Top 10 Fashion Photography Lighting Tools

Monday, November 23, 2015

This is the fifth article in my Profoto Blog series

In my previous article on how to break into fashion photography, I mentioned a few lighting modifiers frequently used in the industry. In this piece, I would like to provide some examples of those modifiers used in my work and also share with you my thoughts on a range of other equipment that I favor in the studio. I hope you will find this article helpful!



After renting equipment in and out of studios for many years, when I set up my own home studio, I decided to get monolights. Each of these lights is a single unit, making it easy to carry, set up and pack away. The lower price point also makes them more affordable, thus allowing me to have more. So I got 4 of the D1 Air 500s.

Since I can shoot most of my standard fashion, beauty and portrait work with monolights, they are my go-to lights at any time. 


15 Tips on How to Break into Fashion Photography

Thursday, March 19, 2015

In my last three articles, I talked about producing commercial and personal photoshoots, and tips on how to improve one’s photography. In this guide, I want to share my thoughts on how to break into fashion photography.

Fashion photography is a highly exclusive and competitive industry. Getting in requires dedication, commitment, hard work, and often times, a dash of good luck and timing. There is no great secret or shortcut, it is going to be a tough journey, and you must be prepared for the long-haul.

1. Understand Fashion

Christian Dior Couture Fall 2008 Backstage

Just as a photographer should know how to operate a camera, a fashion photographer should possess a basic knowledge of fashion. A good understanding of the subject will go a long way towards helping your career, so I recommend studying the following:

– The history of fashion
– Fashion from different periods and eras
Designers, icons, and image-makers
– Fashion terminologies
– Hairstyles and makeup looks
– Fashion films and documentaries
– Current industry news

Many photographers try to shoot fashion without knowing what fashion is. It shows. Don’t let some reading hold you back from the possibility of producing better work. Most materials on these topics are readily available on the internet now, so there is really no excuse.

2. Read Magazines, Learn Who’s Who

Reading magazines is a great way to find inspirational images and ideas for new photographers. Take this time to curate the styles and work that you find yourself responding to. Identify traits in the photographs you like and explore those for your own shoots. Save the names of people whose styles you feel for, so you can work towards collaborating with them one day.

Also keep in mind that publications have different demographics and aesthetics from one another. Knowing who wants what will be very helpful in preparing an appropriate portfolio for the kinds of magazines that you want to shoot for in the future.


Elle Vietnam: Minh Hang

Monday, January 26, 2015

New cover and editorial for Elle Vietnam's Lunar New Year issue featuring Vietnamese singer/actress Minh Hang. Styling by Phuong My.

Minh Hang
Elle Vietnam, Janurary 2015

Photography: Zhang Jingna
Stylist: Phuong My

Model: Minh Hằng
Makeup: Minh Loc
Hair: SiNam Nguyen @ HairBar
Set Design: Zhang Jingna & Phuong My
Flowers by Padma de Fleur
Photographer's Assistants: Ernie Chang & Nguyen Phuong Thao
Stylist assistant: Thao Nguyen
Location: S3 Studios


Exhibition: Your Favorite Artist's Favorite Artist

Friday, December 5, 2014

A few weeks ago, out of the blue, Kris Kuksi sent me a message on Facebook asking if I had any works available to show. He wanted to invite me to exhibit with him at Joshua Liner Gallery's upcoming show—Your Favorite Artist's Favorite Artist—taking place in New York from November 20th to December 20th. 

For those of you not familiar with Kris' work:

Kris Kuksi, Reticent Affair, 2012.

Amazing isn't it? Del Toro collects his work and he's inviting me as his favorite artist?! Dude.

I said yes of course, that I would be honored to. And although I didn't have anything with me then, I would be happy to get something done for the show.

In response he thanked me.

Imagine Waterhouse thanking me for agreeing to take part in a Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood show. Yeah.

After my participation was confirmed, Kris and I worked on picking out my piece. We agreed on my final work from the Motherland Chronicles series—The Death of Eurydice.

Motherland Chronicles #52 - The Death of Eurydice

The next step was getting the print done and finding a frame. The print was easy, I just had to sit at the printers for two days and do a thousand proofs, the hard part was getting the frame.

Long since my first solo show, 6 years ago now, I've wanted to one day show my work in an ornate gold frame, this is one of my most appropriate works for it. So I brought the idea to Kris who gave it his immediate approval and support, but it turned out that finding one though, wasn't quite as easy.

I went to flea markets, antique stores, asked for recommendations and searched online. Nada. Until finally, I found Lowy Frame and Restoration Company. They have a collection of over 4000 antique frames and the best customer service ever (thank you Rebecca!), and were able to find me the most wonderful thing I have ever seen—an 18th century Louis XV frame with sweep ornamentation. It was pure beauty.

Death of Eurydice by Zhang Jingna, in 18th century Louis XV French frame with sweep ornaments in corners and centers.
Photo courtesy of Lowy Framing.
Once the framing was done at Lowy's, the work was delivered to the gallery for installation. My job was done, yay! But leading up to the opening I started thinking, what if the frame's gold popped too much? What if the print turned out too green under the gallery lights? What if the work didn't look good anymore?! What if?!!

I fretted the whole week until the day the show opened. And when I arrived that night I realized I hadn't needed to. It was perfection.

Photo courtesy of D. Yee.
Photo courtesy of D. Yee.

