I'm 30!

Birthday self portrait! ✨

Birthday self portrait! ✨

It’s my birthday today! Can’t believe I’ve turned 30 now! It seems like not that long ago when I first picked up photography, but it’s actually been exactly 12 years now. 

When I look back I think I’ve managed to have quite an amazing time, something that I never imagined could be possible when I quit air rifle after doing it for 6 years. But hey, if every career is 6-12 years, we can fit quite a few into our lives ya?

Nothing is the end. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Fail hard, quit, and try some more.

I dropped out of school twice, quit my SC2 team and startup, quit and came back to photography, so so many times. And somehow, I’m still hanging in there, or turned out fine as some would say. 😂

Never stop and never give up on yourself! Keep trying and keep failing and then try again.

So long as you do things passionately, determinedly and seriously, it’s worth it. It’s always worth it. 

I hope I can keep going, too. Thank you for another year on my photography journey. ✨

Photo: Jingna Zhang
Makeup: Tatyana Harkoff
Assist: Phuong My, Tobias Kwan

A Photographer / Artist's Guide to Doing Things for Exposure


Received one of those “do this for exposure” emails from a top TV network yesterday. Usually I just trash these things, but I know people who have done the same gigs in the past. And it makes me so angry that clients dare offer a “token fee” for “exposure”, and in the same breath ask for all rights in perpetuity and rights for their sponsors to use the work for commercial purposes. D:

So I made a rant on Insta, and then still raging, expanded my thoughts on Twitter. It became a mini guide on how to approach doing things for exposure. For easy-reading, here it is~    


1. Do things because you want to.

Not because of promised exposures or future jobs. It's 99.99% never worth it, and 0.01% most likely still not worth it.

2. If you must do something for exposure, remember that the work is yours.

The client didn’t pay you enough or they wouldn’t throw in exposure in lieu of payment. So make sure you own the rights of the work. This means that:

3. The client cannot ask to own all rights of your work

in perpetuity throughout the universe, and have rights for their sponsors and affiliates to use the work unrestricted, for any and all commercial purposes, without any payments to you.

4. See the words commercial purposes? You should be paid.

5. Contracts are always negotiable.

But if a client can offer you insulting terms right off the bat (like exposure), they're not going to respect you. These kinds of contracts are never worth negotiating.

6. Also, these types of offers usually mean that a company has either culture or financial issues or both.

This means that the work will be a nightmare, getting paid will be a nightmare. So just don't do it.

7. Some clients can be sincere but simply ignorant.

If they lack experience/knowledge about the industry, educate them. You might gain a client or not. But you'll certainly be doing both you and the industry a service in letting them know what should be the norm and value of a creative's time. Don't bother with those who are obviously big and just out to take advantage. See #6. 

8. Companies buy ads and media spaces with (a lot of) money.

If you are engaged to work, you should be paid proportionate to that amount. With money, not exposure.

9. It’s totally ok to create for free.

For personal enjoyment and experimentations, for explorations, collaborations and fun. 

This is different from working for a client. Distinguish between the two and don't let someone take advantage of you! 


TLDR—don't do things for exposure. ✨

As a bonus: 

10. Undercutting the market will not help you compete. 

If you position yourself to attract bad clients, you will keep attracting bad clients. Say no and move on. Get really good and learn to respect yourself, your time, and your craft. 



Have other questions or situations you're curious about? Leave a comment below! 

10 Years Since

Forgotten Fairytales by Jingna Zhang

10 years and some since I first posted this image. It's unbelievable how fast time passes by.

I remember being in art school at that time, I just got my first laptop and was shooting and editing all my images as JPGs, cuz I couldn't afford extra storage space (don't do that!! 🤣).

I remember trying to find wifi spots at school to check on dA, to make sure I submitted on a regular schedule (yes, even back then!) I met so many people and learned so much.

I don't think I ever imagined at that point that I would become a photographer. I was good at air rifle and I believe wholeheartedly that was what I was born to do. I felt that if I quit, I would be squandering my talents, years of hard work, and letting down all the people who invested time and energy in teaching me.

I had no reason to pursue anything else. I hadn't quite given up on my Olympic dream yet.

Well, turns out that quitting rifle was a good thing. Though painful, without it I wouldn't have come this way.

Sometimes I took other long detours on this journey too—like having a StarCraft 2 team, teaching; people in fashion didn't approve of at all. 😂

They turned out to be precious experiences beyond imagination. I met so many amazing people who taught me so much; so many who became good friends.

So what am I really saying?

Don't worry about your equipment, don't worry if you don't know what you want to do, don't worry if things don't seem like they'll ever get better, don't worry if there's pushback.

Forget toxic people. Become the best version of yourself.

Believe in what you love in your heart of hearts. Believe that you will become stronger. Believe that one day the harshest things will feel less harsh. Believe in yourself and never give up. Never give up. ✨

Well, I guess that would've been my encouragement letter to my teenage self, you do you. 😂

Keep fighting.


Working with Limitations

Did you know that most of the Motherland Chronicles was shot in my apartment, including this piece?

Because of the fast turnaround needed and lack of budget while doing this series, I began building sets in my living room.

It turned out great not only for keeping expenses reasonable for personal work, but I also learned some valuable skills that I got to apply to my commercial and fashion work for later.

Limitations are great because they teach you how to maximize when there are no other choices.

Don't be afraid to try what you haven't done before. ❤️

Print available

Art of Noah by Kuang Hong

Had the honor of writing the foreword to Noah Kuang Hong's new artbook that's just been published in China. 2 volumes collecting over 15 years of his digital paintings, it's really something to behold.

We've known each other well over a decade now, some of my earliest experiences in learning about art, Photoshop, and defining my own colors and aesthetics as a photographer came from working together ...


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Sadness and Pain

My grandma passed away on Boxing Day six years ago.

No one told me the news, even though she was the only one who raised me when I was a child. The way I found out was cruel in its offhandedness, the memory loops around in my head every year when the season comes around.

It hurts, so much so that I sometimes want to claw my chest out and rip my heart to pieces so the pain can stop.

It was the last time I celebrated a Christmas or New Year.

There are blocks of days in a year that are blacked out in my mind. These are days where I know I can’t function. I can't avoid the nightmares, I still mourn.

Sometimes I wonder if it will only end when the entire year is dipped in black, because then I would have no choice but to accept those days as the new norm and live.

Maybe I hold on to too much, maybe I am not as strong as others, maybe I can never become a person who doesn’t cry on days close to the death anniversaries of people I knew and cared about. But I think that's okay. It's a part of me, and has made me into who I am today.

Festive seasons make it hard to talk about pain. If you are hurting inside, you are not alone.

14 Tips for Photographers Who Want to go Pro

This is the sixth article in my Profoto Blog series

Hi everyone! In my last five articles for this series, I have covered the process of producing photoshoots, my favorite fashion photography lighting equipment, and tips on how to break into fashion photography. In this sixth and final piece, I would like to follow up on breaking into fashion photography and talk about how one develops into a professional photographer.

People arrive at their destinations through different paths, but many also share the same struggles, dilemmas, and pitfalls. I hope my thoughts will shed some light on what the path of going pro often entails. Let me know what you think at the end of the post! ...

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