Daniel Kim Photography: Capturing the Light

We live in a world of filters.

Bump up the saturation, sharpen the things we enjoy and blur out the realities to ignore. Over expose choice moments, through a choice lens, hoping our augmented account receives praise and affirmation from our peers. Infinite scrolling, Instagram feeds and insecurity.

Real skill takes time to develop.

Daniel Kim, his wife, Ashley, and film will save us all. Together, they're redefining quality photography and a perspective that savors the moment more than the reaction.

They're married. Travel. Work together. Generally do what they like. And they're capturing the light.

Though, sometimes, professional photography isn't as glamorous as people may perceive.

And that's just fine by the Kims.

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Daniel, I’ve known you and your camera for many years so tell us how you and the Miss became Mr. and Mrs.

Oh man. Well. I had just gotten back from Army Basic Training, boot camp, whatever you want to call it (I had joined the Army National Guard as an Infantryman so that’s why I was there) and the only class that was available for a literacy credit was U.S. Womens History. I literally came home from months of being in an environment of screaming Drill Sergeants and ruck marches and weapons, and the next day stepped into class at ASU for my sophomore year. My wife, Ash, also ended up taking that class. And that’s how we met.

She moved away back to California for school and we dated long distance. She ended up moving back and as soon as she moved back, I left again for training at Fort Benning. Two months later, I came back. Finished out school. I proposed to her in San Diego with a video. We got married in California at a little garden venue in Camarillo. But we live in Arizona. GO AZ!

We celebrated two years on September 28, 2014 and we've been working together for about a year and a half now.

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Ashley, how has life changed since you stopped working at the bank and started shooting with Daniel?

Life has changed for the better in two major ways. The first is that I’m now doing something that I like to do. I’ve always been a creative type (in high school I worked on Yearbook and in college I studied design), so working in the corporate banking world did not really suit me. I really enjoy photography and the fact that I now get to do something that I actually enjoy doing, is amazing and a lot more fulfilling.

The second is that shooting together has helped to strengthen our marriage. Before working together, our schedules were complete opposites and it was becoming a challenge to find time to spend together. Not only do we now have the same schedules which is awesome, but I’m now a part of his ‘photography world’ and so we can now have nerdy photo related conversations where I actually understand what he is saying - which I like to think brings us closer together.

ashley_kim

Were you a natural with the camera or is Daniel a good teacher?

I just asked Daniel what he thought about this question and he said I was a natural, haha! I think it was both. When it comes to photography, I think you can only be taught so much before your own eye and creativity has to come into play. He was a good teacher and obviously a valuable resource. He taught me the basics of shooting manually with a camera, as well as a lot of other technical aspects of photography.

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What are the joys and quiet challenges of being married to a creative, like Daniel?

One challenge from being married to a creative like Daniel is that he is a bit of a workaholic (which might be true of most people who are self employed). The joys are that he tends to get bored easily, meaning if we're not working, we are always trying to find something fun and different to do, he is very aware of and sensitive to the people around him, and he is playful and has a sense of humor.

I just thought it would be a fun job while it lasted, but things kind of just grew organically.

Did you ever think, at your wedding, that weddings would be a staple part of your lives together?

When we first got married, it never ever occurred to me that this is what we’d be doing together. We got married a little after we graduated from college and so I was secretly still in that mentality of “How am I going to pay for health insurance, a mortgage, etc.” and thought that I would have to get a real job to pay for that.

Even for someone who’s been shooting wedding since his teens, I never even considered doing wedding photography as a real job.

I just thought it would be a fun job while it lasted, but things kind of just grew organically. As the business grew, people from other states started paying to have me fly out to them and shoot. It sounds glorious, and it is, but with Ash working weekdays at the bank, and me flying around shooting on the weekends, we never got to see each other. So we made the decision for her to leave her current job, and help me run the business.

After all, they have to see all these people at Thanksgiving. I don’t.

You were a godsend at our wedding. Beyond the literal act of just snapping photos, what lengths you go to behind the scenes to help with a smooth process overall for the bride, groom and guests?

Haha. Thanks man. I try and help with the timeline a lot. Also, if it’s a hot day (living in AZ it’s warm a lot), I try to keep EVERYBODY in the shade and make sure they all have water. It’s important to me that the couple and the guests actually enjoy their day during all aspects of the wedding. I also crack the whip for the bride and groom if I have to. Sometimes, I gotta be loud and a little bossy to get people moving and cooperating even if I don’t want to, but it’s better for it to be me rather than the bride and groom. After all, they have to see all these people at Thanksgiving. I don’t.

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I didn’t want to ruin that image

What’s one experience that really sticks out in your mind from wedding photography?

One time, when I was first starting to travel, my clients had to reschedule an engagement session while I was out in California, so I ended up having to stay an extra day. I was still in college, and at the time I was working for less than I do now, so money was a little tight, and I didn’t have the balls to ask my clients to pay for another night. I remember after shooting my couple, I slept in my car the same night at the same park before I drove back home to AZ, because I didn’t want to fork out the cash to sleep in even a cheap motel. I was embarrassed to tell people because it kind of seemed like a ghetto thing to do, even for a college student and since people saw me as a professional photographer, I didn’t want to ruin that image. The point is, I’m glad I went through that experience of having to claw my way through the first years. It’s taught me that nothing will ever be underneath you if you have the passion to get to where you want to be. You do what you have to do. 


