About

My STORY

How I quit IT to pursue my dream job…

I’ve always wanted to be a Graphic Designer growing up, but that idea got cancelled when my typical asian parents freaked out and told me to ‘get a real job.’

Confused and heartbroken, I settled for second best and pursued a career in Business IT consulting after graduating from Bachelor of Science + Masters of Business Systems degree at Monash University. I was a Senior Business Consultant for 8 years where I consulted for large corporate CEO’s, senior business + technology teams on multi-million dollar IT transformation projects. I excelled at my job but it wasn’t enough to shake off the creative vibe I’ve manifested for years.

It was until year 2011, I took a leap of faith and walked away from my IT career to make my photography dream a reality. I opened a photographic studio with my hubby and proudly branded it as Finessence Photography. We spent 6 epic years meeting and documenting memories as a duo for couples + families.

One day, I rolled up into a luxury vintage store named Madam Virtue. Upon purchasing for my first ever Chanel bag, the owner Dean Hewitt and I striked up a conversation around haute couture + fashion, then out of the blue he invited me to an exclusive photo shoot the following day to work with a global influencer super star called Byran Boy. He was one of the original pioneers of fashion blogging.

From the kismet visit at Madam Virtue, I transitioned from wedding photography to travelling overseas for fashion week to capture street style fashion, to now living my absolute dream job as a fashion filmmaker + photographer for brands.

I have worked with international and local brands such as Vogue Australia, Puma Australia, Bally and Samsonite to name a few, and I’m a trusted Nikon Z Creator + Profoto partner.

When I’m not behind my Nikon camera, you will find me at cooking for my family + friends, gardening, or tucking into a great biography book or listening to The New York Times podcast.

Are you ready to get creative with a go-getter like me?

 

 

Insight into my CAREER

Watch my full story below:

fashion photographer, nikon, mirrorless, nikon z7, partner, melbourne fashion photography, fashion, creative, fashion blogger

sponsored by NIKON AUSTRALIA

 

CLIENTIELE

A curated list of awesome Australian and global brands I’ve worked with:

 

 

PUBLISHED

My work has been featured on numerous online fashion blogs, media, social media and print:

 Articles of Style, Australian Fashion Guide, Bonds & Me blogsite, Boohoo.com, Buzzfeed.com (Manhattan, New York),
Boyfriend Magazine, Collective Hub, Cosmopolitan Australia, Fashionisto, Famous, Farfetch UK, Fashionising.com,
H&M Facebook Fanpage, Khloe Kardashian Facebook Fanpage, Louboutin World Instagram, Marie Claire (Netherlands),
Milk & Soda, Mini Maven, Mr D (Mens Style Magazine), Net-a-Porter, News.com.au, Laer Kids, Samsonite, Style Magazine,
Vogue Australia, Vogue Italia, Weekly Review, What Would Karl Do blogsite, Who What Wear Australia

CLIENT TESTIMONIALS

I asked my clients to describe their working experience with me:

 

“Karen is an absolute dream to work with. She is collaborative, pleasant and easy to connect with. Karen not only produces creative and quality content, but also highly engaging content that aligns with our brand. A big thank you to Karen, it has been an absolute pleasure working with you, and we can’t wait to work with you again on future opportunities!”

Mary, Group Marketing Executive, The Lancemore Group

“I am very grateful to have worked with Karen Woo recently for our Shop the City campaign. Karen’s approach to her work, the level of thought and expertise she brings, and the team she assembles, is nothing short of incredible. We have enjoyed a very productive and open relationship, resulting in fantastic outputs, achieved in tight timeframes facing a number of challenges. I look forward to working with Karen and her team again in the future.”

Callum, City Marketing Manager, City Marketing and Corporate Affairs

“It is without hesitation that I recommend Karen Woo and her incredible team. Karen is an incredibly gifted photographer and human being. Insightful, creative and motivational when working on several assignments for us at Sofitel.

