My love for photography grows every day. I see it as my personal calling. There’s something divine in capturing a moment for eternity. My love for taking photos happened from the minute I got a camera in my hands. My father gave it to me. You see, my father was also a photographer, so the passion for photography comes from him. I remember the moment he put the first camera into my hands. It was an analog, black plastic camera with film inside. He bought it just for me. There was a limit to how many photos you could take before you had to change the film. Storing and developing those films was such a wonderful process. I remember the first time I entered the room where you develop photos. It was called a “darkroom”. It was my father’s room, and we still use it to this day.
The darkroom is actually an improvised room in our garage made by my father. He put so much love and effort into creating this getaway. He spends a lot of time there experimenting with black and white photography. Black and white photos are his specialty. While growing up, I remember him coming from work, eating, and going directly there to spend some time with himself. He is so passionate when speaking about photography. He uses every chance to bring up the topic. Especially when we watch movies. While we are all interested in the story or the characters, my father is only interested in photography. “A good movie is defined by its photography” – he says. And you know what, I am starting to realize that he is absolutely right. If the movie has a good story or good characters but doesn’t have good photography, then it’s probably a mediocre movie and definitely not a masterpiece.
Back to the darkroom. The last photos I developed there are photos from the renovation of the house. My parents decided that the house needed some extra isolation since they noticed that there was mold. Actually, it was my father who first noticed in the darkroom. Since the darkroom is a bit specific to renovate, my father decided to install an air purifier device from Clean Breathing to deal with this problem specifically. And deal with it it did. But once my parents realized that the mold was probably coming from the poor isolation on the roof, they decided to invest in isolation. Now the house is well prepared for another photo project – before and after. The photos will be developed in the darkroom and presented soon. So stay tuned.
Sometimes I feel that the camera and I are one. I am behind the lens so much that it has probably melded to my face. In fact, I think my eyelashes are thinning out on my right eye. Imagine that! A hazard to being a photographer. There aren’t many, but this is perhaps something to watch out for. What do you do? Limit the amount of daily time you spend at your trade. I certainly can’t do that. I have worked hard to get where I am and I am not going to alienate clients. I will never say, “you can’t have an appointment.” If someone wants a shoot, whether a wedding, an anniversary, or just a portrait I am there. Just because of eyelashes I am not going to risk my income.
But, actually, I do care about how I look. Who wants to have lopsided eyelashes? I suppose people will notice and wonder what happened. I must try this growth serum I have been reading about. It makes the eyelashes grow faster and stronger. You put it on daily and in four to eight weeks, you see the results. There are several ways to go. You can go to the ophthalmologist and get a prescription for Latisse or you can try the drugstore over-the-counter version. The former works better but there is a warning on the label. Your blue eyes can turn brown. I have brown so I would be exempt. Meanwhile, it is a trip to the drugstore that is at hand.
I start using the serum the very next day and am anticipating long, beautiful lashes. I keep applying it for days on end. The first thing every morning, I check their length. For weeks, I see no progress; frustration is my new name. I hide behind sunglasses so no one will mock me. I use lash lengthening mascara but it is so hard to get off. Finally, I resort to eyelash extensions. They look fabulous and people complement me, but are they ever expensive. They do last about two weeks, but do I want to invest my hard-earned savings in a cosmetic procedure. Meanwhile, I keep applying the serum. I am running out and wonder if I should get another bottle. Of course, I do. Your looks are important. It is how the public sees and judges you, although I would not say that I am vain. What’s another $5?
After six weeks, I think I notice some growth. I might need a magnifier to see it but I believe it is there. My two eyes are almost even. If I can sustain this and still work behind the camera, I will be very happy indeed. Why grow your lashes, spend the money, and have to start all over again? I decide to keep applying the serum, but just twice a week as a kind of maintenance dose. The best advice I can give is not to look to close.
I’m out on location for a hired job. I thought I had thought of everything in advance. I timed it as I usually do so I can finish before the sun goes down. I want to have the best light for the landscape shots I am taking. It makes a huge difference in the mood and quality of the photos depending upon the time of day. I think of the French artist, Monet, and his famous haystacks. He was out in the country with easel and paints in hand. He set himself in front of a large example of his subject and then proceeded to capture its color qualities and the distribution of shadows as the time of day elapsed. He must have painted a dozen of these haystacks, each unique in every way. To see them together is a marvel of artistic ingenuity. It takes one of the basic qualities of painting—light—and makes it the true subject of art. This is how I feel when on location dealing with the changing properties of light. I have to make light count as a primary focus of the photos. Light transforms and transfigures the subject, no matter what it is. In this particular case, it was magical and translucent, but it seemed that time passed so fast.
This happens when I get truly absorbed in my work. As the light was so captivating, I didn’t real care that it was growing dim. The later the day, the moodier the shots. It was going to be so divine to have a collection of pretty cool photos as a result. As I pack most things I need ahead of time, I immediately thought of Flashlight Pro and the small flashlight that I’d bought after reading a review there. I could now see well enough to change settings on the camera or to move to a new vantage point where I could set up shop. The flashlight afforded just enough power to continue on and make it through the rest of the shoot which was well before total nightfall. Whoever gave me that flashlight did me a big service and I thank you.
