When Mark Simon returned to the Philippines after living for a few years in Canada, he had a goal in mind : become a professional photographer. After handling numerous jobs and earning the right to consider himself a Mark-of-all-trades, he set out to come home and enter the local wedding and events industry. Honing his skills and expanding his network, he has steadily worked his way into becoming one of the in-demand wedding shooters in Bulacan.
It started with a plan. Then came the action. And finally, a perfect name for his pursuit : Projekt Paraluman.
Mark Simon is the featured Focus photographer of the month.
How do you describe the work that you do?
M : As an event photographer, how can I describe it ba… Siguro sa lahat ng work na pinasok ko, ito 'yung pinaka na-enjoy ko even though there are times na makakatapat ka ng client na sobrang demanding pero sobra din naman kung makatawad sa presyo, rude in different aspects, et cetera. Just trying to give my best as much as possible . Wala namang trabahong madali, you just need to enjoy it like what I am doing as an event photographer.
Were you already into art and creatives growing up?
M : I loved sketching anime characters when I was growing up, doon nauubos ung oras ko lalo na dati noong 'di pa uso ang internet.
Tell us how you got started in photography.
M : If I remember it correctly, when I was in elementary, my uncle or si erpats, can’t really remember which, used to have a film camera. Lagi kong tinatakas 'yung camera kapag nakaipon na ako ng pambili ng film tapos pi-picture-an ko 'yung mga classmates kong babae lalo na 'yung pinaka-crush ko. I still have some copies of the photos. Then my first DSLR.. I bought around 2010 because that time mahilig na akong manood ng mga photography lessons at hangang-hanga ako sa blurred na background tapos ang sharp ng subject, 'yung bokeh shots. Doon na nag-start 'yung hilig ko na kumuha ng pictures especially portraits.
How did you end up in the wedding and events industry?
M : Before ako umuwi ng 'Pinas from Canada, nakaplano na talaga na papasukin ko ang event photography. Bumili na ako ng mga gamit doon, paunti-unti, always checking sales kasi madalas doon mag-sale. Then one time nagkita kami ni Pong Viaje, pabinyag ng schoolmate namin tapos siya ang photographer. Then na-meet ko ang kapatid niya, si Alih Viaje. To cut the story short, si Alih ang naging first mentor ko pagdating sa events photography and the funny thing is we always remember that when I started, the first ever coverage na kasama niya ako was a funeral.
What’s your mindset when shooting weddings? What’s most important for you to capture?
M : Make your clients comfortable with you, kung kailangan mong magpaka-corny at magpatawa, gawin mo kasi kapag naging comfortable na sa'yo ang clients mo, madali mo nang mapapagawa sa kanila 'yung gusto mong ma-achieve na output. At pinaka-importante is makuhanan mo sila in their natural way kung paano talaga sila ngumiti at 'yung mata nila is very alive sa photo. The most important for me to capture are candid photos. A candid photo can tell many stories just by looking at it. Kapag may extra time saka ko iniisip 'yung creative shots.
What was your camera and lens setup when you were starting in photography? And what’s your favorite setup now that you're shooting weddings?
M : The first camera I had was a Nikon D3100 then I bought a 50mm 1.8G lens. Sobrang fan kasi talaga ako ng mga photos na ma-bokeh. Now I've been using my 5-year-old Canon 5D Mark III, with a combination of 50mm 1.2L and 16-35mm 2.8L. 'Yung dalawang lens na 'yan ang hindi mawawala sa bag ko when I shoot weddings.
Do you treat yourself to a reward for all your hardwork in shooting events?
M : Yes I do, a lot of times. Sometimes as simple as buying myself 2 bottles of beer while watching a series and backing up my shots in the computer. The most recent that I bought from all my hardwork is a Mavic Pro drone and the funny thing is, a month after I bought it saka ko lang siya na-practice paliparin sa dami ng tinatapos kong backlogs from our recent shoots.
What part of shooting a wedding do you like best?
M : Kapag maganda ang bride. Joke lang! My favorite part is the first dance of the couple lalo na kung hindi mahiyain 'yung couple or nag-prepare talaga sila ng special dance for that special day.
And what’s the part that you don’t like, or struggle with?
