Tuesday, February 28, 2012

March 2012 The Filipino-American Story: Marcel Cabrera Jr, Professional Wedding and Portrait Photographer

This month, we are proud to showcase yet another talent from San Diego, Professional Wedding and Portrait Photographer Marcel Cabrera Jr.

Marcel, tell us how did you become a photographer?
I became a photographer on complete ACCIDENT!  (A “happy accident” that is.)  I bought a top end DSLR camera on my 26th birthday as a present to myself with ABSOLUTELY NO EXPERIENCE or ANY PRIOR EDUCATION!  3 days later, my best friend called me to ask for an emergency favor.He asked me if I could pretend to be a professional photographer and cover for a magazine editorial/photo shoot of a celebrity for his MMA coach's new fighting/training magazine because the photographer he hired was a no show.  I did NOT want to do the gig because I had no experience and didn’t want to embarrass myself.  I was intimidated of the whole deal, especially photographing celebrities.  But because I didn’t want to let my best friend down, I accepted the gig.  The photos weren’t the absolute best as I didn’t have a clue to what I was doing… but my professionalism is what stood out!
STUDIO 64 PHOTOGRAPHY'S Photo of "DREW BREES" from the "San Diego
Celebrity Golf Classic 2009" - Featured in today's SAN DIEGO UNION
TRIBUNE (NOV 30, 2009)

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Three months later, my photo of top NFL Quarterback “Drew Brees” at the San Diego Celebrity Classic 2009 (former “Stan Humphries Celebrity Classic" and now currently the “Brees Celebrity Championship”) was chosen to be nationally published in several magazines across the United States and the local San Diego Union Tribune!  I was surprised that my photo was selected because I was an assistant at the tournament with no experience in photography and many of the veteran photographers that were present from several top publications, looked down at me like a joke and intimidated me.  (I guess you can say I did well and knew what I was doing because my 2ND PHOTO of DREW BREES at the Brees Celebrity Championship 2010 was nationally PUBLISHED also in several magazines, publications, commercials, and ads such as "Sports illustrated," "Cox Communications," "San Diego Union Tribune," "Groupons,", "Dream Homes Magazine,", etc...  

Shortly after... I went to photographing my very first family portrait, very first engagement shoot, and very first booked wedding for “Eugene & Frances Amano” and the entire Amano Family.  Eugene is the starting center for the NFL Tenessee Titans #54, and also the FIRST full-blooded Filipino in the NFL!

And now I'm a FULL TIME Wedding & Portrait Photographer!  :)

Where you born in San Diego?
Yes, at the Naval Medical Center San Diego “Balboa Hospital”
Copright Studio 64 Photography 2012

Where are your parents from in the Philippines?
Mother:  Angono Rizal, Manila
Father:  Novaliches, Quezon City

How did you come up with Studio 64 Photography?
One day, when Iris and I were at a photography trade show in Pasadena, CA, we decided to start our photography business.  We needed to come up with a business name.  Therefore, we brainstormed ideas and what we came up with was:

MARCEL = “I would like to name it “STUDIO-something??” because I can picture us having a photo studio in 5 years and we will be married with our kids and dog running and playing around in the studio.  A studio is also a goal we can work towards achieving.

IRIS = “Ok, how about “Studio 64 Photography!”  The number 6 is for the number of letters in MARCEL.  And the number 4 is for the number of letters in IRIS.   J
Marcel & Iris of Studio 64 Photography

I have noticed that most of your shots are weddings and/or engagements, is that your most favorite story to photograph?

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The pictures, they are very artistic, did you always come up with these ideas?
I was once told “To be the best, you need to Mimic the best!”
Therefore, I did a lot of research on many photographers/artists that I liked and put it to use in my work.
I love to shoot in RANDOM places, or places that have a lot of lines, nice scenery, or any abstract architecture.
I frequently LOVE to shoot with “wide angle” lenses (which is considered a definite “no-no” in portrait photography) but if you know how to get the right angle and direct and pose your clients correctly, you can achieve some amazing WOW shots!  J

 I LOVE the use and manipulation of LIGHT!  That is what I study the most!  “NO LIGHT=NO PHOTO.”

 FACT:  90% of our work is NOT PHOTOSHOPPED!  J 

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 We take a lot of pride in being Photographers who know how to see, use, and manipulate light.  We are NOT Computer Graphic Artists.  We actually like to be called “Light-ographers” if there is ever such a name!

Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration comes from anything and everything!  I am also inspired by many talented photographers all around the world and feed off their unique styles, ideas, use of light, etc to develop into styles of my own.

 However, most of my inspiration comes from my fiancé Iris, who always believed in me from the very start regardless of the continuous downfall of life changing events/tragedies/domestic violence/social/mental abuse I had in a short amount of time, to a point where I was a suicidal psych-patient for 5 years.  She helped me get back on my feet and change my life around completely!  (Thanks hun!  I love you!)
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Iris, your girlfriend and partner, tell us what is her part in Studio 64 Photography?
Iris, (now my fiancé!) is our main photo editor.  But now she is my secondary photographer and a secondary cinematographer.  And she is learning extremely fast and doing very well with her photography and cinematography.  (maybe because of her awesome teacher!  *cough*cough “ME!” *cough*cough!  Hahahah)  ;)
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Tell us some of your most favorite projects/clients?
My most favorite projects:
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1)     Doing volunteer work as an event photographer for the National MS (Multiple Sclerosis) Society in honor of my fiancé Iris, who was diagnosed with MS at the age of 18.  She is currently 28 years old and is staying strong!

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2)     Doing volunteer work as an event photographer/assistant for the “San Pasqual Academy” – a first-in-the-nation residential education campus designed specifically for foster teens.  Studio 64 helped with pulling off a very successful Thanksgiving and Christmas Celebration for the foster teens along with “Quentin Jammer” #23 of the San Diego Chargers and Adrian Gonzalez #28 of the Boston Red Sox (former San Diego Padre).  Quentin Jammer’s “Jammer Family Foundation” is partnered with the San Pasqual Academy to provide for the foster teens.  We packed full a big moving truck with SOOOOO Many Christmas Presents!!!  It was such an amazing and heartwarming event to help the teens out!


EUGENE and FRANCES AMANO – for believing in us and giving us an opportunity to succeed in life regardless if others didn’t think we would ever do well in this industry, yet alone start a business with it.  We were blessed with an opportunity to photograph Eugene and Frances’ 2nd engagement session at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee, home of the NFL Tennessee Titans!  I did not sleep for almost 2 days prior to the shoot because I was so nervous with the shoot that once we got off the 5-6 hour plane ride, I opted to do the shoot immediately after we arrived.  We did a successful shoot!  Thank God we were able to photograph quickly, because the very next morning, Tennessee had a near State-of-Emergency tragedy which involved tornado sirens all throughout the city and floods everywhere!!!  We had to stay indoors for the weekend, and didn’t have a chance to tour the city and taste the famous Tennessee barbecue.  However, it was a blessing to get to know Eugene and Frances on a personal level and create a very good friendship with them!  Thank you Eugene and Frances!
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 BO NAVARRO – Bo is like a 2nd older brother to me.  Bo is the reason why Studio 64 Photography ever had an opportunity to succeed in this industry in the first place.  I met Bo while he was the director of the Jammer Family Foundation and was in charge of marketing/advertising for many professional athletes.  Bo had a very good talk with me shortly after our first meeting, and we have worked together since!  Bo is one of the most intellectual and good-hearted person I have ever met and is an absolute genius in his field of marketing/managing of professional athletes and organizations.  Thank you Bo!


Who is your most recent favorite client?
ALL OF OUR CLIENTS ARE OUR FAVORITES because they believe in us, trust us, and are absolute fans of our work!
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Aside from weddings, what other projects do you do?
Professional sports, product/marketing, family & children portraiture, maternity, newborn, corporate, editorial, modeling, fashion, formal dances, events, medical foundations, Non-profits organizations, charity events & fundraisers, dinner galas, and just about ANYTHING you want me to photograph!

Put the project in front of us, and We will TAKE CARE of it.. and do it well!


I also do wedding & commercial CINEMATOGRAPHY as well! 
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And in fact just recently won an exclusive workshop competition from the absolute best wedding cinematography company in the industry last November 2011.  I was the ONLY student out of 16 who really didn’t have any formal consistent training, a film degree, film school education, etc… All I had, was the absolute PASSION to learn and succeed!  I was appointed as Director of our team (since I didn’t have any experience in the director position), and we produced the overall winning piece and won in all 4 categories!  I found a new talent/skill in film directing, filming and storytelling!!

