Carmen Chan

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Carmen Chan

Photographer

Echo Park, CA

www.carmen-chan.com
instagram @carmenchan
twitter @carmenchan
 

WHAT DO YOU DO?

I’m a portrait and fashion lifestyle photographer.

I help editorial and commercial clients tell stories about people and products through clean, airy, and intimate feeling images. My favorite subject is people/portraits in their personal environments.
 

WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW?

My first experience with photography was a friend teaching me how to use a DSLR at a park in Orange County. I quickly fell in love and did everything I could to learn more (reading blogs, books, and taking night classes) while I still had a full time job in film/TV production. After that show ended, I found an internship with a fashion photographer for 6 months and photo assisted for 2 years following the internship, while building my portfolio.

I moved to Hong Kong with that portfolio and got my first job shooting a weekly feature for the NY Times equivalent in HK. From there things snowballed and I worked consistently for 4 years through referrals for clients like adidas Originals, Burberry, Everlane, Cathay Pacific, and Monocle Magazine. I moved to New York in 2015 shot there 2.5 years for clients like WWD, Hypebeast, Samsung, and Architectural Digest. I'm now based in LA and continuing this journey!
 

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FOR OTHER PEOPLE IN YOUR FIELD, WHAT DO THEY USUALLY LACK?

Vision and business skills. I'm still trying to strengthen myself in both areas. I've learned that it's a constant process of evolving your style and pushing your work into places beyond your comfort zone. With that said, there is so much "content" being created that I'm seeing a lot of visual clichΓ©s so it's refreshing when people are creating things that have never been seen before, rather than going back to the same location or composition. As far as business skills, my background in production was helpful and I did a lot of research online. I also have someone on a monthly retainer who helps me with my marketing/client outreach efforts. The hurdle for most people who love photography is also learning to be a successful sole proprietor. 
 

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?

I recently worked with an amazing female team to shoot a fashion test that I'm submitting to a few publications. I also photographed two advertorials for Hypebeast/Hypebae x Adidas Athletics that the client is making their selects for.
I have two personal project videos that are in post-production at the moment that I'm excited to release soon.
 

WHAT'S YOUR STYLE/PERSPECTIVE/TASTE? DO YOU HAVE A PROJECT THAT REPRESENTS THIS? 

I really love this project I shot recently for the launch of MISSBISH Apparel.

I also think my instagram is quite telling. I gravitate towards spaces where I can create something that feels clean and has room to breathe.
 

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WE ARE ALL SLASHIES WITH MULTIPLE SKILLS, WHICH ONE DO YOU WISH YOU COULD DO MORE OFTEN?

I'm quite focused on photography and I'd like to improve my bowling and powerlifting skills but if I had to pick one skill to focus more on it would be video.
 

WHAT IS FRUSTRATING YOU RIGHT NOW?

Something that I've come to accept and am putting effort towards is  the necessity of marketing regardless of your success. I moved to LA from NY in the summer so more effort needs to go in to meeting people and sharing my work than I've been used to. 
 

IF YOU COULD HIRE SOMEONE FOR $20/HR, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE THEM DO TO MAKE YOUR DAY EASIER?

A studio manager/asian mom chef - researching potential clients (and emailing them, too?!), facilitating creation and delivery of promo pieces, producing shoots, posting work across platforms, keeping in touch with clients, cooking rice and steamed egg.
 

LET'S BRING OUT THE TIME MACHINE. WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU COULD HAVE TOLD YOURSELF, WHEN, AND WHY?

When I first started shooting I wish I could have told myself not to look at what everyone else was creating and just shoot what I thought was good. With my background, I went straight towards commercial work and that was all I knew to work towards. Now I'm going backwards to strengthen my personal work and shoot things that speak to me rather than what I think works with the market.
 

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IF YOU COULD TALK TO AN EXPERT TO GAIN MORE INSIGHT ON SOMETHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE ABOUT?

How to optimize my business - what to do more/less of to get to a point where I'm spending all my time on things I'm truly enjoying and am good at.
 

WHAT KIND OF OPPORTUNITIES/PROJECTS ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

I would love to work on freelance projects with brands and publications - portraits, fashion campaigns/lookbooks, lifestyle, wellness. 
 

DESCRIBE YOUR IDEAL JOB/CLIENT/COLLABORATION.

My ideal job would be at a beautiful location (not necessarily exotic) featuring a product or person that is making a positive difference in the world, to any degree. The client has a strong brand and knows what they want to communicate and achieve from the shoot. 

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WHAT IS YOUR HOURLY RATE, RETAINER, OR SALARY RANGE? 

This varies from project to project starting with a creative fee (based on scope of work), licensing, and expenses. Creative fees + licensing have ranged from $500 for a quick editorial portrait, $1000 for advertorial to over $10,000 for a full day commercial job and 15 final images for one year unlimited, exclusive use. I also consider the value of the work to my portfolio and am happy to discuss how to make a project work for both of us! 
 

HOW SHOULD SOMEONE APPROACH YOU ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER?

My favorite emails are from new clients introducing themselves, the purpose of the shoot and include as many details as possible - deck/reference images, scope, date of shoot, licensing/usage, final deliverables, deliverables timeline, budget, etc. along with a good time to schedule a call to discuss the project. 
 

HOW DO YOU STAY CREATIVE?

Keep pushing, collaborating and exploring.


This member profile was originally published in April 2018.