For Photographers


Years ago, when I first got into the whole art of photography, I didn’t really know where to turn for help or training. Everything I learnt about photography was through my own trial and error, reading the darn camera manual that I didn’t understand, or searching for information online. Other times, I had some photographer friends who helped explain technical concepts to me. And trust me, it took a couple of sessions for me to grasp all these concepts!

Over time, I took photography classes conducted by various Malaysian photographers, and that helped a lot. I am the sort of person that learns things hands-on, rather than just reading that darn manual (again!). This year, I had the privilege of learning from world class photographers at WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photographers International) in Las Vegas.

After speaking to many Malaysian photographers, I realize that I am not the only one who craves good teaching material. Why should all the good speakers only congregate in the US or Australia? It was with this thought that the 5 of us – Alex Lam, Jenny Sun, Jon Low, Mark Leo and myself came up with the idea of bringing quality training to Malaysia; focusing on creativity, technology and business.

Hence, the birth of!

Our first event, called, Got Mojo? is happening on the 23rd-25th April 2010. We’re bringing in Wiki Lee, a renowned photographer from Australia. He will speak on finding your style in photography, techniques in developing yourself, including marketing and communications.

Photo taken by Wiki Lee

This is a 2 part event:

1. Seminar (23rd April) – RM50 at P1 auditorium, PJ

2. Camp in Port Dickson (24-25th April) – RM950 for individual registration or RM850 for groups of 3. This includes bus transportation from BU, hotel accommodation and food! There will be practical and theoretical sessions for this camp. And you get to be mentored by Jenny Sun, Jon Low, Mark Leo, Alex Lam and myself. This camp is designed to be more personal so that we get to spend more time with everyone. All of us will be speaking as well during the camp.

Look at the schedule here: There is limited space at the camp. Register for the camp or seminar here:

I do hope to see you there!

Cliff Mautner’s Plus Class at WPPI 2010

During the WPPI 2010 conference, (Wedding & Portrait Photographers International), I signed up for an additional Plus class with Cliff Mautner. 2 full days with Cliff and 20+ other photographers equates a really inspiring session.

Photography is all about light. Cliff shared with us about the direction of light, and how the quality of light is more important than the quantity of light. He challenges us to quit running for the open shade! Cliff’s style of shooting against the harsh sunlight definitely has more character than soft lighting.

But at the end of the day, his perspective is that great moments are more important than great lighting.

Cliff shared with us a quote by Jay Maisel, “Take a look at what you’re looking at”.

And another… (i can’t remember whose quote this is)…
“What use is having great depth of field if there is not an adequate depth of feeling.”

How true. Here’s Cliff at work, sharing tips with the class.

Our class was divided into teams so that we each get an opportunity to direct the models.

And here are some of the results…

If you’d like to read about my WPPI 2010 experience, read part 1 and part 2 as linked here.

View photos from a Trash the Dress photo shoot I did in Vegas here.

My WPPI 2010 Experience… cont’d

It’s easy to overdo yourself when you attend WPPI. There’s just so much going on simultaneously. With multiple Platform classes ongoing and a huge trade show to visit, I constantly felt that there was not enough time to do it all.

(Read part 1 of my WPPI experience)

One of the things I managed to do was a trash the dress photo shoot with other photographers around the Vegas strip. Here are a few shots from that session. I’ll be putting up other images later. [updated: view the photos from the Trash the Dress session here]

After a few days of rushing for classes, I realized that it’s best I choose my classes wisely, and be there really really early for popular speakers!

I was disappointed when I couldn’t get into Jasmine Star’s Platform class even after queuing for 45 minutes. Good thing was that the organizers for WPPI had a back up plan, and those that missed out, heard her speak the next day! And what a blessing it is, when I won a shootsac during her session!

Here’s me with Jasmine and her husband JD (taken at different times!)

Jasmine Star inspires me to dream big, to believe that anyone can succeed… after multiple failures. We all have failures in life, but as long as we fail forward, we’re moving in the right direction.

In her first year of shooting weddings, she shot 3 weddings, and then the next year, 37 weddings! And all this without paying for marketing! She communicated who she was through her blog, and when people saw that, they were attracted to her. Use every opportunity to be ME.

She cares for people around her, and completely believes in helping others, eg. vendors. The question we should ask ourselves as photographers is, “What can I do for others? To help others?”

Kevin Kubota, in his Platform class, brought up a very important question that we all need to answer:

It makes me think… what are my goals in life? Can I quantify them? Or is success some vague concept in my head that seems unachievable? How would I know if I have reached there?

The other 2 key speakers who influenced me a lot in WPPI 2010 are Marcus Bell and Dane Sanders. Marcus showed the class a very touching video / photo slideshow and shared his passion in capturing moments for his clients. I was moved to tears when I saw the video.

The bridal couple came up with this surprise for their parents, who had been married for about 50 years. The video showed old footage of their parent’s own wedding, their moments in life when they had a newborn, intercutting with footage from their child’s wedding day, years later. The expression on the parent’s face as they watched and reminisced old days and how far they have come was so moving.

