November 27, 2006

A Photographer’s Journey

Diary of a wedding photographer
Its 2.44am, a wedding bridal car pulls up at my block..hahaha…i pity the photographer..*wait a minute…i was once like that*.

Coming into the office today, kuang of 39east speaks to me about new wedding photographers entering the industry and struggling to make a living.

It totally brings me back to when I just started. Let’s take a short trip down memory lane. This is going to be a long one but I hope it somehow inspires new talents and wedding photographers around in some way.

Fresh out of uni, with a IT degree in hand, eadwine of plushphotography enters the real world. Coming back from Melbourne, I basically did what most students did after finishing school *I bummed*. 2 months down the road thinking of what to do with my life, I joined in 2 ventures with friends that didn’t work out. Photography has always been a passion in my life so one day it hit me that this was what I wanted to do *I had no bloody idea*. Still every other night I would spend hours on the computer, being fascinated by the works of other great wedding photographers. I had the uncanny ability to go through 40 wedding photographer sites at one sitting and I had to look through every photo they had.

So putting what I’ve learnt in school *I think*, I decided to gather my little portfolio and set up my own wedding photography service. I started off at SGD$500. Which basically includes every image taken in 4R, with album, 20 8″x10″ prints with album and a whole lot of digital imaging work *I was such a sucker then*. I met my first clients and after that, I didn’t meet them again. Somehow they felt I was pulling a fast one on them *CHEAP LABOUR*.

The journey began when I chanced upon a wedding photographer who’s works I felt were waaaaay better. He was hiring/looking for a 2nd photographer then. So I emailed my little portfolio of photos (wedding pics included) and next thing I know, he invited me over to his office *39 Haji Lane*. He mentioned *as I recalled* going through tons of portfolio but somehow my little portfolio caught his eye. An opportunity I felt that was priceless. While I shot as a 2nd photographer with him I learnt a whole lot, he gave very valueable advice too. I decided I was ready to come out on my own. I thank God that I had good peers (Ron Lee of eye-deas) along the way whom encouraged me when I was worried *pissing in my pants* about getting clients, about earning a living.

So I raised prices. At $800, I found a couple more clients whom wanted me to shoot their wedding and were pleased with my work. At this time, a lady emailed me and told me she read my blog. She enjoyed the angst I often wrote about wedding photography and the clients that came along. She then introduced me to another good photographer/friend/mentor.(Ngiap heng of The Pond).
“why the pond?” I asked out of curiousity…my answer was because, heng resembled a frog.

Christine who worked/helped with The Pond wanted to represent me because she felt I had “potential” in this industry. The day came when I met up with the frog Ngiap heng at his studio. From his busy schedule he took time to look at my works *then it was all in 4R prints*. Long story short, by the time he finished looking at them, the amount of criticism I got made me want to bail out and surrender. I went back and reflected upon alot of things and realised that this was what I wanted and I can only get better *I did I think?*. I was even given the opportunity to shoot a wedding with him. Through this 1 1/2yrs, heng has given advice about photography that allowed me to get a glimpse of what my life would be like. It felt as though everything was planned out and revealed to me slowly.

Priced at $1500 after a while, more clients came to me *hmmm*, and I found out that the sweet spot for price range was at $1800. Trust me, breaking out from $500 to $1800 really got me worried. I thought it was insane *Who in the right mind would want to hire me? =P*. But as time went by, meeting client after client, I got accustomed *sortof* to meeting each couple. Whether they booked me or not I felt I managed to share what I wanted to say about my photography to them. I recall heading down to Cityhall every other day to meet couples and show them samples of my works, Ron was usually there at Leonidas cafe with me. We usually shared/spoke/drank coffee before and sometimes after meeting up with our couples. It was at that time that I met with another photographer who shot weddings part time. Wan sheng of feldberyl was introduced to me. In time, we all hit it off pretty well. Meeting up to share what we’ve gone through and what we’ve learnt. *You guys ROCK!*

It was only early this year(2006) I felt that I should get a place of my own where I could meet up with couples and still have the time and space to do my work. I needed and office. Running around everyday to Cityhall and heading back to do up images can be tiring. Kuang was generous enough *thankyou* to rent out space to me at Haji Lane. In April, I started working at my little corner at 39 Haji Lane. I guess Kuang got lonely being alone in the office *HAHA*.

