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Running a Business

Our New Ride – The Volkswagen Kombi!

One fine day when Alex and I were talking about life and business, an idea suddenly came to his head… he suggested that we get a Stories-mobile; the Volkswagen Kombi. Frankly, I was a little hesitant at first… I mean, that thing is huge, OLD and might be really hard to drive. Good thing I can actually drive a manual car! I was concerned that I might not reach my wedding shoot destination if I had a vehicle like this. I shrugged the idea off until Alex brought it up again a week or so later.

He started showing me photos of really beautifully done up kombis online. I was smitten. Slowly but surely, I became hooked to the idea. And that was how our search for the VW kombi started. We contacted some friends who were VW enthusiasts and they put us in touch with other enthusiasts.

And then one day, we found this:

And so, unintentionally, the date 11.11.11 became significant to us. It was the day we bought our new bus!

By the way, this photo was taken in front of SS2 Mall, our new office space! But that’s a completely different blog post altogether. Take note that I went the hippy route and dressed for the occasion.

The kombi is in really good shape (considering it’s like a few years older than me… did I mention that I am over 30 now?) The colour is perfect cause it’s what we wanted in the first place (our Stories theme colour is light blue and dark brown). Some even pointed out that the number plate is perfect for a photographer (CF, as in, compact flash cards). I felt as if God was giving us the green light to get this bus.

Our little kombi will be used for shoots, and will also be rented to bride and grooms who are interested in using it as a wedding car. So far, 2 brides have already contacted me about the kombi. Our aim is to get it spruced up even more, but good thing is that it already comes with air-conditioning!

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Working Holiday

One of the greatest perks of my job is being able to travel to really beautiful destinations and call it work. I can’t help it, but the mention of a beach wedding totally excites me. I love feeling the sea breeze on my face, the sun on my back and the sand under my feet.

I am blessed to be living in South East Asia where there’s an abundance of scenic beaches, which boasts beautiful locations for weddings. Places like Langkawi, Redang, Penang, Kota Kinabalu, Bali, Phuket, Krabi are just a stone’s throw away. Combine that with cheap Air Asia flights… and destination weddings become affordable!

At every wedding, I shoot in a team with another photographer, and sometimes being the husband of the photographer has its perks too!

I am currently in Redang Island for a wedding shoot. The next few months will be really hectic for me, with shoots every weekend till December. So I am taking the opportunity to enjoy 2 extra days here at Redang. Work wise, there’s lots of things I still need to do (blog posts in the pipeline), but I guess that will have to wait just a wee bit longer…

Internship position available

If you are keen on working with the Stories team, do send in your resume to us. We welcome students who are looking for an internship position. Requirements:

Time frame: Able to work min of 3 to max 5 days from our PJ office from the months of September – December 2011
Skills: Basic Lightroom or Photoshop skills, preferably familiar with a Mac platform, otherwise, we will train
Tasks: Photo editing, and album design
Perks: Get to hang out with cool people at Integricity, tag along for shoots (whenever possible)
Attitude: Willing to learn, humble, friendly, passionate about what you do!

Do note that this is not a full time position, though it may translate to one in the future. So do send in your resume or write to me at grace.tan[at]stories.my to say why you’d love to join us for these few months! Looking forward to hearing from you, and have a great weekend!


The Magic Behind the Images

When I first ventured into the photography business 3 years ago, I was a do-it-all-myself person. I did everything from the marketing, shooting, photo editing, album design, to delivery (courier service). Though I had fun multi-tasking (I loved juggling the different roles), it was really taxing and after some time, I found I could not cope. My days grew longer and eye bags larger. Work hours started at 9am and ended about midnight on most days.

It came to a point in my life when I decided that I needed to hire somebody to help with the workflow. It wasn’t an easy decision to make because that meant I had to give up a bit of control and train someone else to see things the way I do. After all, editing images can be quite personal… hours spent meticulously poring over each image… “you mean you don’t notice there’s a tinge of green on that face?

But giving up control and hiring a Digital Artist was one of the best decisions I made for the business.

Years have gone by and different people have come through our doors (you guys know who you are, thank you for all your contributions!)… but right now, I’d like to introduce you to Weiming.

One of the greatest pillars supporting the Stories team is the magic touch from our Digital Artist, Weiming. Almost every wedding image that you see on this website (the past 8 months) has gone through his critical eye.

After every wedding, I go through the images and select the final collection that would be passed on to Weiming. He would begin by editing the colours to make it pop and balancing exposure between the different shots taken by various cameras. As some of you know, Mark and I are Canon shooters and Johan is a Nikon user (on the verge of switching, maybe? He bought some Canon gear recently). If you have spent hours looking at photos taken by these two brands, you’ll know that the colours can NEVER match completely.

And to that, I take my hat off to Weiming. He spends countless hours editing these images. No, wait, let me correct myself… days! On average we spend about three to four 8 hour days editing a 10 hour wedding!

Shooting in raw helps a lot with the editing, but still, the sheer number of hours we spend on each wedding is incredible. We don’t even do things like arm size or tummy reduction, skin retouching… those are specific image enhancements which are chargeable and only a few ask for it.

If we didn’t have Weiming on the team working so tirelessly on each image, our backlog would be super duper crazy. Currently, we target to deliver the full set of wedding images within 1-1.5 months of the wedding date. After the delivery of the DVD, we’ll proceed to design the album layout. And then the client needs to approve the images in the layout, then the album will be sent for printing, and finally delivered. Phew…

I hope this post helps you to understand the process we go through after each wedding. A photographer’s job doesn’t end the moment the guests say goodbye after the dinner reception. In fact, only 50% of the work has been done by then.

By the way, Weiming is also multi-talented – he is a photographer, a drummer, a kick-ass futsal player! Thank you, Weiming for doing such an excellent job! You are important to the Stories team!

Image on the left before post processing (directly from camera), image on the right after post processing.

Updates, thoughts on business and time

One of my clients recently asked me, how do I find the time to blog, especially when my days are filled with meeting potential clients, going for shoots, sorting photos, checking through album layouts and responding to enquiries? (and on top of that, move house, move office and actually have a social life?)

My response is simple… I make time for it.

When I think back about it, I am amazed as well. Of course, there are days when I am overwhelmed with the workload. Since I started running my own business 3-4 years ago, I discovered that time is such an important asset. Everyday is a rush to complete the backlog of work that somehow manages to miraculously pile itself on my desk. Before I know it, a day has gone by, a week, a month, a year… where did the time go?

I am still learning the art of prioritizing my time. There are certain things I know I need to do, and those things are high on my priority list. Blogging is one of them. I feel it’s so important to have fresh content on the Stories blog, that no matter how busy I am, I must make time to blog. In my mind, blogging = marketing the Stories brand. How can I neglect something as important as marketing?

So yeah… I make time for it.

Here’s a simple update to what’s been happening the past one week:

Noel & Hui Yi’s pre-wedding shoot in Putrajaya

I love Pullman hotel for pre-wedding photography. The ambience is beautiful!

Kevin & Katherine’s pre-wedding shoot in Nikoi Island, off Bintan, Indonesia

With an amazing beach like this, you can’t help but feel soooo blessed at having a job that brings you places.

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