Fai and his team have documented more than 300 weddings in Singapore and featured in two consecutive issues of the the magazine Her World Brides. It takes not just talent but grit to shine in a saturated photography market, and Fai shares his experience starting from rock bottom.
Never feel discouraged by negative feedback
“The most important thing is to filter out people who are negative and don’t believe in what you do. It can really bring you down, especially in the first couple of years of your business. It’s not like you owe anyone an explanation for how you spend your time. People would often say things like:
“Fai, when do you plan to get a real job?”
Just imagine hearing this after months of marketing and spending late nights on the projects!
It’s quite hard to respond, especially when the hardest people to deal with are the ones closest to you. Most parents want you to have a stable job.””
Find your first stepping stone (and then keep climbing)
“My first photography gig actually came from my mom. She was a make-up artist and invited me to shoot a wedding couple: the groom was Singaporean and the bride was Japanese. It was my first time, and I was so nervous!
I owe a lot to her for this breakthrough and will always consider this event as the anniversary of my company.”
In the beginning, you might need to work for free to build your reputation
“After that, it was two to three years of hard work and dealing with non-believers. In the end, the only thing that matters is your personal conviction. I used most of my National Service pay to get a DSLR camera, studio equipment, flash, and lenses. I also did a lot of weddings free-of-charge to build up my professional portfolio and reach customers.”
Benchmark your progress against your desired salary
“Things became more stable three years later when my income looked similar to other graduates. I mean, you have to gauge your progress. I love what I do, but at the end of the day, we still have to earn!”
Use online resources to hone your skills
Fai shares a few websites he found helpful for finding clients and learning skills:
Do you want the hardcover book of Shopkeeper Stories?
This interview with Fai is featured in a coffeetable book showcasing business owners from a medley of trades in Singapore. The publication was sponsored by the Singapore Business Federation and SG50 Celebration Fund with a lovely cover design from Paperplane, a visual storytelling studio based in Singapore. You can get this book for free!
Shopkeeper Stories is a photographic documentary of small business owners and their trades around the world, sharing their tips and insights. You can connect with the community on Instagram and Facebook @ShopkeeperStories