Everyone’s a photographer now, it seems, thanks to the advances in smartphone capabilities. But it’s a long, long way from taking a quick iPhone snap of your main course at a restaurant to producing timeless family portraits of babies and young children. We chatted with some of Singapore’s prominent photographers about the process behind capturing their favourite images.
“I took this image of baby Ethan at home during his first session of the Baby’s First Year package. I will be photographing him again soon – he’s six months old now and I’m looking forward to capturing his new milestones.
I love using large aperture for baby portraits, as it brings out the depth of field (through a blurred background effect). In this particular image, I wanted to draw attention to how peaceful and sweet he was when sleeping on his daddy’s shoulder. With a soft focus on Mummy and Daddy kissing in the background, it really sends out the message, ‘All because two people fell in love!’
For this shot, I used a Canon 50mm prime lens f/1.4, but a Canon 50mm f/1.8 would be a good alternative. It’s more economical and it allows you to get some depth of field in your images.
It’s not my preferred style to have everyone look at the camera and smile, so I just love this image because it candidly captures the essence of the young family.
My main focus is on portraits. ‘Bump, Baby and Beyond’ covers it all: ‘Bump’ is maternity photography, ‘Baby’ is newborns and toddlers, and ‘Beyond’ is families, pets and even yoga.”
– Cici McCalman
“This is one of a series of commissioned portraits I took of Poppy and her sisters at our Studio in Niven Road. Each girl was encouraged to bring a favourite prop that they’d like to be photographed with, and we had accessories on hand so they could have fun playing dress-up in the studio.
I shot this with a Canon 5D MkII using a professional beauty-lighting setup with a blue backdrop. I made the session an exciting experience by encouraging the girls to try a variety of poses, accessories and outfits and gave clear direction on what I thought would look great. This beautiful moment was captured as Poppy was having fun with her props; she was clearly delighted by the experience and that’s exactly what we aspire to create – we want each individual in front of the camera to look and feel like a star.
During post-production, I refined the colours, tones and contrast and removed minor imperfections with Photoshop. I finished by hand-tinting Poppy’s hat and glasses in a similar colour to her dress and I mounted the photo on a contemporary floating panel to create a gallery-ready work of photo art.
I love Poppy’s playful, cheeky expression that perfectly captures her bubbly personality and the fun she and her sisters were having that day. The bold backdrop gives the photo an edgy fashion look and the quirky, off-centre composition, which follows the Rule of Thirds, contributes to the playful theme of the session.
At Baobab we love to work one-to-one with both adults and children to capture gorgeous photos that show each individual’s unique character. We also do corporate portraits both in the studio and at clients’ premises, and we love to share our passion for photography in our photography classes, workshops and excursions.”
– Karen Lucas
“This was taken in our shophouse studio for a lovely client who had just had her fourth baby. The baby was only three weeks old and little girl was four years old.
As all professional photographers will say, time and patience are key when working with little people. We spend a lot of time talking and playing with children to gain their trust and interest. We made the little girl feel very important and grown up whilst making this photograph and she happily obliged. With Mummy and Daddy sitting close by for reassurance, this little girl was amazing and lay very still.
We use one of the leading brands of portraiture lighting in our studio; it is used by many top fashion photographers, and all our clients love the way it makes them look. I find this particular image very striking and unique. It’s a beautiful moment and a lovely memory of newborn littleness!
We take photographs of all ages, from ‘bump’ right up to graduation age. I like using black-and-white photography as a medium as I feel it gives a classic, timeless look and enhances the important element of emotion in the photograph.”
– Kate Griffiths
“This photo of Kaelyn was taken at my studio a couple of months ago. She came for a family photo session with her little sister and their parents. I split the session into three: firstly using natural light and getting candid shots of everyone against a dark background, secondly getting classical lighting shots of the children using studio lighting, and finally finishing with fun family images against a white background.
This photo was taken during the classical lighting section and it is the style that most interests me; I love trying to control the light to get a painterly feel to these photos. The setup involved three lights: a small softbox to camera left, a large softbox directly behind the camera to fill in the shadows, and finally a light on the backdrop to give some separation. Very little post-production was needed other than removing a few stray hairs, adjusting the skin tone and adding a slight vignette.
I first photographed Kaelyn two years ago when my photographic style and technique were very different. This is one of my favourite photos from this year because I can look back and see not only how Kaelyn has grown in those two years but also how far I have come on my photography journey.”
– Michael Gronow
“This image, taken in Singapore, was commissioned by a client nine years ago. It was for the 60th birthday of her mother in the UK. I still love it for many reasons. It’s timeless, like all of my work. Also, it was also taken on the day I had the phone call that my father (best friend and advertising photographer extraordinaire) had passed way. I still went ahead with the shoot as otherwise the client’s mum would not have had her prints on time. It was particularly on this day that I knew I was put on this planet to photograph children and families to give them images that are beautiful, timeless and real.
