[title subtitle="Forever frozen in time"]Cynthia Chung Photography[/title]
Cynthia, or really, Cynthia Chung to newly-engaged lovebirds and brides-to-be, has this energetic soul that can brighten up anyone’s day. Her willingness to listen, her never-ending fountain of encouraging words, and her outgoing personality make her my favorite wedding photographer and all around friend.
With wedding fever in the air, I thought there was no time like the present to introduce you to the mastermind behind Cynthia Chung Photography. In fact, I even managed to wrangle out a few posing tips! If there's anything you can learn from this truly creative soul, it's that the right wedding photographer makes the world of a difference.
So, Cynthia, how long have you been a wedding photographer for? Why don't you tell our readers what inspired this career.
I've always loved to create art with different mediums as a young child. I loved to draw, paint, and create things with my hands so, naturally, I enrolled in a specialized art high school in New York City, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. After receiving my camera from my father on a summer trip to Hong Kong, I enrolled in every photography class I could [there].
Back then, digital photography was still a very, very new technology so I learned how to roll, develop, and enlarge black and white films. I became obsessed. [Then], at 16, one of my teachers saw my enthusiasm and [found] me an internship with a high-end wedding photographer. That was how I was introduced to this field.
Then on, I knew I wanted to do wedding photography. I enjoyed the fast-paced [picture taking] and the beautiful locations and venues. So, I decided to pursue photography in college. After graduating from the Rochester Institute of Technology, I began working full time at an ad agency then through a few different life circumstances, then decided to freelance full time. It's been 5 years since I've been doing wedding photography full time!
What's so special about photography?
I love that photography has the ability to bring you back to a [specific] moment in time, whether it a funny, sweet, embarrassing, candid, or just plain awesome [one]. [Regardless the] moment, the best part is knowing that it was forever frozen in time through an image.
In a world of photographers, how do you make yourself stand out? What’s your niche?
I believe that if you [devote] yourself to your passion and your art, your personality will shine through. That is what [ultimately] draws people to your work. The GIFs that I create are never planned out! It just happens organically, and people really love them, and love having it as part of their wedding day memory collection.
Ooo! Show us one of your favorite GIFs!
Here is a 3-set GIF made with different frames of the couple coming into the middle for a kiss. It's super cute!
When photographing your clients, how do you help them feel comfortable?
I love getting to know my clients. When I get to know them as people, I get to understand their personalities and what makes them laugh. This has been the key factor in getting some great candid shots is having them feel comfortable around me as a friend first then as a photographer.
Do you have a signature shot? Or does the relationship and chemistry between the two partners speak for themselves?
Before any session, I always let my couples know that their personality runs the show. My job is to be able to capture their authentic chemistry and relationship–no two sessions are ever the same. However, I do have control over the settings and location of the shots. I always love a really rugged, industrial setting for a backdrop. I always love looking for an "unusual" spot that most people wouldn't see as a "good photo spot" but I compose the shot creatively so that the end result is a photo that is super interesting to look at.
What posing advice do you usually give your clients?
Being relaxed is so vital! When I see them stiff or a little uncomfortable, I have them take a few deep breaths or I tell them a joke. Then, we all restart the pose. I love to tell them is to ignore me completely. [They should] enjoy the moment to themselves. I'll just be in the background shooting away!
Do they ask you to Photoshop certain things? Where do you stand in terms of photo editing certain things (body part, etc.)?
Of course I make every effort to photograph the couple in flattering angles. They're beautiful in real life and they will be beautiful in their photographs. I don't Photoshop anyone's body or body part. As a documentary photographer, I tell my couples that I'm going to keep things as real as they are.
Okay, question: is the whole “bridezilla” thing a myth?
A wedding day can be a super stressful day. Anyone can lose their cool in high-stress situations. To be honest, all of my brides have been exceptionally great to me.
Engagement photos vs. wedding photos, which do you prefer?
Hmm, they're both different and they're both fun in their own way. Engagement sessions are obviously more chill and I can take my time to perfect the shot. Wedding days are a little more hectic, fun-on-the run kind of deal but exciting as well!
Where are your favorite secret places for photo sessions?
The weirder and edgier the space, the more interesting and fun it is for me to make into gorgeous and interesting [backdrops].
There’s currently a lot of hype surrounding how pricy/overpriced the wedding industry is. Do you have any thoughts on that? How would you advise couples on picking their photographer? Does it have to do with price?
Haha, if you ask me, photographers don't get paid enough! Photographers that are seasoned and experienced have all the knowledge and wisdom to navigate the wedding day so that everything goes smoothly. It's not an easy task! We're the photographer, the coordinator, the psychiatrist, the friend and helpful hand all day. All 8-14 hours, depending on the wedding schedule. So maybe I'm partial, but I think the price you pay your experienced photographer is worth every penny.
How do you stay motivated in this kind of industry?
I'm motivated because I know that every time I go to shoot, there will always be a few shots that are SO awesome that I even surprise myself! It could be a new angle, a new location, a shared moment between a couple, a shred of light that hits ever-so-perfectly–there's always something that makes me go, "Wow. THIS is why I love my job!" That's what keeps me going. It also really helps to live in NYC. Nothing is ever predictable here.
Any other advice for those aspiring to be a photographer?
Work hard. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you aren't good enough or that your "vision" is incorrect. Stick with what draws you aesthetically and pursue, pursue, pursue!