Stuff I think about

Photography today through my eyes

Posted in Uncategorized by Billy Soh on January 29, 2009

Having been a photographer for the past countless years I hate to say that the promotion of conceptual art/photography has spurred a whole new artform in Singapore (and probably in other parts of the world too), it is neither good nor bad, but the objective is no longer just the images, but the content in the images. Contrary to post-modern thought, an image is an image, not what the contents hold. Richard Avedon quoted something which I find rather parallel to this point -”All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.

Having digital photography around doesn’t help more than producing countless images and seeing the results instantaneously. It seems that the skills and camera handling have become obsolete, but really it does not, and it still plays a big part in the process by reducing the amount of digital trash or unused portions, and hence reducing cost in storage of raw images. As the saying in Bahasa goes, “Sedikit sedikit, lama-lama jadi bukit!” (A little here and a little there, and soon you’ll have accumulated a mountain full of it!) It may not seem any relevant at instant, just wait till a couple of years later with regular shooting, the end user might find several terabyte harddisks full of images, and surely a pain to go through however good the organization of the data can be. In the same situation with film photography would result in cabinets and cabinets full of transparencies, negatives and prints put away in archive. Fortunately the virtue of making every shot count in the earlier days, so having too much to archive wasn’t a big problem. We do have a luxury to shoot more images now, but that shouldn’t mean being trigger happy is a sure way of getting the winning image.

An observation I’ve made over the past few years till now is how people perceive their own surroundings how well forgotten the sunlight is to everyone, it is practically taken for granted. In the past months of December 2008 and January 2009 we have experienced in Singapore the perfect weather, fantastic sunlight and cerulean blue skies but yet I haven’t seen many people make use of that quality available to make pictures (I hope it is just me, because it is the perfect time for architectural photography.) It is not totally true that the late morning sun through midday and early afternoon is not ideal for photography. When making pictures of people at such a time, be sure to have your reflector handy to even out any undesired shadows. An ordinary and easily forgotten street scene would look stunningly glamorous during the right time of the day with the desired position of the sun, even with the sun blazing fiercely overhead.

Who says sunlight is harsh? Honestly speaking with no reservations made here, sunlight is the best light and it has a certain quality that surpasses all commercially available lights and light modifiers out there in the market, and lighting manufacturers all strive to produce light with a quality and intensity like that of sunlight, something that HMI and HID lighting have done very well. Often we see this type of lighting used in the showcases of apparel chains and higher end department stores here, replacing the once popular dichroic halogen lamps. Photography lighting manufacturers do well in promoting their range of expensive lighting modifiers, umbrellas and softboxes that almost everyone using their products would achieve the same effect without fail, as seen in today’s available commercial photography. A side note: commercially available strobe lighting used as a bare bulb or with a simple reflector dish does produce a similar result but with a different color temperature.

All being said, with the world economy collapsing, good images can still be produced, and all it takes is an open mind, less of a mind on what camera and lighting to use but what to photograph.

Disclaimer: This post is purely on my own opinions and it does not represent the views anyone else.


Snippets of random thoughts

Posted in Uncategorized by Billy Soh on January 24, 2009

Design is a plan and it is a plan for a better life. This being said, was a crystallisation of my thoughts some years ago whilst preparing a friend for a grilling session by the design council.

Creativity plays a part in design but often or often not, design fuses practicality, ergonomics and aesthetics. Last night at Rojak 13 it struck me that good work comes not with money in its objective but with the purpose of fulfilling one’s ethical role as a designer. This brings me to another point, when there’s so many design houses in Singapore…how many of them are merely service providers and how many of them really fulfill the role of design? This is more than design, it is really about professional ethics! When ethics is well enforced professionally, work created will be good for everyone. It is a part that buyers and sellers have to look into, not to deprive the goodness of its nature from anyone.

The cost of running a business in Singapore is rather high and overheads are high. It is not surprising to see design houses struggling to stay afloat doing almost trashy projects often. When established houses charge the top dollar for its expertise, a service provider may half its quote to secure a project. I can only say this, that every cent paid is worth its own weight in gold. In B2B situations, it could mean a lesser value being portrayed and often it reflects on the business owner’s mindset as well, to cut costs in order to keep a wider profit margin, fair from a business perspective, it may not be fair to the suppliers and clients in the end. From another perspective, there are just too many middlemen between supply and demand. The lowest quote gets hired.

A friend and professional acquaintance mentioned to me recently that an events and marketing company lowered his quote just in order to mark up the photography coverage rates to obtain a bigger profit margin for the company, what’s worse is when his quote was being lowered, the amount of work that has to be done was still as much, and they even demanded the images be ready the next day. The hirer of the events company was government and stat board related, too. The hirer paid the top dollar expecting the best expertise, ethically speaking, I think my friend could have gotten a higher rate from the services he provided to the events and marketing company.

On another note, I wouldn’t mind doing any wedding photography be it pre-weddings or actual days if it were 30 years ago… the divorce rates are so high recently, I would be feeling awkward should I find out if any of the couples I shot didn’t make it till death does them part. Wedding images are charged at the top dollar; it is once in a lifetime. Not quite true recently.

Likewise for my services provided to marketing companies for a couple of businesses. The businesses wound up. A part of me died with them. I swear I was cheap. In a similar situation, my quote was being lowered as well.

The Decisive Moment, No Longer Decisive with The Help of Smile Detectors.

Posted in Uncategorized by Billy Soh on January 20, 2009

Photography was all about the decisive moment, but now with the help of smile detector technology, the decisive moment is no longer yours; the camera decides for you. Where is your artistic input now?

On the hindsight it is also one that frees up your mental facilities, giving you the chance to put more mind into composing and framing the image, not having to worry about clicking the shutter. It could be a nuisance, if someone couldn’t stop smiling, the camera would just fire away as long as the subject is in sight. Not bad I think, all the smiling moments are faithfully captured. Not bad for capturing a smile, it’s instant and spontaneous.

It’ll be nice if there’s also frown detectors and crying and tears detectors, that would sure help photojournalists a lot. Or one that is clicked by rocket fire and explosions. Then we’ll get endless award winning pictures. But I guess many of them will give it a pass, as I would still like to maintain my control and decision over images that I create.