A wedding photography master branches out TEXT BY JENNIFER GIDMAN ZUMPANO • IMAGES BY GARY FONG
Gary Fong started his professional photography career relatively
late in life. After graduating with a degree in pharmacology, he
ditched his medical school plans for wedding photography simply
because he "wanted to be around happy people."
Now, 18 years later, Fong has risen to the top of the wedding photography ranks. His devotion to picture-making continues to drive his work and project lineup.
Besides shooting celebrity weddings worldwide and setting up his Storybook Weddings studio, Fong has created Montage, the industry-standard album-assembly software program; founded the nation's largest digital pro-lab with e-commerce photography website Pictage.com, completed a national seminar tour with wedding icon Denis Reggie, and created the popular Summit Workshops at a Canadian ski resort where he's the area's largest American property owner.
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW
Fong is especially excited about his soon-to-be-launched website, www.digitalphotographers.net. "It's the first site created by a working, all-digital professional photographer devoted to discussing real-world issues about digital performance in the field, not just in the lab," he explains. "My experience as both a photographer and lab owner gave me a lot of insight [on how] I could really help photographers achieve great output."
Along with his website about to debut, Fong also opened a brand-new studio. The new space in Marina Del Rey, comes complete with floor-to-ceiling views of the Pacific Coast, and is steps away from his 32-foot sailboat, which he often uses for engagement sessions.
"This totally paperless, production-free experiment worked!" he exclaims. T-1 lines transmit images directly to Pictage's lab. "After an event, I upload my images to Pictage for Internet commerce. My clients can view their images within days and zoom in at great magnification. Orders placed on the Internet proceed directly to the lab for printing; I'm not involved with the small but profitable reorders. And Pictage v2.0 software has sped up the delivery of images tremendously."
Fong was originally a Fuji FinePix S1 Pro digital camera user, but news of the S2 soon reached him. "I have had virtually every digital camera on the market, many with strong features, but the S1 had the image quality to beat. It all comes down to image quality."
Fong has dabbled in digital long enough to point out critical factors to look for when shooting digital: "A great pro camera has to have a large dynamic range. This means that the image should be able to record dark shadow areas, super hot highlight areas, and every shade of midtone in between without blowing out the highlights or causing the image to 'bloom.'"
The S2 provides the range Fong wants and needs, and "uncanny autoexposure and white balance accuracy," according to Fong. "You can shoot in Program mode through a variety of challenging conditions, and it will deliver professional results."
Fong uses the FinePix S2 Pro as a JPEG device, rather than use the camera's RAW mode. "The workflow is about one-fifth what it would be otherwise. This camera is so accurate, the images are perfect at capture. Ask anyone who owns one."
(AND OTHER PROJECTS)
Fong is proud of his history with Pictage and how it has evolved since its humble beginnings. "Pictage is now the largest professional digital lab in the country, and after only 14 months, we became profitable," he says. "Witnessing a lab grow like this was an amazing experience."
Though he is an investor and on the board of directors, his most rewarding role at Pictage is that of client. "Without Pictage, I wouldn't want to be in the photography business. The thought of having to go back to square one, knowing all of the power technology provides—that would be unbearable."
Fong continues to direct the popular Summit Workshops at Big White Ski Resorts in the Canadian Rockies, and has expanded the curriculum to intense in-studio works at his Marina Del Rey Studio on digital photography and wealth building. These personalized workshops, offering discussion and hands-on techniques, continue to challenge Fong to find new ways to share his photo and business knowledge.
"The summit has become the de-facto bellwether of the coming year's direction of the digital industry," he says. "And we have so much fun in the snow."