Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Total Photographer - Any Questions?

Recently a young photographer told me that he enjoyed reading my articles on The Total Photographer but felt that it was unfinished. I re-read all my postings and felt that the articles were quite complete. It covers much of what I feel a Total Photographer needs to know, but it is more an introduction than in depth.

Was anyone interested in those articles and is there something more you would like me to blog about?

Any Questions? :)

What the duck again

Youssouf's Sheeplog


Here is a blog by a toy stuffed sheep. Wow! Ella and Zul are green with jealously. This sheep has travelled quite a bit.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Letter to an aspiring photographer

Charles Sng left a comment on my blog asking how he can become a professional photographer. As daily survival as a professional photographer is something I am still struggling with, I am not sure how to reply to this question. But I believe that it is a question worth trying to answer. And there are many genres of photography and different aspirations of photographers.

There are broadly three things to think about when planning a career in photography:

1. The personal aspect. What drives you to be a photographer? Do you like photojournalism, fashion, art photography or commercial photography? And do you want to be a photographer because you have something you think you want to express or is it because you think that there is money in photography?

Being a jack of all trades in photography can be a frustrating experience. Anyone with a digital SLR nowadays can call themselves a professional photographer. This means that if you are going to compete on a price basis, the bottom is the pits. Without a speciality or a skill, you are not able to charge anything more than kids out of school. For kids, anything is pocket money and fun. Once you are trying to be professional, you will have to consider how to pay for the upkeep and upgrade of your camera and now computer equipment. You also have to figure out how to pay for your own housing and food and family if you have one.

2. The technical knowledge to be a professional. As an amateur photographer, it is great when we get a good shot or one that our friends and family like. The advertising for digital cameras nowadays makes things look deceptively simple. But anyone who can pay you a decent wage in photography will be asking that you give them images that are correctly focused, colour corrected, digitally touched up, well lit, well conceptualised, well composed, and of a sufficient size to be used in whatever purpose they need.

I remember my first job for Lasalle-SIA college of the arts, I was ready to deal with tungsten lights but the whole college was lit with fluorescent lights. I had to shoot the library three times because I was not getting a nice colour tone. Fortunately, I had the time and the client was patient enough to let me shoot the same scene repeatedly. With other clients, you will just lose the job.

In America, photographers who come out from a three year degree course in photography, will assist with a established for photographer for five to six years before they even think of opening their own business. We are looking at something like tens of years of training here. And is it worth it? Yes it is. The knowledge of photographers in the States about focus, depth of field, lighting, the technical aspects of photography, cameras and printing are simply outstanding.

Just because you have a 10 mega pixel camera, does not mean you know what a good exposure is, what critical sharpness is, how does one use a flash (even that little on board flash on your camera), and how to give your client what they need or want.

If any of what I have said gives you an insecure feeling, you should join a photography program like in Temasek Polythecnic or ask for an assisting job in a professional studio. There are many situations and challenges photographers face on the ground. And the professional photographer needs to know what the issues are and how to find innovative solutions to the problems. Even for personal work.

3. The Business of being a photographer. Anyone who cannot earn a living as a photographer will not remain a photographer for long.

Whether you are a commercial photographer or an art photographer, you have to find a market for your work. They are a privileged few, like the wives of rich husbands who can run a business at a loss because their partner is sponsoring them.But if you are a normal person, feeding yourself and a family is an issue. This takes work.

Who is your target market? Art buyers? Newspapers? Advertising agencies? Individuals who need portraits? How do you let these people know of your work? Submit your work to magazines? Create a portfolio and send it to an ad agency?
Take out an advertisement in Expat magazine to attract family portraits?

Photography is a business like any other business. You create certain work to gain visibility, you do certain work to pay the bills, you do certain work to grow your own personal vision. You have to balance these needs. It is rare when you have a high profile job that pays you and give you the room to do a personal project. It is funny, but it is well known that many of the award winning advertisements are pro bono work. Where the client pays next to nothing for the campaign, but the ad agency gets full artistic control over the project. In general, clients don't have the balls or vision to commission a cutting edge piece of work.

You have to create value for your client, and you must find a way to let your client know that value and convince them to pay you for it. And even if you have a unique vision, it does not guarantee that other people will immediately buy into it. You have to sell yourself and your vision. And if you cannot sell yourself, you had better find someone who can sell you.

In a book by Paul Arden, he says that it is important that a creative starting a career talk about money. It is more honest.

There is no fairytale success for photographers. Every successful photographer, actually every working photographer I know, works very hard. Fatigue is a common trait amongst successful photographers.

It sounds simple, but you have to earn enough to cover your outgoings and live. But many photographers have no idea about the true cost of running a photography business. Your name cards, your letter heads, your promo material, you computers and software, your hired help, your office rental, all takes financing.

To start, you need to find your unique or at least valuable vision of image making. Then you have to become technically proficient enough to deliver images day in day out on a regular basis. Then you also have to have the business sense to market your work to you target audience.

My two cents worth. Another couple of interesting articles are by my friend Wesley on Starting out in professional photography in Singapore and Alan Briot's article on Being ar artist in Business.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Estática unificada...


Estática unificada..., originally uploaded by Zydeko.

Hmmm. I always hear from Dance companies in Singapore to get the images sharp. I guess they need it for our boring newspapers. But this guys work is inspiring and I am sure going to see what I can do with this in my own personal work.

