A Missing Year

I never realized how long it has been since the last time I blogged anything here. Every year I seem to lean towards things that are much more convenient and simple when it comes to updates, eg. Instagram (and by the way you can find me there @saharasnow).

However, I can’t really say my Instagram has been -that- active either, considering that I uploaded less than 100 photos to my account for 2015. It was a quiet year, and I took my time to look back and think: where did I came from? I briefly went back to where I started: Cosplay, and while not really gaining in photography wise, I’ve gained a lot of friends.

I experienced my first image theft (gasp!), and basically, I made a huge hoo-ha and alerted the moderator to take the imposter down.

As mentioned, 2015 was quiet, very quiet in fact. The year actually slipped by me, and I didn’t really know it to be very honest. It seemed as though I went into a hibernation unknowingly.

I was very depressed, and extremely unmotivated, even now. I grew tired, weary, and was almost ready to throw in the towel. My works were going nowhere, and I ran dry of inspirations. There were many ideas and stories in my head, but I couldn’t find the drive to bring them to life, it was one of the worst feelings I had ever experienced.

It was very hard for me to talk to anybody about it. Not kidding when I said that.

Once I wrapped up some works at the last quarter of the year, I stopped shooting. Completely. I didn’t touch my camera for as long as I remember, until the shoot I did for myself. My business partner was going to shoot with a traveling model who was in town, I decided well why not? I don’t have anything on hand anyway.

The habit of shooting for somebody was a bit hard to shake. Throughout the shoot I kept thinking about shooting it so that it will benefit the model, but then again hey! I paid for her to work something I need. That was my shoot. It was scary to me, how I have completely forgotten how to shoot for myself.

I ended the shoot with almost 400 images in my camera, and my business partner commented that I rarely had that much images for all of my test shoots throughout the years. And I thought, wow, really?

It probably meant you enjoyed the shoot and was actually having fun creating images that you want.

Such a wake up call.

I forgot how to have fun, and create. And that drained the life out of me, and my works. Maybe, I need to start doing things more for myself.

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Weeks later, I arranged for another shoot with another model that I’ve worked with frequently. And I got exactly what I needed in that one image. I got to experiment with something new, and get my concept across, I was happy.

Regardless of whether other people like it, that image meant something to me, and that is the most important thing.

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And since it is Thursday, that calls for a throwback. I’m going to throwback some of the works done back in 2015 lol.

Lookbook shoot for August Society

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Fun facts: There was one point when Paula (the model) actually slipped and fell into the sea, well I panicked a bit when it happened and instinctively stood up to try to help, and blocked the videographer who was shooting the behind-the-scenes, hence unfortunately we didn’t had any of those precious footage (oops). The team had battled through the insane weather and millions of mosquitoes, I didn’t know how we survived.

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This was an outtake from another lookbook shoot, this time with the newly relaunched AndWellDressed. The model, Maggie Rose was absolutely gorgeous, quite evident in the image above. Unfortunately my favorite out of the whole set was an outtake, it didn’t make the final cut.

And among all the things, I’ve shot a set of pre wedding images for my friend Masako from KL, together with her fun and loving now husband, Fang.

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^Aren’t they precious? Hahaha.

I’ve also managed to make it to the Tokyo Steam Garden, a steampunk party that my friend Eldred, has been telling me about. I’d say it was quite an eye opener, and I really loved how much efforts the guests put into their costumes and props!

Here is hoping for a more productive year, let’s do this, 2016.

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Wardrobe styling for photoshoots

Singapore has a really small market, but we have an exploding number of photographers, makeup artists and models, even model agencies. But we just never have enough stylists. I remember the difficulties in trying to get a team to work for portfolio purpose back when I was starting out, there were a lot of choices for makeup artists and models, but never enough for stylists. Of course I could always build up a portfolio with beautiful nude works, but that would unfortunately not quite help to get me any jobs from the fashion side, especially here in Singapore.

So I started digging through my wardrobe and attempted to do the styling myself.

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It was tougher than I thought. I remembered when I first styled a model from agency, I was at a loss when what I envisioned just didn’t quite looked as good on her as compared to on the paper in my head. I looked back at it now and I cringed a bit, but nevertheless, we all started from somewhere. I started doing more, and looked at more commercial works to study how the materials worked with each other, and how the styling worked for the story.

After doing it for quite some time, I’m quite comfortable now with pulling out any look now for test shoots. I’m not an expert and nether am I ever a fashion stylists, I just know what works at the very least. Being a female is probably one of the advantages, hahaha. But I’d never call myself in anyway, a fashion stylist, considering how almost every pieces I used for my test shoots were from my own wardrobe.

