Category Archives: Photos

From Nominee To Finalist

A couple of weeks ago, I posted on Facebook that I got nominated for a Small Business award for the annual Greater Dallas Asian American Chamber of Commerce Awards Gala 2013.

A part of me was surprised, because as a business owner, I didn’t really feel like my business was anywhere near outstanding.  I was barely making it when it came to profits and growth.

Yes, I provided my business services (event photography) to different non-profit organizations whenever I can, but no way is my photography business successful compared to all the other Small Businesses out there.

Another part of me was grateful.  For whatever reason, the people around me have been recognizing the work I have been doing.  In particular, one of the officers of the non-profit organization NAAAP-DFW Janet had nominated me for the award.  There’s no better feeling than to have a peer recognize the work you’ve been doing through an award nomination.

I filled out the questionnaire and sent in my resume to the committee.  I didn’t feel really solid after answering the questionnaire.  When your overall answer to most of the questions start with “that doesn’t really apply to me”, there is little confidence gained in your chance of making it.

I just told myself, “Hey, you should be happy you even got nominated in the first place.  So many other people who work harder than you didn’t even get a chance for nomination.  You’ve already got plenty.  Appreciate what you already have.”

A couple of weeks fly by and I receive an email saying that I’m one of the Finalists for the award.

My first reaction was disbelief, because I wasn’t sure how I got to this point.  Then a sudden burst of adrenaline came next, with the acceptance that I really am one of the Finalist.  Even though I still haven’t won the award, for some odd reason I already felt like a winner.

And now I’m sitting here just reflecting on everything that happened so far that got me to this point:

  1. Last year around this time of the year, I actually attended the previous GDAACC Award Gala 2012.  I wasn’t invited as a guest though.  I was actually covering the event as a second shooter with my friend.  It was my job to get pics of all the award winners.  Funny how one year can change your circumstances so much.  I went from covering the event as a photographer to becoming part of the event as an award finalist.
  2. When you look around at all the successful photographers, you will notice everyone specializes in something.  You will find photographers who are great with weddings, fashion, sports, nature, architecture … etc.  I’ve always wondered what my niche would be.  I think I’ve finally found it.  I will be known as the photographer who does non-profit events.
  3. Then I take a step back and think to myself, who in their right mind aspires to be a non-profit photographer?  It didn’t make sense to me at first until I reflected on my past.  For as long I can remember, I have always volunteered with the youth group at my Vietnamese Catholic Church.  My focus back then was giving to the Vietnamese Catholic community.  Now my focus has broadened to giving to the Asian Business Community.
  4. I made one other connection with my past.  Specifically my passion.  In the past I was passionate in volunteering my time to my youth group.  For the past 2 years, I have been really passionate about photographer.  Without even realizing it, for the past year I have been merging both my past and present passion into what I have right now:  non-profit photography.
  5. Everything has come full circle.  What I mean is I started out as going to the award gala 2012, come 2013, I’m going to the award gala again.  Or with community involvement, I did it for a good 10-15 years with local church, took a 3-4 year break, and now I’m helping out again with the Asian Business community.  My life is filled with things coming full circle.  I’m just grateful that each time I’ve come full circle, I’m somehow in a better place even though the place still looks the same.

Resume I Sent To Award Committee:  https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B2PUVKTY6jFGZFc2Q0wyZWtTMm8/edit?usp=sharing

Questionnaire I Sent To Award Committee:  https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B2PUVKTY6jFGVUtnSVZMbUgwN2c/edit?usp=sharing

Award Finalist Email From Award Committee:  https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B2PUVKTY6jFGQ3NqYjktUi1TcEU/edit?usp=sharing

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FB Status Update: Auto-Correct Fail

Emailing my friend about my work schedule tomorrow.

Wanted to say “I’m shooting all over fort worth tomorrow.”

Instead it types “Im shitting all over fort worth tomorrow.“

Thanks auto correct for making me sound like I have a serious digestive problem.

Perhaps I should just carry a toilet paper around with me instead of my camera.

That’ll definitely get my clients to take my work more seriously.

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FB Status Update: Started From the Bottom, Now I’m Here

Dad told me recently, “Taking pictures is a hobby. You need to stop bumming around and get your ducks in a row.”

What this usually means is he thinks photography is a dead end job with no prestige and honor. I should go back to being a teacher or engineer. Or maybe go back to school to be a doctor.

Friend told me recently, “You can’t make a living off of photography. It’s something you do on the side, after you have a career in something else.”

