📸 Skai Chan Photography

Skai Chan - Freelance Photographer

Freelance photographer in Singapore

#1 The Freelance photographer

Hi! I'm Skai, a 100% Singapore born Chinese freelance photographer, based in Singapore. My languages are English, Chinese mandarin and cold humour. I dread formality.

Clients hire me mostly for portraiture, event and interior photography. I focus on flattering and creative lighting, and keeping my work natural.

Doing portraiture photoshoots allows me to have more control, including setting up of professional lighting, to create unique personalized masterpieces. Being able to create the best lighting possible within the uncertainties for my event photoshoots also gives me a great sense of achievement.

Skai Chan with model / friend I do crazy things for photography. Sometimes I forsake my sleep for phototaking and I don't mind getting dirty in exchange for good photographs. Photography is an addiction for me; it's one way I can express myself with. As an artist, capturing good photographs gives me the sense of living.

I believe in quality over quantity and I believe in under-promise and over-deliver. I'm lucky to be overwhelmed by the trust of many people who have approached me. I'm also extremely thankful to them for writing very flattering testimonials for me - and you should read them to visualise your experience of working with me.

I have devoted great amount of my time to share my experience and tips to help others. I believe my photography and hard work will make a difference to the society.

#2 How I Became a Photographer

Freelance photographer - Skai Chan

I. Professional Photography Equipment

I came from a low income family. When I was young, owning a 200-buck family film camera was more than a luxury. This obstacle had buried my hobby. My dad passed away when I was in secondary three.

It was during my late teenage days when the technology brought my 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 my first compact camera was still difficult though, as I was struggling to fill my stomach. I had never thought of doing photography professionally.

It was only when I was in my late 20s, my friends encouraged me to strive on with my passion. I bought a mirrorless camera and embarked on my portrait journey. I soon realised I had to learn flash photography in order to improve my photography skill. I upgraded to an entry level DSLR, a speedlite and accessories. Soon, I realised there would be lots of wear and tear to my equipment that I would soon need replacement.

Since I'm not financially stable, I make sure I only buy new photography equipment using the fund I've earned through photography. In order to do professional portrait and event photography, I soon upgraded to the cheapest full frame DSLR possible. I also started purchasing more lighting and accessories, which are necessary to learn and improve my photography work.

II. How I Became a Freelance Event Photographer

I'm a sentimental person who loves documenting memories. There's no lack of opportunities for me to practise event photography skill. At times, I struggled between hands-on and phototaking at the same time when I was doing volunteering work with my friends. My family, relatives and many friends supported me in my hobby.

The event pictures from my volunteering work helped me to gain clients. Over time, more clients got to see both my event and portrait photography work and started hiring me.

Unfortunately, there are too many photographs in every event album and I'm unable to continue to update my event portfolio.

III. How I became a Freelance Portrait Photographer

When I was working in Clementi ITE, one of my colleagues sighed that she was aging fast. It greatly affected me because she's an extremely nice and capable lady, and our team was close; most importantly, she's a hot babe who's quite confident. This inspired me to use photography to beautify ladies and keep memories of their beauties.

I didn't have the budget to pay for freelance models to learn portrait photography. I started approaching volunteer models both online and offline to practise and met with lots of arrogant rejections. Since most of the models who were willing to do portrait photoshoot with me couldn't do proper makeup, I had to spend a lot of time on PhotoShop (post-production). While I could have expedited the quality of my portrait portfolio fast with the help of professional models, I'm glad the non-models have helped me to learn more of the basics; moreover, my target audience are normal girls and not professional models.

My friend, Tricia Lee, saw my enthusiasm and started guiding me along. She spent huge amount of time and energy to go through every photoshoot album with me, to spot tiny flaws and coach me accordingly to the commercial standard. The quality of my portrait work soon improved tremendously and aspiring models started approaching me instead. Then, clients came along.

IV. How I Became a Freelance Interior Photographer

I grew up in a house that was plain (and clustered) and thus I was always fascinated by houses with nice interior. This was one of the reasons why I loved visiting my friends' houses. I think nice things should be documented down and interior photography helps a lot.

Both my portrait and event photography work helped me gain my first interior photography client as they were eye-catching in social media. When the opportunity came, I grabbed it. The first thing I did was to get a reasonably good tripod, which was almost covered by my first interior photography project. After that, I had the luxury to work with some very interesting interior design companies, furniture shops and home owners.

