am, the first time you see yourself in the mirror, you may think, “it looks too much!” Trust me, it won’t photograph that heavily. Also, my skin broke out soooo much this week from all the stress, and I’m just so glad I had a professional take care of concealing it. And of course, for the one large pimple that I had an issue with, there is always the Spot Healing Brush Tool in Photoshop ;) In the end after reviewing the photos I knew that the makeup was just right!
I came pretty prepared for the shoot – with lots of props and stuff. I think one should definitely dream big for shoots. And again, I think styled shoots have their place. In the end, I realized this is how I felt about having great photos:
1) Great chemistry with the photographer. It definitely helps that I’m completely comfortable with my photographers to the point where I’d throw caution to the wind and change in front of them in the middle of our shoot! Tammy and Emily, thank you two for putting up with my neurotic planning and direction all through this entire process
2) Communication with the photographer is so key – if you like something and don’t like something, just say it, the right photographer won’t take offense unless you’re being completely unreasonable. Photogs, get in front of the camera and you will realize just how unclear your own directions can sound to your subjects, and how much MORE you should be talking especially if you’re working one-on-one in a session (photojournalistic capture during a wedding, that’s different). Even having been photographed several times before, I still wanted direction. Even though I had the artistic vision for the photo shoot, I needed my photographer to translate it for me, to imagine it for me
3) Reviewing photographs is okay and recommended! I try to show my clients a couple shots off the back of the camera (photographer’s term: “chimping”) in the first 10 – 20 minutes of a session so we can quickly review any issues that first pop up. This will quickly build trust between the photographer and the subject so that you don’t have to do it for the rest of the session
4) The photo above of me rifling through my bags was really candid, but in a sneak peek to my friends, two of them voted this one as their favorite. It made me realize sometimes that the candid photos are the ones that truly show who the person is, which is why the photojournalistic technique of wedding photography remains popular
5) I just had to be myself, and be natural! Even though styled shoots are great, you have to choose props that are YOU. I chose to bring my first film SLR, as well as the red ribbon I often use to decorate the client discs that I send out. Sometimes I wanted a really serious look but five seconds later I’ll break into my silly smile, and in the end most if not all of my favorite photos were ones where I was just being comfortably me. I love my big smiles, even if my teeth aren’t perfect! When my clients don’t like to show their teeth when they smile, it makes me a little perplexed. I think 99% of the time, people look best when they have smiles with teeth. It just looks better, trust me!
6) I liked natural editing! After trying all sorts of editing techniques that I was capable, I realized that in the end I liked my natural color the most. And though I soften eye lines, I don’t edit like magazines and get rid of them completely unless a client requests so because that is just weird-looking. I’m not really much of a vintage color person, I’ll do a little bit of it for my clients especially if their weddings are vintage inspired, but I think my style is best described as naturally colorful, energetic, and with personality. The key words to my brand =)
7) Go the distance and try something new! Tammy first had me do this funny pose that involved me sprawled on the ground, well, it didn’t come out the way we had it in our heads, but after I shifted into another pose it completely worked. Also, I rarely, if ever, walk barefoot outside, but I knew bare feet would work with the white dress, so I sucked it up and did it and was glad! Even if I do have a giant mosquito bite from the shoot!
Thank you, THANK YOU to everyone who made this possible. It was definitely one of my biggest wishes for this summer!