We kick off our PROFILES section with an interview with the ever effervescent Shavonne Wong, an award-winning Singaporean fashion photographer.
With eight years of experience under her belt, Shavonne has photographed in London, New York, Israel, Hong Kong, Philippines as well as Indonesia – and has worked with a number of big name clients like Sephora, Lancôme, Cosmopolitan HK. Shavonne is even a returning guest photographer on Asia’s Next Top Model.
LC: Give us some background about your experience as a photographer
SW: Even though I tell people I’m a photographer, I don’t really see myself as just a photographer. Frankly speaking photography also wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do. I’m not the most technical person for that matter, so earlier on when I looked at photography as an artistic medium, I initially thought that perhaps it would be too difficult from a technical standpoint for me to take on. Really all I wanted was to express myself artistically and after picking up a camera and “playing with it”, it has proven to be the best outlet for me to express my perspective on the world.
Technical aspects obviously matter but above that is the intent and idea of the image. Art, fashion photography and everything in between isn’t an exact science. As long as the intent and idea is pure, high level and meaningful then everything else becomes secondary.
LC: How was Asia’s Next Top Model experience, and what was your craziest story from the shoot?
It was a lot of fun but nothing too crazy happened. Working with the organisers and hosts was really fulfilling as these people are true professionals as well as leaders in the industry! To be chosen to take part in that was obviously thrilling and humbling. In terms of crazy stories, as mentioned, nothing much. Last year though someone fainted during her shoot with me! I swear I didn’t work them too hard! It was just super hot that day! Someone also fainted during my episode this year but not during her shoot with me. I certainly hope to be invited back next year and I certainly hope my episodes won’t involve any fainting!
This year they also had dogs on set as part of the shoot and as most photographers know, animals and babies are the hardest to shoot. Although that wasn’t totally crazy, it was certainly a challenge.
LC: Do you have any crazy photography stories you can share from all the countries you’ve traveled for work?
While in NYC, I once put together a crew consisting of a:
- model dressed in a huge pink wig
- another model as a clown
- a makeup artist and stylist with huge luggages
- me with all my gear while dragging a big black garbage bag holding a bear costume (that also looked like it could be a dead body)
This collection of circus characters took the train from Manhattan all the way to Coney Island which is a pretty big distance. Thankfully though we were in New York so nobody even blinked at the parade of craziness. That’s how you know you’re in NYC, everybody is just too used to weird things happening in the streets there.
LC: Lets get technical, tell us, what camera and equipment do you?
My main gear is a 5Dmk2 along with 3 prime lens, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm.
LC: Everyone’s an aspiring street and lifestyle photographer nowadays and thanks to Instagram, they have an audience. What would you say is the biggest mistake most amateur photographers make?
Paying too much attention to gear. Honestly, what a phone camera can do nowadays is already so much better than the gear professional photographers used not so long ago. They still managed to take good photos then and so there should be no excuse now. It’s clearly not about the gear, but about the eye. Work on the eye and the ideas and the work will be good!
LC: This region’s weather is unpredictable, to say the least, so how do you still take those perfect outdoor photos in dim light?
Honestly, sometime it’s just making do! When the weather is just a little cloudy, I sometimes also bring out my Profoto A1 light to give my images a little pop. However I have also cancelled shoots over bad weather. Focus on what you can control and make the best of the situation.
LC: What is the one piece of equipment other than a camera, you think is essential for any aspiring photographer?
Well my go-to lens has always been my 50mm 1.8. Cheap and good!
LC: Can you share your top three tips for taking the perfect portrait when you’re out and about in town?
Light is most important. Try and place yourself in the most flattering light possible. That can be during the golden hour or by the window. If you have to shoot in the noon sun, either try and find shade or tilt your head up so you don’t get unflattering dark eye circles
Explore and survey your locations. Look out for colour contrasts or patterns that you like and consider how it matches with what you’re wearing.
While posing, separate your limbs from your body. Squishing your limbs to your body looks unflattering and makes you look blocky. Create shapes with your limbs and that’ll help make you image look less boring and flat.
LC: Our last question, what advice would you give the next generation of Singaporean photographers?
Find out what you like and shoot that. Don’t be a second grade version of somebody else. You’ll never be better than them. Just like how nobody can be a better version of you than you.
If you would like to contact Shavonne, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her Zhiffy Photography here.