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15 years of photography and this is what I would change if I had to do it all over again.


I started out in tv and after I started a job co-assistant producing a television series for the Great #GriffRhysJones (UK presenter former British comedian/talent), I had the chance to meet and work with a talented camera operator by the name of Chris Openshaw (Chris has done several fantastic documentary series for the #BBC #ITV etc...). It was by chance that they needed an extra hand with production stills and having just bought an entry level D-SLR at the time I was anxious to give it some good use. My shots were pretty terrible at that time, probably 1 out 10 photos at best were usable by the network's standards. However, Chris thought maybe by some fluke chance I may become a good photographer one day and encouraged me to give this direction a go (thanks Chris, you screwed my life. lol JK). Fifteen years later this is all I do and what I get out of bed for, travelling around Asia, shooting interiors for hotels, products for brands, and architecture for tourisms boards around southeast Asia.


I have heard from many people that I am very lucky to be able to do what it is that I love for a career. I don't disagree. But in theory everyone can do so. I don't believe in talent. I just believe in hard work and dedication and learning from mistakes. As smooth as what some people think of my career (and trust me, it's not as smooth as you think), there are many things I would love to redo or had approached differently. What's done has been done and quite frankly there is not much I can do about it, but I do hope for those that are just getting their foot in the door, this can be some helpful advice to you.


Be professionally trained in #adobe applications


Sure, there are a lot of really useful tutorials and tips floating around on the internet (especially in 2020), but the amount of knowledge and skill you can get from an actual course in a short amount of time will save you a lot of trial and error. You don't want to be using your clients as subjects of an experiment. There are many courses with actual adobe certifications. Yes, adobe. Don't believe all that crap about "oh there will be other software that will take over." Stick with adobe and unless #adobe goes out of business, it's less than likely another company with such scale can even compete. If you ask me, I would learn PSD, AI, ID, PR minimum (I am actually a #finalcutpro guy but if you wanna keep everything in the #adobe family that is cool as well).


Having spent too much time with Lighting


This is a common mistake with many beginners. Lighting seems very complicating to someone starting out. Especially if you have no professional training, it can be like magic. However, once you understand the physics of light and how that applies in photography, it's really not that complicating (angle of light+size of light+quality of light is really all it is). I wish I had spent more time focusing on creating a brand for myself and also spent more time training myself in the digital aspects of photography and design. I do ok now but if I had taken the equal amount of time I had with learning to light in studio and on location than I did with learning about design and editing, I think I would be more established today and more prepared for tomorrow.


Avoid Video Work


Some things don't ever change. I remember when I was kid, many Asians bought donut shops in Canada and it later became a pathetic half-ass donut half-ass Chinese takeaway. Why was that? Well because the owners didn't do the donut business well and they got in it to make money only. So when the money wasn't coming in they panicked and sought for solutions that helped ever so slightly by selling what they kind of understood (chinese food), and in the long run it destroyed their business, because no one was looking for chinese foods in a donut shop and no was looking for donuts in a chinese takeaway.


I started in tv and video and I slowly transitioned to stills photography because I didn't like how video was bounded by equipment and manpower. In about the 5-10 years time I saw how video transitioned from HDV, to AVCHD, Full HD to 4K etc.. etc... Sure the way of how we made videos didn't change but imagine having gone through the phases and all the equipment upgrades? Meanwhile many advertising photographers maintained using the same photography and lighting equipment throughout that time and landed the same jobs (quite frankly, I would have no problem using a 5D Mark II or Mark III even today).


For a small business, the equipment upgrades video work required was not very profitable (just to freshin up your memory, steadycams>sliders& jibs> cranes & dollies> gimbals the list goes on...), and this is just the cameras and we haven't even brought up lighting and post editing. Some people may say "Well, you make more money in video that make up for the equipment cost." Really? I don't really think so. 15 years ago, a production driver persuaded me along with Chris to focus on stills over video. I clearly remember him saying "don't believe that you'll make more money doing video, it's actually the other way around." I can't say I have proven this to be correct or have I ever actually opened an official business for video exclusively. In my experience, video costs more, it's a lot more work in post, and work flow requires more people (sound engineers, graphics, animation, special effects, coordinators of all sorts, and no you can't do it all unless your last name is Coppola).


Throughout the years, I have made this mistake of taking on the odd jobs that require video work because I was trained as a handheld camera operator from a US network, so why shouldn't I? Because no one ever describes the Chinese food from that donut shop as authentic and delicious and the donuts in that odd chinese donut takeaway is always just mediocre (after all what do you fry first, the donut, or the wantons?) In the end people like #mariotestino, or #annieleibovitz will always be known as photographers and not directors of photography or people like #karllagerfeld will always be known as fashion designers despite his talent in photography.


In short, focus and stay focus. No one succeeds in one day. The time in between is hard and often you will come across a lot o failure and down time. Use that time to make yourself even better. Don't give in to the temptation of doing more of other things that will make you less of what you can be. In the 21st century, you don't need to do many things well, you just need to do one thing great. #deathofdepartmentstore




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