Industry Insider Interview: Sasha Eng Williams

Sasha Eng Williams began her career as a video director and producer in the corporate world. Although telling the stories of businesses and their customers was rewarding, she also craved artistic and inspiring encounters with people in love… So OBSERVANCE by sasha was born.

Website:
observancebysasha.com
Instagram:
@observancebysasha
Facebook:
@observancebysasha

When did you first think of becoming a photographer?

I have always been a visual learner & thinker. AP Art History in high school was one of my favorite courses I’ve ever taken, because it celebrated the infinite ways humans can see and depict the world around them. After graduating from UC Berkeley, I took a job as a video producer and director in the corporate world, which allowed me to precisely hone my technical skills with DSLRs, develop an “eye” for the best shots, AND provided me with the disposable income to begin collecting my own camera gear. I purchased my first mirrorless Sony Alpha camera & nifty fifty prime– the rest is history.

What aspect of Weddings do you most enjoy photographing?

Weddings are my absolute favorite because there is such a flood of genuine, powerful emotion. It’s remarkable to witness true love in action. And to capture these moments and share them with the couple afterwards is humbling, it’s invigorating, and it’s incredibly important work. A photograph is literally a conduit between past, present, and future. Pure magic.

Do you have a method for gaining new clients?

Referrals, referrals, referrals! Social media is a fun & rewarding pastime for me, but the majority of my clients have been referrals. The finished photographs are only part of the product I’m providing. An exceptional customer experience, from first contact, to the shoot itself, to the final delivery, and staying in touch afterward… That’s what I’m really selling, and that’s what inspires people to recommend me to their friends & family.

Who are some of your favorite photographers past or present?

Although I shoot digital, I am most inspired by modern fine art wedding photographers who work primarily on film in natural light. Jen Huang, Nadia Hung, Tiffany Le, and India Earl all get my heart racing!!

What cameras and lighting gear did you start with and what are you currently using?

I shoot with two Sony A7S cameras to get the most out of the low light situations typical of weddings. I use only prime lenses for their wide apertures & creamy bokeh. For weddings, I bring a 28mm, 55mm, 85mm, and 90mm macro. I’m a natural light shooter! Flashes can be extremely distracting and draw people out of the moment. Since I’m going after genuine emotion, I use the ambient light of a scene to tell the story as authentically as possible.

What are some of the key elements to consider when shooting weddings?

By offering engagement sessions to all my wedding clients, I can really get to know their unique personalities before the wedding day. This helps immensely because I can see each moment through their eyes, and capture the shots that will ultimately thrill them the most. Befriending the wedding guests on the big day has a similar effect. People are really willing to let loose and be themselves when they already know & like me!

What have you found to be the best way to get your work out there and get exposure?

Referrals! Nothing is more powerful and lasting than a pleased customer who shares your work with their friends & family.

How do you utilize social media and online tools?

Since most of my clients are referrals, my website functions as a portfolio for these folks to see samples of my work, learn more about my personality & style, and, hopefully, contact me. I use Instagram to connect with other wedding vendors & stay abreast of the latest trends and industry news. Why be catty when you can be friends & work together instead? Instagram also has powerful hashtag and geotagging tools that help potential clients find me!

What would you say the benefits are for event organizers to work with photographers and videographers?

After choosing a venue, many wedding clients hire their photographer/videographer before anyone else. I’m always ready to recommend my favorite local vendors who will be a great fit for my clients’ personalities… So let’s connect! I also love capturing those details shots that would look great in other vendors’ portfolios.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a photographer?

Competition! The SF Bay Area is an extremely happening place, so it’s easy to get lost in the sea of very talented competitors. This is why word-of-mouth referrals and providing a fabulous customer experience are SO important to doing business here.

What advice would you give to photography students or those looking to pursue this career? What can they do to stand out and get noticed?

Technical skills are easy to achieve with study and practice. But having “a good eye” and being able to capture truly extraordinary shots– that takes passion, flow. You need to be able to get lost in the moment and relax completely in order to take the big risks and enjoy the biggest payoffs.