By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
One photo that Alex Shiu took on a Florida cruise landed him in Turks and Caicos for another wedding photo shoot.
Shiu — who has been working in photography for 18 years — has traveled to exotic places like Hawaii, Mexico, Jamaica, and Japan to capture couples and families celebrating their special occasions.
He was taking photos for a married couple on the cruise when he took a random photo of another couple who got engaged while dancing. The dancing couple loved Shiu’s photo so much that they hired him to photograph their wedding.
Shiu has always loved photography, but he didn’t realize it until later. Shiu studied economics at the University of Washington, but he later realized that he didn’t want to work at a bank, so he pursued photography. After college, he attended the Art Institute of Seattle because he wanted to learn the difference between amateur and professional photography.
Shiu recalled his first wedding shoot 18 years ago. There were about 300 people at the Western-themed wedding and he was the only Asian person there. He got there and hesitated for a few minutes because he felt isolated and was nervous about looking different. He wondered to himself why this couple had hired a stranger (him) to capture their big day.
But his Christian faith kept him strong and confident. He went away for a few minutes to pray and then he was able to forget about his worries and hesitations. From then on, he knew he would always give his all to take the best photos.
“I want to build art instead of just a photo. Many times, people ask me about how to take good photos. I tell them that photography is all about the light. If there’s no light, then I won’t see you and you won’t see me. If you want to learn photography, you need to learn about the light. First, you learn from God, and then you’ll learn the light. How intense or soft the light, and then you’ll feel that, and then you’ll know the feeling,” he explained.
In addition to weddings, Shiu loves newborn shoots.
“There’s nothing more important than a family in love, and the mom and dad holding the newborn,” he said.
“Before I had kids, I never took photos of kids, but after I had my boys, I developed the patience to take those photos and learned how to catch those moments. It’s all about the love between the parents and the kids,” he added.
Ten years ago, Shiu almost quit photography after taking on his new role as a father.
“From being a single guy to a husband to a daddy, it took time for me to adjust to my new identity. I had to figure out how to prioritize my time and I had a hard time adjusting,” he said.
A special moment happened with his oldest son who was 3 years old at the time, that motivated him to continue photography. Shiu was standing by a window and the sunlight shone into his son’s eye and then his son said, “Daddy, I love you,” with a big smile. Shiu saw that as a “wow” moment that touched his heart, and felt that it was a sign for him to continue capturing moments from the hearts for other people.
To boost brand awareness a few years ago, Shiu offered a 30-minute shoot on Groupon and sold 83 deals on the first day. He was excited at first, but then felt unhappy because the tips he received were less than his regular wedding customers.
But he was inspired by his ah-ha moment with his son and realized that he was hired to capture the moments that count, and that it wasn’t about the money. He turned his thinking around and gave his all into those shoots to produce the best results. From that exposure, he said that the majority of the Groupon customers became repeat customers.
The Arctic Club is Shiu’s favorite place in Seattle to shoot due to the beautiful decor and lighting. He also thinks the wineries in Woodinville are great areas.
Shiu said that the most memorable parts of wedding shoots are the father/daughter dances. He recalled a particular shoot in Seattle where the bride’s father had terminal cancer and he could feel the love from the bride and father dancing for the last time.
He recently told a couple, “We are not wedding photographers. We are a group of artists to capture the best moments on your wedding day, this is what we do best.”
Despite working with some difficult clients, Shiu said that his team always gives 200 percent to deliver the best results.
“If you hire me, I’ll spend the whole day until the last moment, if you feel comfortable, then your heart will open and feelings will come out. I always share with my team that we’re here to capture the moment, it’s not about us. It’s about the moment. We are building life’s mementos,” he said.
Shiu shot with a Canon camera for 16 years, but switched to Sony a few years ago. He said the Sony camera is lighter, easier, and has better technology.
Shiu works with his team of 12 people who all have full-time day jobs, but enjoy photography as a side gig.
“I’m stubborn about my work and they all know that. I yell at them sometimes, in a good way, and they all appreciate it,” he said.
Shiu’s wife works at Microsoft as a software engineer. They got married in 2014 in their church parking lot for about $1,500.
“We wanted a simple wedding,” he said with a laugh.
For more information about Alex’s photography, visit alexphotographyblog.com.
Nina Huang can be reached at email@example.com.