Skai Chan - Freelance Photographer
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.
Skai appreciates people who bother to read and appreciate his sincerity through his work and words. It will definitely draw you together and make communication much easier given the trust, because communication matters a lot for any kind of shoot.
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
There are two types of professional photographers - artist and businessman. The artist values his work a lot and may give up any income for the sake of art, including filtering of his clients. The businessman accepts all kinds of jobs as long as income can continue to flow in, and often, unable to produce his best quality of work due to having too many constraints, including low budget. I'm a poor photographer but I'm proud of my work and effort I have put in for every shoot.
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, the quality of light he produces 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. The heavy and bulky lighting equipment he usually brings along, even for outdoor shoots, can create very soft light. It is definitely more energy consuming and inconvenient to carry them around but he does it for the sake of getting better photographs. Most other photographers would prefer to go "light" instead.
You wish you can trust your photographer is going to put in his 101% effort to create memories for you. Photography is his passion, which he has yet to plan to strike a fortune through it. 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 may not be financially stable but his is not desperate for money - he doesn't take up just any job. Whenever someone approaches him for a shoot, his first thought is whether he can accomplish the task and not how much he can profit from it. Naively, he just hopes more people will get to see and appreciate his work. 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 the portrait work, 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, whereby 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.
His style of communication
He relies a lot on his computer's web browser for both Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp (web WhatsApp), using the big monitor screen, mouse and physical keyboard. Keyboard and mouse shortcuts help to increase efficiency, including dragging, copying and pasting information. With the huge amount of backend desktop work, including Photoshop and marketing, he would not have survived without the use of his desktop that has helped to increase efficiency.
He has a major issue typing on his smart phone because it is harder to type on soft keyboard (or perhaps, it's just him) and very difficult to QC the messages before sending. The slowness causes frustration and the inability to review the typed messages properly causes errors. At times, he will wait till he gets back to his desktop before replying messages.
For corporate and other organisation that requires him to communicate via email, his replies may be slow since he has to be more formal (which is not his style anyway).
Not a commanding person
He does not like to command people and thus is not able to handle large group shoot if the subjects are not cooperative, especially when he has to adjust the lighting at the same time.
Lack of height
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-production work, and has too high expectation of his work. Try asking yourself how many clients have the proper budget to pay for the amount of effort and time to produce good work, especially when many photographers are undercutting the market at the expense of quality of work. Unfortunately, most clients are not artists and do not have the eyes of artists.
His passion and determination often overexert and sometimes injure his body. For instance, there was an uncommon event that required him to snap continuously for around 45 minutes during one of the sessions. He held his nearly-2kg-camera on a single hand while using the other hand to rotate the speedlite in order to produce the most flattering light for every snap. Eventually, he injured his right wrist.
Write-up for every album
In order to educate people about photography and to minimize the damage of his bad memory, he insists in doing a write-up for every shoot he has done. It requires huge amount of time. Over time when he gets more projects, he has to focus on his portrait shoot albums, having to leave out his event and interior work, because he can never afford the time.
Addiction in beautifying people
Often, when he meets a new person online, whether is a client or friend, he cannot control his mind but to think of how to style the person for a portrait. This insanity inflates when the person demonstrates lack of confidence in her looks, as he would want to help the person to regain confidence, whether she's interested or not. As planning for a shoot requires lots of time and effort, it's a great burden to him.
Man of principle
There are problems that can be triggered by this "inflexibility". For example, he practises first come first serve basis on working on his projects for post-production. There was once when a model tried to coax him into working on her album first, his rejection offended her. While many "photographers" are busy apple polishing hot models, he seems to have done the opposite in some cases, especially when people try to take things for granted or unintentionally insult professional photographers.
Lack of multi-tasking skill
Whenever he has a project on hand, he wants to focus solely on it in order to give his client the best possible. At the same time, if there are new enquiries, he may be stressed and choose to delicate his time and energy on the existing project(s) first. This means that he may have losing new opportunities.
The toughest thing about photography is to educate people and manage their expectation;
the constraints and effort required are not obvious and may require lots of explanation.
Eventually, it is the trust and communication that matter the most.
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 he produces better photos than others who have much more experienced.
- 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
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 compact camera was still difficult though, as he was struggling to fill his stomach.
He loved his camera being small (pocket-size) and portable that he brought it along with him wherever he went. However, photography was not very popular back then and not every friend appreciated him trying to capture every precious moment, probably due to camera-shy.
He did upgrade his camera over times, fortunately, because of his brothers' investment but all of them were compact and semi-pro camera. He did not get to learn technical stuff, except for composition. It was only when he was in his late 20s, he decided not to waste his life anymore, after encouraged by his friends. He bought a mirrorless camera and started learning photography by himself. He took opportunities during volunteering work and outings with family and friends to do event shoots. He also started approaching "models" online and offline (personal friends) to practise portraiture shooting and met with lots of arrogant rejection. 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.
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). 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.
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.
When he realised the limitation of his equipment, he started upgrading them. After replacing some of them due to wear and tear, he began to realise that he needed to make money in order to continue with his passion. He began pricing himself humbly to his experience. He had no intention to play "price war" with other photographers 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. He put all his income back into equipment and lived a very tough life as a photographer who was trying to survive in the heavily congested trade.
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.
If you are interested in working with Skai as your photographer, do contact him.