Keeping it Real with Vivian Chen Photography

1.  What is the mission of your company?

My mission as a wedding photographer is to capture and share authentic wedding day stories. Whether my couples are eloping at San Francisco City Hall or getting married on a rainy day in the middle of an Oregon forest, my job is to be there to photograph all the candid moments in between beyond the epic posed portraits. I want my wedding photos to feel true to my couples and the reality of their wedding day. I’m drawn to catching the tender glances my couples share throughout the day, the times when nervous anticipation gives way to liberating laughter, and the elation in their eyes when when it hits them that, "Yes! We’re getting married today!"

2.  What is your company's origin story?  

Ever since I was a little girl, I was always drawing, painting, and crafting, but it wasn’t until high school that I turned toward photography as a way to express myself. After college, I took several different photography jobs from shooting at a hip-hop magazine to photographing newborns at the hospital before landing my first wedding photography assistant job. After six years of assisting and editing for other wedding photographers, I decided that it was time to launch out on my own. I view those years as an apprenticeship and apply much of what I learned from color correction and workflow to vendor and client relations to my own business. Vivian Chen Photography combines old-school professionalism with non-traditional feminist wedding beliefs. And when I’m not shooting weddings, I’m exploring the great outdoors while capturing fine art natural landscapes. I have an ingrained need to create and share, and I am grateful to have a job that allows me to do both.

3.  What is one of your favorite projects you've ever worked on?

Last year I had the opportunity to shoot a wedding at Tenaya Lake in Yosemite National Park. The couple had met while hiking the John Muir Trail, so it was only fitting that their love for the Sierras Mountains be the setting for their wedding. From the stunning vistas to the low-key picnic reception, their wedding was everything that I love to photograph. But what made this wedding extra-special was how warm and welcoming everyone was. I was invited to attend their rehearsal dinner and got to share a cabin with the bride’s childhood best friend, who also happened to be an award winning burlesque dancer. (I ended up doing a spontaneous sunset photo shoot with her in full burlesque costume in the desert!) By the end of the three days in Yosemite, I truly felt like an part of their wedding and not just a vendor. Making genuine connections like these is what fuels me as a photographer.

4.  How are you a "wedding space disrupter"?

I believe that weddings should be a reflection of who my couples really are. I refuse to let the wedding industrial complex dictate what I shoot. I always tell my couples that I’m not a strict photographer. I’m not going to force my couples to pose and stare at each other intensely like the cover of a romance novel if that doesn’t feel natural to them. Most of my couples are camera shy and I respect their space and work closely with them so they feel comfortable in front of my lens. Often my couples have preconceived notions that their wedding needs to have certain things (details, events, etc), so I like being a voice of sanity, encouraging my couples to embrace the parts of the wedding that feel right to them and letting go of everything that does. If that means they only want five minutes of posed portraits and skipping cake cutting, I’m happy to shoot it! I’m there to document the wedding day, not try to force it to look like every other wedding in the magazines.


5.  What three ingredients are necessary for a great day at your company?

  1. Time away from the computer and being outside in nature. I make sure that I give myself at least one day a week to disconnect which keeps me grounded as an artist and business owner.

  2. Whether it be an interesting podcast or new music that keeps me in the groove, a great soundtrack really helps me stay focused while I edit photos.

  3. Real conversations. Having been in the industry for almost ten years now, as well as planned my own wedding, I’m always happy to share my perspective and wedding planning tips to help ease the stress.

6.  What kind of couple makes an ideal client for your company?

I want to work with couples that are down-to-earth with a sense of humor and a taste for adventure. My ideal couple doesn’t need to be the center of attention and would rather spend their wedding day hanging out with their friends and family. (And if they also wanted to go on an 8 mile waterfall hike, like one of my couples who are getting married in Kauai asked, I’m game!)

7.  How would you describe your photography style in one sentence?
My wedding photography style is clean, crisp and photojournalistic, which means nothing overly posed, nothing ridiculously dramatic, nothing awkward, nothing that doesn't feel like YOU.


Vivian Chen is a photographer and biophiliac based out of Oakland, California. Her wedding and portrait photography is bright and crisp while giving space for her couples' true emotions to speak for themselves. When she's not working, Vivian enjoys hiking, being outdoors, and photographing nature and landscapes.