Crazy Things that Professional Portrait Photographers Do
Years back, a wealthy client approached me and she told me she chose me because of my writing - she read through my entire website (that's insane). She mentioned that all commercial photographers were the same.
She's right to a certain extent because when a photographer is up to a certain level, he probably has the knowledge and lighting equipment. However, his ideas, choices of equipment to use for each scenario and his hardworkingness will greatly affect the quality of work.
There are many photographers who are much more experienced than me. There are reasons why my work differs from theirs.
There are different portrait photographers and some would go to the extra miles in order to create art work. Here are some of the crazy things I have done before to get good photographs.
- Photo shoot with lighting equipment in popular places
- Photo shoot with lighting equipment at crowded places
- Climbing hill with full photography equipment
- Photo shoot in fever
- Getting shoes and socks wet
- Carrying professional equipment for hiking
- Travelling to rural area with professional equipment
- Shooting at late night
- Carrying a lot of equipment
- Shooting in very unusual places
- Carrying equipment during staycation
- Shooting with professional lighting in extremely strong wind
- Shooting with fake snow - soap
- Leaving house in the early morning
- Getting soaked inside the water
- Night photoshoot at the beach
- Shooting in the rain
- Packing places for photoshoots
- Doing "weightlifting" during photoshoots
- Getting lost while travelling for shoot
- Shooting at places with extremely awful smell
Photo shoot with lighting equipment in popular places
Photo shoot with Anastasia Butrim at Marina Bay Sands (MBS)
Professional lighting with big light modifiers such as softboxes would usually attract a lot of attention from passers-by. This is probably the reason why some non-models prefer doing casual photoshoots instead - they can't withstand the attention.
The photoshoot with Anastasia was done at around MBS area. Since it was a morning with gray sky, we didn't expect the large crowd like usual, although we did have to pause at times for photobombs to leave.
It's very normal for photographers to do photoshoots at tourist attractions and photographers are usually used to the glances from passers-by.
Photo shoot with lighting equipment at crowded places
Photo shoot with Marjorie Lining at Gardens by the Bay
Night photoshoot at Gardens by the Bay would require great patience due to the huge crowd, especially near the free lighting show timings. The placement of professional lighting might hinder the visitors and passers-by, and therefore, is a great challenge.
There are many locations that would give similar headache, such as in the city area. One big challenge I had experienced was when I was doing a night photoshoot at Clarke Quay, which was near an underpass.
Climbing hill with full photography equipment
Photo shoot with April at Mount Faber
Mount Faber is a part of the Southern Ridges where many hikers and joggers would go for their regular work out. The route from Harbourfront MRT station to the peak of Mount Faber is a good training route for beginners who want to do hiking but carrying over 10kg of load is a even bigger training.
Portrait photographers often have to push their physical limit.
Photo shoot in fever
Photo shoot with Bianca Pietersz at Tanglin View
I was running a high fever hours before the photoshoot with Bianca but since she was scheduled to leave Singapore the following day, we had to proceed with the last minute shoot. The discussion was done after midnight, which added even more challenge to my physical health.
I've experienced doing photoshoots in various kind of discomfort, such as tummyache and gastric pain.
Getting shoes and socks wet
Photo shoot with David and Jess at East Coast Park (ECP)
Opportunties don't always come; strike it while it lasts. When the weather condition is perfect, snap it. When I saw this phenomena at ECP, I raced to snap the shots. There was no time to think about removing my shoes and socks or worry about where to place them. My socks were wet but at least not drenched totally.
Carrying professional equipment for hiking
Photo shoot with Angela Arlene Quek at Macritchie Reservoir
It was quite normal for me to carry my DSLR and a speedlite along during hiking shoots - it was around 2kg of extra weight. However, carrying big lighting equipment along was quite insane, especially at Macritchie reservoir. For this photoshoot with Angela, we covered a round of Macritchie Reservoir with over 10kg of equipment.
Travelling to rural area with professional equipment
Photo shoot with Beverley Angkangon at Coney Island
For photoshoots in natural places, sometimes, photographers have to travel to rural areas. Coney Island is located at Punggol and taking public transportation over isn't very convenient. Even for people who drive, there's a long way to walk before reaching Coney Island. Travelling can't be avoided for many photoshoots.
Shooting at late night
Photo shoot with Audrey Chen at Anderson Bridge
There are times when the photoshoots start late or end late until there's no public transport available. Working after midnight is both physically and mentally tiring.