I invested in building a wardrobe to be used for test shoots and personal projects. In some ways, I like to be totally in control in how the looks were supposed to be like, controlling the wardrobe allowed me to do that. Note that this only applies to test shoots and personal projects, even though that usually means I have to drag an additional suitcase to the set. There were also shoots when I borrowed from designers but that was rare, especially when I might even have to destroy a clothing piece for the shoot., like the one below.

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The outer piece was completely destroyed by the sea and sand, and had retired into the trash bin right after the shoot.

Over the years I like to study commercial fashion images, because these were the kind of styling that sells. They weren’t over the top, sell a story well, and even sell a model well. It worked in a lot of ways that actually benefits all sides. I took a lot of references from household brands like H&M, ZARA, Mango, Forever21 etc. Ever since H&M launched in Singapore, I’ve been their regular whenever I needed anything for a shoot. They provide affordable prices for basic pieces, and sometimes you might even strike gold with a good piece of jacket that goes with almost anything. And their sales just cannot be missed, you can’t find anything more affordable with decent quality in town.

Below are some examples of what you can do with a good cheap and simple wardrobe. Yes you read that right, you do not need to break your bank to be able to style a good look.

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Outlet stores are also good choices to find affordable fashion pieces to add to a shoot.

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As a fashion photographer, or an aspiring one, knowing how to style is very important. You don’t need to be able to whip something like how a professional stylist is able to of course, but you’d be able to gain experience and knowledge via styling to understand how clothes affect the woman/man’s body or vice versa. And you will also learn to understand how a piece of clothing or even just accessories contribute to a story.

You don’t need to do it all the time, it’s always good to build up a team that includes a stylist, because you’d need his/her expertise as you advance further down the road. But whenever you can, go at it. Try out looks and have fun, like how you experiment different lighting techniques and have fun exploring possibilities on how you can utilize all the new knowledge you have gained.

Have fun shooting!

Fashion and Model Photography – Know the Difference

This topic came up during one of the discussions I had with my business partner. Very often, we realized that a lot of people were unable to differentiate between fashion and model photography, I could understand why because that line inbetween was just so blur. Even then, believe it or not, there was actually a difference.

To know the difference, we need to define each on its own. Let’s start with one of the most famous photography genre: fashion.

What is Fashion Photography?

As one of the, if not, the most iconic fashion photographer there was, the late Richard Avedon said it best.

Fashion is one of the riches expressions of human desires, ambitions, needs, frailty, insecurity, security – 

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It was more than just selling the garments, the jewelries, the shoes, the bags. It was all about lifestyle. Or the image that you wished to portray and displayed for the whole world to see.

Next time when you caught yourself staring at any fashion campaigns, you know you’re attracted to the kind of lifestyle and image presented in the photograph. The image has done its job.

Now let’s move on to Model photography. Very often, if you asked the bookers at a model agency on the kind of photos that they were looking to add to the model’s book, you’d realized that they’d tell you they want fashion images. But see, these years of shooting countless models’ portfolio had led me to believe that what the bookers meant might not be exactly what they said. You could have booked the model for a fashion test shoot, and yet when the photos went back, the bookers feel that they could not use the photos. Why? Because you were not selling the model. What the agency wants are photos that sells the models. Plain and simple.

Try imagining yourself as a client who is looking to book a model for a job. What will you look for? If you are doing a beauty advertisement, you’d be hoping to see if there are images that showcase the model’s face and skin condition clearly (yes I know there is always photoshop but still). If you are looking for a commercial model, you’d be looking to see if the model is as natural as she is in person from the photos she has in her book.

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Photographs form a very huge part of a model’s resume. It is very important that the photographs sells the model to the client.

I’ve had one experience which I totally threw out a model’s compcard because he looked really bad in the photo. However, on the day of the shoot, he was the only one free as the original model we booked was sick and nobody else was available, so we asked the agency to send him down. When he walked through that door, I was shocked. This boy is absolutely gorgeous, and moved very well in photos too. Unfortunately, none of these were properly showcased in his compcard, and that was a real shame.

A good model can get overlooked by a client on the first round of casting due to photos that do not sell them. And they could be booking zero jobs because of that. Remember that clients don’t have the time to spend to actually get to know the model, their first impressions are always their photos on the compcards, or even just their profile on the agency website. A good headshot that oozes strong energy from the model will attract your attention.

Hence, the next time when you are shooting for a model’s portfolio, think. Are you showcasing the model’s qualities at his/her best?

Does that means we cannot shoot a model’s portfolio the same way as we shoot fashion?

Yes you can.

