Today’s wedding photographer interview is with Vivian from Vivian Chen Photography, based in Oakland, CA! Enjoy:
Tell us a bit about yourself and your company.
My name is Vivian Chen and I’m a San Francisco Bay Area wedding and portrait photographer based out of Oakland. I’ve been shooting since 2006 and I’m fond of using natural light, keeping my photos clean and classic while capturing genuine emotions and allowing moments to unfold naturally.
Read the full interview after the cut!
I believe in photographing weddings in a way that really let each couple’s individual personalities stand out by making them feel comfortable in front of the lens. I seek to strike a balance between beautiful and practical. I love to photograph couples who are just like me: down-to-earth with a sense of humor. Weddings come in all shapes and sizes, and I believe they should be a reflection of who you are as a couple and not what everyone else says you’re supposed to be. It’s essential that I deliver photographs that can be cherished for generations because they will always feel true to who the couple is, no matter how much time has passed. When all is said and done, it’s a celebration of love and commitment, not a magazine photoshoot. Because I believe that reality can be just as fabulous as fantasy.
How did you get into wedding photography?
I’ve always been interested in art as a child and photography was something I picked up in high school and in college. However it was after I graduated college and had too much free time being an unemployed college graduate living at home that I turned to my camera to stay sane. When I moved to San Francisco, I had various photography jobs from shooting for a hip hop magazine, working a photo/green screen booth at the SF Zoo and taking pictures of newborns at hospitals. It wasn’t until I found a job doing post production with a local wedding photographer that the seed was planted for my own photography business and it’s grown ever since. If I can make a genuine connection with my couples and tell their story by photographing moments that they may not even notice, then I’ve done my job.
What is your favorite part of the wedding day to capture?
Can I have two favorites? For me, it would be getting ready and the toasts. The anticipatory energy in the room during the getting ready part of the day always makes for moving photos. It’s the shift in emotions that happens when the bride puts on the finishing touches to her outfit, whether it’s the veil or shoes or earrings and she turns to her friends in the room. That’s when everything feels so real. I love seeing the joy and excitement in their faces because they realize the wedding is really happening. That’s when they finally feel like a bride! I love that! As for the toasts, I love capturing the couple’s reactions to the toasts: the gut-busting laughter from funny and embarrassing stories to teary-eyed, heartfelt reactions to touching professions of love. This is also an opportunity for me to learn more about the couple and what makes their story unique.
What is the most awkward moment you’ve experienced while on the job?
At one of the first weddings I shot, the groom’s uncle took it upon himself to photograph the wedding as well. Even though I politely told him that I need my space to do the job I was hired to do, he still pushed me out of the way during the ceremony. Luckily, I was able to stand my ground, but I was mortified. While I’ve had to deal with guest photographers since then, it was the first (and hopefully only) time that someone physically disrespected me to get the shot.
What’s the best thing you ever ate at a wedding?
Besides my own wedding cake from our wedding, the best thing I’ve ever ate was the red velvet wedding cake from the Fairmont in San Francisco. I salivate every time I think about that cake. Mmm…
What is your favorite venue and why?
My favorite venue is any time I get to shoot in couple’s private homes and backyards. There’s something so personal about having a wedding ceremony in someone’s backyard. Whether it’s the house the bride grew up in or the groom’s sister opens up her home for the ceremony, these “venues” always have such personality and depth.
Nikon or Canon?
I shoot with Nikon for my business but during the six years I was second shooting for Michelle Walker Photography, I used her Canon cameras. I’m comfortable using both and happy with both. (Because really, it’s not about the equipment, it’s what you do with it that matters.)
What is your dream location to shoot a wedding?
Anywhere in Asia, specifically Taiwan. I was born there and my parents moved back recently and I absolutely love visiting. It’s such a beautiful island with so much variety from the metropolitan cities like Taipei to the lush gorgeous Eastern coastal spots like Taroko Gorge to the small rural town of Shui Di Liao in Ping Tung County where my mother grew up. It’s just so visually different from wedding locations that I usually work and I would love to not only capture a couple’s special day but also include the local culture in my photographs.
If you could shoot any celebrity wedding (past, present or future), who would be the lucky couple?
Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally. They are both talented actors with impeccable comedic timing and seem like an absolutely goofy and fun couple to be around. Their engagement story just cracks me up (he faked the proposal three times, each time pranking her by dropping stunt rings) and I’d imagine that relaxed and hilarious energy would be present during their wedding day.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned, and would pass along to other new wedding photographers just getting started?
Make sure to know who you are as a photographer. Pay attention to what your strengths and weaknesses are and learn from your mistakes. Ignore everyone else and be yourself, be genuine. Your personality can not be replicated and at the end of the day, it’s who you are that will make you stand out from the crowd. Also, SCHEDULE TIME OFF. Taking time for yourself is essential to maintaining a healthy work/life balance. It refuels the fire and keeps your work feeling fresh.
Thank you Vivian! For more information about Vivian Chen Photography, please visit her WeddingPhotoLove Profile or head straight to her website.
Do you have any questions or comments for Vivian? Add them to the comments below!