Today we’d like to introduce you to Shaun Yen.
Shaun, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Ever since I was little, I’ve always found myself captivated by stunning visual imagery. I remember flipping through the pages of National Geographic as a kid and being so awestruck by the images before me, I could hardly tear my eyes away to read the articles which they accompanied. In 2010, I was going through a divorce and lost my day job all at the same time and needed something with which to divert my attention. The camera provided just the distraction I needed. I spent the next several years scouring the internet and bookstores for as much information as I could find on the subject of capturing light. And then I practiced and practiced and practiced, shooting everything in sight in every way I could think of.
Has it been a smooth road?
I think most of the obstacles I’ve encountered were all in my head. A lot of it being due to a lack of confidence in my skills. When you become intimate with a particular project, it’s hard to pull yourself away and be objective. I found I was constantly looking at my photos and only seeing what they didn’t contain, so much so that I’d often overlook what they DID contain. My wife has been a huge supporter of my abilities and always helped me to see my work for what it truly is. The only other major challenge would be based on being, what some would say, “just another photographer” in a seemingly over-saturated market in a metropolitan city like LA. Standing out from the crowd has proven quite difficult. I could blame market saturation all I want, but in reality, there are really just some amazingly talented photographers out there and I just have to work even harder to put out work of equal quality.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I shoot photography for a men’s and women’s lifestyle magazine based in LA called Flip Magazine. The first time I saw my work in print was pretty exciting to me. Then to have them call me up again to schedule the next round of shoots was almost equally exciting! At that point, it helped confirm a couple things to me: 1. That people like my work, and 2. That they enjoyed working with me enough to want to do it again! In my opinion, it’s not enough to only produce quality images, you also need to be pleasant to work with and this helped me to realize I was achieving both of these key components.
Tell us more about the struggles you’ve faced along the way.
Often my struggles were a result of my own insecurities or indecisiveness. I once spent weeks anguishing over the ideal color scheme for my website. Only to completely redesign the whole thing a few months later! I think my biggest struggle, which really applies to anything in life, was with trying to do too much too soon. WHOA HORSIE! You’ve gotta learn to walk before you can run! In the first couple of years I really learned and explored a lot but I still found myself trying to take on projects that were beyond my experience level. I had a lot of very disappointing shoots early on that didn’t instill much confidence. Fortunately, there were enough “OK” shoots peppered amongst the failures that I didn’t get too discouraged. However, after a while, even the “OK” shoots weren’t enough to keep my outlook optimistic. So, I dialed it back and allowed myself to take more time getting intimately familiar with the areas I felt less than masterful with. I expected too much of myself too soon. Expectations are a hell of a thing and really need to be managed more closely early in your career. That’s not to say keep low expectations; just make them reasonable and, most importantly, realistic!
Is there something we can do as a city to improve the outlook for professionals like you?
I’m very proud to be a part of the LA photography community. I’m the type of person that thrives on healthy competition. And I hope that anyone who’s trying to get into photography in any market does as well. It’s this competition that helps to keep us driven to be the best we can be. I think Los Angeles is a great place for that. While it is a highly-saturated market, there is still plenty of work out there. And if there isn’t, there’s more than enough opportunity to make work for yourself! You just have to be willing to be flexible in the style and type of photography you’re producing. Also, the varied landscapes of Los Angeles and surrounding counties offer a plethora of beautiful, natural settings for any type of shoot as well as many rental opportunities from fully equipped studios to picturesque mansions. There’s no shortage of variety in LA from the places to the people! The only improvement I can suggest would be to the community in our behavior. And that is: be kind, be honest, and be legit. Have integrity and be there to help lift up others and not bring them down. Stopping the hate and shady shenanigans starts with each and every one of us. 🙂
- Headshots (1.5 hours; up to 3 looks): $250
- Bridal/Engagement sessions (2 hours; up to 2 locations): $300
- Maternity (2 hours): $300
- Boudoir (2 hours): $300
- Website: www.shaunyenphotography.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://twitter.com/shauncho
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ShaunYenPhotography