Be a Freelancer or Run Your Own Company?

“Are you a freelancer or do you have your own company?”

I get this question so, so many times that I can’t ignore it anymore. We, as professional photographers (or creatives) meet so many different clients in our work. Some are not as well-versed into the life of a self-employed person. Perfectly understandable. Here I hope to enlighten both potential clients and aspiring photographers.

Must we Choose between Freelancer and Company?

To clear the air, in Singapore, even if we are a “freelancer” without a boss and working as a one man/woman army, it is encouraged to register your trade/work as a business entity. 

A business entity can be as simple as a sole-proprietorship, or an incorporated company. Hence it is possible to be a “freelancer” and still own your own company or sole-proprietorship (or any other business entity). If you’re an aspiring photographer or creative, I’d still recommend registering your business. Simply because it makes your work official and you’re able to improve your business perception and standing to clients. 

What did I do?

My photography business started off as a sole-proprietorship. Now that I am branching out into film and video marketing, I have incorporated a new company - Affinity Studios Pte Ltd - that focuses on that. Eventually I may let this PLC absorb my sole-proprietorship, or I may just cancel it altogether and have all my work fall under Affinity Studios. 

Benefits of Business Registration

  • Better perceived value.
  • Use of corporate tax instead of personal income tax (if you incorporate a Private Limited Company).
  • Ability to pitch for government projects through GEbiz (correct me if I’m wrong).
  • Keeps you motivated as your work is now official and effort must be made to keep up your reputation and marketing. 

  • How to Photograph Big Group Portraits

    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.

    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:

  • Colour coordination keeps the photo and its people grounded and ‘bound’ to one another.
  • 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.
  • 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!

    Photographing Architectural Cover Shot for The Straits Times

    Plain architectural photos can really bore me. The mass of concrete, glass, wood look stunning and beautifully designed, but it is devoid of that warm human touch. What is a home if it is merely a house without a living soul? I felt it was brilliant that The Straits Times arranged for sweet Sophia and her dog Cookie to pose for this cover photoshoot. Adding people, especially a young girl and a pet, would make shooting much tougher (we’ll get to that below), but the results were worth it! 

     We had a beautiful new house (situated with the Goodwood Grand condominium), a showcase unit, to shoot as we desired. But after some quick scouting, we founds the rooms too small and made to look like a upper-class hotel. The kitchen was likewise very small relative to the house, which is in excess of 5000sq ft. 

    What really stood out for me was the full length windows around the living and dining area. These panels were sliding doors that, when moved, could create a spacious, fresh feel.

    My only gripe was that I could not do justice to the private pool just behind the sofa in the photo. Getting onto an elevated position could have meant capturing too much of the white ceiling, and draw attention away from the people and the interiors.

    In terms of lighting, I went with simplicity, using bounced ceiling light to balance with the exterior exposure, creating a naturalised look. The idea was to get people to think this was all done in one shot without specialised lighting. No, by far the hardest part was to get the right combination of pose, expression and location for our two models.

    Above left is how we ‘cheated’ to get Cookie to stay still, offering fake treats and then quickly slipped away. But when Cookie was perfect, Sophia could have been looking away. This continued for dozens of shots. Even in the final photo (above right), you might have noticed that some cushions had been messed up and we did not have the luxury of rearranging everything when moving from one scene to another. Nevertheless, very happy with the result!