Spotlight Interview … Photographer Mike Wong

JRP: Visit the website of Mike Wong and you are able to view a broad brush stroke of images crafted by one of our gifted photographic brethren. A close examination of Mike’s images will benefit anyone that longs to improve their craft.

Thanks Mike for taking time out of your busy schedule and sharing your thoughts and images with the readers of JRP Blog.

Mike Wong: Hi James! Thanks for having me.


JRP: Where is home for you Mike?

Mike Wong: Home is Fremont, CA. That’s where the studio is. I love the bay area. Plus all my friends and family are here.

JRP: How did you get started in photography and do you have any formal training?

Mike Wong: Unfortunately no training. It’s something I regret sometimes, not having a broader background.

I got started about 4 years ago when I bought my D70. My cousin in Hong Kong was getting married and the whole family was coming together for the first time in forever, so I thought it’d be nice to come back with some pictures of us all, had about a year to get ready. Started shooting flowers to learn my camera, realized after a few months that it’d probably be a good idea to shoot people since I don’t have a family of flowers, and after that got hooked.

I read a lot when I get the chance, and I chat with other photographers over coffee or beer or whatever’s tasty. They can be very chatty.

JRP: Who and or what has influenced your photographic style?

Mike Wong: Well, there’s family, since I victimize them the most. And all my friends, since moments with them stick with me. Feelings and such become the basis for a lot of my shoots. In terms of actual shoots, I have my wonderful team of makeup artists and hair stylists to thank (Holly and Michelle). There’s that chatty of bunch of photographers I was talking about (Dave, Dan, and Leonard). And my business partner Stan, who convinced me to throw caution to the wind and open up the studio rather than just talk about it. Also can’t forget about all the wonderful models that have graced me with their presence (too many to name).

As far as what’s on my shelves and who I’m in awe of, there’s Jeanloup Sieff, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Mario Testino, Rankin, Guy Bourdin, Nobuyoshi Araki, Helmut Newton, Jan Saudek, David Bailey, Peter Lindbergh . . . the list goes on and on.

JRP: What would I find in your camera bag for a typical shoot?

Mike Wong: Going by the last few shoots, sand and water. There are lenses obviously. Sometimes a flash, usually my lightmeter, memory cards, a couple spare batteries, garbage bags, tape, gels, a flashlight, my PW’s, keys, wallet and phone (probably shouldn’t tell you that), brochures and touristy stuff, receipts, sometimes a book if I can make it fit, sometimes the manual if I don’t know my camera yet, and snacks if there’s room. The camera doesn’t go in the bag. It’s always out ready to shoot.

JRP: Describe your digital workflow and what software you use.

Mike Wong: It’s nothing fancy. NEF conversion in Capture NX2, and then it’s off to CS2 for retouch and cleanup.

JRP: Image printing, is it done in house or do you outsource to a lab?

Mike Wong: Both. I print on an R2400. I also send out to Costco and WHCC.

JRP: You have such a wide collection of images in the archive on your website, is there one area that you tend to find more rewarding personally than another?

Mike Wong: I enjoy it all. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be shooting.

My cat might have a slight advantage though. There’s no such thing as a bad picture of my cat.

JRP: How do you scout and select your locations for assignments?

Mike Wong: I read and look through other people’s photos, but I really need to see a location for myself with my own eyes. I usually make a day out of it – grab the camera, find a good place to get lunch, and drag a buddy along.

JRP: What is your philosophy on location lighting? Do you make use of available light mostly or do you use additional lighting or reflectors on location to dictate your lighting mood?

Mike Wong: I use anything and everything, but mood and feel dictate what I use, not the other way around. It starts with the concept and the overall vision and we establish direction and figure out execution from there. Sometimes I’ll drag a few cases full of lights out with me. Sometimes it’s just a few reflectors. And sometimes there’s nothing.

As far as philosophy, I believe that lighting needs to serve a purpose. I don’t light for the sake of lighting. It’s an instrument of visual communication, so substance is a good thing. I always try to work with the light. I don’t like fighting it.

JRP: What has been the best advice given to you by another photographer?

Mike Wong: Have fun and don’t worry about failing.

JRP: What advice would you share with photographers starting out?

Mike Wong: Live life. Approach things with open eyes and an open mind. Figure out what’s important, and draw from it. That’s where good photography begins.

JRP: Thank you Mike for sharing your thoughts and photography with us. It has been a pleasure talking with you, and I wish you continued success.

Mike Wong: A pleasure for me too! Hopefully I still make sense at 5am.

JRP: To view more of Mike Wong’s impressive images go to these links:


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