Confessing that he’s addicted to weddings, Jimmy Cheng tells us that he’s been shooting big days since 2008, but his love affair with photography began much earlier. In the 1990s, he started photography with Canon DSLRs, and stuck with them when he turned professional, for both his weddings and street work.
The influence of street photography is clear in his approach to weddings, which Jimmy describes as “wedding journalism”. “During my amateur days, I was fascinated by photojournalism and documentary,” he says. “I love photo books from famous photojournalists and am intrigued by their iconic images that told stories. When I became a wedding photographer, I tried to do the same for my clients so they can relive their big days through my images.
“Not only does the wedding day go by quickly, it’s also multifaceted. So many things are happening simultaneously and most likely I am the only person who will witness all the aspects, from the first tea after waking up to the last candle of the day!”
This approach has evolved into a new strand to his business: Love Journey. These shoots were born when he realised that his storytelling, documentary approach didn’t fit with the engagement and pre-wedding shoots he was being asked for. Recognising that how the couple get to their wedding day is a story, he chose to focus on this rather than posing couples for engagement portraits.
“A wedding signifies a new chapter in life but at the same time, a wedding day is only half the story,” he says. “The other half lies in how and where the couple met and the journey they took together before the big day. That’s the story I love to recreate to complete the first part of their journey. “On a Love Journey the couple revisits all those places from their first dates and hangouts. They are often very ordinary venues but they are personal and memorable to the couple. “When I describe this to my potential couples, they are always intrigued by the idea and those who booked my Love Journey photo shoot would hire me as their wedding photographer too.”
Whether he’s photographing a couple on a Love Journey shoot, a wedding day or approaching interesting looking characters on the street, Jimmy favours a discreet approach. Which is why his Canon cameras have given way to Olympus OM-Ds. “Canon brought me the performance and reliability that I demanded when I turned pro in 2008. But after four years, I was beginning to see the ‘limits’ in DSLR development when the mirrorless cameras starting to pop up everywhere,” he explains. “I was longing for a more discreet way to photograph my subjects; traditional DSLRs were just too big and intimidating and often attracted unnecessary attention.
“I was really intrigued with the concept of Micro Four Thirds system when the very first camera went on sale. It was the size of the system that really captured my interest. Then I bought the E-M5 when it was launched in 2012 and never looked back.”
That first E-M1 Jimmy used for his travel photography and on occasional family trips, not his wedding work. Although he was convinced that one day an OM-D camera would be his main camera, he was waiting for its performance to catch up with the demands of professional shooting. That happened with the E-M1 Mark II –
“I was totally blown away by its performance and finally thought that it’s the right time to try the system in a pro environment and this year, I switched to Olympus entirely.”
As well as his Canons, Jimmy also previously used a Leica, and in the OM-D he feels he has the best of what Canon and Leica used to offer him: features, performance and size.
“For most of my shoots, I like to shoot wide open,” he tells us, “and before Olympus, I needed to use ND filters to reduce the light coming into the camera since the maximum mechanical shutter speed wasn’t fast enough. The large coverage of the all cross-type AF system is also superior in many ways and perfect for my type of work too. I also find that even with the mechanical shutter on the EM-1 Mark II, it’s very quiet compared to other systems I’ve used before.
“AF performance on the Mark II definitely surprised me. It was so fast that I needed some time to adjust my response time. Being a mirrorless system means AF accuracy is guaranteed all the time at the point of focus too. I am no machine-shooter but I use the new Pro-Capture mode more than I would have imagined for all those important moments, whether it’s street or weddings.”
Jimmy’s also shooting video with the Mark II for a new YouTube channel, Red35 Photography, of which he is a co-founder. He’s making good use of the Mark II’s features for his street photography too. “I love to develop my images so I shoot Raw on the Mark II, but since I have the option to shoot both Raw and JPEG at the same time I will select the black & white filter so I have the option to see the black & white version on screen before processing the images.”
Continuing his success story with his Olympus kit, Jimmy has added maternity shoots to his business. Looks like a match made in heaven to us.
Article featured in Professional Photo Magazine issue 137