Monday, December 12, 2016

Rey Trajano Photography workshop & photoshoot with Evelyn Lin and Elizabeth Tran


Hey guys - sorry I haven't posted on this blog in like... a year. haha.
Today, I took a photography workshop with Rey Trajano. It was a $150 3 hour workshop and there was about 23-25 attendees.  Some students even flew out from Canada, San Francisco, and Massachusetts.  I originally heard about this workshop because Evelyn Lin announced on her instagram that she was going to model at this workshop. I thought it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet her in person and brag to my guy friends.

When I got to this workshop - apparently, all the other attendees had the same idea. Most of the students were asian guys of all age ranges.  I'll be honest, one of two of old men even looked a little bit sketchy. :)

I made friends with some of the attendees. Some of them were professionals who shot weddings, gradations, baby photos etc.. Some of them were making the transition to becoming a professional photographer and had jobs while doing some photography jobs on the side.  One of the guys even admitted he was just a "dirty old man" - haha - and did glamour photography for fun. Gotta love that honesty. There was a lot of truth in that, even though we were all here to learn photography from Rey, a lot of the students were here for the models (almost half of the guys requested to get pictures with Evelyn during the workshop. It was part photography class/ part meet-n-greet. This was Rey's first photography workshop, of course he is a very big name with 10 years experience in the industry, but this strategy of hiring very well-known models definitely did help lure guys to the workshop.


Rey than did a slideshow for about an hour showing us various photos he had taken, and his thought process behind his preparation, shooting and post-production process. The students asked a generous amount of questions and he gave us lengthy and thorough answers to them. It mostly seemed like a stream-of-consciousness format of some general tips and advice on how he does things.  He told us about some specific techniques.. such as shooting in tunnel to get the "light-gradient" effect.  But he didn't get too specific about a certain workflow - he kind of danced around the issue and said that there are many schools of thought to different styles of photography and it's all personal preference.


Next we got to shoot with the models Elizabeth Tran and Evelyn Lin - which was very exciting. The students gathered around the model and began shooting pictures. Below are some photographs of Elizabeth Tran with an outdoor shoot. You may notice there is significant photoshop and gradients in the photos. I was just playing around with the effects.

Next we got to shoot Evelyn Lin in an indoor shoot. We got to use the strobe, so each person got about 1 minute to shoot with the special equipment. Elizabeth Tran was really stressing out important and helpful it was to communicate with the model and give the model direction so they know what to do. It seems like this is a mutually collaboration between the model and the photographer.  I saw many of the other students attempt to give Evelyn direction on the types of poses and being specific about what they wanted. When I had my 60 seconds with Evelyn, I tried to give her direction on specific poses and ideas I had. As you can see with the post-effects, there was a specific vision with each pose. I already saw her do the same "model" poses for the last 30 minutes, so I wanted to try something different.

This was straightforward. I did not give her any direction. 
Next I asked her to stand behind the strobe for "rim light" effect.

I asked her: "Do you know the cat thing that girls do?" Yes. 

"Can you do that fob peace sign thing?"

This was a photo that I took while the other photographer was shooting. 

It was definitely a good experience giving the model direction and working with them to carry out your idea. I was VERY NERVOUS during my 60 second photo shoot, and telling Evelyn what to do. But.. I can definitely incorporate this practice of giving the model direction into my figure drawing sessions.  I learned to definitely don't be shy about directing the model in certain poses (although don't be a pervert and of course be polite about it). A lot of times I assume that a good artist or photographer should be able to draw/ make anything look good. But there is a lot of skill and consideration into choosing the right pose for a particular artistic direction. It makes a big difference in the final outcome.


Finally Rey taught us some of his post production stuff.  Rey taught us his technique on how to dodge and burn. He opened up Photoshop, create a 50% grey layer set to "soft light" - with an Greyscale layer above to turn everything greyscale, and use the very soft and gentle black and white small airbrush to smooth out the model's face and lighten up the bags under the eyes. It was a very precise and natural way of editing the photograph without doing anything destructive. Rey said he would spend a minimum of 15 minutes per photograph in the post-production process.

(lol - for my event photography, I spend like.. 1-5 minutes MAX per photograph).


One of the last parts of the workshops was a Q and A with the instructors and models. I was really surprised because I learned a lot from the models. It one thing to get advice from the photographer's perspective, and it's also really important to understand the model's perspective since a photoshoot is a collaboration between two professionals.