It just reaffirms my belief that what I do is so important. I am here as a photographer to capture bits of history in people’s lives, whether it is the moment they say their vows to one another, or when a mother feels her child in her tummy kicking, or when a family demonstrates their love to each other.

Years from now, I want someone to look through the images that I have taken, and remember… not me, the photographer, but the feeling they had when that image was made.

Which, at the end of the day, comes back to that question of “What will success look like to you?”

Dane Sanders, author of the book, Fast Track Photographer, shared with us this quote. I love it.

I am looking forward to this journey of life, and what it holds for me.

On the last night of WPPI, we celebrated the work of many talented photographers from around the world. Awards were given out to the winners of the 16 x 20 print competition, and also International Prints of the year award for various categories.

I am so proud to say that Asian photographers are rising and making a mark internationally. Louis Pang won the International Portrait Print of the Year award, and CM Leung won 2 International Print of the Year Awards, not to mention many mentions of accolades of excellence! That is so exciting! Congratulations to the both of you!

Here’s a group photo of the Malaysian ‘contingent’. Jenny had left Vegas earlier in the day. Glad to share all these exciting moments with you guys!

Read about Cliff Mautner’s Plus Class here.

The start of WPPI 2010 Vegas!

What a whirlwind the past week has been! I haven’t really been able to blog as often as I would have liked to. I still have so many things to write from my coastal trip from San Fran to LA! Unfortunately that will have to wait.

This past one week, I was in Las Vegas, attending the largest wedding & portrait photography conference in the world – WPPI 2010! This year, 14,000 people came from all over the world to hear from the world’s best –  photographers like Marcus Bell, Jerry Ghionis, Yervant, Jasmine Star, Kevin Kubota, Dane Sanders, amongst many others.

I was thrilled that I could make the trip this year, together with fellow photographers influential in the Malaysian industry –  Louis Pang, Zung, Patrick Low & Jenny Sun. I’ve made so many new friends this week and have been so inspired by the lives of the people that I’ve encountered.

In a nutshell, he’s an overview of what happened the past one week.

The first 2 days of the conference was really awesome because I attended Cliff Mautner’s Plus class. This is an intimate class of 25 people only. Cliff not only taught us his signature style of getting beautiful back rim lighting like these shots…

…but he also shared with us his life, experiences, and his thoughts on the business of wedding photography. I’ll share more in another post. [updated: read the post here]

While I was in Cliff Mautner’s class, Alex was attending Ken Sklute’s Plus class, where he learnt a lot about lighting. The Plus classes are worth it. If any photographer out there is thinking of attending WPPI, this is something not to miss.

After the 2 days of Plus classes, we had events like Master classes going on. Master classes are only 2 hours long, but the class size is up to 50 people. Unlike the main Platform classes, some of which seat up to 1000 people, you can understand why people pay more just to have a more personal time with the trainer.

I attended only one Master class (you have the option to attend up to 3, with a fee of course!). I chose Dave and Quin Cheong’s class, or better known as DQ. Some photographers might be familiar with DQ QuiKeys, a hardware workflow solution for post processing your images. Dave and Quin are the photographers who developed this product.

Doesn’t Quin look hot? And the best thing is, she’s from Malaysia! But living in Canada now.

They too shared their perspective on business. One of the things that they said which makes so much sense is their idea on albums. They believe that photographers should always shoot for albums.

“If a story is worth sharing…” they said, “…present it properly. Whose children will pop a DVD and sort through a thousand images years from now?”

The main thing about selling to your clients is ensuring that you gain their confidence and trust. Getting your potential clients to trust that you will understand their needs and cater to it. You are making photographs for your clients, after all, not just to satisfy ‘your personal artistic vision’.

While Master classes are ongoing in various rooms, the print competition judging is held over 2 days. This is a really informative session for me. In various rooms, judges are presented prints from the latest 16 x 20 print competition. These prints come from all over the world, including Malaysia and Russia! As they comment on what they think makes or break that particular image, I learnt a lot about how to view a print critically.

A few things I noted:

1. The best photo size for the 16 x 20 print competition is not more than 12 x 15 inches. Leave the rest for the matte board.

2. Matte photos look better under the hot spotlight.

3. Photos that are post processed in moody, darker tones seem to interest the judges more than bright coloured images.

4. Your eyes are drawn to the brightest part of the image first, then the darker areas. This is a post processing rule as well – so make sure that when you post process your images, you dodge and burn until the audience sees ‘your vision’.

5. It’s not just technical things that the judges are looking out for. They pay attention to the bride and groom’s body language in the photo. Does the pose look believable? What do the expressions on their faces convey?

On the 7th of March, the WPPI 2010 conference was officially launched. It was also my birthday. What a celebration it has been, to be inspired by so many people through WPPI! Prior to WPPI, I also joined a competition, and I won a photography session with Dawn McCarthy, a renowned photographer in Jacksonville, Florida. We did the photo shoot on my birthday, so that was special! Looking forward to seeing the images.

I can’t possibly summarize what I experienced in WPPI 2010 through one blog post. So, part 2 coming up soon! [updated: view part 2 here]

View the Trash the Dress Vegas photos here.