And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Where has your craft taken you?

  • Hawaii x2
  • New York x2,
  • San Francisco,
  • San Jose,
  • Bay Area all over, x a bunch
  • Los Angeles, CA, x a bunch
  • LA area all over x a bunch
  • Pasadena, CA x2
  • Temecula, CA x3
  • San Diego, CA x2
  • Camarillo, CA
  • Simi Valley, CA x a bunch
  • Indiana
  • North Dakota
  • Chicago x4
  • Georgia
  • Ohio x2
  • Colorado
  • Seattle, WA
I spend more hours scouting, walking, hiking, crawling to find that perfect angle

What factors trademark DKim style?

For my images, I would say my use of light, and use of the environment. I’m always looking for “THAT” shot. I believe in luck, because I never get any of my favorite shots without a bit of luck, but I also think you need to go out there and nurture and coax the luck to show itself. I spend more hours scouting, walking, hiking, crawling to find that perfect angle, rather than shooting.

Also probably my colors, which is due to the look of film. In contrast to my manly self, I love the soft romantic images. My favorite colors are pastel pinks and teals because they photograph so nicely.

Digital can’t even touch it.

Why film?

Oh man. Film just looks sooooo good. There’s just something to it and it’s magic. The first time I saw a Jose Villa image, I nearly quit shooting weddings because I thought I could never get to that level of craft.

**note: Jose Villa is like the best wedding photographer ever. EVER.**

I had shot film all throughout art school, but never thought it was possible to shoot it for weddings until Ash showed me his work.

Film just gets really good colors. Digital can’t even touch it. People think that film is an old process, but what’s not as well known is that companies have come out with new films at the same time new digital cameras have come out. The film that’s out today is not the same film that your dad shot on his old school SLR 10 years ago. It’s awesome, and the quality is insane. There are film emulators to make digital images try to look like film, but nothing beats the real thing.

We also do all our scanning work in house, and are on our way to opening a very small but full functioning lab. We’re in the works of getting a developer, and have started scanning other photographers’ film.

We’re not fully open, but we’re getting there. 

Our main goal is to bring film back to popularity in Arizona. It’s been a long road. I’ve been shooting it for the past 3 years for weddings, and for the past 7 years for personal work. And we are JUUUUUST starting to see it take off. I get questions daily from photographers asking about the film process, cameras, developing, how to expose and meter, so I’m in the process of putting together a workshop exclusive to Arizona photographers in the next coming year.

Gummy Bears. I always get Haribo Gummy Bears from the airport store for my trip.

15 Pieces of Gear You Can’t Live Without 

  1. Light Meter
  2. Contax 645
  3. Toenail Clipper
  4. Carabiner (for my keys)
  5. Vans shoes
  6. Clarks Desert Boots (they keep those thorns and sharp objects out when shooting)
  7.  Canon 5DMkIII with 50mm 1.2
  8. Film Film Film
  9. Lens Wipe
  10. Spare Lens Cap (because I always lose those damn suckers)
  11. Gummy Bears. I always get Haribo Gummy Bears from the airport store for my trip.
  12. Dual Camera Strap Harness
  13. Lens Bag
  14. Beef Jerky
  15. Toothbrush (sometimes those layovers are long and you eat a lot of fast food)
you’ll find me eating Taco Bell or McDonalds in my lap in my rental car

Unexpected Truths of a Traveling Photographer

I don’t always stay in a 5 star hotel. I work more than one day a week. It’s more like 7 days a week.The job is not easy. It’s hard. Really hard. But I love my job. At an out of state shoot, you’ll find me eating Taco Bell or McDonalds in my lap in my rental car after the wedding. It’s sad, but at the moment, I don’t care because I have a delicious Baja Chalupa Supreme keeping me happy.

Surround yourself with different artists, not just photographers

5 Honest Tips for Aspiring Photographers

  1. Shoot for yourself. If your mentality is to immediately open up a business, it might not be for you. You have to have the personal drive first. Money will come later.
  2. Be nice to everybody. Whether you like em or not, at least respect them. If you try and keep your heart full of love for other people, it’ll show in your photos. It’s also just a good rule to live by.
  3. WORK. HARD. And then WORK HARDER.
  4. Only follow your top 2 or 3 favorite photographers. If you try and keep following all the photographers to see what they’re doing, you’ll just end up like them. Another face in the herd. Be inspired by other mediums, music, painting, graphic design, sculpture. It’s the same with your friends. Surround yourself with different artists, not just photographers.
  5. DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE. As soon as you think you’re good, you’ve already lost. Surround yourself with truthsayers, not yes men. You need people to tell you your work is shitty. The goal is to get better, not stay stagnant. Always strive, and keep shooting.


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Ever look back at something you documented and wish you hadn’t?

Yes. I look back at moments where I feel like I could have enjoyed it a lot more if I didn’t have my camera. I’m learning to stop Instagramming and shooting everything and just be in the moment.

We live in a world of filters.

Daniel and Ashley strip them away.

Proof, that you have to take a shot at what you love, with the people you love.


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