Meet Ka Vang, a senior mass communication major with an advertising emphasis from St. Paul. She describes herself as tired, ambitious and sassy AF.
Her campus (HC): How did you get into photography?
Ka Vang (KV): My sister bought a DSLR and never bothered learning how to use it so I took it upon myself to learn how to shoot in manual mode. People started asking me to take their senior portraits and I’ve never looked back.
HC: How would you describe your process during a photo shoot?
KV: My photo style is all about storytelling and capturing my clients in the most raw and authentic way possible. Because of that, I meet my clients multiple times before an event. For seniors, I send out a questionnaire. I want to know everything about them. I seek to be more than just a photographer; I want to become their friend, someone who they can count on the day of the event, someone they can talk about cute boys and good music with. We meet/chat to see if we’re a good fit, then we book a shoot and talk details. I see a session as an experience, not a shoot.
HC: What is the best piece of advice you have received?
KV: Never trade authenticity for quantity.
HC: From when you first started to now, how have you grown both personally and as an artist?
KV: Photography helped me break out of my shell. I was very reserved and shy but photography pushed me out of that bubble, forcing me to talk to people. I’m learning how to be a ‘more of you, less of me’ type of person. I’ve grown to develop my style and my brand, although, as an artist, I also realize that I will never be 100% satisfied with my art. I’m constantly changing it up and growing and that’s what keeps me on my toes.
HC: You run your own photography business. What is that like?
KV: Honestly, it’s SO much more than I bargained for. I didn’t know that becoming a photographer meant shooting 13-hour-long events with little rest or that my life would revolve around this single event. BUT, I also didn’t know I would meet so many incredible people. My clients and other artists I’ve met through photography have been so kind and totally rad. Although very draining, being a photographer is one of THE best things I’ve decided to get involved in.
HC: Who inspires you?
KV: My mother. She is such a hardworking, headstrong woman and is everything I aspire to be. She moved to the U.S. not knowing a single English word and was able to get me to where I am today. I love my mom!
HC: What advice would you give to photographers just starting out?
KV: Go out there and shoot. Make your friends model for you, take on shoots for free, practice, practice, practice. No one is going to be able to teach you how to shoot, edit, etc. Sure, you can learn how to use your camera in a class, but just going out there and practicing will change everything. What works for someone else might not work for you. You don’t need fancy equipment to take great photos. Find your own style. Be inspired, but don’t try to mimic someone else’s work. Don’t compare your 5 months of experience to someone else’s 5 years.
The creative world is a competitive place. It’s thrilling but it will take a lot out of you. I hope you never see your client as a paycheck. I hope you get excited to shoot someone’s special day, to capture and share their story. Remember that photography is more than showing up and pressing a few buttons. I hope you are always inspired, humble and kind. Never let your fire burn out.
A lot of times, the creative world is very toxic and people aren’t very kind. I am lucky enough to have met a few who have been incredibly kind to me, so I make it my mission to be kind to others. If you have any questions or want to chat about photography (or cute boys…or puppies…), just contact me. I’d love to help in any way I can. In return, I just hope you do the same to others.