Which is true, because most of the well-known wedding/event photographers I know, do weddings on the side. They have a tax firm, electronic store, or cell phone service business that they run on the weekdays.

My Aunt told me, “Here’s a business loan for your photography business. You have to promise me that within one year, if things don’t go well you have to move onto something more stable.”

I only got 40 more days until my year is up.



People were getting to me and I was letting them get to me. I wasn’t going to give up photography up completely, but perhaps I would be able to sustain my photography passion with a stable income like librarian or computer lab manager.

It didn’t matter much what I did during the week, as long as during the weekends, I got to do what I loved the most.

Perhaps everyone was right all along. Perhaps last year was a waste. Perhaps I shouldn’t have put my life on hold and poured everything into photography.



Last Wednesday, replied to Craigslist post. Friday got called in interview. Left interview as a full-time architectural photographer with pay comparable to a full-time teacher.

Literally, had tears falling from my eyes because I was so happy. It felt like I just won the lottery. Similar to waking up from a beautiful dream only to realize that it wasn’t just a dream, it’s reality now.

Now, I don’t need to work, save money, and then to go spend it on something I truly love. I can do something I truly love, save money, and then chill until I can do something I truly love again. This is truly my dream job.



I appreciate all the friends and family who have supported me along the way. Friends critiquing my work. Family referring photography business to me. Inspiration and creativity were allowed to flourish with companions like you guys.

At the same time, I got nothing but love for my dad, aunt, and friend. They told me what they knew to be true. It was there own way of showing me love. Full-time photographers are unheard of. Well at least now, they can say they know one full-time photographer.

No photography courses/classes. No photography degrees/certificates. Learning it the hard way by just doing it. Definitely helped to have so many experienced photographers around me to give me tips/advice. Couldn’t have done it without them.



Started from the bottom, now I’m here.

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FB Status Update: Professional Jealousy

Don’t know if anyone else out there has any type of attachment to their clients, but I sure do.

What I mean is, let’s say I do a shoot for a couple last year. Well this year I find out that they did a shoot through another photographer.

My first reaction is always, “WTF! What happened to us? I thought I was yours and you were mine? Did those 3 hours that we spent in the Dallas Aboretum mean nothing to you?”

I mean the bond between a photographer and the client should be sacred. If anything it should be just as special as a marriage.

You did pay me to be with you. I didn’t come cheap. And you should continue paying me even when I’m old, ugly, and undesirable. That’s what it means to be faithful.

What did I do to make you leave me for someone else?

Is it because I wasn’t delivering the goods?

What does he/she have that I don’t have?

(I refuse to acknowledge or mention the other person who just came and stole you away from me.)

I wonder if anyone else feels this way.

Do make-up artist get jealous when their clients leave them for another make-up artist?

Is that called professional cheating?

There should be some kind a pre-nuptial agreement, that says that the client has to like us even when they don’t.

That would solve all the problems in this world.

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FB Status Update: Miss-Calls

Missed calls can happen when you’re busy.

Perhaps there is a reason why you didn’t hear the phone ring. Perhaps it was never meant to be. Perhaps your day will be much better if you missed that call.

Other times you purposely missed the call.

You look at your phone, see who’s calling and think “Oh My God! Not Him! Probably wants to borrow another grand. Not Her! How many times do I have to tell her that I’m not her baby’s daddy.”

Well today I got a miss call.

Whoopeedoo right?

I procrastinated a couple of hours. Took a nap. Ate something. Literally had nothing else to do, so I returned the call.

I said, “Sorry I missed your call. Did you need something?”
She said, “Oh sorry Thao!”
I said, “Why you sorry for?”
She said, “I miss dialed.”

(Nothing more humiliating than to find out that a miss call was actually a miss dial)

She said, “I thought you were the girl Thao.”

(I take that back. There is something more humiliating. How do you mistaken me for a girl? I realize people say I’m feminine, but this is outrageous. I am so mad I don’t even know what to say.)

She said, “Well it’s late. Goodbye Thao!”
I said, “Bye”

You know I’m actually pretty comfortable with the fact that I can be feminine at times, but moments like this throw me off balanced sometimes.

For instance, take the pic I took when I was small.

Did my mom force me to wear a dress when I was small? Was it because she wanted a girl instead of a boy?

Or did I steal this dress from my sister when no one was looking, thinking to myself that I probably looked better in it than her?

It could be that I just finished watching braveheart, where it’s actually cool for men to wear skirts! So in my attempt to be extremely manly, I end up looking girly.

Sometimes the hardest thing to decipher is what’s inside of you.

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