Since partnering with Karen and her team on our National Gallery of Victoria, Dior Fashion Cocktail shoot, we achieved over 1,517 cocktails sold an increase of 35% in our total beverage sales and I contribute this to Karen’s eye to take images that delights the audience and entices them to purchase. The success of the campaign has also been recognised in Vogue Australia magazine, social media as well as Vogue Japan. I would without any reservation recommend Karen to you.”

Evan, Head of Communications & Marketing, Sofitel Melbourne on Collins

“Karen is an absolute delight to work with. She innovative and creative and always goes above and beyond to ensure a excellent result.  Karen brings a great energy to all of her projects which shines through in the photography and videos that she produces. I couldn’t recommended her highly enough.”

Anna, FounderBared Footwear 

“Karen Woo is a gem. I wanted to use Karen because I knew her by reputation and on the occasions our paths had crossed, I found her to be a really genuine girl and someone who was really passionate about her craft! We discussed my target customer, my creative direction and she took on board all my opinions, but then she added so much more. From recommending lighting, colour palette and poses to coming along and checking the location before our shoot, she was able to build on my ideas with her creativity and experience to create far more powerful images than I had imagined. She is well prepared and super focused. And who doesn’t love working with someone who finished a full day shoot with 30 mins to spare!

Karen’s results speak for themselves, our campaign images tell you that, but in particular, I would recommend Karen to someone like me, who lacks experience! Her experience and manner mean that you’ll get excellent results. And I think I can speak for the whole team and say that – when it comes down to it – if you’ve got to hang about for a whole day at a shoot – pick a cool chick that makes it a fun day for all!”

Sarah, Fashion Designer & Illustrator, One of a Kind Denim

“Karen Woo is a master choreographer of modern imagery. Her workspace is where contemporary fashion, motion picture and razor-sharp concepts meet hashtags and hip music. And it’s all delivered by a personality that is outrageously witty, warm and refreshing.”

Chris, Applied Photography Lecturer, Melbourne Polytechnic

With her expertise in fashion photography and the success of her own social media accounts, Karen Woo was invited to be a panellist on our 2019 Melbourne Fashion Week Conversations session entitled ‘Creating Engaging Social Content’. Karen did an amazing job providing her insights as someone with clear expertise in harnessing the power of social media, and was kind enough to stay on and chat to attendees afterwards.  She was also so professional and a delight to deal with in the lead up and on the day – I would have no hesitation working with Karen again in the future.  We’ve had brilliant feedback on the event which is certainly due in part to Karen’s involvement.

Elise, Event Coordinator, Melbourne Fashion Week

“We’ve been working with Karen for over three years now and she’s been instrumental to the success of our content strategy. Karen understands the requirements of our brands and produces content tailored to each brand’s strategy. Her photography and creative direction has enabled us to elevate our brands and market them to more premium audiences. Whether it’s content for catalogues, POS, websites or social media, Karen’s eye for style and detail ensures our ad creative is engaging and high quality.”

James, Social Media Coordinator, Samsonite Australia

“Karen was amazing to work with. From being really easy-going to her professional work ethics, working with her was a breeze. The work that came out was nothing short of stellar! ”

Nelson, Managing Director, Benjamin Barker Aust Pte Ltd

“We want to thank you for your amazing ability for capturing the essence of our products in such an enchanting way! Having worked with you and your team on our recent timepiece launch, you have certainly exceeded our expectations and we found this experience with you extremely unique. I would high recommend your services to anyone who is looking for a talented, professional fashion photographer who is a joy to work with, and has the ability to put you at ease, while we focus on other aspects of the campaign. Thank you again for everything.”