Carrying a lot of equipment
Photo shoot with Tengy Gay Teng Yong at makeshift studio
When the photoshoot requires setting up of a makeshift studio and it's a high key shoot, the amount of equipment to carry along is crazy. The photographer has to bring along his backdrop system and also a big number of lighting equipment.
Shooting in very unusual places
Photo shoot with Ivy Tan at Bukit Brown Cemetery
The photoshoot I did for a halloween concept was located at a cemetery. It's not only difficult to access there but it's also not very convenient to set up my equipment. Apart from these, I had to be mindful about the living and non-living things, to show them respect. Note that I didn't capture any tombstone with the pictures and write-ups of the deads in my album.
I have seen photographs of people showing great disrespect to the deads.
Carrying equipment during staycation
Photo shoot with Gilbert Lew at Lloyd's Inn
There are many hobbyist photographers who are wealthy and they can afford to book hotels for private photoshoots with female models. For me, I make good use of my birthday staycation with my buddies to do photoshoots. That means I have to carry along my equipment that are way heavier than my clothes.
Shooting with professional lighting in extremely strong wind
Photo shoot with Shirlene Chew at Tanjong Pagar
It happened that the wind was abnormally strong that time but we had to proceed with the planned photoshoot. My lighting equipment almost fell many times even with assistants around.
Shooting with fake snow - soap
Photo shoot with Kaidi & Ivy at Marsiling
This photoshoot is worse than doing a shoot near the water because the liquid with chemical would definitely hit the camera. I had to pause the photoshoot for a while to get my lens cleaned and it's not easy to get rid of the soap.
Leaving house in the early morning
Photo shoot with Vanessa Poh at Hotel Fortcanning
Often, photographers have to leave house before sunrise for photoshoots in order to capture good photographs. If the photographer is a night owl like me, there will be big problems.
It was the last day of staycation for Vanessa and thus we had to do it as early as possible. I left my house at around 4am without sleeping.
Getting soaked inside the water
Photo shoot with Janice Sui at Sentosa beach
Whenever you see a shoot that the model is partially dipped inside the water, be sure that the chance of the photographer being dipped inside the water is high too. Of course, the risk of spoiling the camera is high.
For many of my photoshoots that were done inside the water, I was actually standing at the deeper part of the sea.
Night photoshoot at the beach
Photo shoot with Val G at Sentosa beach
Not everyone is brave enough to go into the sea at night because of the darkness that we can't see any moving object inside clearly. There was a few times when the models would back out during the photoshoots and gave all sorts of excuses for not stepping onto the sea, even though there were lamps and spotlights around Sentosa beaches. I was lucky that some models were brave enough to keep their promises.
I had to get into the water and get my underwear wet as well.
Shooting in the rain
Photo shoot with Regina Umali at Palm Isle
Sometimes, everything is planned but the weather refuses to cooperate. If it's only drizzling and not pouring cats and dogs, photographers may still continue the photoshoot.
For this photoshoot that I had done with Regina, she was alright to proceed since she was going to be drenched anyway. I was lucky to be able to put my bags under a shelter and leaving only one lighting equipment in the open area to get wet with me.
Packing places for photoshoots
Photo shoot with Debbie Tan at makeshift studio
It's normal for photographers to do packing up for places for photoshoots. However, it's absolutely difficult to set up a makeshift studio in my house because of the lack of space and large amount of things lying all over.
Every time before I set up my makeshift studio, I have to move some furniture and sweep the floor. It takes up time and energy.
Doing "weightlifting" during photoshoots
Photo shoot with Jasmine Lim at Sentosa beach
The equipment that professional photographers use can weigh around 2kg on hand. For this night beach photoshoot with Jasmine Lim, I was at the deeper part of the water, holding onto my camera on one hand and a strobe on the other hand. I couldn't put them down to rest. My hands were trembling throughout.
Getting lost while travelling for shoot
Photo shoot with Alex & Esther at East Coast Park (ECP) beach
East Coast Park isn't an easily accessible place if you depend solely on the train and bus and that you hardly visit there.
For this early morning shoot, I took the train to Bedok station and transitted to a bus. After alighting, I took an old underpass that led me to nowhere but the expressway. Carrying my equipment and the trolley on the uneven grass area wasn't easy.
Shooting at places with extremely awful smell
Photo shoot with Tantiara at West Coast Park
I love rusty looking locations but the photoshoot with Tantiara landed me in an extremely foul place. The smell was beyond description and I suppose some people would puke. We were there for over an hour.
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