Category archives: Hustle

Story of the DayIf You Are Good At Something, Never Do It For FreeIye, mene ceh. Aba ngundah kayuh pari.

Sounds selfish? In business, it is not. I stumbled upon this while I was browsing through the Youtube videos. This  quote comes from the movie The Dark Knight. It is about The Joker and his underlings . If learnings from business school can be summarised, it is this immortal word from the Joker. Even though this statement might sounds selfish, but there are few good reasons behind it.

Hero Melano. M10-P & APO-50

1. Our Time Is Our True Resource

Nobody in this world can live forever, and every second that passes by is our resources gone by. That time was better spent doing something else, for example spending it to catch up with your family members back in the village, or to BBQ some of the unique delicacies of Sarawak, or even fixing your Grab speedboat to be used to pick your hot Iban girlfriend somewhere at Song. Unless you have taken the vow of charity, every second that you spent outside of these usages should be charged. The charge that you have imposed at least can be used to improve your life and your family, so that you can build a big longhouse mansion for your sulu ati/dayung sangon. Otherwise, you better wish you have a infinite life like Deadpool, and be left “makan hati berulam jantung” because your time was gone to waste and nobody is going to pay for your lost time.

Imagine if these trained professional does it for free, with what they are going to pay their house and car loans? It’s not going to work man. M10-P & APO-50

2. It keeps the business running

Once you receive the payment from whatever art that you have charged, it can be used to pay the dues. For example, in the side business I am running, I need to fix my lenses, camera body and even pay for the transportation/accommodation where it is due. I am using Leica, which is regarded as the Ferrari of cameras, or Rolls-Royce (whatever you call it), so expect the price and the charges I am giving is same par at it as well. When I think about my first amateur commission job, the amount of money that I receive is enough to make me cry red blood because it is sooooooooooo looowwwwwwwwwwwwww that it is not even enough to pay the most basic Leica service charges that Daniel gave to me. Lesson learned – charge accordingly, and consider the economics well before proceed with anything.

You need to have the courage to ask for the price for any technical expert and product that you offer. Otherwise, be prepared to fork out some money from your own and run a losing business. M10-P & APO-50.

If you manage the economics well, and it is compensated with the quality of the final product, then your business will grow. However, being a hardcore Leica M user, please do not look for me if you want to have a shot that uses flash. I do not use flash and only use 50mm lens for my job (35mm for wide angles) because that is my niche, and that is my personal vision. Others might employ a variety of tools for their job, but that is their preferences. That is why we have a lot of photographers, each with their own strength and unique approach. So, pick the one that suits your taste and fits the bill.

3. It Will Motivate You

This one is definitely the one. I am a dedicated guy, a Leica-wielding photographer and has been running around with my M since 2017. So far, my inner flame is enough to ignite everything around me with my M, and my colleagues know how crazy I am with Leica camera. But still, if I get an additional money, it will a good morale booster because it is one way I get appreciated. With this money, I can keep the business running well as well. Otherwise, it will remain as a hobby and not side-hustle. Edwin Lay managed to make his break after years of trying, and he is even kind enough to offer advice to me. What a great soul he is. Happy is the man who can make a living out of his hobby. That is my ultimate dream. However, that does not stop me to always ask around the masters on how to improve my photography to the next level. Every Leica M shooter are always aspire to be as good as Henri-Cartier Bresson, a legendary M photographer. I also felt very lucky to be able to meet people like Mathias Heng, Fulvio Bugani and Thorsten Overgaard – all of them are great Leica photographers. Slowly but surely, I want to improve and be good like them as well.

What you see is just the tip of the iceberg. Behind every successful band/musician, there are thousands of hours spent to perfect the art. M Monochrom & Noctilux50.

 

4. BONUS: Always Remember, You Are Paid Based On Your Experiences As Well.

I have to write this because just now I saw my friend, Mark Julex “MJ” posted –

Selalu jak dengar org persoalkan, “why do I need to pay musicians/band super expensive?” Ingat org isi kereta guna pasir pergi your venue? Ingat org bayar bil elektrik guna oksigen utk practice your songs?

