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)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

How to do name painting - Online Course

Hey guys! upon popular request - I have finally released a name painting video course!
If you are interested, click on this link to read more. It is a 6 week course for $75.

Monday, January 25, 2016

2015 Reflection / 2016 Goals

This blogpost will be in 3 parts.
1) Overall Review of 2015 - Positive, Negative and What did I Learn?
2) Goal Review of 2015 - Did I accomplish what you set out to do?
3) Goal Setting of 2016 - Where am I, What are my Obstacles, and What is my Strategy?

Overall Review of 2015

1) Year of Career Growth

+ First INSTALL at Discovery Cube as “set dresser” for BaAm Productions!

+ First in-house position at Rhetroactive. Got inside look at project process. Learned a lot!
+ Raised my day rate to $400! (was $300 back 2013)
+ Was able to make enough money to give my parents $1500 almost every month (paying back college loans).

- Worked in an office 9-5 was mentally and physically exhausting. I had trouble getting along with my co-workers. 3 hour commute to LA felt like torture. Worked hard but burned out. Quit my job in October for a vacation.

L - At the end of everyday - I would always ask myself, did I produce $400 worth of artwork today?  This behavior pushed myself to deliver as much as I could - sometimes driving myself towards exhaustion. However, I learned that you have to pace yourself when working in an office environment. Think longer term. Not a sprint.

L - Long term strategy is to create my own style of art and focusing on doing what I love. Prior to this, my strategy was to just... (2013) get my foot in the door. (2014) - get as much experience as possible. (2015) work in-house to understand project flow. And for 2016 - it will be about creating a niche market and specialization for myself. Big goal is to be happy and to enjoy my work! :)

2) Year of Project Lifecoach Explosion

+ Fanbase ERUPTED with KonMari videos. (Went from 18 to 3700+ Subscribers)
+ Introduced Unfiltered + Monthly reflection videos. Good response. 
+ “How to Get Art Job” video (January) - Great response!

- More subscribers means more exposure and negative comments.
- Too much time making videos (like 40 min travel vlog) - it's becoming not fun.
- Not hanging out with actual friends

L - Unfiltered videos had some of the BEST engagement with fans, even though the videos had shitty lighting, poor sound quality and NO editing. Sometimes, people just need you to be real and authentic - not shiny and perfect. By being truly yourself and letting your own light shine, you are unconsciously encouraging others to do the same.

L - Just have fun with Project Lifecoach. Keep it simple.Live life outside of youtube!

3) Year of Professional Photography and Videography

+ Got PAID to do videography and photos for THEA event. 
+ Created SATE and Gib Gab video for Themed Entertainment Association.
+ Created Next Gen Skill Codex! TEA sent to entire email list! Great response!
+ My videos were shown at an INTERNATIONAL conference.

L - It is possible to just do something for fun and when you get good at it - people will pay you to do that for them!!

4) Year of Expansive Travel

- Went to San Francisco, Princeton + New York with Chris Nguyen in February
- Went to SATE conference in Pittsburgh - did a talk at Carnegie Mellon in August
- Went to Shanghai + Taiwan trip in August

-  CMU talk was not that great. Talk could’ve been better with a DEMO! C'mon man!

L - Traveling alone can get lonely after a while. But traveling with lots of people can cause headache after a while. Traveling sounds awesome - but it can be exhausting.

L - Very enjoyable living with few possessions! You need less than you think. Simplicity.

5) Year of Lifestyle Design

+ Was living a dream life! Health, Wealth, Career, Family, Friends, Dating and Travel
+ 3 days workweeks: Exercise 1-2 hours in morning. Work 8-10 hour days. Hang out with new friends from hostel for 1-2 hours at night. Stay at hostels located in Hollywood, Korea town, Venice Beach etc... Go see local tourist destinations. Sleep at 10pm. 
+ 4 Day weekends: Go home. Spend time with family. Hang out with friends. Work on my business, sleep and recover.

- Driving to LA was sucked. Woke up 5am and drove 3 hours.
- Spending upwards of $400/ month on food, $200/ month on gas, lots of mileage on car.
- Hostel life was very fun at first, it got less fun after a while.
- Stressful work environment.
- Mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting.

L - It's possible to live your dream without knowing whether or not it is even possible. Just sent the intention and figure it out as you go. It's about the execution and always adjusting.

L - Imagine/ manifest a type of client/ project - You are an expert at what you do - you spend minimal effort and client is very happy with the results. The clients respects you immensely and pays you on time. You get paid A LOT!  Each project is interesting, fun, great for your career growth. You get to put your work in your portfolio to attract more projects and clients. The work you produce is excellent - your peers respect you. Doing this type of work makes you happy, healthy and wealthy.

6) Year of the New Home

- Moved to a new house. Super stressed out because had 3 big events simultaneously going on in July: moving, Anime Expo Convention, and my new job. So stressful!!

L  - Still adjusting to new home in Tustin. Learning that it's okay to move forward.

7) Year of Closing Legendbrush's Store

+ Started the year off great. Had a interview at Wondercon, did Anime Expo.
+ Lots of name painting and caricature parties. First wedding event!

- Closed Etsy store in July. Too busy with new job and Project Lifecoach. Name painting no longer sparked joy. 

