Richard's Photographer Spotlight: Jen Huang
Today in Richard's Photog Spotlight, it's Jen Huang! Jen's fine art photography, from weddings and lifestyle to travel and commercial, combines stunning natural light with pops of color. Today on the blog, she's sharing all about when she uses film versus digital, practicing arts of all kinds at her Artist Holiday workshop, and exactly how much of a photo's look is influenced by a film lab. So, sit back, get cozy, and learn a bit more about photographer Jen Huang!
Richard: What first sparked your passion for photography?
Jen Huang: My father taught me to take photos on his Nikon 35mm camera as soon as I could hold it still. I remember helping him load the film, and he even taught me to do double exposures. He was always a big photography hobbyist and started out on medium format cameras even before I was born. He gave me the tools to learn all the basics. I remember in middle school, I took a darkroom class that taught me how to develop and print—that's probably what sealed the deal!
R: Making the leap from photography as a personal passion to a paying gig is a big one... how did you decide to pursue it as a career?
JH: I knew I didn't want a nine-to-five job—it just didn't feel right to me—and there was always something nagging at me to pursue my own career. Although photography was always a hobby, I didn't realize it could be a career until my weekend jobs started paying more than my actual job. That's when I decided to take the leap, and I haven't looked back since.
R: When you aren't shooting for clients, what do you LOVE to photograph?
JH: I would say my dogs, but they have been replaced by my seven month old son! I love photographing him, and our times together as a family. I also love taking personal photos on my travels for work. New lands, new light, new moments—love it!
R: How do you find a balance between being creatively fulfilled and paying the bills?
JH: For me, I try to see every wedding in a different way, every couple is different, and every day is different. I have certain formulas I like to follow, but for the most part, I let a location and the light of day determine what direction the photos go in. Of course, if you're a wedding photographer, you can't choose to be totally "creative" on a certain day and not shoot anything that your client's expect or have requested—you have to do the best you can to bring your consistent eye and talent to the day. That being said, a wedding is not the time to experiment.
I think it's important to have projects or jobs outside of the wedding world to keep yourself "seeing" in different ways. I also think you have to practice art in all different formats—not just photography—in order to understand how to become more and more creative. For example, at my Artist Holiday workshop, all attendees practice artforms like floral design, calligraphy, and styling in addition to photography. Acquiring these basic skills and refining them allow a photographer (or any other type of artist) to see the world in a different way, from a different perspective.
R: What is your favorite camera?
JH: I shoot on two primary cameras, the Contax 645 and the Canon 5D Mark 3. I spend most of my time on the Contax 645; the photos captured on it are just gorgeous! The Mark 3 comes out in the late evening when natural light is gone, and I need a higher speed ISO to capture movement without a flash.
R: What's your first memory of shooting film, and why do you continue to shoot it as a pro photographer?
JH: I started really young, so it's a bit of a blur, but I remember shooting my first wedding with film and thinking, "Okay, that's gorgeous, I only want to shoot gorgeous images from now on at weddings. Anything that doesn't look gorgeous doesn't make the cut."
R: Why is it important to have continuous communication with your lab(s)?
JH: It's super important to communicate because, actually, I believe the lab is at least 50% of the final product... as in, a lab makes a huge difference in how my images look. Because I've worked with Richard for such a long time, I've refined my personal look and my personal shooting style so I can get scans back that are pretty much perfect. That's the whole point in a relationship—the silent understanding that you're both trying to become better.
R: Do you have any pre-shoot rituals?
JH: Before a wedding, I like to have a quiet night at home to energize. Although I love a glass of wine here or there, I never drink any type of alcohol the night before a wedding, and I hydrate a lot the day before and the day-of the event.
R: Let’s play a game of “Either/Or”! Savory or sweet?
R: Chocolate or vanilla?
R: Dogs or cats?
R: Urban or rural?
R: Vintage or modern?
JH: Modern vintage.
R: Biggie or Tupac?
R: Warm weather or cold weather?
JH: Warm weather.
R: Early bird or night owl?
JH: Night owl, but nowadays I'm a grumpy early bird because of the baby.
R: Crossword or Sudoku?
R: Breakfast or dinner?
R: Batman or Superman?
JH: Thor/Arya Stark.
R: Historical Non-fiction or SciFi/Fantasy?
R: Truth or dare?
R: What song do you listen to to get pumped up?
JH: I pretty much just listen to Top 40 whenever I want to feel happy or energized!
R: If you weren't a photographer, what would you be when you grow up?
JH: A creative director.
R: If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?
JH: To speak and understand every language.
R: What is your favorite word, and why?
JH: Right now, "awoo"—it's the sound my baby keeps making, and it's very cute.