Freelance Photographer in Singapore
This mission has become an addiction and I can't stop anymore.
Skai Chan is a freelance photographer born and based in Singapore. He does wedding, private, corporate and commercial shoots for mainly portraiture, event and interior photoshoot projects. He prefers most in taking part in projects that involve joyous occasions, which he can indulge in the happiness of others.
Skai has been overwhelmed by professional knowledge from many generous photographer and make-up artist friends. His most devoted teacher is Youtube where he picks up most of his photography tricks and theories from. He learns photography through the hard way - trial and error.
Skai is a silent worker who does not boast nor earn trust through words. He is definitely one of the most hardworking and passionate photographers you can ever find. He can lose sleeping hours for phototaking and he does not mind getting dirty just to get good photos taken. Photography is an addiction for him; it is one way he can express himself with. As an artist, taking good photos give him satisfaction beyond words can describe.
Skai also does voluntary event photoshoot when he is available and sometimes has to struggle between hands-on and phototaking at the same time. He is also looking to collaborate with professional models and makeup artists who will benefit his portfolio.
Languages: English & Chinese Mandarin
Highest qualification: Bachelor in IT (University of Wollongong)
Work experience: Founder, Smart Tuition Agency
Lecturer (ex), ITE College West
Sports: Volleyball, Swimming
Other skills: Web designing, Programming, Copywriting, Internet Marketing
Why Do People Approach Skai?
Skai does not specifically follow any famous photographer's style. He learns photography mostly through trial and error. He may not be able to produce the most popular work but every piece of them displays his personality. His angles and framing of the subjects, the direction he chooses to light up his subjects and even the amount of post-processing work he does make him unique.
Skai always tries to produce the best photographs possible, given any situation. For instance, he always brings along powerful lighting equipment that are heavy and bulky for his outdoor shoot. It is definitely more energy consuming and inconvenient, which many photographers would avoid, but he does it for the sake of getting better photographs.
You wish you can trust your photographer is going to put in his 101% effort to create memories for you. Skai always values the quality of his work over monies; he does not mind losing projects offered by clients who do not appreciate his art work or do not cooperate in planning for the shoot. He treats every work as part of his portfolio and thus if he is working with you, he will only do his best. If you spend some time reading through the entire website, especially the individual write-ups inside his portfolios, especially for portrait, you will feel his passion.
Skai is as honest as an open book. He does not believe in over-promising anyone. For example, photographers usually do not touch up on faces (only basic editing like exposure, colour tone and cropping etc) for event shoot, and Skai will try to clarify to his potential clients beforehand, at the risk of losing the projects; some photographers may try to secure every job first. While his main focus is on portrait, event and interior shoot, there are also many potential clients who would approach him for other types of shoot, and he would honestly admit his lack of experience, where it is up to the client's decision to engage him on the rate he offers. Some clients have also pushed him to estimate the number of photos he is able to capture during the event, which is impossible, and he insists not to misguide his clients as well. For clients who want to purchase additional photographs that will not value-add to the album/clients, Skai will clarify and not go for the extra income.
Skai can shoot at any day and time, without having to seek approval from any boss to take off/leave, as long as the timeslot is not booked by another client; unlike part-time freelance photographers, who may not be available during weekdays. Whereas for most outdoor locations in Singapore, there will be fewer photobombs during weekdays, which makes the days better for shooting. There are also golden hours for most types of shoot and Skai always tries to schedule the shoots during the golden hours in order to get better photographs.
You want to have fun and be respected during the photoshoot. Skai is a sincere and selfless person who is often trying naively to make every good people around him happy. You may enjoy his cold humour. He is a strong team-player and emphasize a lot on teamwork. He tries to invoke the creativeness in every team member, including his clients, take in suggestion from everyone and produce the best work possible.
Skai expertises in web design, programming and internet marketing. He is fortunate to be armed with some knowledge of SEO (Search engine optimization), blessed by one of his good friends. His clients, whether is a company or model, will definitely be benefited working with him in the long run.
Ease and speed of receiving photos
Skai delivers the final photos via online. You will be able to download the photos to your computer from anywhere in the world, as long as you have an internet connection and have the software to unzip the file. Thus, you can receive the final photos instantaneously once they are ready. His server is based in Singapore and thus it is usually within a minute to finish downloading the photos.
His Target Audience
Easygoing people who want to get good quality photographs and do not undermine the value of photography, trust him and have the patience to discuss in order to produce good art works together.
To help people build up their confidence through photography, to capture beautiful things and moments that will turn into great memories and to create art works that can inspire people.
- Own a photography studio.
- Create a company with various photography related businesses, such as makeup and school.
- Create portfolio of different themes/concepts for portrait photo shoot.
- Create a unique beauty pageant.
- Create a photography organisation that can benefit all photography lovers.
- Educate public about difficulties and limitation of photography, and rights of photographers.
- Create creative ways through photography to help more people to build up their confidence.