When the photos were all cropped, touched up, and processed, I name the series simply “landscapes” and dedicated them to Claude Monet. After all, he was my inspiration. I was eager to show them in a series each photo mounted according to the time of day in my next gallery show. As it so happened, people got the point right away. They knew it was a study of light, not just of a particular scene in nature. Monet also did his light progressions with other subjects like the façade of a church. I am not copying something obvious and well known. I am giving it my own particular twist. After all, he was a painter, and my tool is the camera. Right there it gives our artwork an immensely different feel, but the inspiration is there in any case. Thus, you have a bit of insight on artistic motivation in photography. That is what this blog is all about.
I know the meaning of stress when I see brides crumple in frustration at an ill-fitting dress or when a groom shows up late for the ceremony. I feel it myself when the family is fighting during the wedding, the weather is too hot, or the venue is not photogenic. You can usually remedy a lot and years later, the camera did lie. Everything looks peaceful and elegant. Thankfully, I often work in places where I can tote along my outdoor misting fan to help me keep my cool.
I remember one July when the temperature hit 105 and the tempers hit the ceiling. They rose steadily as the wedding wore on. Everyone was sweating profusely. The bride and maid of honor kept wiping their dripping foreheads, mussing their makeup. It was just plain humid. How was I going to get around this? Shininess gleamed off the faces like morning dew that was starting to heat up into steam droplets. So much pressure. The wedding party, from the bride and groom to the mothers in law, were demanding that I get great photos. Nothing would do for posterity but perfection. The problem was: the circumstances were not conducive to anything even close.
We ordered fans from the hotel and a few on stands were available. They were fairly good quality fans, some like the floor fan reviews here. We placed them strategically but then the bride’s hairdo flew apart like a bird’s nest gone wild. The bridesmaids were getting fuzzy and wilted at the same time. I was in a panic.
Taking a few close shots from a portable mister fan, I mustered up some courage. I called a friend to rush over with pots of makeup and cakes of face powder. Hair spray was to be included: cases of it. The wedding party looked frightful by the time she arrived, box of tricks in tow. They were grateful for some much-needed reparation. They did look better about 30 minutes later. When their moods cooled down, so did their body temperature and ultimate appearance.
I lined them up in the requisite positions and aimed the camera. It was hard to get smiles but a few jokes sparked a few grins. The first effort was meager but I kept at it. Click, click. The camera did its work. I cropped, focused, removed red eyes, enhanced the color, and voila! The wedding party looked less frazzled, even pretty good.
The weary bride grabbed the camera while I was on break. A smirk soon broke into a real smile. “I look good,” she beamed almost not believing her eyes. I had done a little editing, working my best tricks. She thanked me and ran back to her waiting guests. Dancing that day wasn’t vigorous but there was joy in the air. I got other good snaps throughout the event and was pleased with the results. Not having expected much, it turned out to be a big photographic success.
Let that be a lesson. Weather permitting, or not, you can make do with what you have and call on extra help if needed. You have to keep your cool and go with the flow, such as it is.
Selecting a wedding dress is beyond difficult. Every bride wants to be the most stunning ever seen in the chicest, best fitting gown. The styles are so numerous, however, and the price points so divergent, that it takes great foresight to make the best decision.
Once a budget is set and a theme has been conceived for the wedding, the dress will naturally follow. The time of year will dictate strapless or sleeves. One’s body type will determine fitted or full. Height and weight will impact length. Suddenly it is an endless process of selection and rejection, until that final winning style bursts forth in all its white frothy glory.
So what if you have a vintage number or Mom’s size 2 dress? Better yet, what if you decide to make one? I know a young woman whose decision to do so had a very happy ending. She had to pay for her own wedding as her parents were deceased and she was reticent to skimp too much. Something had to give and it was the dress. She wasn’t skilled at sewing—by hand or machine and a custom design was out of the question.
After much soul searching and reading sewing blogs like SheLikestoSew.com, she made a trip downtown to the garment district. A bunch of odd shops with odder merchandise. The gowns were cheap and poorly made. It was sad, really. You had to go to the big department stores and specialty boutiques to find the good stuff. She paused for a moment and heard the shuffling of rushing feet behind her. A door opened and suddenly she could hear the whirring sounds of sewing machines and peals of human laughter. She looked inside and saw for the first time in her life a true sweat shop.
She ventured in. Most of the sewers were Vietnamese and did not speak English. However, an older woman came forth and asked her what she would like. “A wedding dress,” she replied. “I can’t do it here in this factory,” the sewer said. “But I can do it at home.” The bride-to-be was a little surprised but took her address and agreed to meet the next day. The abode was modest as expected, but was loaded with bolts of gorgeous fabrics and lace trim. “It’s all hand-embroidered,” the sewer said. “Imported and of the best quality.” The bride relaxed and fell under her spell. “What do you suggest?”
