From left: Afiq Omar, Aloysius Lim, Olivia Sari-Goerlach, Martin Yeoh and Ungku Ibrahim
In part 1 of the story, nightlife photographers and videographers in Singapore shared their horror stories of nailing that amazing party shot through on-site injury, abuse and harassment.
At the end of the night, it’s all part of the job. But if there’s one shot they can’t take, it’s of others in the business spoiling an already saturated market.
Opinions were livid in this regard.
UNDERCUTTING THE LOW HANGING FRUITS
What makes a top quality event photos and videos is subjected to the eye of the beholder.
Clients who are able to discern, do; but for those who can’t, pay for cheap or nothing at all.
“Being taken seriously is a big obstacle. Some clubs or events organisers want really high quality images but are not willing to pay for them. Things can get a little frustrating at times,” says experienced nightlife photographer Ungku Ibrahim, 31.
Zouk by Martin Yeoh
Zouk and Ku De Ta photographer Afiq Omar, 25, chimes in. “Event photography in itself does not pay very well,” and added that it’s important for new entrants into the market to understand what everyone else is charging so as not to over- or undercharge.
“The thing about the industry is that it is highly accessible to new photographers, so they end up charging ridiculously low prices or shooting for free in exchange for drinks or entry,” he says disconcertingly.
Photo by Zhi Wei
20-year-old Zhi Wei --the youngest photographer of the lot-- throws caution to the wind. “No matter what your potential employer or client says, giving you ‘exposure’ is never a legitimate reason for unpaid work.”
Newbie 24-year-old Nicole Lee further elaborates that when services are given cheap, photographers are less motivated to perform at their best
Video production company founder, 36-year old Martin Yeoh has seen budding photo and videographers come and go in this context. A common mistake, he feels, is confusing value and viability.
“Working for cheap is absolutely not sustainable,” he asserts. “Photographers and videographers quit after just a couple of months because their effort and investment in equipment doesn’t match what they get in return. And they screw it up for everyone because clubs then expect others to lower their prices to match.”
He concludes, “But for those who stay, I would say that they truly have their heart in nightlife.”
CREATING A NICHE IN A SATURATED MARKET
None of the professionals I spoke to have limited their craft solely to the nightlife circuit. It’s one thing to continuously stand out from their party-centric body of work and another to reap glorious financial gains from it alone.
For most of them, survival means sustainability, and the quintessential approach to create their niche is, ironically, by expanding their portfolio.
Away from the dance floor, they’ve reached out everywhere from the aisles of holy matrimony to the pages of magazines and even abstract video art.
Green Day by Aloysius Lim
Aloysius Lim, 34, snaps weddings by day and concerts by night which gave him a wealth of experience to conduct photography classes and recently, being on the judging panel of Canon PhotoMarathon 2013.
Martin Yeoh’s video production crew has travelled across Asia shooting everything from the tranquil settings of a beachfront hotel in Bali to the Formula Drift race in Melbourne.
A party at The Butter Factory by Vincent Chan
While Nicole Lee threads a new world of commercial photography, Dominic Phua, Jana Zilcayova, Olivia Sari-Goerlach, Ungku Ibrahim and Vincent Chan have all carved their own distinctive style in product, interior and fashion photography.
Talking about fashion, Zhi Wei’s previous stint in fashion photography will see him head to the prestigious Parsons Design School in New York next month majoring in the same area of studies.
Afiq Omar is no stranger to the Big Apple. Ahead of being featured in Forbes and VICE, his video art called ‘Ferroux’ was selected as a Vimeo Staff Pick, gained the attention of advertising agency CEMUSA Digital from New York, and was subsequently telecasted across the big screens in Times Square.
Familiarity breeds contempt and perhaps the complete mastery of their craft is as unattainable as it is a driving factor.
Then again, stunning imagery remains a subjective matter and its price tag is seemingly an unwritten collective agreement. But with a handful of these illustrious professionals eyeing bigger gigs outside of the city the question beckons: who will be capturing the heart of the party?
Zul Andra (@zulandra) has a finger on Singapore’s nightlife, music and entertainment pulse and has interviewed hundreds of local and international personalities from the likes of Carl Cox and Lamb of God to BBC TV presenter Simon Reeve. With columns in Esquire, Juice and The New Paper, he currently writes for inSing.com, HungryGoWhere.com, Time Out, Travel+Leisure and Scoot's in-flight magazine. He has also produced editorial content for Musicity and RedBull.sg and maintains an award-nominated blog, Kiss My Culture. Previously a staff writer and web editor at 'I-S' magazine, his work has been published in TODAY, Nylon and ZIGGY.