M : Iba-iba eh hindi mo masasabi kung kailan kayo magkaka-problema. Pero pinaka-common is sa post-nuptial pictorial nagkakaroon ng hassle lalo na kung 'yung magulang ng client mo kung magmadali akala mo sila 'yung may pa-okasyon or sila 'yung kinasal kesyo nagugutom na daw ang mga tao. Minsan, este, madalas pala, talagang sumasagot na ako sa mga ganoon na magulang lalo na kapag napapansin kong nai-i-stress na rin ang couple. Lagi ko lang sinasabi sa couple na “araw n'yo ito hayaan n'yong maghintay sila kahit kaunting delay, wag n'yong sirain ang moment ninyo.”
Do you have a favorite shot of all-time? And what’s the story behind it?
M : Siguro 'yung prenup ko pa rin sa kumpare ko sa Zambales, 'yun pa rin 'yung masasabi kong favorite shot ko until now. Feeling ko kasi sobrang galing ko noong na-achieve ko 'yung shot, hahaha! With the help din ng mga nakasama ko na-achieve ko 'yung shot rushing to get the sunset as background. (Photo shown above)
If you’re not shooting weddings, what would you be doing now? Or do you have another field of photography that you want to pursue?
M : Macho dancer siguro ako ngayon, hahaha! Joke lang poooo! Maybe if I am not shooting events I would be in field marketing or sales, ma-boladas kasi akong tao. Well another field of photography that I really want to do is astro photography, this summer lang talaga akong hindi nakapag-try na mag-shoot ng star trail and milky way sa sobrang dami ng tinatapos na backlogs but I am hoping na makapag-shoot ako uli kapag nagkaroon ng sobrang habang free time.
Just curious. Why "Projekt Paraluman" as your studio name?
M : I was thinking of a name for my Facebook business page without using my own name. Ayaw ko talagang gamitin ang sarili kong name pero gusto ko rin na walang kaparehas para madaling ma-search. Then ang dami ko nang naiisip, siguro one month na akong nag-iisip ng name pero 'di ko talaga magustuhan. Nakikinig ako ng sounds, ang collection ng songs ko almost Eraserheads, Rivermaya, basta mga 90s na OPM bands. Noong tumugtog ang "Ang Huling El Bimbo", "kamukha mo si Paraluman, nung tayo ay bata pa...", so ayun naalala ko 'yung "paraluman" is a Filipino word and it means lakambini or muse. Aprub din kasama ko at lagi kong apprentice sa events na si Victoria. So ayun, naisip ko I could connect it because I'm targeting weddings as my market.
What tips can you give those who want to eventually enter the world of wedding photography?
M : Don’t show any attitude na makakainisan ka. Be humble. Learn to accept your mistakes and tips from others. 'Wag mahiyang magtanong sa mga matatagal na sa industriya, like paano n'ya na-achieve 'yung shot na 'yun, ano dapat gawin in case man na ganito mangyari. Hindi masamang manggaya ng shot pero 'wag mo naman lahatin ay gagayahin mo.
How about an advice for those starting out in photography?
M : Just keep on shooting! 'Wag kayong mag-focus sa gear upgrade, learn to maximize the gear that you have, kahit entry-level pa 'yang camera na gamit mo as long na kumukuha 'yan ng litrato, gamitin mo. Walang mali sa mundo ng photography, nasa sa'yo kung paano mo i-express ang art mo using your camera by the way you compose your shot.
Message to Focus Bulacan followers and your fellow Focus members.
M : I would like to thank Focus Bulacan for this opportunity na maging Photographer Of The Month, to my Focus family, thank you guys! I love you all! To followers of our club, maraming, maraming salamat po sa patuloy na pag-suporta at sana po patuloy pa rin po ninyong suportahan ang club namin at mga susunod na activities nito. Focus Bulacan nambawan!!!
Mark's top favorites (Click thumbnails to view photos in full)
"Paraluman" indeed means "muse" or beauty in Filipino. Curiously, its English equivalent is "paragon", which is defined as "perfection" or "model of beauty or excellence". Only Mark (or maybe another soul) will truly ever know the reason behind the name for his studio, but we can take his word that they seek to capture the beauty of weddings... simply because it shows in his photos.
Every month, we have a feature on our members, our photography idols, and other photography issues we feel deserve a heads-up.