We photographed Aldrian and Mei Mei’s winter themed wedding some years ago. Ever since then, we’ve kept in touch over Facebook even though they live in another continent. This year, I got to meet their lovely daughter, Thea Grace, who just couldn’t stop smiling and giggling at our shoot. Well, surrounded by cookies that look like ice cream and pillows that look oh-so-sweet, who could blame her? She was just high on love and all things sugary. This styled shoot is a testament of how different people came together to make this work.
Mei Mei brought some props from the UK, and I especially love all the hand-sewn animals hanging off the basket, holding… guess what? Ice cream! The letters that made up Thea Grace’s name were hand made by Mei Mei, and so were a number of the props themselves. Evelyn of Moments contributed the delicious looking ice cream shaped cookies, balloons and we provided the crates, blankets, bags and basket!
It’s 2am and I lie awake in bed, one of those nights where my thoughts lead me to my work, life and my general state of happiness as a person. It’s been 10 years since I started this journey as a photographer, and in these past 10 years, I’ve explored many areas of photography – from travel to documentary, posed portraits vs candid photography, learnt about studio and natural light, thought about diversifying my work to get various sources of income, and then thought about finding my niche so that I can get the type of clients that I really like.. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how to grow my team, spending more time with my family yet running this business that I love and thinking about my retirement plan when my body is too weak to shoot.
These past 10 years, I’ve also felt insecurities as a photographer – not knowing if I am on the right path, feeling envy when others are successful, worried about how to move forward in this business.
How I wish there was a blueprint in running a successful photography business.
Many of the lessons I learnt while running this business was built on trial and error. I have swayed to the left and to the right over the years, and now, I think it’s time to go back to the start.
What drew me to photography in the first place?
I just love capturing life.
People intrigue me. Everyone is so different and yet, the human emotions of love, joy or sadness connect us. I love photographing human connections – that moment when a child looks trustingly at his mother, when the father of the bride cries as his little daughter is finally getting married, that laughter shared between life-long friends.
This thought comes through again and again – keep doing what you love and you’ll excel in it. But it also takes a lot of work. On days when I am not shooting, I am trying to learn something new – reading about ways to improve my business, looking at Pinterest to find new inspiration, signing up for workshops and trying out different genres of photography just to upskill myself.
So 10 years on, I am still learning and doing what I love. It’s what keeps me going.
I read this beautiful write up recently and would like to share it with all of you. Speaking on behalf of my team, we are honoured that we’re given this privilege to photograph you. And though physical insecurities are not exclusive to women, I somehow feel that women struggle with these issues more. So I want you to know that we, as photographers, take our job seriously. You are important to us.
You do not cure cancer.
You don’t have the power to stop the path of a tornado
or make rain fall on a land covered in drought.
You take pictures of people.
And although you aren’t performing surgery or landing a spaceship on a comet
You still have a gift to share.
And that gift affects lives
For in front of your cameras stand people
And people, well, they often wear masks disguised as a smile
And beneath those smiles are the hidden things
The unspoken insecurities:
“I’m not worthy to have my picture taken.”
“I’m going to hate these.”
You won’t know this, of course
Because most won’t share it
I mean, who can blame them?
But rest assured those feelings are there
More often than not
And they bounce around in the minds of those you’d least expect.
It is your job to create images that silence those fears
Images that prove those fears unfounded
Images that shout louder than the lies our insecurities whisper
Images that say:
“You are perfect.”
“You are beautiful.”
“You are deserving of attention.”
Your gift, dear portrait photographers, may not save lives
But never doubt its importance
It’s amazingly my 9th year of running my photography business, officially as a Sdn Bhd / Private Limited (those freelance days were too carefree to count!). It’s a Monday today, and all my staff are not in the office, as we usually take the Mondays off after a weekend wedding shoot to rest and recuperate. I decided to stay home and do some work here too, in between cuddles with my 15 month old son who is growing up too quickly.
On days like these, I take time to think about the business and how we can grow moving forward. Being a natural worrier by nature, it takes extra effort on my part to surrender my business to God and trust Him to bring it forward. Ever since the GST was implemented last year and everyone cut down on their spending, the economic situation has been down. Together with my entrepreneur husband, we’ve diversified our businesses and also made hard decisions to focus when the time is needed.
I don’t consider myself an expert, but here are some thoughts that I have gathered in my years as a full time photographer and mother running a business:
ONE. Outsource – As an artist, one of the pain points I had was actually running the business. I hated doing anything related to accounting (though I did go through some years of basic accounting in school). I know of many photographers who have done jobs but failed to send invoices, only to realise a few months later, that they didn’t get paid for it. So I suggest finding people who are really good at what they do, pay them to do it, and then you can focus on the parts that you love, creating art!
TWO. Marketing is Everything – One of the first things my husband wisely said to me when I first started out… “You can have a website, but if no one can find it, then you’ve already failed in your marketing.” For me, the easiest way to start marketing myself was through my blog and Facebook. I set aside a budget so that I can boost posts when needed. I also started networking with people who are not already in my own usual social circle, like meeting new mothers at playgroups. Start small, start somewhere.
THREE. Don’t Put Yourself Down – There will be days when you feel down. It will come. You will doubt yourself and wonder why you ever started a business in the first place. Just keep your head up, and try to be as optimistic as you can. Pray. Talk to more people. Keep on blogging. Think of new ideas. Don’t give up too quickly.
FOUR. Innovate – Since there are obviously so many photographers in the market, I have to think of ways to innovate my business. How can I be remembered? What can I do that is different from the rest? Can I think of new ways to do old things? One thing I started doing in recent years was approaching baby stores to sell my photography packages to new mothers. I received quite a few enquiries and sales through this method, which was great!
FIVE. Take Time Off – When you run your own business, it’s pretty much on your mind 24 hours a day. I find it really hard switching off, and sometimes catch myself rambling about some random work issue to my husband before I doze off at night. It’s ok to take a break once in a while and recharge your creativity. When you feel tired physically, just do something totally different the next day. Read a new book. Exercise or travel. Cuddle with your kids. I find that when I am recharged this way, I am a much better person, which eventually leads me to become a better photographer.
The past few weeks have been filled with wedding and family shoots as everyone takes advantage of the holiday season to get some portraits done or get married! I have so many photos to share from the past few months but sadly, have been delayed in getting them posted online. 2015 has been a good year for us despite the implementation of the GST affecting everyone’s spending. Together with the team, we have photographed 45 wedding couples and 101 families. I thank God for an amazing team as always, spear headed by the ever awesome key people at Stories… Weiming, Jamie and Chi Yin. Not forgetting others like Diane, Nigel, Johan, Delvin, Choo Cherk and our latest intern, Hui En.
Do view our Facebook or Vimeo page for the latest updates in our work! In the meantime, our group of companies, Integricity, wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
By the way, have a look at some really cool DIY Christmas gift ideas in a jar at this site! Have a great holiday, everyone!