Category: Blog

How I Merged Body Paint and Photoshop Trickery to do Green Lantern Cosplay

green lantern cosplay using body paint and not actual costume. Merged with Photoshop special effects

When I started out in photography, it was in the realm of photojournalism. I enjoyed the raw, authentic nature of emotions on show, and it allowed the introvert in me to document as an observer. It brought me to become a photojournalist with The Straits Times for three years. If there was any kind of ‘artist’ in me, it was that inner yearning that made me venture out. 

Today I am experimenting more, not just in concepts (like my SGXY series) but also in execution and post-production. I’m so thankful that my brilliant make-up artist Jean is also an expert in special effects. With so many cosplay photos of superheros and anime characters out there, why not jump right out of the box and off the table and do something potentially bizarre? 

Body painting is an arduous process, I can see how actors can spend hours doing make-up and effects in a big sci-fi movie production. It took Jean almost 2 hours to paint just half the model’s body, and most of it is just black! 

For the actual photoshoot, I particularly wanted to stay away from the soft light look that is so prevalent in fashion or corporate portraits. With the whole body-painting concept an experiment in itself, I wanted to push beyond my comfort zone when it came to lighting. 

Using 2 speedlights with grids (aka. eggcrates) placed left and right behind the model, I’d get harsh backlight to outline the model. As the superhero character was Green Lantern, this fit in perfectly since his powers give him a ‘glow’ anyway. Rounding off is a fill light from the front. As you can see, this version of Green Lantern costume is modeled after Ryan Reynold’s in the recent film adaptation (which wasn’t too good, in my opinion), hence no white gloves or white patches in the torso area like in the comics. 

Post-production was the most painful part of the process. Just to remind you I had zero formal training in Photoshop special effects editing, and everything I had known was self-taught. Thankfully I picked up some tips online on how to create the Green Lantern’s glow (by using layer styles), and I found a nice flare, turned it to lime green, and used it for his Power Ring. 

If there was one thing I wish I could’ve done better, it’d be making the sword construct much more realistic, as though it was really made out of pure energy. I imagine putting some fiery fizzle over the blade would help, but I just don’t know to create that effect. If anyone out there is a Photoshop wizard and wouldn’t mind sharing, please drop me a comment or e-mail!

Green Lantern is just the start of it. We’re hoping to do other superheroes and villains once we’ve figured out the logistics. “Beware my power, Green Lantern’s light!”

Star Wars Brings a Galaxy of Difference Together

Star Wars fans, despite being crazily passionate and vehemently opposed to Trekkies (Star Trek fans), are all about community. We carry so many stories – different experiences of how this saga has shaped our lives, perspectives, and values. Essentially, we are as different as human beings can get, but it is this bond – The Force, if you will –  that binds us together.

I was really surprised to hear the news a few years ago that George Lucas would be selling the entire franchise to Disney. Great because Disney has the resources to take the story further as Lucas was adamant on not creating more films, but sad because corporate sensibilities would be taking over a visionary’s dream. How will this sale affect the saga? That story is still being written.

Our story, as fans, is going on strong. We’ve had Episode VII: The Force Awakens last year, and now for the second year running a massive fan screening was held. Tremendously grateful for the organizers Hansen and Suhaimi (de facto leaders of our community) to give me the opportunity to capture this giant group shot. It’s far from a perfect photo, even I’d admit that, but it’s with great pride that I had a hand in creating it. Being a part of this community means a lot to me. Find one that you feel strongly about, and the rest will fall into place.

The SGXY Calendar Will Bring Sexy Back in 2017

Unique SGXY 2017 Calendars by Ted Chen for pre-order. Perfect gift for family, friends and clients/customers.

It amazes me how each year passes by more quickly than any before. Looking back, I’m sure our first reactions are that nothing much happened. Every year the same right?

But in February I got to see the Aurora in Norway for the first (and likely only) time, and just a few months ago I moved in to my own, humble 3-room flat – all clear indications of change and experience. In the world of photography, completing my personal project SGXY (which I had shared in a previous e-mail) was a sweet accomplishment.

That’s why I’m teaming up with graphic designer Han Yew Hock to create this calendar series for 2017. It includes six A5 double-sided month cards, featuring 12 photos from the SGXY series. Check out the photos below:

Unique SGXY 2017 Calendars by Ted Chen for pre-order. Perfect gift for family, friends and clients/customers.

It also includes a do-it-yourself frame to hang the cards on! These are etched out by laser and provides a nice, personal touch should you decide to give it as a gift to family, friends, or even clients. If your clients are international, all the better as this calendar showcases the funky intricacies of Singapore culture!

Unique SGXY 2017 Calendars by Ted Chen for pre-order. Perfect gift for family, friends and clients/customers.

Each set sells for S$24.90, and with bulk orders of 10 (15% off) and 20 or more (25% off) you’ll receive a nice discount. If you’d like to place a pre-order, please e-mail me by November 22 at As long as pre-orders hit 50 pieces, production will go ahead. What are you waiting for? 🙂

Unique SGXY 2017 Calendars by Ted Chen for pre-order. Perfect gift for family, friends and clients/customers.


The Joys and Pitfalls of Big Group Portraits

Stylised and dynamic big group portraits by photographer Ted Chen

There’s a saying “the simple life is a happy life.” That can be applied to the world of portrait photography too. Nevertheless, things get complicated when shooting a good big group portrait.

For one, there are a lot more people to direct, and that’s where posing can become a challenge. Location is another, because the place you choose to make the image could also break it.

Shooting a single person’s portrait may be ‘simpler,’ while a big group setting is infinitely more stressful, there is really a great amount of satisfaction and fulfillment when a large group portrait comes together.

Medtronic Singapore group photo by portrait photographer Ted Chen

There’s amazing dynamism seeing a group of colleagues/friends/family captured in that one single moment, as though all is right in their world and the invisible bonds that tie them together are wound up tight. As a portrait photographer, there’s a sense of calm when I see a beautiful group portrait. While not every photo turns out great, I’ve noticed over time that there are certain factors that immensely contribute to a shoot’s success:

  1. Colour coordination keeps the photo and its people grounded and ‘bound’ to one another.
  2. A large space/setting is needed, so as to not restrict the possibilities of what a photo can become. In a tight location, a photographer is limited to certain angles and focal lengths, which isn’t a good thing. I know, it’s tough in land-scarce Singapore, but remember there’s always the great outdoors.
  3. Good lighting adds ‘pop.’ While I love using natural light in some instances, having sufficient and well-placed lights make the photo stand out.

Shooting large group portraits (like any other sub-genre) is an art and often situational. Every shoot has its challenges, and there’s always a lesson to take away from it. If you’ve discovered a few tricks of your own, would really like to hear from you in the comments below!

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