But always keep in mind on the styling and makeup. Is the makeup enhancing his/her features or covering them? (think avant garde/conceptual) Even though the model was trying hard to sell the fashion image, does it do the model any justice? Remember that fashion is more than just putting a model in a beautiful clothing.

Shooting simple all the time is so boring!

Not unless you know how to have fun with the model at the same time. While he/she is getting comfortable, you’d start to see a difference in the photos: facial expressions are more natural, movements are more fluid, energy becomes stronger. And nobody says the test shoot has to be just simple styling. Throw on any complicated stuffs you want, but remember if you’re shooting to add to the model’s portfolio, shoot at least one or two looks that he/she can use, same for stylists and makeup artists, who generously gave their time and effort to contribute to your shoot.

Photoshoot is more than just about the photographer, keep that in mind.

Another point to mention is post processing.

Model portfolio do not need fancy post processing other than the basic skin retouching. Like I’ve mentioned, and I’d say it again: Model photography is all about selling the model.

Knowing what the agencies are looking for for their model is easy. Just look at their websites and study the kind of images they put up. Now, you should totally ignore all the tearsheets in a model’s portfolio in this case. Study the test shoot photos, you’d know which ones are they. And you will know what are the photos that the agencies preferred.

I hope these are helpful.

Happy shooting!

About Photoshoots

Recently I posted a question on my Facebook, asking if there’s any topics that anyone would (actually) like to me touch on, and after going through the replies, I’ve decided to combine two of the suggestions into one entry since it was all about photoshoots.

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What makes a good/bad photoshoot?

Some will say photoshoots are tedious and takes tons of preparations, in my opinion, it really depends on what kind of photoshoot we’re talking about. Commercial shoots naturally takes a lot of time and effort for the preparation stage, it involves a lot of brainstorming and sharing sessions with your team to decide on what the final result is going to be. Today, I’m lazy let’s be simple and just touch on personal or test shoots so I don’t bore anyone (if any).

Test shoots to me are pretty easy, since they are usually for model’s portfolio and/or makeup artist and stylist portfolios as well. If I’m the one who initiate the shoot, I’d come up with the concept, story (which is usually very simple and to the point) and looks. And since I do almost all the stylings for the shoot, naturally I’d have total control over what outfits to put the models in.

For makeup and hair, I’d use the good old reliable Google. However, since modeling agencies usually prefer that the models to not have too much makeup on them. WHY? Reason is simple, because the model’s features needs to be seen. That is one of the deciding factors that clients will decide during the go-see if they like what they saw in their books. Oh damn that is so boring! One might think, but we can always turn this into a win-win situation. What I usually do, is shoot what the agency wants for the model first, then I’d add in additional looks just for play and experiment.

How is that possible?! We only have half day and sometimes less than half day to shoot!

Then it’s really up to how good you are. It takes time to train oneself to be able to shoot and get exactly what you need/want. Which is why planning is still important, even for test shoots. It doesn’t need to be complicated, I like to keep things simple. Go into a shoot, knowing exactly what you want out of it, and achieve it within a limited time frame, that is what every professional photographers should and be able to do. Well of course sometimes there are exceptions, but it’s always good training and keep yourself focused. And also be ready for anything that doesn’t go right. Because we all know that one simple and annoying rule: whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.

I’ve had unexpected incidents like camera just decided to hang and everything seemed to get stuck. Lights that just decided they were going on strike on the very day I had a job, weather problems, wardrobe malfunctions, miscommunications etc. My shoots are never perfect, but I have memorable shoots that will always comes up whenever I share my experiences.

So exactly what makes a good or bad photoshoot?

It is all up to you.

A good photoshoot can turn bad if you go in there without the knowledge to help support what you wish to achieve, or being able to respond to any situations that may come up and ruin your day, and sometimes no amount of pre shoot preparations can help you,trust me on that. However, if you are able to deal with problems on the spot, you can always turn a bad photoshoot into a good one, or at least get something good out of it.

It’s all about your attitude.

What annoys me at a photoshoot

A lot of things will annoy me. I’m usually very tensed when it comes to photoshoots, be it a job or a test. Because I want to get exactly what I had in mind, I was told that I should never compromise. Because if I do, I’d compromise the quality of my work, and I’d end up with images that I’d probably hate for the rest of my life. But that doesn’t mean I’m not flexible. I take in suggestions and advice from my team all the time, balancing within if it works or it doesn’t, and then I’d decide if I’d go ahead with the suggestion.