Frances, Founder and CEOChristopher Frost Timepieces

“It was a pleasure teaming with Karen Woo for the St Giles 360 campaign. We were drawn to her because of her style of photography and from the moment we connected, I was inspired by and appreciated her professionalism, sense of authenticity, and enthusiasm for the campaign. She fully engaged her community in the campaign and played a key role in extending its reach. I highly recommend Karen Woo and look forward to teaming with her on future projects. ”

Venicia, Piranha New York City

“It was a wonderful experience working with Karen, who was very meticulous in planning the shoot and made sure to keep us updated in all aspects of the shoot, both of which we really appreciate. We love her eye for photography and what she produced for us! We look forward to seeing more of her great works. ”

Kimberley KokHead of Marketing, Social Media of Charles and Keith International

“In my five years in the Melbourne fashion scene, I have worked with many high profiles photographers such as Candice Lake, but none are as professional, friendly and with a really creative and fashionable eye like Karen. Evey single time we collaborate, I am always thrilled with the outcome. Her creative eye sets her apart from the rest and her honesty and experience in working with models, ensures my time on set is efficient and makes me feel confident to trust in her abilities. You just need to look at her photos to see just how good she really is. The key to the success of my blog is the photography and I have no hesitations in saying that Karen has helped me to be where I am today in my fashion blogging career. I see big things for Karen, and I am honoured to say that I was with her from the beginning of her journey.”

Jess Dempsey, What Would Karl Do

I hired Karen to shoot street style for a client after stumbling across her Instagram, and was so blown away with the work she delivered! She has impeccable taste and working with her to co-ordinate the shoot was smooth and simple.

BrodieEditor of The Good Copy

“From the moment we met with Karen we knew she understood our vision and she did an amazing capturing this. We had two day action packed days on location with Karen, her energy and creativity was contagious and we can’t wait to work with her again. ”

StevieHead of Marketing & Events of St Kilda Football Club

“Karen is sooooo enthusiastic and energised. It was a really fun shoot. She also makes you feel relaxed and comfortable. Karen was very prepared and followed the direction that I had set. She created a mood board and referenced the images I’d put together in the brief. She worked tirelessly the whole time and was really patient and open to ideas. The shoot I did with Karen ended up being used to promote the release of my new EP.”

James Varnish, Electropop Musician

“Karen and I met six years ago when I first started my business. I am so grateful for the day she walked into my life. Karen not only takes the most beautiful photographs but she is also the most easiest to work with. She is always bright and sunny, whilst professional and suggesting great ideas and provides great feedback. Karen also gives great direction to the models when required but always takes photos that are natural as possible. She has helped me so much with my business by showcasing my work at its best and always me with the best of her connections so I can advance further. I only hope that anyone who needs a photographer is lucky to find Karen as she is just an amazing person inside and out and absolutely fantastic at what she does. Her passion is just palpable. Much love you to my dear!! xxx ”

Aimmey PhamMiss Aimmey Hair & Makeup artist

“Although I’m not a model, I have done a number of photo shoots through my life as a professional musician. As a photographer, I’d say that Karen Woo is beyond great. Karen is a cut above in her professionalism and abilities. I was simply stunned by the quality of her photographs and never have dreamed that someone could produce such amazing work. She is very easy to work with and put me completely at east. I have no hesitation to recommend her based on her incredible talent and expertise.”

David Willerdorf, Singer/Song Writer

“Karen was an absolute joy to work with when she took my personal branding photos. She was a professional from day one but was also extremely fun, relatable and took the time to understand my branding and style, whilst providing her creative input. The variety and quality of the images were just what I was looking for. I’ve had so much great feedback on the photos. Thank you Karen! Hope we can work together again in the future!”

Candice, Leadership Coach

Love my vibe and wanna get started?

4 Comments

  1. Dear Karen,

    My name is Renee Macartney and I’m currently a student at Holmesglen
    Institute studying Certificate IV in Photo Imaging.
    I am a huge fan of your fashion and street style work, it has inspired me so
    much with my own work and style. I think your photography is amazing. For
    one of my assessments I am required to create a blog and include interviews
    with photographers that work in the industry.
    I would love so much if I could include you in this. I know your job is very
    time consuming so I understand if you can’t find the time but it would be
    so greatly appreciated if you could answer some questions that I have added
    to this email.
    I hope to hear from you soon, thank-you for your time.