His Mottos / Believes
Under-promise and over-deliver, not over-promise and under-deliver.
He rather disappoints his clients during discussion and produces products of extra quality and quantity in the end. This does make him lose projects but he is proud of his dignity.
Slow post-production work is better than unsatisfactory work.
Basically, he does not like to rush out work for clients such that he may spot any major flaw after handing over the products. For every photo album, he will go through countless times over days and fine-tone the small details and eliminate photos that have flaws that cannot be rectified; he does not let his tiredness or anxiousness affect his judgement.
His Photography Capability
Skai humbly rates his own capability in producing good images in general as 7/10.
Producing good images requires (1) knowledge, (2) skill, (3) equipment, (4) cooperation from client/model and (5) assistant(s). It takes effort to gain knowledge, experience to perfect skill, money to buy equipment, communication skill to gain full cooperation and reputation/budget to get assistants. Of course, luck plays a big part too. For a portrait shoot, a good hair and makeup artist (HMUA) is also required, which requires more budget from the client.
Skai is able to produce various different genres/styles/feels of good quality images as seen in his portfolios. He does not follow any specific photographer's shooting style.
His Working Style
- For events, his shooting style is journalistic style. He does not capture just the highlights (eg, marching in or cake-cutting), but also the little things that can piece up the entire "story".
- He will take as many photos as possible so that there is higher chance to get good photos.
- He prefers natural shoots and often snaps without the subjects even knowing in order to create realistic photos.
- He can hit off well with most kids and animals.
- He cracks cold jokes to create joy during his shoot, depending on the people he works with.
- He does not force models to do anything dangerous or not comfortable with.
- He is a detailed person who tries to produce work that not only shallow people will admire.
- He runs through the photos various times over a long period of time to filter them, to avoid making wrong judgement due to exhaustion or impulsiveness.
- He will try to "save" good photos that have certain flaws and do not require too much time.
- He tries to get everything right during the shoot to reduce post-processing work because "the more you PhotoShop, the more flaws you will leave behind".
- He is more comfortable at conversing in Chinese mandarin.
- He is not good at commanding people and thus is not able to handle large group shoot if the subjects are not cooperative.
- He is short for a guy, which may restrict his angle of shooting, especially when the subject is tall.
- He is a perfectionist who overspends his time on planning and post-processing work, and has too high expectation of his work.
- His passion and determination often overexert and sometimes injure his body.
Problems He Faces
- Equipment are expensive.
- Equipment are heavy and bulky. It is difficult to carry them around and sometimes they cause injury to him.
- His house is too small to set up a mini studio or even to keep more equipment.
- Not everyone who approaches him is serious about photography.
- Many clients are looking at rates rather than quality of work.
- He is too soft and sometimes being taken for granted.
- He does not drive while public transport in Singapore has unpredictable timings (train delays and traffic jams).
- Limited time - and can only take up a few shoots every month.
Sense of Achievement
- When his clients are happy with the photos received.
- When he produces better photos than others who have better equipment.
- When viewers appreciate his photos.
- When viewers appreciate his write-ups about his shoots.
- When viewers appreciate his photography tips.
- When his clients trust him completely, especially during glamour portrait shoots.
A Photographer's Story
- Low income family
Skai came from a low income family. When he was young, owning a 200-buck family film camera was more than a luxury, let alone buying the films and developing the photographs. This barrier had buried his hobby. His dad passed away when he was in secondary three and life became even tougher.
It was during his polytechnic days when the technology brought his dream into reality. The invention of digital camera had overcome the high cost of buying films and developing them into hard copy photographs. The decision to buy his first camera was still difficult though, as he was struggling to fill his stomach.
- First digital camera
He paid $180 for his first digital camera - Samsung Digimax 50 Duo. In fact, he hesitated for a few weeks and was worried that his mum would nag at him for spending the money. The neighbourhood shop owner must have thought that he was very pathetic. The camera could only produce 0.3 megapixel photos and it came without a LCD screen. A digital camera with a LCD screen would cost around $100 more during that time.
He loved his camera being small (pocket-size) and portable that he brought it along with him wherever he went. However, not every friend appreciated him trying to capture every precious moment due to camera-shy.
- Semi-pro camera
When prices of digital cameras started falling, his elder brother got an Olympus 10x optical zoom camera. He put it into good use for many years. Then his younger brother got a second-hand Sony compact camera later, which was eventually drown during an overseas trip when the third party water casing decided to play punk. Later on, they got an Olympus Tough, which was shock and water resistance. He last bought a Fujifilm semi-pro 20x optical zoom camera during an IT fair and regretted due to the quality and sold it away soon. After many years of photography experience, he had only worked on composition (framing of the photo).
