Today we’d like to introduce you to John “Lobsterfest” Yao.
John, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Freshman year. University.
What seemed like a rather foolish idea at the time: to sink ALL my financial aid loans into my first digital camera, would turn out to be the best risk I had ever taken. Driven by the ego of youth, I felt the need to prove something, I wanted to be the best damn wedding photographer in the then-emerging digital era where styles and trends had yet to be established and high-level aesthetic was far from the expected norm. This was 2003, Facebook? Instagram? Not even on the radar.
I was young. I was hungry (literally). And had no choice but to immersed myself in every aspect of the industry. Cold calling veteran studios for part time gigs, carrying their bags, and assisting every odd job tossed my way. By the time graduation rolled around I had photographed dozens of weddings as a shadow associate for a few big-name wedding studios. I was itching, no… dying, to finally share with eager brides how I saw the world, but more importantly, how I would see theirs.
With a not-too-shabby homebrew website and a stack of free business-cards scored from an online promo, I took to Craigslist, coffeeshop pegboards, and simple word of mouth. These reluctantly brought me the first few brave souls who trusted me to art the crap out of their weddings. And I did. And have been doing so till today.
I’m extremely lucky to say that 100% of my clients come from word-of-mouth. The degrees of separation between me and my clients is small so I always feel like I’m art-ing for one of my own.
My wife Cindy came up with the name ‘SimplyTwo’. The idea was that life in all its craziness is complicated enough so let’s just keep things simple and be in love.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
About as smooth as a hiking on a comet wearing broken heels.
Credibility: Wedding photos differ from other genres because of the insanely high expectations placed on the product. Weddings happen once and as an artist you either do an incredible job or you make the bride cry. It boils down to the classic situation of needing experience in order to get the job but needing jobs to get experience in the first place. My portfolio was exceptional, but I was largely disallowed from displaying my work since they had come from my tenure shooting for other more established studios around town. Credibility took forever to build and is something I will never ever ever take for granted.
Competition: There came a time back around 2006 when digital cameras became affordable overnight. And on that same night, thousands upon thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs took to the streets to try their hand at wedding photography. With the industry still in its infancy, consumers lacked proper benchmarks for comparison so the jobs went to the best salesmen and lowest bidders. Skill seemed to be irrelevant as often I heard people lament about their disappointment for their own photos or that of their close friends and family. I couldn’t comment because I wasn’t there, but I definitely felt the sting of consistently losing jobs simply because I charged $50 more. What few jobs I did get, I made sure to absolutely slay so that hopefully some referrals would come my way. I couldn’t compete on price so I just had to get good. Fast.
Over time consumers sharpened up and began to exercise a bit more discernment, having learned from the experiences of their early adopter friends. By this time, a large percentage of the overnight wedding photographers had moved on to other ventures leaving behind a very small but passionate group of artists to hone their craft in a new playing field.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
SimplyTwo Photography is the creative lovechild of John and Cindy Yao. John does most of the shooting and Cindy does most of the cheering from the sidelines. We’re all about creating insanely good wedding photos that will still look gorgeous 50 years from now when your grandkids flip through your photos and are stunned by your hotness.
Week in, week out, we are approached by creatively-eager but photographically-anxious couples who want stunning photos but are crazy nervous about actually being in front of the camera. It is our JOY to walk these couples through John’s shooting process, help them get out of their own way, and finally realize how freaking good they look. Together we explore unique spaces, chase dat light, and repeatedly answer one question: “Hey for the next photo wouldn’t it be cool if we…?”
What set’s John apart from others? The answer is simple, it’s John himself. It’s the way he sees the world, the way he interprets meaningful events, and the way he instinctively chooses to execute that vision in photo form.
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Diversity is wonderful. Traffic is tragic.
- I’ll get out of bed and pick up my camera for about $5000.
- Address: Southern California
- Website: www.simplytwo.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/simplytwophotography/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/simplytwophotography/
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/simplytwo-photography-san-gabriel
John Yao, SimplyTwo Photography