    – Renee Macartney

    Questions:
    1. How did you get started in the industry?
    2. What moves or inspires you most in life as well as work?
    3. What interests you most about working in photography?
    4. Where is your work based and where has it taken you recently?
    5. What elements of the work bring you the most stress?
    6. What approaches/techniques do you use and what would you consider your
    ‘style’?
    7. Which is more important to you, the subject or the way it is executed?
    8. What does a typical work day look like for you? And how many hours do you
    put in?
    9. With iPhones and tablets now, everyone is a photographer. What do you
    think the future of photography is?
    10. If there is one piece of advice that would be useful for photographers
    starting out, what would that be?

    Again, thank-you for your time. 🙂

    • Hi Renee, thank you for the questions and I have responded to your questions below. x Karen

      1. How did you get started in the industry?
      I initially started out as a Wedding Photographer with my husband as a part-time hobby. Our friends who were getting married at the time asked us to cover their wedding reception, and then we decided to put our work online and see if anyone would book us to be their wedding photographer. Since 2008, our brand Finessence Photography was born and we now own a Wedding & Portrait Photography studio in Canterbury. I first started in fashion photography when I was fortunate to stumble across this vintage fashion boutique called Madam Virtue & Co., and I brought a vintage Chanel bag. After much conversation they invited me to shoot Bryan Boy (he was recently on cycle 20 of America’s Next Top Model) the next day for Melbourne Spring Fashion Week. Bryan Boy is the pioneer of fashion blogging and he was the first blogger to have a Marc Jacobs bag named after him. Therefore it was a huge deal to photograph him, plus he was a lot of fun because he was willing to pull out all these amazing poses. Since then I started photographing street style with Jess Dempsey, Melbourne Fashion Blogger of What Would Karl Do, Cecylia Kee of Cecylia.com, Kimbly Wright of Style Me Yesterday, and then landing many fashion campaign work with big name clients and going to New York Fashion Week

      2. What moves or inspires you most in life as well as work?
      What inspires me is my faith and relationship with God. He is the one who gives me inspiration and breathes purpose in what I’m doing or yet to pursue. All the people and work I’ve received, it was not my chance but the perfect timing that God has aligned me to. My heart is serving people and putting a smile on people’s faces when they see the end result or an image of themselves. I have had clients in the past who extremely loathed themselves and being in front of the camera, but I sincerely believe it’s my duty to make all my subjects feel comfortable in front of my camera. It’s all about bringing the best out of their personality and most of the time, my client has come out of the photography session as a completely changed person.

      3. What interests you most about working in photography?
      The ability to express your creativity in photos, telling stories (whether it’s the lives of others or a brand’s story), and meeting and working with all kinds of people and creatives.

      4. Where is your work based and where has it taken you recently?
      My work is based in Melbourne and it has taken me overseas to Thailand and New York Fashion Week.

      5. What elements of the work bring you the most stress?
      When unforeseen changes or circumstances occur, for example if the weather changes; under time pressure to get all the shots you need; resolving issues and managing client expectations. It is always good to be prepared, put in place plan Bs and working with the client to ensure their expectations are met. If any issues occur, always communicate them with your client, and resolve them as quickly and smoothly as possible.

      6. What approaches/techniques do you use and what would you consider your
      ‘style’?
      My technique is quite simple – it’s all about understanding how to shoot my subjects in daylight and which artificial light source to use (ie, beauty dish, soft boxes, grids, what backgrounds). Communication and direction is key to posing your subjects and styling is also a good advantage to have. I’m a detail person so I’m always conscious of looking out for any distractions, whether it’s a hair piece on the face, an arm hanging awkwardly, distraction on the ground, position is awkward. Always get your shot right in camera first, whether it’s the pose, exposures and camera settings. This will save you a lot of time when it comes to photoshopping. I’m already photoshopping when I’k taking the shot so to speak.
      What considers my ‘style’ is that way I like to use natural light (back light, contrast and shadows), composition (shooting straight and not tilting my camera) and story telling than just a pose.