V. My other photography work

#3 FAQ

#1 Experiences

#2 Personal

#3 General

#1 Experiences

  1. What are the most common mistakes you make for portrait photoshoot and how do you rectify them?
    Unable to spot errors in the models' makeup and outfits. In order to avoid these problems, I will try to discuss the models' personal photos with my HMUA friend(s) to judge the models' personal makeup skill and outfits. I will also refuse to shoot with models who do not show me their outfits before the shoot. Of course, this will create another big problem as some models have been working with photographers who don't care much about preparation work.
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  2. What's the most saddening moments after doing a portrait shoot?
    The HMUA wanted to have the three looks, to be shot near her studio so that she could do the makeup and hair comfortably. Since the first looks was a little revealing, I was a bit lost but decided to accept the HMUA's proposal to use the small studio after I failed to find a better location while they were doing the makeup. For the second and third locations, I had them planned but the HMUA was detailed in her work and that she 'last minute' had something on and I had to use the 'interior' of the building for the last shoot instead. After the shoot, things went fine and the model liked the photos. We had discussion for the next shoot but the model dragged for months. Eventually, she confessed to me that she thought the HMUA and her had already done their part by choosing the outfits on their own (which I actually did with the HMUA privately after she sent the HMUA some of her outfits) and that she thought I didn't do 'my part' of selecting the locations well.
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  3. Do you regret not buying an advanced camera earlier?
    No, working with the more entry level cameras help me to know the limitation and thus allow me to pick up the basics. If I had begun with one of the best gears, I would be in deep shit when I have to handle more basic ones.
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  4. What's your biggest regret so far?
    I was invited to a friend's friend's fashion show to do shooting. There were at least two other outspoken photographers who had turned up much earlier. Since I did not like 'fighting', especially at crowded places, I lay back and kept in very low profile. Even during the group shoot in the end, I was blocked by all the photographers and 'photographers'. I did not perform well due to my lack of experience but it turned out that the quality of my photos were obviously much better than any of theirs. It was a total waste of chance to not get better photos, especially of potential models, by giving up all the good spots to others when they could not perform.
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  5. What's your most embarrassing moment during a shoot?
    I took up a cheapo project because the girl who had approached me sounded very nice and I was curious about it. Eventually, I had to work with a very experienced and highly confident director and the extremely insufficient time disallowed me to set up the basic equipment. He obviously did not know it was just a cheapo project that was supposed to be paid by the PR/marketing company. By the way, the company was cheapo enough to delay my cheapo payment for around four months after contacting them for around ten times. By then the girl who had approached me had already left the company.
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  6. Did you get turned on while doing sexy photoshoot?
    No. I'm a dedicated and stubborn guy and would be too focused in thinking of how to capture good photos. During a shoot, there are just too many important things to think of, such as poses, lighting, background and composition. It's more of the intention of the photographer that will cause his mind to wander around. If the photographer is purely into getting good photos, he probably can control himself; unlike some 'photographers' who are paying for models to remove their clothes instead of the models paying them, they are very likely to want to have something more than just a photoshoot.
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  7. Do you get to see 'free show' during photoshoot?
    There will sometimes be wardrobe malfunction and upskirt (often) during shoots, which I have 'immune' to. Of course, for implied nude shoots, it's very likely the model will be naked. Professional models will likely be very comfortable hanging around without trying to cover anything. Everyone else around will definitely get to see more because the photographer's job is supposed to not let any unglamorous thing appear in the lens. The worst thing that can happen is when the expression and posture of the model inside a photo are perfect but a little part of underwear is revealed. The photo won't be tasteful anymore and thus cannot be used.

    As I'm quite protective of my models, I may even call for a rest when there are too many onlookers/passers-by during an outdoor sexy shoot. This is the reason why I'm trying hard to work only with female assistants.

    There was once after I did an outdoor dancing shoot, the model told me many people got to see 'free show'. She had raised her legs to do splitting with her side facing me and thus I did not know the upskirt had even happened - impossible from my angle.
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  8. What are your achievements so far for event photography?
    I have clients paying me extra money right at the end of the events without even looking at the photos. They can see and appreciate my character and effort. Eventually, they claim that they love the photos I have produced and I think I should believe them.
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  9. Which is the most generous group of clients for event shoot?
    From my experience SO FAR, Chinese and Caucasian individuals are generous although they may not make it obvious during the discussion. When they see that you are hardworking and they like your attitude, they may give you extra money (tips) in the end. Caucasians may even give tips before the start of the shoot. Don't expect to get any extra buck for doing any corporate event because the cheques are likely to be prepared beforehand, moreover, the person (likely not the boss) who contacts you is not able to make such decision. Companies are also trying hard to cut down on cost. However, they may cater good food for you depending on the job scope. I have gotten free buffet at hotel's restaurant.
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  10. Do you have clients who are unsatisfied with your services?
    Yes, of course, since no one is perfect and that not every client can have the rapport with me. As I'm quite selective in working with clients and that most clients are kind and appreciative, this is rare though. If you're really curious, you can read clients from hell.
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  11. What is the worst studio you have used?
    One of the worst studios I had used was booked by my client. It was badly designed and maintained. It was a rectangular shape room. The equipment were placed on the longer side of it and the opposite side was a stretch of full length glass windows. The curtain was made of reflective material and it did not cover the bottom of the glass fully. Even a part of the curtain was spoiled and could not be closed fully to block off the sun. There was a full length glass door at the end of the windows just next to the backdrop, which could not be covered.

