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For Photographers

5 business lessons as a creative entrepreneur

At the beginning of May this year, I felt that I needed to take a short personal sabbatical from running my business that has been in operations for 11 years now. I thought I could use the extra time to learn new skills, spend time with my kids, catch up with people but in reality, I realized that I could never really disconnect from my work.

In the middle of May, I attended the National Achievers Congress and that event made me think about how I have been running my business all these years. As a result of conversations with so many other friends, family and entrepreneurs, I’ve written down some of my reflections regarding business as a creative entrepreneur.

1. Self-employed vs Business owner

Even though I have staff working with me, my mindset has not moved beyond a solo self-employed entrepreneur to a business owner. A self-employed person would dabble in everything, from marketing to sales to operations… the list goes on. Basically, in Malaysia, we say, “one leg kick all”. According to this website, it has the definition of “Perhaps a direct translation of the Cantonese phrase, yat kiok tek, it describes a job or situation where one has to do everything, and not usually by choice.” If everything in your business depends on you, you’re self-employed. To me, this is a sure-fire way to be trapped for a long time. To transition to a business owner, I need to have scalability. Part of this involves automations.

Part of my dream would be to have financial freedom within the next 5-10 years so that I can be free to make choices about how I would like to spend my time daily. Over the years, I’ve automated some of my processes, so that’s great, but I need to be more intentional about thinking how to work with amazing individuals so that they can take the business to a different level. Which brings me to another point.

2. Get the right person on the bus

I heard about this principle through Cavemen, a group of amazingly talented business coaches who dress in crazy outfits and run life changing programs. The principle runs around the idea that you need the right people on your bus (the business) that are going in the right direction as you and on the right seats. Unfortunately, you also have to get the wrong people off. As I discovered, some people are extremely talented, but they are not doing the right job. Some people, over time, decide that their direction is no longer the same direction as yours, and that’s ok because people change and they move on. But the most challenging and difficult of it all would be to identify people who are wrong for the business and politely showing them the door (no kicking involved!). Get the right people doing the right job and the bus will move efficiently.

3. Communicate your ‘why’

So how do you get the right people on board? You need to communicate your why – why are you doing what you do? Why should this person join alongside you in this journey? Learning to communicate this why took me years to perfect. I only wrote my vision and mission statement last year (after 10 years of running my business). As I did more self-reflection, the why became clearer and clearer. But sometimes I fail to share my thought process with the team. So I am running this business and I think everyone is running behind me, but in reality, they might be clueless.

4. Stop being a perfectionist and too ‘creative’

Years ago, I couldn’t bear the thought of hiring a digital artist to edit my photos because nobody could do it as well as I could (or so I thought). In my mind, I had to control the entire creative process and my way was really the ‘best’. But my practical husband told me that I had to change this mindset. After I released control, I realized that other people can do a better job and that I now had time to do other things! (look at point number 1 above). Naturally, I had to think of ways to ensure quality is maintained through the years even with different people on the team. When I opened my mind, I found that other people’s ideas added so much value to the company.

5. Always learn. Always innovate.

10 years ago, I could count the number of female photographers in one hand. Things change. Instagram became popular. The students I taught in college when I was a freelance lecturer suddenly grew up and became my new competitors. I could choose to be bitter or choose to collaborate. I could choose to moan about the economic situation and how it affects my business badly, or choose to think of ways to innovate. One of my values in life is being hardworking. It probably came from my mum who sold did direct sales of Pyrex during the day and baked cookies in the wee hours of the morning so that she could earn enough for our future. But working hard needs to be coupled with working smart. Keep moving. Keep learning. Keep implementing fresh ideas.

It’s still a journey. There’s so much to learn. But journalling my lessons down this way helps keep me on track. Onwards, to a better and greater future!

Tips for Posing Families

Posing is more than just placing people in a specific position and having them hold still. It is about using your skill (and a few tricks) to help your subjects look their best in your photos. Here are 3 simple tips that will help you get better, natural and more authentic family portraits.

  1. Composition makes a difference
  2. Show emotional closeness
  3. Let children play

Watch the video for more information!

Tips on How to Survive an Outdoor Family Shoot

It is common to receive an enquiry requesting for a two to four-hour long family shoot. People tend to have the impression that you get more out of longer sessions. However, that is usually not the case. At Stories, most of our Lifestyle packages are an hour long. Some people seem to think that’s too short but do remember that if it involves children, you’ll be surprised that a single hour can seem like forever to them! I tagged along on some family sessions and here’s why I think an hour is really good enough, especially for an outdoor shoot in our beloved country.

1. Humidity
Even if it isn’t a terribly sunny day, you can be perspiring within five minutes of starting the shoot! On one of the shoots, the perspiration showed through the dad’s dark blue shirt. Fortunately, his wife had insisted he bring along an extra shirt to change into! Mum and child were neither not spared from the icky feeling of sweat. Can you imagine spending three hours posing for photos feeling like this? Believe me, an hour is just right. We all love our country but not the humidity.

TIP: Always bring along some extra clothing and a small towel for outdoor shoots. A hand fan can be very useful too.

2. Timing of shoot
If you’re a local, you’ll know that our tropical weather is quite unpredictable. Due to the heat, outdoor shoots should take place in the early mornings or late afternoons. However, certain months are prone to rain in the evenings so if you plan for an afternoon shoot, it could end up a washout. The other thing about being surrounded by greenery is that it’s perfect for creepy crawlies and mosquitoes to come out and play! You won’t be able to enjoy your shoot if you’re being eaten alive by mosquitoes.

TIP: Check the weather forecast nearer to the shoot date and speak to your photographer about contingency plans. Bring along some insect repellent too!

3. Attention Span
Children are usually quite excited at the start of a shoot but that initial excitement fades very quickly. They don’t like being told what to do, where to stand or where to look! Most of the time, young children start getting fussy even before the hour is up. Tantrums are common when children get tired and an hour will seem like too much to ask from them.

TIP: Bring along some snacks (but nothing too messy!) for your child. Food usually helps to change their mood. We also usually start the photo session with the large family photo so that we get the safe shot done!


Now if you were thinking of doing an outdoor shoot, don’t let the negative aspects frighten you. Come prepared and you will have an enjoyable experience, plus beautiful photos in the park to last a lifetime. But if you’re toying with the idea of having a three-hour family shoot in the park, maybe you should reconsider shortening it. An hour really is sufficient.

Fun Facts about Grace

Some time ago, we created a series of videos to show you what the Stories team is like. Here are some of the videos that have been published about Chi Yin, Jamie and Jennifer. But I ‘conveniently’ forgot to post the video we created about myself until I discovered it again recently! Trying to be transparent and allowing others to talk about you (PLUS making it public) is pretty nerve wracking. Anyway, here are some random facts about myself so you can get to know me a little better! :)

Fun Facts Video – Grace from Stories on Vimeo.

Fun Facts Video: Jennifer

Jennifer is like a box of chocolates – the box might look unassuming, but she can surprise and delight you at the same time! Over the past few months since Jennifer joined the team, I’ve gotten to know her a lot better. She is a highly motivated person, always thinking of ideas to improve things. She has a ‘yes’ spirit – always gung-ho to try things out and never stepping back because she is put in a challenging situation. Jennifer, I applaud you for this, and I hope that you will only grow from strength to strength. Keep on learning and be inspired.

Have a look at her profile here!

Fun Facts Video – Jennifer from Stories on Vimeo.