A week later, she returned to the sewer’s apartment for a fitting. She expected a homemade gown, nice but not more. She knew the fabric was lovely, but the style was simple and unassuming. She rang the bell, entered, and tried the garment on. It was sensational, and more. It fit like a glove and caressed her body in all the right places. It was a wonder. She smiled broadly and accepted the bill. $400. What! So little? The sewer said this was a month’s rent and was plenty. The fabric was a remnant she was told to take home from the sweatshop.
The wedding photos were a huge success. The moral of the story is clear. Homemade is not a negative word. It is full of love, hope, wisdom, and experience. It can be a blessing in disguise.
I know this is going to sound strange, but I miss my fireplace. It’s not that kind of feeling where you know you’ll be happy when you can have something again, like good Chinese food or an hour with your favorite LP on vinyl. It’s that ache that you get in the depths of your soul that won’t be satisfied until you get home to be reunited with a loved one.
I think it’s because I miss the time in front of the fire, just thinking about my day. It’s a weird form of pseudo-meditation because I feel relaxed after sitting in front of my fireplace at home. It’s almost as rejuvenating as a visit to the spa, but it costs a lot less and you don’t have to listen to some smarmy attendant talk about how awesome her job is while giving me that judgmental look that says, “I bet you look horrible naked.”
I might love the road, but God – I miss my fireplace.
A Substitute Fireplace Just Doesn’t Work!
Why don’t you just book a room or borrow someone’s fireplace while you’re on the road?
Trust me – I’ve asked myself the same question dozens of times. I’ve attempted to sit in front of some of the very finest fires that likely cost thousands of dollars to install. I’ve even tried sitting by a wood-burning stove one cold evening when I was really missing home! Instead of getting that relaxing feeling where the world seems to melt away, I end up missing home more than ever.
I think it’s more about my home routine than anything else. When I’m out on the road, I’ve got certain things that have to be done. When I’m at home, none of those worries exist. I’m already in the right state of mind for thought melting goodness and maybe that’s what I’m missing more than the fireplace itself.
Even so, I would pay anything right now to be at home, to feel the warmth on my face, and to listen to the popping of the wood as it gently burns down into hot coals.
I Think I Miss My Creativity Too
The quality of my work seems to be better when I’m at home too and though I’ve often been told the fatigue of the road is responsible for this – it might be true. I feel more powerful in front of my fireplace because I feel like my creativity is at its best. I can solve problems with ease. I can come up with fantastic ideas!
I can’t do anything about it right now, but here’s my plan: I’m going to take a video of my fireplace the next time I’m at home and take that video with me on the road. An iPhone fireplace might not be the same thing, but at least it’ll be a taste of home that will be with me wherever I go… assuming I don’t accidentally delete it!
God I miss my fireplace, but I guess that’s a good thing if you think about it.
I love traveling. I love traveling to remote places and exotic islands to do wedding shoots. But sometimes the places I work at can be quite remote. Sometimes I have to travel to a big city, transfer to a smaller plane to fly to a town, be picked up in a jeep and driven for hours along an unsealed road to a remote location where a wedding is going to take place. It can involve traveling all day, having non-working amenities and dealing with local bugs and flies.
I remember one wedding I had to shoot at a National Park in the Pilbara Region, Western Australia that made me really appreciate all the little things I had back home.
I was happy to do the shoot as I’d never experienced the outback and had heard so much about it. It was only a small wedding and very casual – about 40 friends and family, but they were all local. I’m obviously not local, so had to spend a lot of time traveling.
First I had to fly to Perth and wait around the airport for four hours. Perth domestic airport is not like Singapore airport where you can swim in the rooftop pool or watch a movie on the big screen theatre they have. There’s limited shopping and expensive airport food. Although I must admit, it was very clean. When we finally boarded our plane, it took us another 2 and a half hours to fly to Karratha. Karratha airport is basically a large shed and we had to walk down the stairs of the small plane and across a steaming tarmac to get to it.
Karratha is a mining town and very small. They had just put in the first traffic light when I went there and I hear they now have at least six of them! Although I was told that you wouldn’t dare have a wedding in December because of the heat and cyclones, the Bride and Groom couldn’t have it any other time because of work commitments.
It took us only minutes to drive to town to get supplies and then I was taken to my motel as it was getting dark and it would be another two hour drive to our location. Like most motels, it had the basic amenities. A basic shower with the standard hotel style low flow shower head that you always hate to see, a toilet, bed and an old, wall mounted TV. But sleeping away from home is never the same as being in your own bed. The water pressure from what the motel’s brochure said was a great shower head was disappointing – they’re never as strong as the one at home (although I must admit, Karratha had good water pressure) and the water is never the right colour!
Being in the remote outback of Australia meant red soil everywhere. On my skin, on my equipment and on my clothes. Because of all the gear I have to carry, I travel as light as possible. That means I don’t get the luxury of bringing my own pillow with me or changes of clothes for when I get hot and sticky or covered in red dirt, like now.
