Member Showcase: Richard Shiu
1. How old were you when you became interested in fashion photography? What was the inspiration behind it? Did you see a photographer’s work, or what got you interested in it in the first place?
Fashion photography has always been an interest. I remember as a kid being thrilled when I saw my first fashion magazine. The tactile feeling of flipping pages (in photo books or magazines) and looking at photos on paper is still unmatched to looking at a computer screen or iPad.
It has always been and continues to be for me about magazine editorials. I love the telling of stories in magazines (and with my photos). I always look at the photo team credits, which are so important. To see not only who the photographer was, but who the stylist was, or the hair and make-up artist, or whomever else was on the creative team. I think acknowledgement of everyone involved in making a good photo, or a good story, is so important to our industry.
2. When did you decide, “okay, this is it, I’m going to start shooting fashion photography! Who were some of your mentors or some of your inspirations when you got started?
Almost exactly three years ago, I discovered my inner photographer. I shot my nephew so that he could submit to an agency. That’s when I realized I had a passion that I didn’t even know existed. I always appreciated photography, but never thought of myself as a photographer. The shoot with my nephew is when I had my “ah ha” moment. It hit me very hard and I thought I “might” be able to start shooting. I didn’t really know where to begin, but I was lucky enough to connect with an agency in San Francisco who sent me models to test with and I slowly began to develop my technical skills and my eye. I got advice from a good friend who had owned a modeling agency and had been a photographer, and a few other professional photographers and a photography instructor. For me, what I value most is constructive criticism from other professionals. I’m still learning my craft and have a long way to go. There isn’t one specific photographer who influences my work, but all of them. Reaching as far back as Richard Avedon and moving forward to Mario Testino and Steven Meisel, and the more recently famous photographers like Steven Klein and Sebastian Kim, just to name a few.
3. What steps did you take to start shooting? Did you use your friends as models, or how did you start out?
I started with my nephew first, and then by testing with agency models. It was stressless which is exactly what I wanted because in the beginning, it was just a hobby. An obsessive hobby, but nonetheless, a hobby. This first step was invaluable because it’s how I figured out how to relate to models, how to create, and how to develop my skills. I think the model/photographer relationship is the most crucial to getting a great photo.
4. How do you communicate with the team you’re working with? How do you achieve your goals? Do you create mood boards?
I start with the germination of an idea. Maybe it’s an editorial I’ve seen. Maybe it’s a painting or sculpture I’ve seen. Maybe it’s graffiti or shapes or shadows. Inspiration comes from everywhere. Then I do my research on Google and look for printed inspiration. Then I create mood boards on Pinterest and share them with whoever will be working on a project with me. Mood boards are invaluable so that a team sees the vision. We may not follow the inspiration exactly, but it’s a great jumping off point.
5. What skills do you think you’ve learned from the past that help you today? How would you rate your photography from 1 year ago to today?
I continue to develop my technical skills and my “eye”. The hardest part about capturing images is trying to figure out how to get to the finished product. How do I light it? How would I post-process the image? What can I do to help me get to the end result?
It’s the love of the entire process for me. Not just when I’m behind the camera, but from the inception of the idea to the culling of the images to the collaboration with the team and beyond. What drives my passion is the entire process from start to finish.
In terms of rating myself from where I was a year ago, I would say I’ve got another year of skills and experience under my belt, and I hope that I’m a better photographer than I was last year. I want to constantly grow and evolve and continue to hone my craft. When I stop learning, is when I should stop being a photographer.
6. What are three things in your camera bag or photo bag that you can’t live without? Any particular lens you love?
I can’t live without my 70-200 mm Canon lens. My Color Checker Passport. And a lens cleaning cloth. Those, in addition to my Canon 5d Mark III are always with me when I shoot.
7. What have you learned from your early days that you can share with other Breed members who are reading this? Do you have any advice for them?
Test, test, test. I’ve talked to a lot of photographers who say “don’t work for free.” I understand that perspective, but sometimes you have to work for free to get to the next level. Always be humble. Seek constructive criticism. Look for a mentor. And be nice to everyone. Treat others with respect and dignity.
8. Where do you see yourself in 3 years with fashion photography?
I wish I had a crystal ball. But if I could have the perfect job, it would be as a staff photographer for a fashion magazine. Traveling the world and taking pictures of gorgeous people and having my photos published in a fashion magazine is the ultimate fantasy. Step by step and inch by inch. That’s how we all move closer to our dream.
9. Tell us what a dream job for you would be?
HA! See #8.
10. What is your favorite quote?