Confession Of A Serial Killer

Some time ago, a mother emailed to inquire my photography service. I could tell she was very keen to have a family portrait made but she was hesitant and was held back by what I believed was "new mother (or parent) syndrome". I was sure I suffered from that too a decade ago: the constant anxiety a new parent feels whenever a routine is upset, something new is being explored, or when the whole family, especially the little one, is nudged out of a comfort zone.

She told me her toddler was very shy in front of strangers; she was worried their pictures would not look like the ones I displayed on my website (warm, happy, candid, natural types). She wanted to come visit my studio with her daughter to remove her inhibitions and basically to "check" if her daughter was comfortable with me. She wanted it on a weekend. Politely, I declined.

First, I don't charge a lot in this family portrait business ($250 basic fee), and I bank on a high turnover to make it work. I don't mind a short meeting during weekday office hours, but to have it on a weekend is a no-no for me because of (1) weddings and (2) my own family time. If I set a precedent, then the amount of time spent on subsequent meetings with interested parents would be overwhelming and unproductive.

Second (and arguably a more critical reason), the natural and candid moments and the happy and excited expressions I capture on kids' faces stem from the fact that they are meeting me and seeing the studio for the first time. The props, the colours, the cosiness they feel upon setting foot in there immediately set them at ease. It is with this first-time novelty that some of the more expressive pictures may be made.

Thirdly, I might not have much luck with ladies, and neither am I adept at small talk or intellectual discussion beyond the confines of club and international football, but I must confess I am slowly gaining a reputation as an aunty-killer (good with mature mothers and grandmothers) and am definitely a child-killer. Kids from the age 12 and below seem to find me disarmingly friendly, due to the fact that I am more than happy to "stoop down" to their level to communicate with them. To smell the flowers, you need to squat down after all, right? Of course, having parents who can interact well with their own kids (other than the standard 'look at uncle; look at the camera;  smile, laugh, don't move) helps tremendously in picture-making.

So back to the new mother and her child. Well, the little one smiled at me within 5 minutes of introduction and started dancing in front of the camera after 7 minutes. And dare I say it? I think I "killed the whole family" at that shoot. In the end, they ended up buying the whole batch of images.


To The Land of Oz

Elaine Ang-Giraud has been a supportive industrial ally-turn-friend ever since I started wedding photography full time a decade ago. She can plan a mean wedding, good with handicraft and possesses a beautiful mind as evidenced by her charity work. I still remember the day when she excitedly texted me about her big move to Sydney, after her husband got posted there, this immediately following a casual chat we had on our (semi-serious) dreams of retiring in Australia/New Zealand.  Never did we expect that she was to have a head start in realising the dream. Congratulations to her! Before she left for Sydney, she wanted some pictures of her with her closely-knitted family. The location of the shoot? Chijmes, where she and her husband Mr G first met.

The Ang family, with an "ang moh" in the mix.

The Ang family, with an "ang moh" in the mix.

When two became three.

When two became three.

This pose was suggested by one of the subjects. It is not hard to guess who.

This pose was suggested by one of the subjects. It is not hard to guess who.

Ang sisters with their kids.

Ang sisters with their kids.

Baby G aka Matthieu with his two cousins.

Baby G aka Matthieu with his two cousins.


Twenty-one Under Sixty

I am getting the hang of this: shooting a large group of people who is family, break it up into smaller nucleus groups, and mix it in with lots of candid pictures, and all under 60 minutes. It's important to keep family sessions short because of little ones' short attention span as well as not keeping the subjects under the hot sun for too long. Short and sweet has always been my mantra because "wayang" (putting on a show/charade) to justify a high fee is totally unnecessary and not my style.


This Is A Big One

Yet another big family shoot, this time set against the majestic backdrop of Singapore's central business district and marina bay skyline. Because of the number of subjects involved, I proposed to the client a two-photographer session that last an hour. I am never a fan of a family shoot that exceeds one hour because kids' attention span in front of the camera is limited. It is up to the photographer to capture the spontaneity and expressions when the going is good. The moment when parents and photographer have to keep coaxing some smiles out of the kids, then the family photo session becomes meaningless. 

For this session, I enlisted the help of my friend Gabriel Mendes who took care of some of the individual smaller families while my time was spent solely on the big group shots as well as all pictures involving the family matriarch. Thankfully, the shoot went really well, was over in just under an hour, and before the rising temperature overwhelm both young and old.