The MISSBISH Photography Workshop | Carmen Chan
DateSeptember 15, 2015
Photographer: Carmen Chan
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Style: Natural, calm, slightly ethereal. My favorite thing to shoot is lifestyle/portraits; candid or posed, and environmental portraits especially in spaces that have been lived/worked in. I’m super curious about people and their stories, decisions, lives, past, and always in awe of creative talent of any form.
Equipment: For work – Nikon D700 or D800. For personal – iPhone, Pentax K1000, Mamiya RZ67.
Lenses: Nikon 35mm 1.4 and Sigma 50mm 1.4. I love to shoot at a really shallow depth of field (soft foregrounds/backgrounds) to help draw focus to the subject with less distraction from the background. I also like to add blurred objects into the foreground to frame the subject or obscure things in the frame. These focal lengths also allow me to include some environment in the frame to help tell the story – but not wide enough to lose the importance of the subject in the image. Shooting with a prime lens (fixed focal length/not zoom) also forces me to physically move around to compose my image, I think this is important.
Filter or nah? If you do use filters, what are your favorites?
For IG I use VSCOCam (currently liking C5 and Q8) and I sometimes start with VSCO presets in Lightroom for work but I always fine tune every image for consistent results.
What is one piece of gear/accessory besides your camera and lenses that you can’t live without?
There are so many items that are crucial to my workflow – card reader, back up drives, waterproof card case, laptop. If I’m shooting film then definitely a light meter (although the iPhone has a great light meter app) One thing I CAN live without when I’m shooting – a tripod. For the type of things that I shoot, a tripod means I’m anchored and immobile – unable to change my angle and the ability to be fluid with my composition.
“Every time I have a chance to explore a new place, make a new friend or work with friends, or learn something new is a favorite moment in my book!”
Favorite photographers? Kalle Gustafsson, Rinko Kawauchi, Rich Stapleton, Miss Bean, Hideaki Hamada, Sean Marc Lee, Bryan Derballa, and Ryan McGinley.
How long have you been into photography? What have been your favorite moments? Most memorable portraits you’ve shot?
6 years. Every time I have a chance to explore a new place, make a new friend or work with friends, or learn something new is a favorite moment in my book! I can’t say there’s been an all time favorite but when I assisted on a shoot in LA we traveled to shoot a campaign in the sand dunes and rode dune buggies up and down massive dunes – that was pretty fun.
On the other hand, carrying 15-25 pound shot bags in the sand was not so fun, but the fun far exceeded the sweat. One of the most memorable portraits I shot was of Diane Von Furstenberg. The brief was to shoot a strong portrait and you often have no idea what the environment will be like when you arrive, so you work with what you’re given. We met her in the Presidential Suite at the Four Seasons which was grand in itself but there she was, unassumingly perched at the desk in front of her Macbook saying, “Yes! Come in!”
She hopped around without heels, asking whether we would be photographing her full length and if so, she’d have to change because the length of the dress wouldn’t allow her to wear heels. She came out of the dressing room in her evening attire and wouldn’t stop gushing about how beautiful everyone was and complimented myself and Amy who was assisting me. She was so nice and easy to photograph. She then proceeded to give me her personal business card and asked to keep in touch. I definitely didn’t expect that from someone that iconic and successful.
“With the amount of time you need to invest until you start seeing growth in your skill and career, this doesn’t mean sit and wait, it means patiently put in those 10,000 hours.”
Oliver Rousteing was also really fun to photograph because he’s younger and had no ego. We chatted about where he partied the night before and he was mad about the DJ not playing a certain Britney Spears song. He was really patient and I was able to experiment a bit more than usual. He’s also insanely good looking so that didn’t hurt.
Recently I went on tour with an awesome rapper, Lecrae, and got to ride across three states with him and his crew in a tricked out sleeper bus. Everyone on the team, from performers to crew, were amazing people so that was a really fun experience – I would never fathom something like that (or any of what has transpired) would happen to me in my life.
How did you get into photography?
I interned and photo assisted in Los Angeles for a couple years with a variety of fashion, lifestyle and commercial photographers (Hedi Slimane, Colette de Barros, Erik Asla to name a few). Through assisting I learned a lot about the business side, set etiquette, and lighting. The rest of my growth is through self-study/trial and error/constantly learning and improving from prior experiences.
1) Don’t be afraid to direct your subject.
If you’re photographing a willing subject (or you can just coerce people), you are holding the camera so you are in control of the outcome and your subject trusts you. This might mean telling the subject to face a certain direction or moving them so that you can capture a stronger background/composition.
2) Observe light and the way it interacts with objects.
Experiment and notice the way light falls (the direction and diffusion) and how it changes the mood of an image so that when you shoot, you can move the subject or change your angle to achieve specific results.
3) Be patient…
With the amount of time you need to invest until you start seeing growth in your skill and career, this doesn’t mean sit and wait, it means patiently put in those 10,000 hours. With the process of photographing a portrait, find out how much time you have and realize there’s no need to rush and shoot like crazy. Enjoy their company and you’ll catch the candid moment.
Tag a friend to feature and ask them a question: I would recommend Amanda Kho. What’s the most challenging subject you’ve ever photographed?
Amanda Kho answered: “Photographing watches has definitely been the most challenging subject thus far! Though they will sit for as long as you need them to, creating product shots that maintain the integrity of the watch’s surfaces and textures has pushed me to hone my technical skills while simultaneously test my patience. All in all, sometimes I think the greatest challenge is simply realizing that in order to get what I want from my subjects, whether they be watches or people, I have to understand how to give them what they need.”