Art Is The Window To Man's Soul Without It, He Would Never Be Able To See Beyond His Immediate World Nor Could The World See The Man Within.

There is this photographer in Malacca who has these wacky saturated colour images with great quotes. It really makes one think, and in a happy way!

Spencer Tunick Rocks!



Ok. I am a bit fixated. Getting one or two people to undress for photographs in Singapore is no small feat. Mr Tunick has managed to persuade thousands of people to undress. Aaaaahhhhh duhhhhhh......

Here are some images folks.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Resident Photographer for Singapore Dance Theatre



Well, I have been appointed the resident photographer for Singapore Dance Theatre for the 2007 season. I am so happy to have so much opportunity to shoot the Singapore Dance Theatre dancers. I think in Singapore they are the best!

Anyway, here is some on the publicity shots I have taken for them so far. They have used some of the images and they have not used others.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Fanboys remake Raiders of the Lost Ark

I was on a commercial shoot yesterday working my ass off. The art director was telling me that the market rate of work in Singapore is going down and clients do not care about the quality of the work. Another photographer friend has been telling me how hard it is for photographers to get work nowadays. I don't know. I have been getting work at my asking rate. I do not have the mentality of giving less to clients who want to pay less. I work my ass off for every shoot. I want every shot that I take to be at an international level, and there are still clients out there who are willing to pay for quality.

Today, I read this story about some 12 year old kids who had a dream to remake Raiders of the lost ark. They did it over seven years and on their own pocket money. And they are finally getting recognised for it.

What can I say, in Singapore people are afraid to fail. They are unwilling to push the boundary no matter what it takes. Then they complain that their clients are not giving them what they need. Those kids at 12 had no budget, no knowledge, just love and passion. They found a way to make it work.

I do work that I do not love. I do it as well as I can and show why I am worth what I charge. And with the money I earn, I pay for my own shoots whose limits I push as much as I can. My vision is to be open minded and be prepared to shoot large international campaigns.

I take pride in my work. I think my clients see that. That is why I can and will charge a premium. And if Singapore clients are really not interested in good quality work, then I will go regional. And if I cannot get regional clients, I will get international clients. It does not take that many clients to earn a living.

On another little story I read in a comic book, an old hunter was explaining why wild animals were so dangerous to humans. They don't know death. They will fight even if mortally wounded. Our fear of death and failing in Singapore makes us castrated cowards, fearful of our own shadows. We wait for someone to lead us not knowing that we can only thrive if we lead ourselves.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Japan Boy 'Severs Mother's Head'

I really think that violent movies in Japan are a bad influence on people. How else could something like this happen?

Right Here, Right Now.


I am arranging for my studio to be repainted and realised that it has been seven years since I got the place. I have been back in Singapore from my London studies for over ten years. On my next birthday I will be 42. I could very well be half way through my life. A couple of my parents' friends just passed away this year.

I have not seriously thought of doing anything else except photography for the rest of my life. At this point in time, with the time and effort invested in this career, I am not going back to engineering. And I am not qualified or interested in anything else. And OK, I may or may not make it as a commercial photographer, but photography is it. It would be great if I can combine a commercially viable company with my own personal photography. I really like having this team help me out with my personal work and kicking ass when doing commercial work. But if I cannot run the business with the commercial work, I will find a way to just do my own art photography. I can still make things work if I scale down my ambitions.

I guess what I am trying to say is that come what may, this is where I am making my stand. I don't want to be anywhere else or doing anything else. I have challenges like everyone else with a career, but I do not want to trade my challenges with anyone Else's challenges, except maybe a few big time photographers in New York or London. :)

Right here, right now, the rest of my life in front of my camera lens.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Blogger and Singnet

I finally found a way to get blogger to work properly. Apparently, the issue is being a Singnet user and to solver the problem, I have to use the proxy server now. :(

Anyway, the fix can be found here.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Blogger Block??

I have no idea why, but blogger has been acting up in the last week. My blog on the nude mexicans went up without a hitch and then the image went missing a couple of days ago. Whenever I try and edit the post I get an error message. So I have not been able to rectify the problem with that post.

But it is even worse on Pond Images, my photo blog. I cannot even get a listing on my posts or make a new posting. I have no idea what is happening or how to rectify it.

BUMMER!!!!!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

'Journeys' - A Photo Exhibition by Ken Seet

I went down to Pageone in Vivocity today to see Ken Seet's exhibition, 'Journeys'. There are not many photographers that constantly inspire me, Ken does. I think it is worth catching.

1-31 May 2007 (10am - 10pm)

Pageone sells a lot of photographic books. And there are books of creative photography which are basically technique books. And somehow I think creative technique is an oxymoron. Creativity is precious because it surprises, and is out of the ordinary. Even though 'creative' techniques are useful, and think that being inspired by Ken's work will push me along a lot more.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Louis Vuitton Ad



I don't know. If I was eaten by a giant brown thingy, I would probably die of fright, wouldn't you?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Joanna Dong



I met Joanna Dong on a publicity shoot. Then I learnt that she is a jazz singer and sings at Oosh at Dempsey Road on Tuesdays. I went down and was quite blown away by her voice. I went down a couple of Tuesdays after that and took pictures of her in action.Check out her site and go see her if you can.