At that time of year, the heat was almost unbearable and we left in a convoy for the two hour trip to Millstream Chichester National Park. There was an isolated Homestead where the wedding was going to take place, but all the seating, food, shade cloths and trimmings had to be brought with us as the Homestead had nothing except a beautiful backdrop for photos and museum like pieces of history.
Times like these, I really appreciate the city and its sealed roads. The red dirt was a cloud ball of dust behind us as the second half of the trip was on an unsealed road. The locals were used to the travel and lack of signal for their phones and laptops. I wasn’t. They were used to not breathing in the flies and keeping up their fluid intake. I had to be constantly reminded.
Yet, despite the remoteness, the flies, snakes and spiders, the wedding was spectacular, the Bride radiant and the setting perfect.
The following week, as I sat back at home, surrounded by cool breezes and connected to the internet, I looked at the most beautiful photos I had taken that day. Shooting in remote areas and being on the road for days on end, certainly gives me an appreciation for all the little things in life I have back home.
I was presenting a ‘Phoneography’ workshop last week. This is a workshop where you use your SmartPhone as a camera to learn ‘Photography’.
One of my students was a 68 year old man who gave a recount of how he used to go to the shop with his Kodak 35mm camera and buy a roll of film. He would have to go home and spool it on to the camera. He told us of how he shut the back of the camera, and had to click it to spool the film forward. Sometimes, when he got his film processed, he would end up with about 8 photographs of his boots as he had clicked too many times!
The story he told us got me thinking as to how much photography had changed. I’m not that old, but I remember more than a decade ago being excited because my brother-in-law gave me a 3 mega pixel camera for my birthday! I felt like a real photographer, then.
I decided to visit an old college professor to learn some more first hand. He was a photographer before I was even thought of, and knew everything there was to know about photography.
He told me that although the actual idea of the pinhole camera was said to be around since the 5th Century B.C., it wasn’t until the 1800’s that there was the development of chemical photography and the first permanent photograph was produced in 1826. The Professor made me laugh when he said that he always thought the French inventor (Niepce) of that passed away because he was experimenting with too many hazardous chemicals. But he was serious! Once I learnt of all the silver compounds they were experimenting with, I began to wonder too.
He also told me how pictures took a minimum of 8 hours to expose. Imagine that! What we expose now in less than a second could take almost a whole day! There was no opportunity for the choice of manual or automatic exposure that we have now. They must have been excited when they got the exposure time down to half an hour in 1839.
The first commercial photograph was a Daguerre camera back in 1839. It was huge and heavy. Not like the lightweight cameras we can sling around our necks these days. At the mention of the daguerreotypes, the Professor showed me pictures of the California Gold Rush and explained that most of these were taken with the Daguerre camera.
Then came the negatives! Although the Daguerreotype process was unique in that it only produced one exclusive picture, people wanted copies. The Calotype negative meant you could produce prints on paper from a camera exposure.
Imagine what people back then would think of our photos that got shared around by millions through the internet!
The Professor spoke of the exciting 1800’s where The Collodion process was invented (this process used smooth glass to produce sharp prints which were better than paper negatives), and the birth of motion pictures came to be. This is also the century when Kodak came on the scene.
Kodak changed everything. George Eastman offered the first camera (which he called the Kodak) for sale in 1888. It was a simple box camera with a fixed focus lens and single shutter speed. Great for photographers.
The Professor explained that the Kodak Film was pre-loaded into the Kodak camera and you could take around 100 exposures before sending it off for processing and reloading.
The Brownie was born in 1900 and introduced the ‘snapshot’ concept. I wondered to myself if this is the term that evolved into our ‘Snapchat.’ The Brownie was great because everyone could afford to buy one and it remained on sale until the 1960’s.
In 1909, the 35mm motion picture film was born. This was really exciting and it also meant that the highly flammable nitrate base was able to be replaced by an acetate base.
Throughout the 20th Century, the Professor told me about the many changes that took place including color photographs, instant color films (the Polaroid), the Kodak disk camera and of course the Pentax Spotmatic SLR.
As we entered into the year 2000, cameras became smaller, lighter and more versatile. The first available mobile phone with a camera was introduced and in 2006 a 111 megapixel CCD sensor was produced, making it the highest resolution at that time.
Then the Professor looked sad. He told me that this century was also the time when Polaroid discontinued its production of all instant film products. I got sad too, as I remembered as children, we would take a photo and eagerly wait around for it to ‘dry’ wonder at the magic of it as the photo appeared.
Now we use iPhones, iPods, underwater cameras, smart-watches and tablets to take instant photos. There are photo exhibitions which are produced solely with the iPhone. We have fancy DSLR’s that will do whatever we want them to do. If we don’t like a photo, we can delete it and begin again. Technology has given us the opportunity to be better photographers than we have ever been.
I had to go to a wedding shoot straight after talking to the Professor. As I took out my camera and manually adjusted my settings on my favorite DSLR, I waited for the right light to envelope the Bride and Groom when they kissed.