Elizabeth Tran told us things like... be professional, be on time to the photo-shoots, scout out the location beforehand and never, never, never hit on the models. Tiffanie Marie (who is a model AND a photographer) talked about how important it was to make time to practice your craft, even if we have a day job and are transition to their industry full-time.

I asked Rey Trajono about short-term vs. long-term goals - an issue I'm currently facing. It's easy to make money now doing stuff like... weddings, baby photos, birthday parties. But it's also important improve your craft so you can elevate your artistic skill and vision so you can be an amazing photography in... 5 or 10 years. Rey said that when he was improving his skill 10 years ago, he worked AND THEN... those high-paying jobs then started coming.


Overall, I was a little disappointed I receive some kind of secret technique to make my photos instantly better. I thought if I bought the right lens, or had the right settings... BOOM - then my photos would look amazing. Sadly, that is not the reality. You can see from my blog, and I have taking masterclasses from professionals from Disney, Dreamworks, Pixar, Blizzard etc... and one thing I always take away from these classes is that there is no magic "brush" or "lens" that will instantly make you better. These professionals don't seems to be doing some kind of secret trick. I think it's a culmination of all the things that are apart of the craft.

If I were to break it down, I would say that there are 3 parts to good photography.

1) Preparation 
- Having a concept or artistic vision of what you want to achieve.
- Simple things such as charging your batteries, bringing the right equipment, reflectors etc...
- Being prepared by scouting location and knowing where to shoot
- Communicating with the model on what outfit she will wear
- Knowing specifically what time of day you will be shooting and prepare for that. (For example, during the workshop, Rey said that he would shoot beach shots during the morning to get golden light, not during the afternoon. That is an important distinction because if he shot it during the afternoon, the sun set over the ocean, and everything would get blacked out. It would be okay to shoot during the afternoon on the EAST COAST, but you need to shoot during the morning on the WEST COAST.

2) Execution
- This is the part where you actually take the picture.
- Adjust the settings on the camera. Take your time so it is exposed properly.
- Adjust the strobes, screens, reflectors if necessary.
- I think most importantly is to direct the model, build rapport with them and talk to them.
For example... when I am doing event photography, I occasionally will ask my subjects to... scoot this way. Move over here. Do this, or do that pose. Talking with the subject and directing them is a very important skill of the photographer that is ofter overlooked and undervalued by non-photographers.
It makes a BIG DIFFERENCE when you direct the model in a way so that the picture is optimized for your artists vision vs. you just let them do whatever they want that does not serve the photograph.

3) Post Production
- This is the part where you need to be patience and just do what it takes to polish things up and make it look professional. Sure... erase pimples, smoothing out the skin, and correct are very subtle things. But it separates an amateur vs a professional.
- Or sometimes the post production is APART of the artistic vision and can dramatically alter a photo. It almost becomes part photo-manipulation or a digital painting. Changing a photo to black and white, sepia, or adding a gradient to a photo should be done with intent and purpose. But if it is apart of your concept - it can add a lot.

Most photographers tend to "hide" their post production process. However, this NYC based photographer - Bran.wolf highlights his process by showing the before and after!

Actually, one of MY personal favorites was this photo with Evelyn Lin.

1) Preparation. I had an artistic vision. All the other students wanted Evelyn to do something "sexy" - but I thought I would be different and do something "cute."  I said to myself that I wanted this photograph look like those Japanese Kawaii photos with kind of an SnapChat/ Photo Booth filter. It's trendy right now in Snap Chat.

2) Execution. I asked Evelyn to do that "cat thing" that girls do. I know Evelyn likes cats from her instagram profile. And this pose came very naturally to her. I took the photo. Done.

3) Post-production. I used the dodge/ burn technique that Rey taught to add some details. Adding a "doe-eye" make-up effect to make the eyes look a bit bigger. And accentuate some of the wrinkles on the forehead to really sell the facial expression. I also lightened the skin because the Japanese make-up style is more "pale-skin" oriented. Lastly, I added a bunch of sparkles, stars and pink shit to close the deal. I even added cat eyes and a meow.

Yes... I know photograph this isn't superb or anything. But I like that it is fun and different. And most importantly, I had an artistic vision, I executed it, and followed through in post production. I completed the exercise.

I hope you guys enjoyed this workshop review. If there is anything that I have said incorrectly or misquoted, please forgive. Please send me a message at and I will gladly make the correction.

If you interested in taking class with Rey Trajano, this is his website:

Website of Tiffanie Marie (Assistant Instructor)

Elizabeth Tran (Model)

Evelyn Lin (Model)