      7. Which is more important to you, the subject or the way it is executed?
      Both. You need to cast the right model, the right look and experience in order to achieve the final look of the image. For example, if you are after a soft romantic and sweet looking model and image, then you would try and find the suitable model with a sweet looking face.

      If you are doing a product flat lay shoot, then the colours and products you lay out must gel and look cohesive.

      8. What does a typical work day look like for you? And how many hours do you put in?
      My typical day varies, but generally I start the day with administration (answering emails, enquiries and calling clients back), photoshoots and meeting clients, and reviewing my assistant’s work. My studio assistant does most of my retouching and booking clients in for photoshoots.

      9. With iPhones and tablets now, everyone is a photographer. What do you think the future of photography is?
      I don’t believe this is true. You can call yourself “Creative” but not a professional photographer. You won’t shoot a wedding or fashion campaign with an iphone or tablet as the quality is extremely poor and you won’t be able to enlarge an image to billboard size. Having said that, I love using my iphone to quickly document and take fun images.

      10. If there is one piece of advice that would be useful for photographers starting out, what would that be?
      Reach out to other photographers, invest in yourself whether is further education and go to on workshops, online creative courses, collaborate with others, go on trips to get inspired. One piece of advice, don’t compare yourself with others but just focus on yourself and do the best you can.

  2. Hi Karen

    My name is Jennifer and I’m a Fashion Student here in Melbourne. I love your work especially your street style stuff and the reason I’m contacting you is at the moment I am doing an Assignment whereby we have to contact Industry professionals in order to organise a Fashion Show. It is a hypothetical assignment but it’s something that we will have to do in the future. I realize how busy you are and you probably get a lot of these emails but I would really appreciate it if you could answer just a couple of short questions regarding a Fashion Show Shoot.

    1. On the day of a Fashion Show, the show starts at 7pm what time would you arrive and how long would you generally stay

    2. Do you usually collaborate with someone else; do you have an assistant who would come along?

    3. Looking through your blog you have done quite a lot of fashion Shows, what are the challenges and concerns that you would have for a project like this?

    4. On Fashion Show day in your opinion what helps to create a good atmosphere and for things to run smoothly, what have been your favorite shows to work on and why?

    5. Over the years you would have collaborated with a lot of people, is there anyone that you would recommend for hair and Styling?

    6. Your photos for the model casting at Melbourne fashion Week where great, in your opinion when choosing models how important is social media and their Instagram presence over the fact that they look great in your clothes.

    7. Nowadays everyone thinks they’re a photographer, what do you think makes a great and memorable photograph and what would be your dream project and with whom.

    8. And the important question, Price, is something like this usually charged by the hour or is there a set price

    9. Lastly I love how you got started in photography and the fact that you pursued your dream. I am a mature student that has always loved fashion and I decided it was now or never to get involved. What advice would you give to anyone starting out in the Fashion Industry and how important is Social Media and platforms such as Instagram.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and I look forward to hearing from you.

    Best Regards

    Jennifer McArdle

    • Hi Jennifer,

      Thanks so much for getting in touch with me and I’ll be more than happy to help. I hope it all makes sense!

      Here are my responses to your questions.