    The bad design about this studio was that since the curtain was made of reflective material and there was sunlight entering from the bottom, it was impossible to use it as a backdrop, unless for specific theme that would require the shiny background while lighting underneath was neglected. Therefore, the angle of shoot was limited. Whereas, for the backdrop area, there would be sunlight hitting the subject directly during day time.

    Their website claimed it was a private studio but there was a CCTV inside, which made any form of private shoot impossible. Besides, their staffs would keep entering the room to get things. Lastly, the floor was pretty dusty and the backdrop was old.
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  12. What are the kind things done by clients?
    The staff of a company ordered a bowl of shark's fin soup for me despite I had told her not to prepare any food for me during the gala dinner. A guest gave me a free copy of National Geographic from his hotel room as he knew I loved photography. During a portrait shoot, a couple treated me to good champagne. Dinner treat from clients after portrait shoot. Another family asked the waitress to bring me a chair to rest during an event shoot. A lady gave me tips before her event even started... etc. I'm overwhelmed by kindness.
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  13. What weird things some clients have done?
    A client asked me to call him and when I was on the phone with him, he told me he was working.
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  14. What kind of clients you cannot communicate with?
    There was once after the client sent me a couple of photos hers, I asked her when were they taken and she questioned me why it was relevant - the tone was just not very friendly, or rather, she was very self-conscious. It instantly defined the wall between both of us. The worst thing was that the photos were underexposed and that I could not get to see other photos of hers to do any planning.

    Another type of clients are people who would ask me about the 'estimated' quantity of photos.
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  15. What kind of clients are considered annoying?
    There are quite a few types of them. The most common ones are those who go MIA after getting my quotation. The worst ones confirm the shooting date with me and go MIA before transferring me the booking fee.
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#2 Personal

  1. Do you do links exchange?
    Yes, I do links exchange with good quality websites!
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  2. What is the most difficult thing about photography?
    Educating clients. To most clients, photography is just about clicking the camera's shutter and they think using good camera alone is enough. They usually don't understand all the constraints. Many things are very technical and thus they won't be able to know even if I were to explain in details. For example, when I warn them about lighting issues, they usually won't care. To them, they simply want good photos even though they are likely not able to judge the quality of photos. Whereas for shoots like interior and product, they may even try to be the expert to estimate the time required instead.
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  3. Why are you selective of clients and jobs?
    Even though I'm not financially stable, I'm not desperate for money. For clients, I prefer working with those who approach me because they love my photos instead of those who are simply looking for cheap deals. The result will be very different because if I can feel the connection and kindness from the clients, I can certainly do better during the shoot with the confidence. Whereas for shoppers, there is higher chance of problems emerging before, during or after the shoot. For jobs, I'm looking at those who can help to build up my portfolio.
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  4. What kind of people will you avoid working with?
    Just as people choose photographers, I choose people to work with too. I'm nowhere near arrogant and it is just to protect myself.

