Vivian Chen: No-stress San Francisco Wedding Photography

One of the benefits of having a wedding photographer who has already gotten married is that they tend to have good perspective on the things that matter most at weddings. But then there are photographers like Vivian Chen Photography in San Francisco, who not only got married recently, but had one of those nightmare wedding experiences (like ending up in the hospital on her wedding day) that gives her a whole new level of badass perspective (and calm-bringing). If I’ve learned anything from photographing weddings myself, it’s that inevitably something will go wrong at some point in the day. And you want someone with the chops to handle it, and maybe make it a little better. And, well, Vivian is up to her ears in chops.

I fell a little bit in love with Vivian Chen Photography last year when Viv wrote a grad post about how she rolled with the punches from the ER on her wedding day. Well, it turns out that experience gave Vivian a renewed sense of purpose in this industry. With 150 weddings under her belt, Vivian is committed to being the person you can trust to keep things relaxed on your wedding day. But it’s not just that Vivian Chen Photography brings the serenity to your wedding. Vivian’s jaw-dropping images look exactly like her philosophy: powerful, while maintaining a light, airy vibe.

Vivian explained her philosophy (and a little of why she loves working with you guys):

The most important part about what I do, besides taking beautiful photographs, is making sure my couples are comfortable and at ease. This begins even before I pick up my camera. Wedding planning can be a daunting process (having done it myself recently, I feel your pain), and I always make myself available to answer any questions about the process and what to expect. There’s a lot of moving parts that have to come together when planning a wedding and if my six years in wedding industry can help, I’m there. Communication is key to having a great wedding photography experience.

I love learning about my couples: how they first met, their shared interests, their shared differences and what makes them just right for each other. Knowing more about who they are helps me photograph authentically. It’s essential for me to bring that awareness to when my couples are in front of the lens. I strive to capture genuine moments, nothing fake or overly posed. The best way to achieve that is to be tuned in to my couples. If a couple is camera shy, I don’t force them to pose in any way that makes them feel awkward because that discomfort is going to show in the photos. Having fun with our shoots and allowing my couples to feel like they can truly be who they are is what I strive for at the end of the day. As I like to say, “Reality can be just as fabulous as fantasy.”

But where Vivian’s skills (abundant as they may be) really shine is in small and intimate weddings (like her own, no surprise), which she has holds special passion for. Because here’s the thing. Plenty of photographers can take a well-decorated space filled with lots of stuff and make it look awesome. But it takes a special level of talent to strip that all away and capture the raw emotion, the people and the moments that are front and center at more minimal weddings.

Viv explains:

A big part of what I love about the APW community is that it connects me with couples that are just like me: laid-back, easy going and looking to enjoy themselves on their wedding day. Sharing the day with your friends and family is what I believe to be the core of weddings. That’s the main reason why I love shooting small and intimate weddings because they are often more relaxed and focused on everyone celebrating together. It’s not about the material things, it’s about the human connections. I’m a people person and love getting know the families but my calm and quiet nature allows me to seamlessly slip into the background and photograph the day unfolding naturally. I have a keen eye for shooting the small candid moments that other people might miss. I love shooting emotions and capturing the feeling of the day, not just the pretty details.

But don’t mistake Vivian’s love of simplicity for a lack of experience. Because this girl has some serious street cred. First of all, Vivian has been shooting weddings for six years (six years!) and in doing so, has racked up 150 weddings worth of experience (which I just can’t even begin to wrap my head around). And then the part that makes my brain do crazy flips is that even with all this experience, you can hire Vivian Chen Photography starting at the crazy-for-San Francisco price of $2,500 for six hours of coverage plus an engagement session (with weekday and elopement prices starting at $750). Does. Not. Compute.

So guys, if you’re looking for a photographer for your intimate San Francisco wedding, or just for someone who can bring the calm and produce hands down some of the most beautiful images you’ll ever see, all for $2,500, you may not ever find someone as good as Vivian Chen Photography. Plus, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Vivian in person, and frankly, my words don’t do justice for the funny, smart lady in real life. So go, call her up. And know that whatever happens at your wedding, it’s nothing Vivian can’t handle.

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  • These pictures are amazing and beautiful…but could someone tell me if I’m crazy or is there a picture of a mother of the bride or similiar relative (short dark bob) wearing a beautiful dress that we later see on a laughing bride putting a ring on it? Just wondered if I had lost my mind.

    Also, to all wedding photographers – please take more pictures of brides laughing. My goodness these are gorgeous ones and I don’t think you’ll ever go wrong capturing a real moment of happy. So many wedding blogs have the professional fashion shoot look, but where is the life and joy at those weddings? Vivian obviously knows how to find it. Bravo.

    • Maddie

      WOW. Good eye! I didn’t even notice that, but I think you’re right! It’s the same dress.

      Also, agree on all the points about laughing. :) My favorite photos are always laughing ones.

    • Viv

      Kristen, you are right about that being the same dress! I should have noticed that too, because the funny thing about that dress is the same day we were at SF City Hall for that bride’s ceremony, we ran into ANOTHER bride wearing the same dress (but in a dusty ivory shade) waiting in line too. I guess that is the go-to dress of the season!

      And, yes, I LOVE laughing photos. The editorial style shoots we see on blogs are gorgeous (no doubt!) but I’m getting a little tired of the same, serious, no smile look. Weddings are fun and full of joy (like you said)! I want to capture THAT.

      • Personally I think there is a time and place for editorial photography and a personal event isn’t one of them but I’m also the girl who didn’t want any posed photography at my wedding, at all, so I admit I’m biased times a hundred.

        Thank goodness for beautiful photographers like you Vivian! There’s still hope for real and beautiful photographs for brides out there, they just have to find the right photographer.

    • KE

      Omg, I came down here to ask the exact same question! Glad I’m not crazy.

      And Vivian– gorgeous photos!

    • Jeanne

      I stopped by to ask the SAME question. LOVE that dress.

  • Viv

    I asked my bride and she says that the dress is from Bloomingdales and the designer is Sue Wong:

    It comes in navy too!

  • That pics are really nice and beautiful. I really liked it. Some photographer done the great job. I also looking for photographer specially for wedding. If you know about the photographer than inform me and also suggest me for wedding photography.

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