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Friday, August 6, 2010

My Interview with Pat Yuen: Talented Fashion/Commercial Photographer, Blogger, Web Designer, and More

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of asking Pat Yuen a few questions about his take on photography and modeling, as well as his involvement in this industry. He is a commercial/fashion photographer, and web designer from San Francisco.

Additionally, Pat writes a very interesting BLOG, which informs the readers of his take on fashion, photography, and technology.

What I like about Pat is that he is not afraid to speak his mind, has great technical knowledge when it comes to photography, and is very clever.

Here, he shares some of his experiences, advice, and general thoughts.

AVIVA: How long have you been in the industry?
I don't really consider myself in any industry to the extent that photography of models, fashion, and modeling is generally a very small niche in San Francisco. With Gap, Banana Republic, Levis, and many high tech companies in the Silicon Valley, San Francisco tends to be more of a commercial market. Many have tried and failed to get a fashion sector going. Gen Art used to do some local fashion shows but they closed their doors nationally earlier this year. I've had to travel to Los Angeles to shoot a decent Fashion Week and even there, IMG pulled out a few years ago leaving the LA market to small independent shows. With that said, San Francisco does have a small group of talented fashion designers like Verreries & Sako and Colleen Quen Couture as well as a few dedicated fashion colleges. Since it is a small market, you tend to see the same people at different fashion events.

I started shooting fashion in 2005 starting with local runway shows and moving on to working directly with fashion designers.

AVIVA: What got you into fashion and commercial photography?
It was kind of a fluke. I was asked to shoot makeup and hair at a local runway show and after I shot the makeup and hair, I shot the models on the runway. It was a typical club show with bad lighting and local models but it evolved from there after becoming friends with designers, models, stylist, mua, etc.

AVIVA:What is your favorite thing about photography?
I think the friendships I have formed are the most rewarding. Every once in awhile, I end up with a picture that I like and that's rewarding. I hate the tedious chore of post processing so I've used my extensive technical knowledge to refine and minimize that process.I do know a lot about the technical side of photography but I'm not a gear head that obsesses about equipment. I also hate carrying around all the stuff so sometimes shooting with just a camera and a model has its own rewards.

AVIVA:Could you share some advice for aspiring models?
Be realistic and go for work you are qualified for. Short models are not going to model fashion or become agency models. But there's no shame in modeling as a hobby, modeling glamor, or working local fashion shows. Dreams and drive don't make successful models. It's an extremely shallow business where outer beauty rules and inner beauty means little. Initiative is also important. Most aspiring models think they can throw up a profile and sit around and wait. Yes, the offers will come but they will be from scammers and perverts trying to get the model naked. I advise models to initiate contact with photographers they admire. Be polite and be humble. And don't ask stupid questions like "Do I have what it takes?"

AVIVA: How long after you started model/fashion photography did it take you before you started working for big names and major commercial clients?
I got paid almost immediately. I always tell artists that if you give away your work, your work will always be valued as worthless by a potential client. I'm not saying there is no room for trade. Just don't work commercial jobs for exposure or promise of future jobs. When I get approached by someone telling me this job is great exposure, I tell them to pay me now and I'll give them double my rate after I book my 10th job from all that great exposure. So far, no one has taken my offer. And I don't have any big name clients to brag about. Small, no name clients' money is just as good. The banks don't care.

AVIVA: Do you have any advice for photographers who aspire to be professional?
Yeah. Do something else. It's a tough way to make money. Do it as a hobby or for the fun of it. The business of photography is brutal and not very rewarding.

AVIVA:Would you like to share any funny/interesting/weird/crazy shoot experience, if any stands out?
While shooting this picture with Morgan, there was a heist of Louis Vuitton bags from Neiman Marcus about 10 feet away. I turned around in time to see security trying to break the window of the getaway car with the butt of a gun while it was stuck in traffic. I didn't get any pictures.

When I shot this nude image of Engel on a public street, a taxi sped past, slammed on his brakes, backed up and watched us shoot for 5 minutes.

AVIVA:What are some of the major publications where your work has appeared?
Nothing major. A local magazine called 7x7, the cover of Bay Guardian, some smaller publications nobody has ever heard of.

AVIVA: Do you have any additional comments?
Lately, I've been focused on creating a modeling community website called ModelingWiki to provide modeling and modeling photography information. It's strictly non-commercial, ad free, and not tied to any modeling sites. I've built the foundation and it's up to the community to determine if it makes it or flounders. Like most wikis, no registration is required to create or edit articles so if anyone has any knowledge to share, they are encourage to jump right in.

I'm also doing a lot more writing. I am currently shopping a 7,500 word article about a modeling topic to newspapers and magazines. My chances of it being sold is slim to none and I'm not giving it away. If I don't get a buyer, I'm going to just publish it myself. Additionally, through a referral from Roger Talley, I may start writing for but it's not set in stone yet.

Also, I asked Pat if there were any questions that no one has ever asked him in an interview, but he wished someone had. His response was "Yes", and these are the questions he wanted to answer.

Q:Are you Dirty Vegas?

Q: Even though you're banned from Model Mayhem, do you still have other accounts there?
Of course I do. I'm not stupid. I've had many legitimate accounts there long before they banned me and they will never find it because I'm a smarty pants like that.
I wish Pat all the best in his writing career and any other plans that he has. He has the experience, knowledge, and skills in order to do a great job of informing people about the industry.

And again, I thank Pat for the time he took to answer my questions.
To see more of his work, please go to his

Stay tuned for more interviews, features, and articles,

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