We had the good fortune of connecting with Erich Chen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Erich, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
When I started my own business I was halfway through college, and when I graduated I basically told myself to go all in. I never applied to a 9-5 job, I never asked my parents for money, I just wanted to depend on myself and myself only. For about two years after I graduated I took whatever shooting opportunity I could get to get exposure and experience. And after some time I started to develop my own style in photography, I had consistent clientele and never looked bcak.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
There’s definitely a lot of wedding photographers out there, especially where I live in southern California. There are a dime a dozen! But many of them are stylistically very similar, even for me as I look through different photographers wedding portfolios they all start to look the same to me. What makes my style a little different is my ability to be creative and unique while adding elements of my clients personality and lifestyle. Many other photographers will shoot at parks and beaches, but I’m not afraid to shoot at an uncommon location like Target! I had a couple who loves to shop at Target so that’s where we decided to shoot! Other uncommon locations I’ve shot at are the middle of a desert, side of a cliff, or at an airport. In addition my ability to engage, and direct a couple makes them comfortable which is why my work shows a lot of candidness and authenticity.
Since I’m willing to shoot almost anywhere, and a lot of places I do shoot at are unconventional there are a lot of challenges that I face. In many of these instances, weather, lighting, elevation, etc etc could be a problem. I once photographed late night in the middle of the desert using light only from the stars in the sky and one flash. Normally, I’m used to having plenty of sunlight to create a portrait, I was literally in the dark, so dark that I couldn’t even see the buttons on my camera. But knowing that I was in unfamiliar territory I came prepared like I always do. But even in familiar territory I always come prepared with a ‘ready for anything’ mindset.
I strive for uniqueness in my work. I want to be able to create portraiture that is unique and meaningful to the couple in a way that is also familiar and comfortable.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If my best friend was visiting and we had a week off, I think I’d go on a coastal drive to central or northern California. That experience is really hard to beat even though I’ve done it a few times already. The sights along the coast are absolutely breathtaking, I cannot get enough of what California’s coastal sights have to offer. I’m a big fan of local businesses like hole-in-the-wall restaurants and mom and pop shops so we’d stop those places for meal times and breaks. We’d also visit any notable museums, hidden gems and random off-beat adventures along the way. Santa Barbara and Pismo Beach are great little coastal communities to hang out at. And although it’s not exactly on the coast Solvang is a really neat little town to drop in on. Further up north, Hearst Castle is an incredible landmark to see and experience! I’m a firm believer in the saying “it’s not the destination but the journey,” so as long as I have great company and a scenic road, it’s going to be an awesome experience! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’m lucky to have many great friends in life who have helped me along my 17 year business journey. At the very beginning there was Frankie Carranza, he used to have his own print shop so I learned a lot about photo editing during my internship with him. Since it was his own company I also got to see how a small business was run which was invaluable. Hannah Suh is a talented wedding photographer who grew up in the same small town as I did and had a much better understanding of the industry than me so she was able to guide me in the beginning. More recently, Alyssa Lizaragga has been my main second shooter for the last four to five years of my wedding business and even though I hire her she shows me how to be positive and focused during an entire wedding. Nathan Nowack is also a photographer but also has been one of my closest friends over the last 10 years, He has always been more business savvy than me so I’ve been able to adopt much of the way he runs a business.