L - Online classes? Re-open Etsy store in 2016.

L - It's okay to move forward. Thank Legendbrush for bringing me so much money and for supporting when I needed it. I can move on to bigger and better things.

8) Year of Struggling Friendships

- Much less social life with friends. Not acclimated to regular 9-5 lifestyle.  
- Running multiple projects was HARD. Project Lifecoach took a lot of mental bandwidth. Legendbrush took up a lot of weekends. Theme park work took up a lot of physical and emotional energy. Not much leftover energy to spend with friends. 

9) Year of Great TV shows
America’s Best Dance Crew
Agents of Shield

10) Favorite Purchases of the Year
- Blue Yeti Microphone ($75 - black friday sale!). So useful! Very reliable and solid. 
- 50mm 1.8g AFS Nikon Lens - Love this lens! I use it so much!

Goal Review of 2015 
These are goals I set for 2015. I evaluate if I accomplish them or not. 

1) I’m grateful and humble
Not really. I complain a lot and I’m still very arrogant. 
2) I’m thoughtful, considerate and kind
Maybe I’m a little bit more thoughtful. I think I’m improving and definitely more aware. But I still look out for myself first. 
3) I’m very generous
Because I’ve been making more money this month, I feel a lot more comfortable shelling out gifts. Been giving my parents $1500/ month which I’m very proud of. But when there is a lack of income, I become stingy again. 
4) Redo Portfolio website - client friendly
Yes definitely! I’m loving the “About Me” video, Pricing, Booth section and Blog that I updated on my website. 
5) Passive Income for Legendbrush
Tried selling prints on Etsy, but wasn’t that popular. I didn’t feel like the product was that good to begin with cuz the prints were so small. Classes?
6) Make Legendbrush parties better
The parties ARE better. The Caricatures now come with a cool plastic bag. My technique is improving. I have these new cardboard things. I still want to do a marketing video for the parties though… 
7) Out of state conventions (fun/travel)
Nope. Stopped doing conventions altogether. No longer that fun/ want to go down that route. Considering going legit and doing “wonder gallery” at downtown disney? 
8) Exercise More
Started playing basketball at my new house! I miss swimming at the swimming pool near my old house. But I guess it’s time to move on. I need to embrace the present and where I am right now. 
9) More effort into family, friends, girlfriend
My girlfriend doesn’t have time for me. lol… I don’t think it’s about “effort” - it’s about compassion, kindness and patience. 
10) Like and accept myself
Gary V. has an interesting take on “self-awareness.” Focus on your strengths and don’t give a fuck about your weaknesses. That is a good and interesting take on self-acceptance. 
11) Put more effort into Fashion
I still kind of suck at fashion. I tried starting a tumblr thinking I would do a fashion blog - but it was a lot harder than I thought. I like girls who are good at fashion - but I just don’t like putting in all that effort / don’t value the outcome I guess. I feel like a lot of fashionable clothes are uncomfortable or I might ruin them.  

Around August… I kind of got bored with my goals because they weren’t very actionable. The main ones being… 1) I’m grateful and humble, 2) I’m thoughtful, considerate and kind, 3) I’m very generous. So I changed them…

1) I am strong
This was a good goal because strength refers to both physical and mental. I AM a strong person, but the problem is that I am often too “rigid.” I strain and injury my neck from sometimes trying TOO hard. I think I need to be more chill, flexible and relaxed. 

2) I am compassionate, understanding and connected
I tried my best, but honestly a lot of times I feel alone, disconnected and isolated. This still needs work. 

3) Life is easy and loving
This is a pretty good goal. I try to just let things unfold and take it easy instead of worrying so much about the final outcome. 

Around September I got bored and revamped my goals AGAIN! This time they were…

1) My artwork for theme parks is as good as Chris Turner; Greg Pro. I draw and paint stuff that I like for fun!
I did couple of Greg Pro/ Chris Turner copies - which was fun and very educational. But I feel like the right step is for me to develop my own style and artistic taste— understanding what my strengths are and capitalizing on that. I think it’s important that I have fun have experience joy when I am creating artwork. When I am having fun, that is when the best work emerges. 

2) I allow myself to have a happy healthy sex life that is fun, enjoyable and responsible. 
I downloaded a bunch of TED talks on sex and tried to immerse myself a little bit more on the topic so it’s not so awkward. I’m making “have sex” a goal for 216. 

3) I allow others to feel. Loved, appreciated, respected, valued, heard, understood, important and cherished. 
I’m working on this - and it’s good that I have this intention. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Sketches from 2015

So my sketchblog is in shambles. Haven't really posted much art on it. It's mostly articles and so disorganized. Here are some of my sketches from 2015. Below are some Greg Pro studies - one of my favorite theme park illustrators. 

And after that are a lot of the sketches of pretty girls from my instagram account. Honestly - it's a dream come true to just draw pretty girls. When I was in high school and I saw cute girls on tumblr - I wish I had the time to draw them - but I always too busy with homework. Now - it's nice that I like... get to draw whatever I want. :)

Instagram is nice because it's quick, and you get better engagement with fans with likes and comments. But I still like blogger because I have an Archive that goes back many many years. And it's nice to be able to see some history.