Albert H. Fulcher | Editor
Since the invention of photography, many cultures believed that in taking a photograph, it took part of their soul with it. In great photography, the photographer many times captures the essence of a person, especially in portraits.
San Diego portrait photographer Derek Chad displays all of the elements that transforms portraits into works of fine art. A multi-award-winning photographer, he understands and practices photography artistry with expertise, utilizing his keen personal and technical skills. Going through his portfolio, he shows that he is a master of composition, understands the elements of natural and manmade lighting, and expertly combines these elements whether shooting in color or black and white.
Higher on the scale of superb photography, Derek Chad invokes emotion with his subjects, creating an immediate impact. Regardless of the composition of the photo, he understands his subject. Whether posed or capturing a moment in time, his works tell a story, an essential element that engages the observer.
His portraits are much more than photos, they are pieces of fine art. From wedding portraits to nudes, his signature style is evident and differentiates his work from other artists.
There are many driving forces that bring all of these elements together, and as a family man with young twin sons, Derek Chad talks about his art, his family and his work in the world of competitive photography.
When did you get into photography and what drew you into it?
I’ve always been a fan of photography and after college it became a hobby and interest. But, it wasn’t until I had kids that it became something I really focused on. My husband and I have twin boys that are now seven years old. When they were born I wanted to make sure I had some great photos of them and document their lives the best I could. So I started learning as much as I could online and attended conferences like WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International) that would help advance my knowledge and understanding of photography. I have always been passionate about portraits. When I was getting started I gave wedding photography a lot of my attention. Wedding photography helped me learn many different kinds of photography quickly because it is very demanding in regard to the skills and techniques that are necessary to excel in that industry. I wanted to jump into wedding photography because of my own experience looking for a wedding photographer when my husband and I were planning our own wedding. We had a hard time finding a photographer that we were comfortable with who was also talented. I wanted to be that talent and comfort for other LGBTQ couples. As my career has grown, I no longer offer full wedding day coverage but do provide creative portraits on wedding days when requested. I’m excited my career gives me the opportunity now to only shoot the portraits I love shooting.
Has photography always been a profession for you? If not, when did you move towards photography as a profession and how was the transition?
I didn’t officially start my photography business until 2013. I went to school at UCSD and studied music and political science. I later went on to get my MBA from the University of Phoenix. After my MBA I started working in the insurance industry. I didn’t like it. So when my kids were born, we had to move to another city. In 2011, I became a full-time dad. [I] Started portrait and wedding photography in 2013. I love being a stay at home dad, it is the best, but I wanted to do something for myself on the side. In 2013, it kind of went from there and became something bigger than I had ever imaged. I am so fortunate to be able to do both of the things I love.
What draws you to portraits?
Portraits tell a story while giving me an outlet to be creative. I enjoy making people look like the best versions of their true selves. It lets me make a statement and celebrate individuals/individuality.
When you approach portrait photography, are there certain things that always a part of the process?
My clients tend to trust me and the creative process. So, I actually like to go into a session without a lot of planning. Sometimes, based on the person, I will have them bring a prop or two and/or certain clothing they prefer to be photographed in. Then we just take it from there. I like to get to know the person, so we usually meet or chat on the phone a lot before the session and get to know each other.
Tell me about some of your award-winning portraits.
Weddings and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) is an international print competition held every year in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photographers from all over the world go each year to compete in their print competition where prints/images are judged by a panel of highly recognized and accomplished photographers. Each entry is judged and given a score. If you are given a high enough score you are awarded a silver or gold award for the submission, which is a very challenging thing to accomplish.
Over the past three to four years, I have been submitting images to this competition and I absolutely love it. I have learned so much from the other entrants and judges. Just watching the whole thing happen live in Las Vegas is exciting, whether you win an award or not. When an entry is awarded the audience does a nice little clap and it is the best feeling when it is yours being judged and it receives that response because you know you have won. I have received 13 awards from WPPI. One of them received second place this past year in the Fine Art Nude category.
Can you share your family life with us? I believe people would love to know a little bit more about the man behind the camera.
My family is everything to me. My husband and I have lived together since 2001. We met online while he was studying abroad at Oxford in England, UK and I was living in Arizona. Two months after we officially met, I moved to San Diego, the rest is history. We have made the best life together. He and I had always wanted kids and we were fortunate to have twins that were born in 2011. Their names are Hudson and Logan and they are the absolute best thing that happened to us. Hudson likes playing soccer, baseball, PlayStation, and learning about anything anyone will take the time to teach him. Logan likes baseball, soccer, PlayStation, iPads, and really enjoys anything as long as he has friends and family around. The twins are in first grade and love school. They have tons of friends and like camping and having a good time, laughing hysterically at any chance they get. My husband is Clint and he is successful in his marketing and technology career. We are so lucky to have his patience and kindness. The twins are lucky to have him for a daddy. The twins call me Dad and him Daddy. We are the luckiest Dads in the whole world to have the kindest cutest little guys ever.
How do people commission your work?
Most people that inquiry for a portrait session are from google searches or referrals. Everything is available on my website at derekchad.com. Clients inquire, we chat on the phone, and take it from there. I commission only a small number of portrait sessions each year to keep me interested, creative, and motivated to be the best portrait photographer I can be. Doing so also allows me to spend most of time with my husband and the kids. They keep me busy with camping trips, vacations, school, baseball and soccer games.
Anything else you would like to say?
Everyone is a photographer or knows one, am I right? It is a challenging career and I am fortunate to do only the sessions I want to do with people that I want to shoot with. I am incredibly thankful for my family and everyone who has helped me pursue this passion in such a crowded field. To my clients, all of which I consider my friends, thank you! I am always honored to be chosen as your photographer. I am super proud to be a part of and serve the LGBTQ community doing what I love here in sunny San Diego!
Visit www.derekchad.com to see his portfolio and contact information.
— Albert Fulcher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.