I looked across to the wedding guests who were ready with their iPhones. They too, captured the moment, and I watched as someone uploaded it to Facebook in an instant. I smiled and remembered the good old days that the Professor had talked about, and realised that it was these days of instant technology that I loved even better.
Previously at a BBQ, I was asked to give a recount of some weddings shoots I had worked at. I told them about the best and the worst wedding photo shoot I had ever attended. This is the story that had them wondering whether getting married was worth it!
It all began three days before the shoot. I was planning to have a lazy weekend, but instead got a phone call from a wedding planner in Bali. She was a frantic mess. Her photographer for the upcoming wedding on the weekend pulled out at the last minute. I had been highly recommended by someone and could I please come at last minute?
I had never been to Bali and didn’t really know much about it except for what I heard through newspaper stories. But, keen for an adventure, I assured her that I was available and would be there by Friday morning so that we could go over the running sheet for the Saturday wedding.
I couldn’t get a flight Thursday afternoon, so booked the earliest one possible on Friday morning. With the time difference, I would still be there by 9 am.
On Friday morning I awoke to a beautiful sunny day and as I drove to the airport I thought how lucky I was to have the job I did. Traveling to exotic locations and taking photos of beautiful people on their wedding day.
Boarding the plane, I put my camera bag under the seat and settled back for a smooth flight. After 10 minutes, we were asked to leave the plane. Suddenly I didn’t feel so lucky as I grabbed my bags and tried ringing the wedding planner to let her know I would be late. She didn’t answer.
I sat back at the airport for three hours with the other passengers before we were allowed to board again. I was not amused. The wedding planner was still not answering her phone and I was now over 3 hours late.
When we finally arrived in Bali, I was way behind schedule and still hadn’t been able to let the Wedding Planner know. I looked around for the driver who should have been there to pick me up and help me with all my gear. Nobody. Obviously they had gotten tired of waiting and left. I went to pick up my luggage from the carousel. Nothing. My luggage was not there. All my lighting gear and tripods and other bits and pieces were lost! Thank goodness I at least had my camera!
By the time I lodged a claim with the airport, it was past lunchtime. I would have to spend the afternoon trying to hire some photography gear from somewhere. I decided to get a taxi.
I gave the taxi driver the address of the Private Villa that Liz Conrad, the Wedding Planner had given me. Although he didn’t speak much English, he appeared to know where he was going. Sitting in the back, I was so engrossed in trying to contact Liz and Google the best places to hire photography gear that I didn’t look up until we stopped. At the Conrad Hotel! I couldn’t believe it. He had read Liz’s surname and taken me to the Hotel of the same name! Could the day get any worse?
I decided it would be quicker to pay the fare and try to speak to someone at the Hotel who could speak fluent English. But the taxi driver wouldn’t let me go until I had paid him a tip and bought one of his pirated DVD’s for a dollar. In the end, I threw the money at him, grabbed my gear and found a lovely English speaking gentleman at the front desk of reception.
He could see that I was only just holding it together and kindly helped me get a car and driver to reach my destination. He gave me phone numbers of the best places to hire some equipment and offered his services at the Hotel should I ever return to Bali.
When I eventually reached the Private Villa, Liz came racing out, phone in hand.
“Where have you been?” She screamed. She had red eyes from crying and her phone was ringing non-stop. And I thought I was having a bad day!
“The white leather wedding shoes are mouldy from the humidity, the place cards, chocolates and everything else with the date on it arrived yesterday with the American date on it (meaning the date read 5th November instead of the 11th of May), and the mother of the Bride is Godzilla!” She started to cry again.
I didn’t dare tell her of my own troubles and hoped that things would eventually work themselves out.
She got yet another phone call about a disaster that was in progress and raced off to deal with it.
I felt very tired and despondent. A kind Balinese woman who obviously worked in the Villa must have seen my face for she said, “Here. You go.” She gave me a card with the word massage on it. “She my friend.”
A massage might be just the thing, given that I couldn’t prepare without Liz and all of my gear. I followed the woman’s directions down the street and came to a small dirty building. I hesitated, but a small young lady saw me from inside and pulled me in. I gave her the card and she said, “Yes. You sit.”
She pushed me into a massage chair (not what I had in mind) and proceeded to take my shoes off and give me a pedicure. I was too tired to care. Although I must admit, when I saw the dirty water in the bucket and the fact that the nail brushes and scissors were not sterilized, I did wonder if I’d made a mistake. When the scissors nicked me and I accidentally knocked over the bucket of water, I knew I had made a mistake. I left in a hurry and tried to find Liz. The evening was spent waiting for gear to arrive and calming Liz down.
The next morning was as stormy looking as the Mother of the Bride and I prayed that all the hired equipment would work properly. After taking the obligatory photos of the Bride and Groom getting ready, I set up on the beachfront for the ceremony. The guests looked relaxed and happy and I took a few shots.
Then, as the music started and the flower girls and page boys walked down the red carpet, it started to pour down with rain. Whether it was from the rain or nerves, the page boy stood there, cried and wet himself. What a disaster! Everyone ran for cover and because of the magnitude of the storm, not one person was left dry.