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Since becoming a photographer, what was your most favorite shoot that you have done?

My most favorite shoot was my very first engagement shoot that was given to me on last minute notice!  I was notified of the engagement session 3 hours BEFORE the shoot!  I wasn’t told who the couple was, but only of the location and time.  To my surprise, it was for Eugene and Frances Amano!  I was intimidated because I didn’t have any prior experience photographing an engagement shoot or knew anything about posing.  What made it more nerve wrecking for me is that Eugene plays professional football for the Tennesee Titans in the NFL!  However, this was a time when I had started to learn the “dramatic lighting style” of photography that I love, and I decided to try my VERY FIRST shot with off-camera flash techniques.  I did my first lighting shot with the couple in front of the Museum of Man in Balboa Park, and NAILED IT!  Seeing and hearing the look and expression on both Eugene and Frances’ faces was unforgettable!
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You have mentioned that you also love participating in the Filam community can you tell us more about it?
I participate in giving back to the Filam community by contributing work/service to the “Filipino Press” newspaper. I donate time as an event photographer along with some of my photos, to assist their newspaper articles.  My business partner Bo is a partner of the Filipino Press.  Together, we have worked on several community projects that have contributed to the Filipino Community in San Diego.  Coincidentally, my grandfather was best friends with one of the former executives of the Filipino Press before he passed in 1996.

What are you proud about the most being a Filam?
Having the ability to be able to learn and live both cultures of being American and of Filipino Heritage and sharing it with others.

What is your favorite filipino dish?
Believe it or not, DINUGUAN!!  “CHOCOLATE MEAT!!”  J

 Do you have a favorite filipino restaurant in San Diego?
I HAD a favorite Filipino restaurant in San Diego.  It was called “Barrio Fiesta” off Sweetwater Rd. in the National City Area about 15-20 years ago.  My Grandfather, who was a well known professional pianist in town, played there on the weekends with his band.
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Do you still speak tagalog?
Marúnong ako ng kóntì.

Hahah.. VERY LITTLE.. mostly broken up tagalog phrases.  However, I do understand most of the language and can follow along when my parents, grandparents, or aunts and uncles “tsismis!” (gossip)  haha  LOL!

When was the last time you visited Philippines?  Which part?
LONGGGGGGG AGO!  The last and ONLY time I had the opportunity to visit the Philippines was at 12 years old.  I visited both my parents’ hometowns in Manila and Quezon City.

How did you learn photography?
I learned on COMPLETE ACCIDENT!  A “Happy-Accident” that is!  I had to “fake it till I make it” and was at the right place at the right time and met the right people.  I learned mostly in 3 ways: 
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1) Being offered photography gigs on the spot or within last minute noticed and PRETENDING I knew what I was doing.  This forced and challenged me to LEARN photography by trial and error and to not embarrass myself. 

2) Having the utmost PASSION to learn ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING about Photography and to be able to share and teach it to others

3)  NEVER GIVING UP!  Photography is a very CUT-THROAT industry…..  and it’s an industry where people will love your work.. or will absolutely hate it.  Regardless, it’s an art and you need to accept people’s likes and dislikes.  Never give up, learn from your mistakes, and produce better results next time!  It’s the same way to  be successful at anything you want to pursue!
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Did you have any formal training?
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I did not have formal training via a school or institution.  After my first 8 months of being completely self-taught via “Google and Youtube University! (I was broke and had no money), I took some exclusive 1-on-1 mentoring sessions & workshops with some of the absolute best in the industry worldwide!  (after I finally made some money in photography!) J
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To those who learning photography as a hobby or as a profession, what advice can you give them?

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It doesn’t matter what photography school you graduated from, what experience you have, how many years you have been in the industry, how many clients you have served, how much money you have made, or how many awards you have received….  If you DON’T have the PASSION, you won’t be successful at it.  NO EXCUSES!
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What is the best way to decide which camera to buy just for a hobby?

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The CAMERA is ONLY a tool!  The PHOTOGRAPHER is the ARTIST.  And the LIGHT is what you need to find or produce! Start off with your simple camera on your cell phone, and if you understand your lighting, you can take ANY photo you want with ANY camera!  In fact, one of the world’s best wedding photographers placed very high in a photo competition in which he photographed a whole wedding with only an iPhone Camera!!--MaG

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Studio 64 Photography