“Now I Know Why They Cry On America’s Next Top Model”

My friend said this as he was watching me during my very first foray into the world of professional photography! Sensing that this may have been an unsettling comment he then exclaimed, “But, you’re a natural! ..

That’s what I’m supposed to say right?”

For a brief moment, I wanted to punch him, but honestly, I spent more of the day laughing once I got over my nerves and I have a great team, him included, to thank for that!


Within my group of friends and even at work, I’m counted on as the photographer for social gatherings. I love taking photos and I think a lot of them turn out well but it’s simply an amateur interest. Enter my sister. She started taking up photography as a serious hobby by attending workshops and participating in photo shoots (both as a photographer and model). After seeing some of the photos my sister had shared with me, particularly the work of Kent Hwang in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was inspired to learn more about this process! From both sides of the lens!

Random text message from my sister one day: Hey why don’t you come down for a weekend sometime to do a shoot before I get tired of this hobby 🙂

Random email from my sister on another day: So, Kent (who’s photos I had been admiring so much!) may be able to shoot you.

!!! Excitement!!

Two weeks to go

This all happened very quickly and I was advised to look at different photos and fashion spreads to get an idea of what I wanted to shoot. I started asking my fashion enthusiast friends where to look for inspiration and I knew I could count on my friend Sarah. She pointed me to the following sites that compile the latest editorial campaigns:



My sister also suggested I send some of my favourite images to her and Kent ahead of time so that they could get an idea of what I was interested in, and also that I should practise poses. Kent was very friendly and helpful and wrote to me several times before the shoot to share some tips.

#1 Tip! Think of what to do with your hands!

Two days to go

Flew into San Francisco and it happened to be Kent’s birthday! I was lucky that I got to meet him before the actual photoshoot to get acquainted, but  even if I hadn’t, he was totally cool (which is why he gets 5 stars on Yelp from me haha!). Coincidentally, a party for him was being hosted at the very location where we would be shooting later that weekend – a super spacious, totally rad, industrial LOFT complete with a large glass pane that shifts from clear to frosted </high tech> </modern> </sexy>

One day to go

Lunch with more of my sisters friends including Fashion Photographer Ryan Chua and Elaine, a stylist.

I showed her some photos of the clothes I brought and she was very supportive and approving. This reminded me of my adolescence when I would proudly inform my parents of the A’s on my report card and gently hint that my “other friends get money for their marks”. It didn’t work then, but I definitely felt encouraged at this moment =D


Two hours to go

My friend Jeff joins my sister and I as we head to the shoot. We arrive on location and stepping out of the elevator, my friend Jeff  observes our surrounding company and states,” We have a professional photographer, make-up artist and a model. I feel like we’re in an episode of Sex and the City!”


My sister arranged for Cheryl Lam from A-List Makeup to do my hair and makeup and I had a great time chatting with her; she was warm and funny and I felt very comfortable in her hands.

Action time!

As mentioned in my opening, I was nervous! I’ve taken a lot of photos with friends and my mom is even more trigger happy than I am! But having a professional photographer with an elaborate set and lighting and a seriously impressive camera made it the whole situation nerve racking! All eyes were literally on me and to be perfectly honest, I was worried about looking stupid. At one point I was told to just be silly (which I do very well!) and after Jeff’s hilarious commentary as noted above and additional gems (“Remember the lyrics of Christina Aguilera..you are beautiful!), I was able to relax a bit.

I brought the set of photos with me that I had sent previously to my sister and Kent and it was helpful to look at those again for ideas. Cheryl also stayed for awhile and altered my look after a few outfit changes which was awesome!

Since it wasn’t too late in the day, Kent suggested we continue shooting and switch locations so off we headed to the iconic Golden Gate bridge (which I am still using as a Facebook profile picture!). I am extremely grateful that we were able to go to several different places and really maximize my day of shooting!

Golden Gate Bridge

Lessons learned:

  • A LOT of time, talent and energy goes into a professional photo!
  • Modelling is WAY harder than it looks. There is a definitely an art and a science to knowing your angles and understanding lighting, and I can see how this takes a lot of practice.
  • Kent was right about hands, haha! They can look incredibly awkward!
  • A good TEAM is so important! Obviously a stellar photographer helps (Thanks Kent!)! A seasoned make-up artist; Cheryl knew how makeup would show up in a photo. My sister! She had experience modelling and shooting so she was able to offer advice. A court jester kind of friend to remind you to have fun!
I remember the models on ANTM having to shoot in some pretty extreme conditions. I was a little cold at the park so I started incorporating some of my bootcamps moves! Keeping warm..looking crazy while doing so.

Lululemon used to give out bags with their manifesto including things like friends are more important than money and do one thing a day that scares you. Well.. this was my stepping-out-of-my-comfort-zone activity that weekend!

Thank you so much to everyone involved, especially my sister for making this happen!

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