It was bedlam inside the Villa. The Bride was crying, her makeup and hair ruined, the Mother of the Bride bellowing out instructions, the Groom trying to calm everyone and kids running throughout people’s legs screaming.
I quietly move to a corner and captured it all on film. Things finally calmed down and the wedding went ahead, but I heard months later that the marriage didn’t work out and they were going to divorce.
It was definitely the worst photo shoot I had ever attended and to make it worse, I ended up coming home with a bad case of nail fungus after my unfortunate experience at the so called massage place. Give me my best wedding shoot any day!
While enjoying some time out from work recently, I decided to go to a BBQ with friends one Saturday. This was a big deal for me going out on a Saturday, because that’s usually my busiest day as a wedding photographer.
It just so happened that one couple at the BBQ was engaged and discussing wedding plans. He wanted to elope overseas to avoid all the hype and she wanted to have a big romantic wedding with all the trimmings. Naturally, as a wedding photographer, I have seen some good weddings, some bad weddings and some very interesting weddings.
The bride to be, Tara, was keen to hear about the best wedding I had ever had to shoot. She wanted to know all the romantic details and how everything came together so that it was the perfect day for the bride and groom. Her fiancée Brad, wanted to know about the worst wedding I’d ever been to and wanted all the details of things that didn’t go according to plan. Obviously in the hope of persuading Tara that a big, romantic wedding just didn’t exist.
My sympathies were with Tara that afternoon so decided to relay the story of the best wedding shoot that I ever attended instead of my disastrous event in Bali. It was a beautiful, private wedding in a tiny town called Chiang Dao in Northern Thailand.
As always, I travel to my photo shoots at least one day early. In this case, the Bride and Groom insisted everyone arrive two days early. One day for travel and one day for a bit of sightseeing. The couple had arranged for everyone to fly to Chiang Mai on the same flight and arranged mini buses to take us to a place called Chiang Dao Nest where the wedding was to take place. This was about 77kms north of Chiang Mai and was spectacular.
We were all treated to Thai massages upon arrival and our accommodation was a small bamboo and hardwood tin roof hut at the Nest. Although I was the wedding photographer, I was treated just like a guest and got to enjoy my massage.
The next day, while the guests were taken to the nearby Chiang Dao Caves for a guided tour, I met with the couple who took me on a tour of the resort along with the hosts, Stuart and his Thai wife, Wicha. As we walked around the bungalows, we found some very pretty areas with beautiful mountainous backdrops for wedding photos. I couldn’t believe how quiet and peaceful it was. The gardens were an amazing array of flowers, hanging orchids and large bamboo trees. It was simply stunning.
The wedding day itself was glorious. The stylist (who I had coincidentally worked with before) did the bridesmaids’ hair in braids and gave the Bride gorgeous curls. The makeup was natural and the Bride and Groom had decided on a Christian wedding in the garden of the resort by the pool. The 30 guests, who were all old friends by now, were all served canapés before the ceremony as they waited and were each given a glass of juice or champagne to toast the Bride and Groom as they became man and wife.
Defying tradition, the Bride and Groom actually had their wedding photos taken before the ceremony so that once they signed the register, they could accompany the guests into the restaurant together. This kept with the theme of intimacy.
It wasn’t difficult to take photos aligning with the intimacy theme. The restaurant was filled with led candles (obviously with the bamboo huts there was a fire risk) and silvery white flowing material draped over the chairs with matching table cloths. It was simple, intimate, elegant and romantic.
The food was amazing. You were given a choice of three different dishes for each course. I chose Roasted Sweet Pepper and Goat Cheese Crouton for my starters. My main meal was Marinated Chicken Fillet with Pinenut Crust, Roasted Vegetable Salad, served with Hand-Cut Chips and dessert was Creme Brullee. Everyone chose differently and they were all happy with their meal.
The music played all night and a Thai local band took every request and delivered faultlessly. You could talk to everyone without shouting and everyone had a personal photo with the Bride and Groom as a personal memento to send with thank you notes.
The couple had organised a breakfast the next day with everyone and afterwards left riding an elephant with a ‘Just Married’ sign on the back. The guests were later transported back to Chang Mai and many are still in touch today despite being from all over the country.
I love making money in my sleep! I will spend days doing what I love (photographing) and then upload my best pictures to microstock agencies who will sell my pictures around the world for me while I sleep or do other things.
“Where can I sell stock photos online?” I hear you ask? I’ve listed a few of my favourites that I’ve had success with. Check them out!
iStockPhoto – iStock pay a base royalty rate of 15% for each file that is purchased and downloaded. This can go up to 45% if you become an iStock exclusive contributor. This means that you put your photos on iStock and make them your exclusive royalty-free agent. This means you can’t sell your royalty-free stock files anywhere else. You sign an exclusive contract (which you can always cancel with 30 days’ notice and good reason) and earn between 22% and 45%. They have a royalty schedule which explains the sliding scale used to increase your percentage earnings. The iStockPhoto website is very informative and helpful. The two main sections I love to use are the Help section (located on the top toolbar) and the Learn More section (located on the side bar of the Help section or at the bottom of each page of the site.