- Mirrorless camera
Skai's real photography adventure started in year 2012 when one of his buddies, Nat Neo, who was working in Sony persuaded him to get a better camera. He decided to live his life more meaningfully by striving towards his hobby and thus he bought his first DSLR, Sony NEX F3, which was using the mirrorless technology. He started shooting his friend, ET, on the stage during the Sunsilk Academy Fantasia competition. He did his first portrait shoot with his buddy, Wanling, and it turned out quite disastrous under the sun when he knew nothing about photography technique. He continued exploring by watching more Youtube videos and eventually got a hand of it. His ex polytechnic classmate, Benson Lin, was far ahead in the trade and kindly guided him along. However, it was not easy to communicate when their levels were too fast apart. Often, the toughest problem was that you did not know what was the problem.
- Portrait photoshoot
Skai started approaching "models" online and offline (personal friends) to practise portraiture shooting and met with lots of arrogant rejection. His co-worker, Tricia Lee, saw his enthusiasm and started guiding him along. She was a very experienced commercial makeup artist who had worked with many professional and fussy photographers, and she knew almost everything about photography (except shooting techniques). Since most of the kind models who were willing to do portrait photoshoot with him could not do proper makeup, he had to spend a lot of time on photoshop. At first, he was trying to push Tricia to take up more commercial assignments but it ended up he was being helped instead. Tricia was an angel sent by heaven to help him, spotting tiny flaws on the photos, which they would go through together online after every shoot. You would never believe how a person could help another person so much without any condition. However, an angel could become a devil at times when she was too fussy over the quality of work since she was into commercial standard of work. The greatest problem was that Tricia was a very busy housewife and thus there would be a big delay in post-production work for every shoot and some models weighed duration over quality.
- Entry level DSLR with speedlite
After doing a few photoshoots with very nice girls who did not mind working with a new photographer without a solid portfolio, his thirst for photography knowledge grew more. He learned to use depth of field and shutter speed to play with mood. His knowledge in post-production work also increased. As he started to learn more about lighting, he began to realize the limitation of earlier technology of mirrorless cameras - slower in autofocus - while his NEX F3 did not come with a hot shoe to attach external speedlite (flash) on. He knew he had to do something about it in order to progress further. With the encouragement of Benson and Nat Neo, Skai bought a 650D (Canon DSLR), also known as Rebel T4I. He also bought a speedlite (Canon 430 EX-II) and other equipment for portraiture shoot.
"Every step is a learning progress. Even though I do take a longer route sometimes, I have actually experienced and learned more."
Canon 650D was the most popular model in year 2012. It was great except for in certain aspects, it was a "downgrade" of equipment after switching from Sony NEX F3. Canon's entry level cameras have only 1.6x cropped factor while others, including Sony NEX, have 1.5x cropped factor, making Canon slightly lousier for body of the same range in term of image quality. Sony's NEX portrait lens 50mm F1.8 was designed by or made of Carl Zeiss glasses, which shamed Canon's 50mm F1.8 lens badly. Sony's LCD screen was sharp and beautiful, and thus it was difficult to get used to Canon's LCD screen. Besides, Mirrorless camera's electronic viewfinder was a great privilege when dealing with constant changing lighting.
Right after switching of the gears, Skai's event photoshoot improved tremendously as his photos became so much livelier with the aid of light by his flash. However, portraiture shoot started wrecking him. At first, he suspected his new camera was faulty, but soon, he realised his new gears' limitation. He also realised it was easier to learn to see light by playing more with indoor shooting. By then, his expectation of quality of photos, autofocus speed and accuracy had increased so fearfully that he knew he had to really upgrade his equipment in order to progress further but money was a wall of fire...
As his photography skill improved, time became more tight but Skai tried hard not to reject friends who did not give him big problems during the previous photoshoots. He also continued to do voluntary event photoshoot when he was available. Through all these non-profit shooting, he benefited as well for he got to test his equipment and different styles of shooting. However, he soon realised after being lectured by many friends that he had to stop being too soft-hearted when his saving and equipment were draining and wearing off. He knew he needed more equipment in order to bring him to higher levels.
- Professional photography journey begins
Setting up of his photography Facebook page and website helped a lot when it came to publicity. He got to meet more great people and things looked promising. Finally, he upgraded to a fullframe camera - Canon 6D - to begin his professional photography journey.
He began pricing himself humbly to his experience. He had no intention to play "price war" and his worst nightmare was to spoil the market rates, although he did not check out rates from other talents. Soon, friends, clients and various talents started boosting his confidence, and he realised the high value of his work and that the extra effort he put in for each shoot was amazingly great and priceless.
It is not just photography skill that requires him to explore on. He soon realises he has to learn to educate clients on their expectations as well, which is often "mission impossible". The thing that hurts him a lot is the fact that most people are simply looking at prices. He often wastes a lot of time to reply insincere enquiries. He is, however, lucky to have met many clients who appreciate him and his work and some have even given him tips.
You may be interested in reading his portrait journey to find out more about the difficulties he had faced in his past portrait projects.
If you are interested in working with Skai as your photographer, do contact him.