Blissful Pictures: The secret life of a wedding photographer

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couple_carousel A perfectly composed shot by Tan of a couple standing on a carousel.

IT IS an especially unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime day for many; and for some, the most important day of their lives. Brides and grooms spend months, sometimes years, preparing for their magical day, and what way to memorialise the event better than to hire a talented photographer to capture the moments?

In the technological age that we are currently living, we see all sorts of people — young, old, professionals and novices alike — splurging money on fancy cameras, and some even calling themselves ‘professional photographers’ with little or no experience or even training.

The vast majority of couples, however, are willing to pay top dollar for the best they can find. To many of them, cost isn’t an issue when searching for the right photographer to immortalise their wedding day.

The Edge Financial Daily spoke to two local wedding photographers, Edwin Tan and Nicholas Kong, both of whom have not only been hired by Malaysians to shoot their weddings, but by foreigners as well. Collectively, these two — who are proprietors of their own wedding photography companies—have flown to numerous countries including Australia, Japan, China, Hong Kong, France, Italy, Greece, the US, and Germany to shoot wedding photographs.

Some of their clients reside in those countries, but most are Malaysian couples who wanted memorable pictures, taken at iconic landmarks set to take anyone’s breath away. The best part? The fact that these couples are willing to fork out an arm and a leg to fly a talented photographer there with them to capture it all.

Just last month, Tan found himself in Oia, on one of the Greek islands of Santorini — a dream location for any photographer — with its sapphire blue sea, towering cliffs lined with pure white and blue roofed traditional Greek homes and arguably, the place where the world’s most beautiful sunset can be seen.

Both these talented men found themselves delving into the world of professional wedding photography just a couple of years ago. From then, they have cultivated their skills and have been working hard to perfect their craft.

While Kong has always known he wanted to be a wedding photographer, Tan initially started off photographing children. Both initially found it hard to break into the industry, but once the ball started rolling, it really got rolling!

Every month, each of them are assigned  four to eight wedding shoots, and these typically cover pre-wedding shoots and the wedding day itself. Unlike many photographers who take shots in the studio which has controlled lighting conditions and moveable backdrops, Kong and Tan take pride in their work that typically occurs outdoors with couples in natural settings and most importantly, are not posed!

There is nothing more unsightly than photos of a couple wearing plastered smiles on their faces on all their wedding photos; therefore talented photographers usually give minimal direction, and allow the couple to interact freely with each other, capturing tender moments as they unfold.

“I try to get my clients to relax and express themselves however they wish. I think about a storyline, play it out in my mind, and then find the emotional moments that reflect the story of the day.

“Every minor detail is important. From loving glances, smiles and even unseen tears,” explained Tan.

“I always tell clients to be themselves, and act the way that they usually do when there isn’t a photographer following them around,” said Kong.

Shooting once-in-a-lifetime events can be harrowing for some, but Tan and Kong believe that by truly paying attention to all the minute details, there is a wealth of emotion that can be captured.

With the rise of the use of cameras in smartphones and tablets, it is inevitable that guests would also try to take shots of the bride and groom, sometimes to the detriment of official photos taken by the photographers designated to do their jobs.

Just last year, American wedding photographer Corey Ann Balazowich suggested on the Huffington Post that couples host “unplugged” weddings whereby guests are not allowed to use phones and tablets to take pictures during the ceremony. Indeed, the Internet is filled with unceremonious photos taken by professional photographers featuring a beautiful couple with dozens and dozens of little phone screens as the unceremonious background.

“Yes, it can be distracting and annoying when guests ruin a special moment by holding up their phones and thereby obscuring the view of the photographer,” both Tan and Kong agreed.

“Therefore, clients are usually told to inform their guests not to take pictures during certain important moments of the wedding, such as when the couple walks down the aisle,” said Kong.

“The worst is when guests use cameras or phones with flash! These absolutely ruin the shots and there is no post-processing that can be done to save the picture.”

Fortunately, even with such obstructions, Tan and Kong have still been able to capture special moments perfectly, and their clients are obviously always very happy to see them.

Final words for aspiring photographers?

“Stay hungry and always look for the best image.”

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on November 10, 2014.