The little girl was initially shy and didn’t really want to be photographed – but look at the result! I finished the shoot at 5.30pm and was on a flight to my father’s funeral in Australia at 7pm. I didn’t think of my loss once while doing the job. I was so focused on doing my best. It’s times like this when you know what you are doing is what you were put on this earth to do.
I shoot only film for family portrait commissions as it has a beautiful grain to it which digital does not. The end result is a fine-art archival fibre-based print. This is the best form of printing possible in photography and takes great skill and experience to produce well; with digital you can cover up mistakes on the computer. That’s not to say I can’t do digital outputs. I do supply CDs for clients, produce canvases, story books and so on. Film just needs to be scanned for these purposes and it takes a little longer. We get the best of both worlds.
I used to be an advertising photographer but I gave it up to specialise in photographing families and children, mostly due to an amazing collection of large prints I have of me as a child that my father took 40 years ago on film. I still have them and love them to this day.”
– Sealey Brandt
“Even though I fall in love with every single client, my favourite photos are still of my own daughters. This photograph was taken on Tanjong Beach, Sentosa, where I often shoot. Once a year I do a real shoot with my girls where they wear their favourite clothes and are all excited about being my ‘models’. After this one, we had a picnic on the almost deserted beach and saw the stars come out. They loved it!
Being a big fan of natural light, I don’t use flash much. Normally I shoot outdoors, and only during the golden hours. I love this photo because it’s natural, they’re having fun, and the colours are great. The direction of the setting sun and the wind were perfect. I used a wide aperture to blur out the background. I love how Anu kisses her big sister – it shows how crazy she is about her.
I don’t do much post-processing, just some skin softening in Portraiture, and Photoshop (with Totally Rad Actions) to achieve the perfect colour balance.
My style is candid and European (I’m Dutch). Posing is always kept to a minimum – just a few family photos at the start of the shoot. I do ask for piggyback rides, running in the water, kids to tickle their parents and other fun stuff. The result is always natural and happy. At the end of the shoot, clients often tell me they’re surprised about what a great time they had. And it always shows in the photos.”
– Femke Tewari
“Last year, I decided to explore a new area of newborn photography – shooting them outdoors in a perfectly safe way. My first commissioned newborn shoot outdoors was of three-week-young Laura at the Botanic Gardens. I love many things about this image: how sweetly she snoozes in the basket, how the shot reminds me of the biblical story of Moses, and how the little crown she wore gives a hint of her being a princess in an otherwise simple but beautiful portrait.
With newborn photography, I find that no matter what position or pose you put them in, it has to be safe and they have to look comfortable. Most people think newborn photography is easy since they sleep all the time but you will know that is not true when you photograph your first newborn. Baby safety and comfort should come first and in this shot, although it suggests that baby Laura is out in the open, we actually have a reflector shading the direct sunlight above her and also, we did not put the basket directly into the water. The area where we were shooting was sprayed with insect repellent before we brought the baby in. Post-production, all I did was a slight boost to the colours and digitally removed a blade of grass obstructing her mouth area.
My team of photographers is a dedicated all-female team. Around 60 percent of our shoots are maternity and newborn; the other 40 percent are children and families and the occasional corporate shoot.”
– Maryann Koh
“Life often gets too busy with daily activities. Before you know it, your children have changed – they can’t stay the way they are at a particular time no matter how much you wish it. The only way to keep these memories is through photographs.
When it comes to me and my own children, pictured here, preserving memories of them isn’t about the equipment or the process that goes into perfecting the images. It’s about my particular vision in remembering my children the way they were. Alexander, my first born, is always intense; next is Oliver who always dares to be himself; Mason, the youngest, is cautious while curious in exploring the world around him. We often hear, ‘Do what you love and love what you do’. I am doing exactly that. It’s a privilege to be invited by clients to allow me to create my vision of who their children might be or what their families are about, for one simple reason, memories. Memories are priceless, the most prized thing in the world; it’s sad to lose them.”
– Hart Tan
“This picture of Lily a personal favourite of mine. Like most people, she was camera-shy at first. As she took in her surroundings, the white curtains in particular, you could watch all that self-consciousness melting away as she began to enjoy – and express – herself. Once she was relaxed, it didn’t matter to her how she looked, how she ought to pose, or how messy she might be, and instead she explored our Peranakan-style shophouse, took in the lush view from our balcony, and even danced across the floorboards as I photographed her.
White Room Studio is situated in a Peranakan, black-and-white shophouse in River Valley. The space is full of nostalgic character, featuring big tall windows, Balinese furniture, wooden floorboards and a balcony overlooking the greenery of Fort Canning Park. This means not only can we shoot with studio lighting but we also make use of the bright lighting and interior of the shophouse and shoot with natural lighting. This gives us a wide spectrum of lighting, atmosphere and emotion to play with.
Being a photographer is something I couldn’t stop dreaming of until it became a reality. I left the Art Academy and started White Room Studio with Elaine in 2009, and have since filled my heart with the joy and fulfilment I receive in documenting the most special moments for the different families and individuals who come to the studio. I love the closeness and relationships with people, and appreciate the decision that someone makes when they choose me to be their photographer.”
– Dan Yeo