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Meet Troy Yu of Perfect Pixel Photography in San Fernando Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Troy Yu.

Troy, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve had an entrepreneurial streak ever since I was a kid. My grandparents used to have food stands at state fairs and I inherited one of their old cotton candy machines. I used to sell cotton candy out of my garage in middle school. I started renting popcorn and Snow Cone machines and did parties throughout high school. I was always up to something to try and have my own business, even when it was just playing. I remember very young I tried to make a carnival in my front yard and used old raffle tickets my mom would bring home from bowling nights as “ride tickets”. I had quite an imagination.

That entrepreneurial streak has stayed with me into adulthood. I’ve had office, retail, management and nursing care jobs before, but years later I got tired of the big bosses not caring about me or whether I had a roof over my head or could feed myself, so I started looking for ways to start my own business and promised myself that if I ever got to the point that I needed employees, I wouldn’t make them feel the same way I felt.

One of my first forays into small business was CandleTropics where we make unique hand-made scented candles. My mother has always loved scented candles and I got that bug too. I started off trying to figure out how to make gifts for her on holidays but quickly started thinking about how I could make a business in that. We’ve now expanded into bath and body products under a sister brand called BodyTropics. We sell our products online and are planning to be at different marketplaces in the area soon. We’ve also go plans to wholesale to boutique stores and inns.

Somewhere along the way, I found I needed professional looking photos of my products. Because of my DIY nature and lack of budget, I started to learn digital photography. I needed those product photos, and have many actor friends so I picked up quite a bit of experience over a couple years taking photos of different subjects and learning lighting and photo retouching. While I always had considered myself a creative person, I kind of surprised myself and didn’t realize I’d love photography so much. I have now expanded that project into Perfect Pixel Photography which provides photography services here in Los Angeles. We’re focusing now on event photography and photobooth rentals which are in big demand, but we also provide commercial product and cosplay photography services.

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?
When I started Candletropics up in San Jose in late 2007, things looked good. I had no idea that the Great Recession was right around the corner. We invested a few thousand dollars in equipment and supplies and planned to hit the farmers markets and craft shows hard to launch a product line. By the time I really got going, suddenly nobody was able to spend money on a luxury item like scented candles. While I did lots of market research and my candles were way better than the national mall chain candles and priced $5-10 cheaper, I heard a lot of “These are so expensive! I can’t buy this!” I had not anticipated the perception that home-made products does not come with the clout of a big name brand, regardless of how much work went into it, or how much better the product was. Eventually, I was working so hard and making so little money that we went online-only.

One of my favorite things about going to the markets was making friends with complimentary artisans. Every event I did, I was next to Teezhandsuds, my friend Tana who made soap and lotions. When you walked by our tents, you would be drawn in by our products and we loved how much our products complimented each other.

Then, my spouse landed a really good job down here in Los Angeles and we packed up and moved. I never stopped making candles but it was a tough couple of years for CandleTropics. I waited out the recession and took advantage of the change in locale as an opportunity to refocus. Missing my friend Tana, I decided to expand my offering to body products to enhance exposure. Things are better now, but we’re still revving up.

Perfect Pixel has been different. I never set out to make a business out of photography, but I fell so in love with it, and people were knocking on my door to take their headshots, or do digital work for them. It came to a point where I was like “Okay, there’s something going on here.” Then, for something completely unrelated, we ended up owners of a photo booth kit and we decided to put them together.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Perfect Pixel Photography – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
With Perfect Pixel Photography, we offer photobooth rental and event photography services, as well as commercial product and cosplay photography.

I am really proud of our photobooth. We call ourselves “the best in Los Angeles” because we really do have the BEST props and backdrops. Most photo booth services give you a few party store props to use. We use actual props and real-life objects in our prop kits and man of them we custom make in house. We also custom build prop kits depending on the theme of your event. If the theme is something we don’t have we build a complete prop kit just for our clients. I also use my skills in digital photography to custom design backgrounds for our green-screen packages or you can choose from tons we already have. We also custom design “practical” (i.e. physical decor) backgrounds for big events like weddings or galas. There is pretty much no other photobooth service that offers this level of customization and service. I’m very proud of that.

I also have given a personal touch to every photo session we do, whether it’s commercial products, or cosplay photoshoots. We don’t just throw you product up against a lit white backdrop (although we can do that, and it can be the best option depending on where it will be used). Most of the time we look at the product and customize the environment and create a “set” so that it looks like it belongs. It sets the photo apart from those “white background” catalog photos. Having a separate retail business like CandleTropics helps me see product photography differently.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We’re working on a partnership with a production company to provide even MORE customization options with both our photobooth and commercial photography services, when it comes to backdrops, props and themes.

We’re also going to start heading out to public events with the booth and providing a really fun activity for event attendees. I really want to get out and replicate the community connection I’ve experienced doing markets with CandleTropics. Those events often make the hard work worth it for me.

One of our family’s passions is something called “cosplay” which means you dress up as a character you like from a movie, video game, tv show or other source and go to conventions or parties and hang out with other cosplayers. Much of the time, cosplayers spend lots of time and energy making their own costumes and it’s important to every cosplayer to get good photos of the finished costume. We’re going to start offering photobooth services and affordable professional photography services to the cosplay community.

For CandleTropics & BodyTropics, we plan to have our products in boutique stores and inns on the west coast by next year and expanding our local engagement at local marketplace events.

Pricing:

  • Photography sessions starting at $60
  • Photobooth Rentals starting at $385
  • CandleTropics & BodyTropics products range from $2 to $25

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
All images by Troy Yu @ Perfect Pixel Photography

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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