Jeff and Cat Chang might just be the dynamic wedding photography duo of the decade. Most recent on these newlyweds’ list of accomplishments? Winning the title of International Wedding Photographer of the Year—a global competition that’s basically of the Academy Awards for people in the biz. Frankly, I’m convinced it’s impossible not to get an award-worthy shot when these Vancouverites are behind the lens—the love and joy they radiate show up in their pictures (can you tell I'm totally smitten with this pair and their work?). They took a break from traveling the world to talk about their winning shot, coach camera-shy couples and share words of wisdom with industry newbies.
The shot that won them International Wedding Photographer of the Year
Where are you based out of?
We are based out of Vancouver, BC, but almost half of our weddings take place outside of the city. Whistler, Squamish, Galiano Island and the Sunshine Coast are a few of the places you can find us during the summer months.
What’s the farthest you’ve traveled to shoot a wedding?
Probably a tie between São Sebastião, Brazil and Cartagena, Colombia. Both involved multiple flights and connections and we basically felt like zombies when we arrived. That being said, we’d fly back in a heartbeat if it meant being able to work there again! Combining a wedding with an incredibly rich and deep cultural experience, and also being in a place with breathtaking architecture and landscape—you’ve basically got a recipe to making two photographers very, very happy!
How have your lives changed since winning International Wedding Photographer of the Year?
Honestly, not a lot has changed. Our industry is always evolving and growing and although we can’t discount the benefits of winning an award nothing beats building genuine connections with industry peers, creating meaningful work for your couples and being proud of your craft. We will say though that our inbox has been getting more inquiries from around the globe! "You want us to fly where? Okay!"
How would you describe your style?
That’s a hard one to type out considering style can be so personal and also so subjective, but we’d say our work is atmospheric, moody, intimate and we often create layers and textures by combining the surrounding architecture or landscape with our subjects.
What strengths do each of your bring to the team?
I think we’re pretty similar on the day of a wedding. We’re supportive to our couples, outgoing, creative and always willing to go that extra mile. "Off the court," if you will, we’re all about playing to our strengths. Jeff brings his years of experience with editing and colouring images to the table while Cat’s organizational mind keeps the business side of things going.
Best part about working with your spouse? Most Challenging part?
Hands down the best part of working with your spouse is spending time with them. Yes, we work side-by-side at home but wedding days are definitely the icing on the cake when it comes to spending time with each other. Creating art, documenting the happiest day ever for our couples, and even getting in a few dance moves at night with your partner is a pretty awesome way to spend time with your spouse if you ask us. The most challenging part? Making sure we don’t always do everything together! Cat is a part of a broadway choir and also runs her own side hustle called Watson Goods Co., while Jeff plays beach volleyball and does yoga three times a week.
What do you wish more couples knew about wedding photography?
The question we probably get most often is “how long will it be before we receive our images?” We always edit and deliver a few images right after the wedding as a sort of sneak peek slash hold over while we edit. But between the fact that most weddings in Vancouver happen within a three to four month span, on account of the weather, and that editing (at least if you want it done right) takes a really long time, it could be a few months for sure before you receive those photographs. It’ll be worth the wait, we promise!
Favourite part of the job?
We spend a lot of time getting to know our couples—our initial meet and greets can often feel like hangouts with old friends and because of that it’s hard for us not to get really invested in their day. When their wedding roles around, we are just so pumped to be there and to see all their family and friends enjoy the experience. How could we not love that part?! It’s the best!
Tips for couples who are camera-shy?
The best thing you can do is realize your photographer is a professional. They work with hundreds of people, most of whom are not accustomed to be photographed. Look at anyone’s portfolio and you can safely assume 95-percent of them aren’t models, which means everyone is a little camera-shy—it’s not just you. Be open to the experience and eventually you’ll get over that “this is awkward” feeling. Any photographer worth their salt knows making you feel comfortable is the key to capturing an authentic and natural photo of you.
Favourite wedding traditions you’ve ever seen?
Symbolism is a beautiful thing and one of our favourites is the Jewish tradition of the Huppah. It’s a beautiful metaphor for the “home.” The couple stands underneath it during the ceremony and it’s held up by their family or close friends. On a totally different tangent, we also love traditions that are unique to the couple, like a "Shot Ski” (where groups of people take a shot simultaneously off of a ski) or a song that everyone knows the dance moves to!
Dream shoot location?
Our wish list is long but right now at the top would have to be the tropical and lush landscapes of Ubud, Bali, the stark and graphic landscape of Iceland or the remote Faroe Islands.
What’s special about the winning photo you shot?
That’s a tough one! I guess everyone has their own opinion on what makes it special or unique for them, but I suppose we would say it’s that genuine expression from both of them. Just between the two of them we can see, joy, playfulness, love, embarrassment, happiness, it’s all there in one frozen moment. One of the reasons why we think photography is so impactful—each frame can hold so much.
Words of advice to aspiring wedding photographers?
Unlike what Instagram might portray, wedding photography is a career that takes time, patience and perseverance. Businesses and careers don’t happen over night. Be humble, learn from those around you, never feel too proud to ask for help. Too many get into the industry with the hopes of becoming rock stars over night and, although that might happen every once in a while, it just isn’t smart to be banking on it. We both started in photography while working part time jobs. It helped to have some stable income we could rely on while growing our business. It’s certainly not the glamorous answer you might have been hoping for but neither of us were looking for just a job, we were looking to build a career.
All Photography by Jeff and Cat Chang of The Apartment