And then sometimes, some things just doesn’t work out. The only time I was pissed beyond words, was one of the worst experience I’ve had. And unfortunately it was a model. She actually managed to make my poor makeup artist cry (which I only found out after the shoot because I was away recceing the location and discussing with my assistant that time) because she refused to cooperate. And she went on to further criticize my client’s products in front of the client herself. Such unprofessional attitude totally pissed me off, and it only got worse when we were told we could not send her back and have a replacement. I finished the shoot as fast as possible, and then send her home, later I discussed with my client to reshoot some of the pieces.

So that was it. The main thing that totally annoyed me on a photoshoot, was a bad attitude. It usually ruins everything. Just that simple. Hence I had this pin attached to my camera strap permanently to remind everyone and myself included whenever we go on set.

ImageThere we have it.

Though sidetracked a bit, but I hope I’ve answered the two questions clearly. If there’s anything that you’re curious to ask, feel free to let me know! 😀

Testing New Faces

Over the years since I’ve started shooting models, I’ve tested and contributed to many new faces’ portfolio in the industry. But usually, the new faces that I’ve tested had at least went through some little experience in their own countries, so all I needed to do was to try to pull a bit more out of their shells.

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Now it was very different when it comes to working with models who had almost or just zero experience. They were usually not very comfortable with their own body or face yet (though there were exceptions, depending on their personalities too), and even not comfortable with having the thought of themselves as someone who was beautiful. The problems that I always faced with these fresh blood was they held back too much due to insecurities. Now I didn’t mean it in a bad way, but we were all insecure about certain things ourselves so it was entirely normal. Especially when one worried too much about how they should looked in front of the camera.

So I’d say, leave that worry to the photographer.

Have fun, play and experiment. Be wild, if you were overboard, be assured that photographer would let you know. You need to trust the photographer to capture that one in a million second moment, that passing smirk you didn’t even realized you were doing, emotions that escaped your eyes. It didn’t matter what poses you need to do, the posing came naturally when you were feeling it. Don’t pose like a mannequin, express your feelings through the movement and subtle posing with your body language.

And then, see the magic unfolds.

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Passion

I’ve first worked with Melissa when I was in KL for Comicfiesta 2012, and thought that maybe I can squeeze in a shoot while I was there. Melissa was wonderful, she wasn’t taken back by the huge crowd of KL and remained calm the whole time without getting distracted. A year later when I decided to make another trip to KL again, I asked her if she still is interested to shoot, and her answer totally made my day.

I’ve experimented a few things that I’ve always wanted to try but always fears of failing and wasting people’s time. Thank goodness for Melissa who was so patient with me while I keep adjusting the lighting and trying out different angles and effects. I cannot be thankful enough for a patient and cooperative model. I still have more images to process but I usually retouch those that I liked best first 😛

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I’m also learning other ways in directing the models to pull emotions out of them, despite that I’m actually somewhat socially awkward (this will be the death of me for sure) _(:3」∠)_ So not Leo, I know. Trying my best to change.

After the KL trip, I made two more travels to Hong Kong, the second one being to Hong Kong Fashion week. I’d say that I’m quite impressed with its scale and what it can provide. I’d really highly recommend local designers and even stylists to attempt to make a visit at least once, there are many treasures that you can dig from there. I’d write a more complete one in the next update, with pictures! 😀

Hong Kong, I was freezing my ass off to be honest. I should really pack more warm clothes the next time I visit during the winter. The wind was so much more chilly than I expected, even my thick wool scarf cannot save me. Being someone who is low blood pressure, I’m kind of vulnerable to cold ya.

A huge trip was planned for the second half of the year, and I’m really, really looking forward to it 😀 Tokyo, Japan!!!!!! *rolls around excited*

2014.

Because I’m so not creative when it comes to titles, as you can see I’m always having problems naming my images, and sometimes my fics too.

This blog almost went dead, like any of my previous ones (except Livejournal, I used to spam a lot back in its glory days). It just can’t compete with the convenience of Instagram that allows me to upload and update within minutes. But writing (or in this case, typing) has always been kind of… well fun for me, so I guess this blog is not going anywhere.

I can’t really recall much of what happened in 2013 now, there were so many shoots and I myself cannot keep up with the amount. But I guess I can always use more (…).

Inspirations went dead for a while, I’m not kidding. It’s not like I’ve ran out of ideas but I think its more like I’ve ran out of motivations. And this is getting more and more frequent that I’m freaking out. The fear of not improving and failure held me back, and I just want to run away from them, bad habit as always. I don’t know how am I going to convince people that I’m really trying to pick myself up. Those two years of hell has a long term effect on me and its not going to go away that easily. I’ve went through it myself and I know how it felt.

I’m still trying.

I really am.

Here’s hoping that I’d grow stronger and better in the new year. And for many years to come.