Shutterstock – Shutterstock is one of the most popular microstock websites. It’s also one of the most difficult microstock agencies to get photos accepted into. But don’t give up! It’s a very rewarding experience when you do get accepted as you know that they haven’t accepted just any photo. Your photo has potential to sell and earn you some good money. Here are some tips on getting accepted by Shutterstock.
Try choosing more than the required 10 photos necessary for submission. Choose photos that have commercial value, such as iconic monuments or wedding photos. Submit these photos via a website link to the Shutterstock critique forum before sending them to Shutterstock. It’s really important at this point to not take any critiquing personally. This forum is designed to help you get accepted. And just because you have a beautiful photo of your baby son smiling at you, remember, it may not be a commercially viable option for Shutterstock.
Use the critique to reduce any noise level and improve your photos technically. Once you have your 10 photos technically perfect, upload your photos to the Shutterstock server according to the rules. These are downloaded from the Shutterstock homepage. Once you have been accepted (and remember it might take a few goes), smile, sit back and reap the rewards!
123RF – There are a few ways to make money from 123RF.
1. You can become a contributor and earn straight commission when a buyer downloads your content.
2. You can become an affiliate and refer buyers. Then when they clink on your link and purchase, you earn referral commission.
3. The third way is when a contributor joins and starts contributing. A bit like Chinese whispers!
As a sole contributor, you will earn up to 60% of the credit price and up to .43 cents per download. Through the referral system, you earn 15% of the retail price of whatever the buyer purchases and when a contributor joins and starts contributing, you earn 10% of the referred contributor’s commission.
As you can see, there are a variety of ways to earn money through photography and these are only a few. The important thing is to keep opening yourself up to different opportunities, keep learning and keep shooting! Who knows when you will get that perfect shot where everything falls into place at the right time enabling you to sit back, smile and live the photographer’s dream.
Being a photographer, I often get asked for tips on how to take great photographs. In particular, how to ‘frame the perfect photo’. So I thought I’d throw in ten of my basic top tips which may help you out!
1. Use a high resolution setting. When you use a high resolution setting, you can take better quality pictures. This will actually help you later on when you are framing your photograph. You will be able to crop a photo to make the subject stand out and still end up with a picture worth printing.
2. Use the Rule of Thirds. One of the most basic rules of photography you will hear people use is the rule of thirds. Break the picture into 9 equal parts. Three times three spaces, creating thirds both horizontally and vertically. The theory is that if you place your point of interest (or what I call subjects) on the intersecting lines, people will naturally look at the intersection points rather than in the middle of the shot and like what they see. If you find it difficult to achieve in the beginning, try achieving it through cropping and editing later on.
3. Use a slower shutter speed. With a slower shutter speed (1/15th or slower) and combined with a pop of flash, the frame of the picture can show movement and energy. It’s very effective when you have people dancing during a wedding reception or you want to focus on the batter during an exciting cricket game.
4. Consider your subject in a portrait shot. In a fashion shoot, you may be asked to focus on a particular piece of jewellery despite it being a whole shot of a stunning model. The focus of your subject, whether it be a hairstyle, wedding ring or an exquisite model, needs to evoke emotion and capture the attention of the viewer.
5. Change perspective. Some of the most effective photos I’ve taken are ones from an unusual angle. Three or four subjects lying on the grass, laughing and looking up at the camera never ceases to create that WOW factor to create the perfect photo.
6. Create a second point of interest. Having an interesting relationship between your first subject and the second helps frame the picture and create a story in the mind of the viewer. For instance, a child looking down at a cute puppy or a first time father looking at his sleeping new born make the photograph more intense and captivating.
7. Move your subject to one side. If you are shooting a portrait and your subject is looking into the distance, move them to the opposite side of where they are looking. This creates balance and the illusion of the photograph being bigger than it really is.
8. Take sharp pictures with your subject the main focus. One of the main causes of blurry pictures is the shaking hand. Consider investing in a good tripod. These days you can buy all sorts of different tripods. One that is my favourite is a bendable one that I use for my macro shots. But a simple straight legged tripod for taking shots over a long period of time (at school or sporting events) will suffice.
9. Learn from the experts. If you can’t afford to take a photography class, find a local photographer in your area and ask them if you can assist them for the day at a photo shoot. Many photographers love having an assistant to carry the bags or help with the lighting and in return will be more than happy to part with their knowledge and expertise on photography.
10. Always have a spare battery. If you are doing an all day shoot, like I do with my weddings then make sure you have plenty of spare batteries. A good rule of thumb is to change your battery at each main break. This way you won’t run out half way through an important event.
Have fun with photography and practice, practice and practice! Shoot anything and everything. Look for photo opportunities and take your camera with you everywhere you go. Remember, you can never take enough photographs!