I met up with friends, chatted with fans, and was introduced to some very lovely, nice people. Then one of my assistants brought me this flyer where the gallery artists wrote introductions for the guest artists they invited. And I was all oh that's cool, let's see what it says

Kris Kuksi on Zhang Jingna:      "I choose Zhang Jingna to be a part of this show because her work escapes its own medium. Her photographic portraits seem to transcend creating the soft and voluptuous color of figural forms reminiscent in symbolist painters of the 19th century. She captures a refreshing perspective of an archetypical lover with a skill free from the bonds of 'formulation'. There is soul and pure human expression in her works that I believe everyone can relate to present in her portraiture—both the warmth and chill of emotions. At such a young age it will be very exciting to see her career move forward though her work arrives already present-day mature and refined."
... Words failed me, I blushed so hard and was so moved I was close to tears.

Having validation like this from an artist I've admired for years, it's so touching and heartwarming I can't even begin to describe. I can't begin to express how much it means to me.

Thank you Kris, for inspiring and motivating me to work even harder now.

I can't wait to share my new work with all of you. :D

If you are in New York, Your Favorite Artist's Favorite Artist is on show at Joshua Liner Gallery through December 20th, 2014. Please stop by if you have the chance.

Profoto Blog Series: 14 Steps to Improve Your Photography

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Here is my 3rd article in the Profoto blog series. Enjoy~

If you have been shooting for a while, whether as a professional photographer or a hobbyist, how do you improve? This is one of the questions I am often asked when a photographer writes to me. With the last two articles, I covered commercial and personal photoshoot productions. For this one I want to turn things inward a little, and talk about how to improve ourselves and better our photography.

So, without further ado, here are my 14 steps to improve your photography!


1. Never Be Satisfied

Motherland Chronicles #4 - The Waiting

To start off, I want to focus a little on humility. If you want to get better, you must know that there is room for you to improve and open yourself to criticisms.

If you are already satisfied with yourself, then you lack the hunger that will push you to get better.

Self-assess your weaknesses and keep a list of things you want to improve. Work on them all the time.

2. Build a Feedback Group

Build a trusted circle of friends with good eyes and tastes. Get their opinions and discuss your work on a regular basis.

You can pose specific questions such as, “How can I improve this composition?” or “Which one do you prefer between crop A and crop B, why?” Or you can ask broader questions about your body of work such as, “What do you think is missing from my work?” or “What do you think will make my pictures better?”

Jot down the feedback and distill them into key points. There will be hits and misses of course, because people are different from one another. But these fresh perspectives will help you see things anew, and cover any points you may have missed out on from your personal assessments.


ELLE Russia Beauty, September 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

ELLE Russia, September 2014

Photography: Zhang Jingna
Hair: Linh Nguyen @ Kate Ryan Inc
Makeup: Beau Nelson @ The Wall Group
Model: Anya Kazakova @ Wilhelmina
Photo Assistants: Ngoc Vu, Evelyn Liu, Melissa Castor

Second one's an outtake but love it so much. ♥

Motherland Chronicles #48 - The Keeper

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Motherland Chronicles #48 - The Keeper

Photography: Zhang Jingna zemotion
Hair: Kelsey Petersen
Makeup: Satya Linak
Model: Jessica Dru Johnson
Pyrotechnician: Sky Rockit
Production Assistant: Sophia Chang
Photo Assistants: Tobias Kwan, Xun Chi

Fire and water. ♥ Shot at Salton Sea on the same day as From the Ashes.

Some behind-the-scenes. Photos by Tobias Kwan and Xun Chi. 


Profoto Blog Series: Personal Project Walkthrough, from Idea to Realization

Monday, July 28, 2014

My second article for Profoto~

Motherland Chronicles #50 – Eurydice

Having covered the process for a commercial assignment in my last article, this time round I’ll be talking about my approach to producing a personal shoot in a similar fashion, but starting earlier in the workflow, from conceptualization instead of simply receiving a brief, as one would a commercial job.

Before I begin, I’d just like to say that I see commercial and editorial work as a resume of a photographer’s skills and personal work as the mark of his or her identity. With this in mind, I think a photographer’s approach towards commercial and personal work should be separated as much as possible.

Of course, things like style and aesthetics will naturally bleed into one another, which is fine, but concept wise, a commercial work should always be done with a client’s products or services in mind, whereas personal work should be something a person wants to express or share with the world, thus making it personal.

In this post I’ll be covering the approach and considerations I put towards a typical production for one of my personal shoots. Unlike commercial projects, there are no set rules and requirements for how you do it. We may all work differently and this is my take. I hope you enjoy the read.

Motherland Chronicles #43 – Dreaming

1. Before You Begin

In most cases, we don’t have endless budgets to do whatever we want to do or an avenue of publication for personal work before it begins. Because of this, a lot of doing personal work boils down to challenges in getting people to work with you and finding time outside your main job to make it happen. Here are some key factors to consider in setting up the foundation of your series:

    1.    Theme and Concept
    2.    Your Team
    3.    Model Release
    4.    Model Search
    5.    Lighting and Style
    6.    Timeline
    7.    Budget
    8.    Image Terms

1.1 Theme and Concept

This is the starting point, whether it’s a broad theme or specific idea, it expresses what you want to say. It’s the reason you’re doing the project. Having decided on this, it will determine how you’ll approach your entire series in terms of style and affect how your production will be done and what will be involved.

Here are some of the images that inspired me for Motherland Chronicles:
Top: Antoon van Welie, Suemi Jun; Bottom: George Frederic Watts, Yoshitaka Amano


New Website!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Quick update to let you guys know I have a new website!! Now with larger photos and more recent work! Check it out and let me know what you think~ :D