📸 Skai Chan Photography

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.

  1. Photo shoot with lighting equipment in popular places
  2. Photo shoot with lighting equipment at crowded places
  3. Climbing hill with full photography equipment
  4. Photo shoot in fever
  5. Getting shoes and socks wet
  6. Carrying professional equipment for hiking
  7. Travelling to rural area with professional equipment
  8. Shooting at late night
  9. Carrying a lot of equipment
  10. Shooting in very unusual places
  11. Carrying equipment during staycation
  12. Shooting with professional lighting in extremely strong wind
  13. Shooting with fake snow - soap
  14. Leaving house in the early morning
  15. Getting soaked inside the water
  16. Night photo shoot at the beach
  17. Shooting in the rain
  18. Packing places for photo shoots
  19. Doing "weightlifting" during photo shoots
  20. Getting lost while travelling for shoot
  21. Shooting at places with extremely awful smell
  1. Photo shoot with lighting equipment in popular places
    Photo shoot with Anastasia Butrim at Marina Bay Sands (MBS)
    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 photo shoots instead - they can't withstand the attention.

    The photo shoot 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 photo shoots at tourist attractions and photographers are usually used to the glances from passers-by.
  2. Photo shoot with lighting equipment at crowded places
    Photo shoot with Marjorie Lining at Gardens by the Bay
    Photo shoot with Marjorie Lining at Gardens by the Bay

    Night photo shoot 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 photo shoot at Clarke Quay, which was near an underpass.
  3. Climbing hill with full photography equipment
    Photo shoot with April at Mount Faber
    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.
  4. Photo shoot in fever
    Photo shoot with Bianca Pietersz at Tanglin View
    Photo shoot with Bianca Pietersz at Tanglin View

    I was running a high fever hours before the photo shoot 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 photo shoots in various kind of discomfort, such as tummyache and gastric pain.
  5. Getting shoes and socks wet
    Photo shoot with David and Jess at East Coast Park (ECP)
    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.
  6. Carrying professional equipment for hiking
    Photo shoot with Angela Arlene Quek at Macritchie Reservoir
    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 photo shoot with Angela, we covered a round of Macritchie Reservoir with over 10kg of equipment.
  7. Travelling to rural area with professional equipment
    Photo shoot with Beverley Angkangon at Coney Island
    Photo shoot with Beverley Angkangon at Coney Island

    For photo shoots 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 photo shoots.
  8. Shooting at late night
    Photo shoot with Audrey Chen at Anderson Bridge
    Photo shoot with Audrey Chen at Anderson Bridge

    There are times when the photo shoots start late or end late until there's no public transport available. Working after midnight is both physically and mentally tiring.
  9. Carrying a lot of equipment
    Photo shoot with Tengy Gay Teng Yong at makeshift studio
    Photo shoot with Tengy Gay Teng Yong at makeshift studio

    When the photo shoot 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.
  10. Shooting in very unusual places
    Photo shoot with Ivy Tan at Bukit Brown Cemetery
    Photo shoot with Ivy Tan at Bukit Brown Cemetery

    The photo shoot 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.
  11. Carrying equipment during staycation
    Photo shoot with Gilbert Lew at Lloyd's Inn
    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 photo shoots with female models. For me, I make good use of my birthday staycation with my buddies to do photo shoots. That means I have to carry along my equipment that are way heavier than my clothes.
  12. Shooting with professional lighting in extremely strong wind
    Photo shoot with Shirlene Chew at Tanjong Pagar
    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 photo shoot. My lighting equipment almost fell many times even with assistants around.
  13. Shooting with fake snow - soap
    Photo shoot with Kaidi & Ivy at Marsiling
    Photo shoot with Kaidi & Ivy at Marsiling

    This photo shoot is worse than doing a shoot near the water because the liquid with chemical would definitely hit the camera. I had to pause the photo shoot for a while to get my lens cleaned and it's not easy to get rid of the soap.
  14. Leaving house in the early morning
    Photo shoot with Vanessa Poh at Hotel Fortcanning
    Photo shoot with Vanessa Poh at Hotel Fortcanning

    Often, photographers have to leave house before sunrise for photo shoots 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.
  15. Getting soaked inside the water
    Photo shoot with Janice Sui at Sentosa beach
    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 photo shoots that were done inside the water, I was actually standing at the deeper part of the sea.
  16. Night photo shoot at the beach
    Photo shoot with Val G at Sentosa 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 photo shoots 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.
  17. Shooting in the rain
    Photo shoot with Regina Umali at Palm Isle
    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 photo shoot.

    For this photo shoot 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.
  18. Packing places for photo shoots
    Photo shoot with Debbie Tan at makeshift studio
    Photo shoot with Debbie Tan at makeshift studio

    It's normal for photographers to do packing up for places for photo shoots. 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.
  19. Doing "weightlifting" during photo shoots
    Photo shoot with Jasmine Lim at Sentosa beach
    Photo shoot with Jasmine Lim at Sentosa beach

    The equipment that professional photographers use can weigh around 2kg on hand. For this night beach photo shoot 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.
  20. Getting lost while travelling for shoot
    Photo shoot with Alex & Esther at East Coast Park (ECP) beach
    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.
  21. Shooting at places with extremely awful smell
    Photo shoot with Tantiara at West Coast Park
    Photo shoot with Tantiara at West Coast Park

    I love rusty looking locations but the photo shoot 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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- Special photoshoots you can hire a professional photographer to do
- Disadvantages of being a freelance photographer
- Photography is a sunset industry
- Misconceptions and myths in professional photography
- Why can't professional photographers take up cheap jobs



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