Quality of Singapore Beauty Pageant Photos

request for free photography services

Above: A request for free photography services for a Singapore pageant. This unknown person also claimed that he had hired my photography services before - I don't even know him.


There are quite a number of pageant contests in Singapore to the extent that a few of them are known as "Miss Singapore"; to most people, it's rather confusing. Since I have no link to any of the companies to do free advertising for them nor do I want to shame any of them, I won't be providing any name in my article.

I have heard insider stories about how the photography of some of the pageants is being done. I'm won't be surprised even if most of the photographers are not being paid a single cent, given the saturated market where every DSLR owner is also a photographer and many are desperate to get to shoot. These photographers do offer free services for their own agendas, which may be for (1) publicity or simply to get to (2) know more hot girls.

You can call it sponsorship, pro bono or undercutting the (photography) market, but the main point is that the photographer doesn't receive any cent. The photographer will only be credited by the business and I'm not sure how many people would get to see the crediting part and how few of this small group of people would even bother about the person behind the photographs. We are talking about pageant contest in a small market (Singapore) and not a wedding shoot for big international celebrity (Tom Cruise, Jay Chou etc) that can reach out to massive number people.

Of course, some photographers go for the fame since few people would realise they aren't being paid. In other words, most people would simply think these photographers are masters in the trade because they are being "hired" for the contests. Unfortunately, this is, perhaps, how the photographers are truly being valued; their hard work is being weighed in term of monies (zero dollar).

Some photographers would take up the "opportunity" for the sake of knowing more babes, either for dating or photoshoot in near future. Obviously, no matter how small scale the contest is, there will be at least one contestant who is quite presentable - in the worst scenario. I assume the contestants are also more open-minded than the average girls on the street, which would benefit the photographer. It's a good deal for these "photographers" who are very in need of these ladies.

You get what you pay for

For some of the official headshots or half body shots of the pageants to showcase the contestants, the lighting can be so terrible that I would prefer the organisers to send their contestants to neighbourhood shops to request for their IC photographs to be taken. I also cannot appreciate how horrible some of the expression can be. However, what would you expect to see from a free or low budget project?

How many good photographers are willing to provide quality services at only a small fraction of their actual photography rates or at pro bono?

Even if a good photographer is willing to take up the project at a huge discount, maybe due to friendship with the organiser, he has to reduce the time and effort to be spent, which will in term affect the quality of the photographs.

For example, the photographer may simply use natural light in situations that artificial light is much needed, given that lighting equipment are heavy and bulky and will require time and energy to set up and dismantle. Moreover, the equipment have a limited lifespan and may be damaged easily during shoots. For the post-production work, the photographer will have to be less detailed in order to reduce time.

Well, I did try to contribute to the society by helping a friend who's running a social enterprise by charging them at extremely low rates. I did my best and I fully understand why professional photographers can't take up cheap jobs. That was it and I wouldn't have the time to do such charity work again due to the large amount of time required.

Unlike casual shoots, pageants' photographs ought to look professional and grand, with the faces professionally lighted and their best presentation captured. The photographs showcase the seriousness of the pageants.

I assume most of the contestants are non professional models, although some of them may have experiences shooting with amateur photographers. Non professional models would require longer shooting time in order to get a good photograph. It takes time to warm up and it takes some attempts to strike a good pose with good expression. No one should plan to depend on luck and expects to get a good photograph within a few clicks.

An essential component of a photoshoot is hairstyling and makeup. The usual amount of time a professional HMUA (hair and makeup artist) spends doing makeup (without hairstyling) for a model can be one hour or longer, depending on the requirement and the model's looks or skin condition. Often, for "mass production" like mass photoshoot of pageants or performance, a HMUA may have to do the makeup for numerous models given a short period of time. How many established HMUAs are willing and have the time to take up such project? Similar to photography, how detailed can the HMUA be if it's a mass production and given only a short span of time for each model? For sure, an experienced HMUA can likely do a good job, given the constraints, but she can do it much better if she can focus on just one model.

Bad photography may come at the expense of the contestants

There are times when I see contestants who are in my social media's friend list appearing in the contests' photographs, I feel sorry for them. The photographs can be worse than their selfies. Online viewers can be very vocal, especially when the pageant is one of the most recognised in Singapore and the winners will be representing Singapore in the world stage. Thus, we can't blame people for setting a high benchmark for the contestants' looks, which is very much affected by the styling and photography skill.

Fortunately, most of the contestants aren't as bad as how people had criticized; unfortunately, we can't stop the extreme comments. For example: Super bastard comments trolling Miss Singapore Universe 2013 finalists (a satire website).

Let's be honest. If you're a single guy and you're given a choice to pick one of the contestants above as your wife solely based on their looks, will you choose to remain single? I have personally seen some of their photographs taken by some non-professional photographers who have done much better jobs, and they look hot.

Therefore, the biggest problems were the photography and styling for the photographs taken.

Bad photography at national stage also degrades all photographers

I have seen work from many good photographers in Singapore and there's no lack of talents; however, they aren't hired for the pageant. Given the large scale of the contests and their publicities, viewers may have a bad impression of the standard of professional photography in Singapore.

Yes, I'm horrified by the quality of some of the photographs and I'm also worried about the industry for photography (and makeup). When organisers try too hard to cut budget for competitions, freelancers are often being made the sacrifice.

For photographers who are hurting the industry by offering free or very low budget services for pageant contests (and other commercial events), I'm really puzzled over the decision. For publicity, it takes too much time and effort to do a proper job and it's a norm for people to appreciate it given it's a job well done. In case the photographer doesn't put in much effort, it may turn out to be a negative marketing stunt instead.

For photographers who are more into getting to know hot girls, their reputation are at stake. Perhaps, they may be able to achieve what they really want - knowing more potential models and probably arranging for private shoots in future after pleasing them. Fortunately, there are also many people who can't judge the quality of work - just like me before I started doing portrait photography.

Eventually, these would lead to degrading of photography, which is already a sunset industry.

The trigger

One of the main goals of organising a pageant contest is to make money directly or indirectly. The services provided for the contests are considered as commercial work. What most of the companies behind the contests are doing, I assume, is to cut down on cost, in order to increase profit. Therefore, the people in charge are trying hard to get free services instead of paying professionals fairly.

The bottom line is - you get what you pay for and what you do not pay for.

Eventually, by doing so, it hurts the reputation of all the people involved, including freelancers, and even Singapore as a whole.

Hereby, I thank those beauty pageants that have been doing the right thing - paying professional photographers the right amount to get photography work done properly. I also thank professional photographers who have been rejecting unreasonable requests that will further damage the industry.



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- Quality and quantity of photographs - contributing factors
- Cheapo - the photography story
- Actual day wedding photography gone wrong
- Photography Post-Production (Editing)
- Misconceptions and myths in professional photography
- Differences between professional and casual portrait photoshoots
- Things that models have been doing terribly wrong
- Special photoshoots you can hire a professional photographer to do



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