      1. On the day of a Fashion Show, the show starts at 7pm what time would you arrive and how long would you generally stay
      It really depends on what I’m doing at the Fashion Show. Here are some scenarios from the following perspectives:

      Streetstyle photographer: If I’m shooting street style outside the venue, I’ll come around 5:00pm to make sure there is still enough daylight and people entering the fashion show.
      Backstage photographer: If I’m shooting backstage, I’ll come in around 5:30pm to 6:00pm and stay for the entire show. If there is no room, then I’ll stay for the first part of the show
      Guest: I’ll come at the ticketed time and stay for the entire show

      2. Do you usually collaborate with someone else; do you have an assistant who would come along?

      For street style, I would work for a Publication and may have an assistant to come spot looks and take details, otherwise I normally work on my own.
      For backstage, I would work for a Publication or client such as Melbourne Fashion Week. If I’m the official photographer for the event there there is room for assistants to come and second shoot or manage the lighting.
      3. Looking through your blog you have done quite a lot of fashion Shows, what are the challenges and concerns that you would have for a project like this?

      Getting the time, space and angles to create the shots
      Seating arrangement at the Fashion show (front row is best for photographers, or media riser – depends on what you want to shoot)
      Media pass for the right access
      Lighting
      Models giving you permission to shoot
      Amount of good shots
      Working with other photographers and team on the day (not getting in each other’s way)
      Having a good rapport with the Production Manager is key
      4. On Fashion Show day in your opinion what helps to create a good atmosphere and for things to run smoothly, what have been your favorite shows to work on and why?

      Being able to work and respect other photographers’ space and not getting in the way of other fashion show crew members. It’s usually fast paced.
      Being aware and alert of what’s going on
      Being helpful where you can
      Listening to the Production Manager’s instructions
      My favourite show is the VAMFF Russh Magazine show because the outfits and models were race and gender diverse. Had a good vibe and I was able to create some interesting images that reflect the style and direction I was aiming for. I loved the team environment and everyone got along.
      5. Over the years you would have collaborated with a lot of people, is there anyone that you would recommend for hair and Styling?

      I worked with many different people and each to their own have a specific style. You work with ones which you think would suit a particular style you are going for.

      Kate Radford: natural and minimal makeup and hair style. Editorial style
      Aimmey Pham: bridal makeup and hair styling.
      Tre Dallas: for celebrity hair and makeup styling. Great energy

      6. Your photos for the model casting at Melbourne fashion Week where great, in your opinion when choosing models how important is social media and their Instagram presence over the fact that they look great in your clothes.

      In my opinion, social media following and presence does not necessary convert to sales. You need to understand your brand message – what are you trying to portray and achieve? Is it popularity or sales?

      Casting the right face to model your clothes is absolutely essential for your brand images – whether it is look book, campaign or walking the runway. If the model has a massive following, then that is a BONUS, not essential. Brands these days are looking to discover new faces, not always using the same face that is seen wearing all brands under the sun. It could make or break the brand.

      7. Nowadays everyone thinks they’re a photographer, what do you think makes a great and memorable photograph and what would be your dream project and with whom.

      What makes a great and memorable photograph is one that sticks with you, and makes you look at the image over and over again. One that tells a story, and the way is it taken.

      I recently worked on a film project with Vogue Australia, so that is definitely a dream. To continue down that path working with Vogue and publications would be ideal. My dream project is definitely ones that push you out of your comfort zone and discover things you never knew you can do.

      8. And the important question, Price, is something like this usually charged by the hour or is there a set price

      My rates are based on the type of project rather than set price or by the hour.

      9. Lastly I love how you got started in photography and the fact that you pursued your dream. I am a mature student that has always loved fashion and I decided it was now or never to get involved. What advice would you give to anyone starting out in the Fashion Industry and how important is Social Media and platforms such as Instagram.

      Always remember the WHY. Why are you pursuing fashion. If your heart’s not in it, you are always “TRYING” rather than “LIVING THE MOMENT”

      Think the bigger picture – even if the job may be small, but will it lead to more work, or interesting projects you want to pursue. That has always been my mantra. Never disregard any opportunity but be grateful for them.

      Social Media played a big part in my photography career because it helped people visualise and understand my work. My work has also thankfully come through word of mouth and networking. Physically get out there than relying on social media. If you are going to use social media, then you have to be committed but not addicted. Know your limits.

      All the best,
      Karen

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