I learnt that being a wedding photographer isn’t about making a quick buck *trust me there are tons of these around*. Its about being filled with a certain passion, to want our images to speak and tug the hearts of people. Where else in any event can so many emotions be seen?. I was blessed to even travel overseas to learn from Master Photographers who made their living shooting weddings. I set aside goals for myself to one day be able to be at the same ranks as the greats.

Wedding photography isn’t just about images. Its about balancing business sense and a passion together. One cannot survive without the other unless you’re born with a diamond spoon in the mouth *cough cough I wonder who? haha*. I’ve met hundreds of clients who often wonder why wedding photography cost so much more. Some felt that their bridal studio photographer was good enough *no comment*. Some just got pissed off by the price and probably didn’t want to see me ever again. I reflected again, that if I was really in this to make a quick buck, I would’ve just shot as many weddings a month and do a wishywashy job with the images, instead I treated every image with care, staying up late into the mornings doing up the images. Somedays I wonder why I value/bother to put in so much effort into the images of a couple whom I hardly know.

Now wedding photos from a wedding photographer are not meant to give the couples immediate gratification. We can’t play jazz on the spot at the wedding, nor can we serve you food at the dinner. We have to take time and countless hours infront of the computers so we could give our best. The end product, is worth a LIFE TIME *everybody say it with me* LIFE TIME of memories. Now, if you could pay a jazz band a couple of hundreds/thousands to play music at your wedding for like 3 hours, spend another 10/20 thousand on the dinner which will probably end up flushed out the next day. Why would you expect to pay so little for memories that will last forever?. Was it because, everyone has a photographer at their wedding so I must have mine too?, was it because your parents told you to?, or were you really interested to have someone capture moments of the biggest day in your life?
A camera man is told what to do, a photographer shows you the art he sees at your big day.

To aspiring wedding photographers and wed.photographers who feel down and out. I can only encourage you guys to STAY POSITIVE. Be confident of your works and never never ever stop learning. To friends and “mentors” I’ve met along the way, you guys are priceless, I have been truly blessed by all you guys. I am thankful for this journey *it has only begun* and what lies ahead for the wedding photography industry. Critics come, we learn from whatever faults we’ve gone through and turn out better people/photographers.

November 27, 2006

Confessions of Lust

A little bit of revelation by Kuang of www.39eastimages.com

 OK, I’m going to start by being the first to admit to it. I’d like to admit that over the years, I’ve looked in Martha Stewart Weddings Magazine, looked towards great American and Australian photographers and lusted after their styles and the weddings they shoot. There- I’ve admitted it.

I’m sure many of my friends and whoever is reading this is probably wondering what the heck I’m talking about and what the big deal is. Over the last 3 years as a wedding photographer, I’ve always dreamed about shooting that wedding that looks like something out of Martha Stewart Wedding, dreamed of shooting some wedding on some fancy beach in the Bahamas, dreamed of having a couple so spontaneous they would jump into the ocean fully clothed in their gown and suit. Most of that has come true, but not all at the same wedding as I’ve dreamed about.

Ok, so if you’re reading this, and you’re a wedding photographer in Singapore, you’ve probably have had the same crazy dream before and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

But shooting my friend’s wedding over the weekend, a revelation suddenly hit me. There is so much to celebrate right here in Singapore. instead of trying to copy the styles that others have created, I’ve started to wonder, why not create my own unique Singaporean style…whatever that may be.

The Singaporean style of wedding photography, it’s something I’m still searching for. Maybe someday, this Singaporean style of wedding photography would be so cool that big name photographers would be buying OUR dvds.

So if anyone reading this can give us some comments on what could be defining styles for Singapore wedding photography perhaps I can take that first big step of celebrating who I am instead of trying to be who I’m not.

I’m off in search of my own local style. See you all later. Last Updated ( Tuesday, 22 May 2007 )