    1. People who are arrogant - photography is something that should be fun.
    2. People who are overconfident - they tend to overpromise and are less detailed.
    3. People who can't communicate well - there is a high chance there will be miscommunication.
    4. People who weighs quantity over quality - I prefer working with people who appreciate arts and trust me that I will do my best.
    5. People who are stingy - there is a high chance that he/she may be over-particular over small things.
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  5. How good is your photography skill?
    Photography is wide and has many categories. I have knowledge in most of them but not practical experience for some. My current experience is mainly on people (portrait and event shoot) and interior photography. When compared to most hobby photographers, I'm better than them but I'm probably still behind those very experienced professional photographers in terms of skill. Hence, I try to be creative and hardworking at times to compensate for it. Viewers can judge by themselves through my latest work.
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  6. Are you very experienced in photography?
    I'm definitely not experienced enough, especially when it comes to handling clients. Instead of boasting like others, I usually sound less confident so that clients will have a lower expectation, so that they will become happier when they receive the photos. I feel so much more comfortable doing voluntary work instead but I have to face the ugly fact of life that I'm not born with silver spoon.
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  7. Will you lower down your rate just to take up more photoshoot projects?
    No. Quality of photos matters most to me and I don't want to feel underpaid and under-appreciated, and eventually put in only 50% of my effort. Most of all, I don't wish to undercut the market. However, I do do promotion for certain types of shoots that I'm interested in.
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  8. How open-minded are you?
    When it comes to photography, I'm extremely open as long as the shoot is tastefully done. My character is, however, very traditional.
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  9. How many shoots do you do in a month?
    I'm very inconsistent in this and thus unable to give an answer. I can only say that I'm doing very limited number of shoot.
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  10. Why don't you go to all the car and IT shows to take photos of models for marketing, networking and building of portfolio?
    1. I'm very busy.
    2. Too many stalkers and perverts are doing that and I'm not confident that people would not associate those people with me.
    3. I'm a passive guy and none of the models has invited me personally to show my support - I'm not taking into account of those models who do mass spamming in Facebook.
    4. I'm not those PR guys who can fake smiles in order to network and speed up their success.
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  11. Why do you have so few photos of yourself?
    I'm the one holding onto the camera.
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  12. Why don't you take photos with every model you have shot with?
    I usually forget it after a hard day work.
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  13. Would you get a model as girlfriend?
    I will avoid. I have come across too many stories of photographers with ill-intention and I don't want to keep worrying for my girlfriend whenever she goes for job.
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  14. Can I borrow your equipment (camera, lens... etc)?
    No. I may need them any time, including the spare ones, and it's going to make life very difficult for me if anything happens to them.
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  15. Why do you not want to work with PR/advertising agencies and 'middle-man' companies?
    Bad experience - low budget, ridiculous demand and extremely late payment. Photography is a fun thing to do and we should not destroy the good feeling about it. Most advertising agencies in Singapore will probably give the same problems while big agencies with generous clients will rather go to big photography companies than to work with a low-lying freelance photographer.
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  16. Why don't you like to talk over the phone?
    Need records for evidence. Besides, I have poor memory and, unlike texting, I can't refer back to the conversation. Since every request is different, I will need time to work out the quotation. From my experience, most 'clients' are just wasting my time. It is not worth the time to go over the phone before the clients have confirmed they are okay with the fee, which is usually the most important factor to them.
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  17. What are your non-photography worries for every shoot?
    Travelling - 'public' transport in Singapore is getting more unpredictable and I can't estimate the travelling time anymore. My meal time is another big problem for the shoots are usually done at weird hours while photography exhausts me both physically and mentally, draining off more energy than sports.
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#3 General

  1. Why some photographers don't like to take up jobs from friends/relatives?
    Most of the time, these people are expecting special discount on account of the relationship with the photographers. This can be problematic to the photographers and may sour the relationships.
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  2. Will I get 100% satisfied photos if I were to engage a big photography company for my shoot?
    For event and non-studio photoshoots, no (not 100%). The turnover rate may be high and thus the photographer being assigned to you may be less experienced. However, for shooting inside the company's studio, it's likely to be yes since everything, including the lighting, can be pre-set like a template.
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  3. Why is DSLR necessary when phone cameras can do reasonably good job?
    When lighting condition is good, actually phone cameras can produce quite good photos especially when you only need the photos in small resolution for web purpose. You can definitely judge the difference in quality of photos when you enlarge them or print them out. Most of all, you can't play much with the aperture and shutter speed, and the auto focus speed will be slower.
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  4. Does skin colour affect people photography?
    Yes. Darker skin tone absorbs more light and thus the lighting and post-production method/setting will be different from taking photos of a person with lighter skin tone. If you put two people with very different skin tones in a photo during an event, it will be more challenging than usual.
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  5. During a big group shoot with kids, why don't you just keep snapping multiple times?
    This is a technical issue for flash photography. Group shoot with kids as part of the group can really pose difficulties as it may not be easy to grab the kids' attention to get everyone looking at the camera. Under the best scenario with good ambient lighting, I can just snap photos multiple times. However, when taking group photo, it will require a smaller aperture (bigger depth of field) to keep everyone in focus and thus there may not be enough light. Very often, speedlite (flash) is required for indoor shoot. The problem is speedlite requires time to re-charge the power from the batteries. If I were to snap before the speedlite is fully charged, the photo will turn out to be underexposed (dark) even if you can see some flash firing out from the speedlite. Therefore, there will be an interval for clicking the camera's shutter. This is the usual problem photographers face. Photographers can buy an additional battery pack to attach it to the speedlite but it means extra load on the body.
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  6. What are the challenges of taking random group photos?
    Apart from the technical limitation of requiring a small aperture (less light) to keep everyone's face in focus, the subjects to be taken can pose more challenges. For example, one or two people inside the group may be distracted or are trying to get more people to join in, while the rest are insensitive to the ho-ha. If there is any outspoken person within the group that will demand photos to be taken immediately despite the mess, the photos will not turn out good. Overall, it's the communication with the subjects that will pose the greatest challenge.
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  7. Why do some photographers try not to take up jobs from friends?
    It's awkward when friends ask for discount or more things. It may sour the relationship.
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If you are interested in working with Skai as your photographer, do contact him.

Page last modified on Tue, 03 August 2021