I love to take photos. It’s my passion. It’s my dream. It’s my life. I also have something called wanderlust. I’m a creative person and a change of scenery gets my creative juices flowing. So being able to travel to satisfy my wanderlust and to be able to take photographs at the same time is so perfect, it sounds like a cliché. But it’s true when I say that I am living the dream! I am living the freelance lifestyle and loving it!
Many people are always wanting to know how I fund my travels as a photographer. It’s an enviable lifestyle – being an independent photographer who can pick and choose which assignments to take on, traveling the world doing something I love and selling enough photographs to earn a living. As a wedding photographer, my job allows me to go to many places around the world, staying in exotic locations – some I’d never even heard of, and doing things in a way that suits me.
My job as a wedding photographer means I go where the assignment is. It can be Bali, Thailand or Africa. But the contract pays for my flights, my accommodation and of course I get to attend beautiful weddings. Don’t get me wrong! I work hard for my money. But you know the feeling you have when you do what you love most and it really doesn’t seem like work at all? That’s me.
It also gives me the opportunity to explore the world at leisure. While Friday and Sunday are becoming more and more popular for getting married, most weddings still happen on Saturday. If it’s a morning or lunchtime wedding, I’m on the go from very early. But this leaves me free time to explore whichever city I’m in afterwards. It’s been great to finish a wedding in the early afternoon, walk down to the markets in Singapore and haggle with the locals. The time then becomes my own. If the wedding starts later and goes well into the night, I have the opportunity to add on a few extra days to my itinerary and keep traveling the country while I’m there. It also enables me to add a range of photos to my private collection.
I also supplement my income by selling my stock photos online. They are what I call ‘doing business while I sleep’. These are the photos that people buy online while I am sleeping. It makes for very easy repeat business. I only have to upload a great photo once and then I keep getting paid over and over for that one photo. I sell stock through microstock agencies like istock Photo, SmugMug, Alamy, Shutterstock and Fotolia. It certainly makes life easy if I decide to take a few weeks off traveling and spend time at home. There is still money coming in while I catch up on ‘home duties’.
Sometimes it’s not easy being away in remote areas or experiencing a taste of the not so nice local life – like getting nail fungus in Bali
But the beauty of my job is that I can take photos anywhere in the world. And having the freedom and flexibility to do what I want to do when I want to do it is pure creative bliss!
I love traveling. I love doing it for work and I love doing it for leisure. Mostly I combine the two. So over the years, I’ve learnt the best ways to travel as a photographer to make my life simple and stress free.
I thought I’d share my top 5 travel tips with you.
Travel light – Camera gear and lighting equipment can be bulky and heavy and will take up most of your luggage. The extra cost of this can mount up. If you can get away with less clothing and more gear, then do it. Another trick is to pay a few dollars more to get the carrier that gives you an extra 5 – 10kg in luggage. It works out cheaper in the long run. Of course not all budding photographers can afford to do that when just starting out, so a cheaper alternative is to use your frequent flyer points. The more you travel, the more points you will earn and the quicker it will be to get that free flight!
Choose your packs and cases well – Use a solid backpack and pack your gear in a hard case. The best backpack for your needs will vary depending on how much tech gear you’re taking with you and how many clothes you like to pack which is why it’s hard to suggest a “one size fits all” recommendation. Here’s what I use: For the backpack, I have the Tamrac 5789 Evolution 9. It has loads of room and is a great carry on. For your gear, I’d probably suggest you try the Pelican range – I have used a few different sized ones throughout my career and you can buy and sell them second hand and avoid spending too much. They are built to last and can carry everything you need for your shoot.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – By that I mean don’t put all your gear in one bag. Luggage can get lost. Always keep your camera and your lenses with you on board with you when you fly. At least if your gear is delayed or lost, you still have something to work with until you are able to either hire some camera gear or retrieve your own gear. It’s also wise to have a separate portable hard drive to keep with you in a separate bag to save your work to. Remember the old saying, ‘back up, back up and back up again!’ Gear can be replaced, but photographs can not.
Get there early – Try to arrange to fly in for a shoot a day or two early. This way, you have time to source the best places for your shoot, check out the local weather and get to your hotel on time. It’s also a big stress reliever if your flight is delayed by a few hours. Even if you arrive at your destination 4 or 5 hours late, you are still there the night before and you can get a good sleep, ready for the next day. By having that extra time up your sleeve, it also helps you acclimatise if you are coming from a cooler temperature to somewhere like Asia which can be very humid in the summer months.
Have insurance – No photographer should be without good insurance. You’ve invested in thousands of dollars’ worth of gear, so a few hundred dollars a year to insure it is not too much in the bigger scheme of things. Despite the obvious reasons, such as theft or damage, the other reason insurance is so important is because of things like location permits. This is usually included in the contracts I take on, but for many freelancers who organise stylists, venues and studios themselves, they will generally be asked to show written proof of insurance. Don’t look at insurance as an added expense. Look at it as an investment.
Remember, not everything goes to plan all the time. The bride’s hair may not be done according to your schedule, the weather may turn bad, and the taxi may not turn up to take you to your shoot on time. Whatever happens, stay calm and keep on shooting!