(translation: I always heard that people question why payment for band/musician is super expensive. Do they thought that people fill in the car using sand to go to your venue? Do they think that electricity bill can be paid using oxygen to practice for your song?)

In photography, trainings for that any photographer is not cheap. So is their experiences. If fact, every time you are hiring a photographer, you are not only hiring them for the final images, but for their soul, for their trainings, years of experiences and everything else in between, including their down-times. That is what it takes to make a good photographs. What we see is just barely the tip of the iceberg, so do try to understand their plight as well.

Be Brave Like AF. APO-50 & M10-P.

As a summary, whatever you do, be it singing, painting, emceeing, or even cooking for others, you should not do it for free if you aspire to make a living out of it. Otherwise, that practice is not sustainable and you will not be able to run a successful business. You can always be blunt but remember to be respectful and be professional all the time. Best of luck to you!

 

Midnight RantChallenges in Photography Business...and way forward et cetera...

It has been eleven months since I have started my serious photography, officially with the birth of my Facebook page, Instagram and followed by my official website. During this period, I have witnessed a lot of items, emotional roller-coaster, as well as fighting off my gear acquisition syndrome (GAS) just like many other photographers. Although some might say I am too new in this business, but knowing my worth, I felt like now is a good time for me to summaries the challenges that I felt so far. The career-defining conversation that I had with Marvin sparked something within, and ever since then, it is history.

 

Photography is lot like playing piano. You don’t buy Steinway straightaway. You learn by using Casio plastic piano, then slowly upgrade to Roland, then finally Steinway.

 

Introduction: Transition from DSLR to Rangefinder

For the first time, I think one of the biggest challenge for me is to convince other people that I am currently doing a freelance photography. Before this, I was a hobbyist, I shoot from one event to another so that I can learn the trick of the trade. I still remember that in 2014, when I bought my first DSLR, Nikon D7100, I was quick to made my second purchase, which is Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AF-S. Using it in a DX-body makes it felt like a zoom lens, to my disappointment. Then, I brought my camera to various local events that I attended, like my friend’s Jimmy, Fiona and event company event such as PAMS event at Borneo Rainforest Resort just for fun and to hone my skill. Back then I was not expecting any payment since I know where I am. I was not serious about it back then either. Gear bug bit me, then I upgraded to Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED lens. It is a great lens, and it is one of the three lens, often called Nikon’s “Trinity”, including 14-24 & 70-200mm. However, there is something not right. I realized that with DSLR typically, if I were to go upgrade into better lenses, I will have to sacrifice portability. I have this friend by the name Lai Kar Wei, who always proudly say that his name rhymes with “Leica”. I had no idea what Leica was back then, so I just google it out and made my own research. To cut the story short, I contacted Erica of Leica Store Malaysia and secured my first Leica – silver version M9-P and a 50mm Summilux which I bought from ShaShinKi (Malaysia’s first and largest online camera shop, now with physical shop. Most of my camera gear is bought from ShaShinki. Good customer service, and if you buy Leica gears, Dr Koh, ShaShinKi’s founder, will e-mail you personally instead). I never used any Leica before that, but once I tried Leica, and examined its image quality which has no equal, especially in terms of look, I never looked back. I even lend my Nikon to my cousin for her assignments since I do not need it.

With my Leica, it poses its own challenge as well. It is a manual, save for the the aperture priority mode. Shutter speed, aperture and focus – it is all manual. However, less is more, and now I have full control of my image. I spend no time fiddling around the menus now, and just concentrate on composing and capturing the decisive moment.

My first Nikon (it’s D7100) and my first Leica, M9-P. Look at the size difference. Note that both cameras are full-frame and are using 50mm lens.

 

During this transition from hobbyist to freelancer, you should be very firm with your worth, and it should be backed by your works as well. You cannot claim that your work is professional if it is taken straight from the camera. It has to be post-processed to ensure it meets your own standard. There is a saying that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, but if an image is ugly, no one wants to stash out their hard-earned cash to get it. that is why, you need to be good before people pays you.

Party Shooter Mindset/ Free-Shooter

Every now and then, when I am running my business, there will always be people asking me to take their photo for free. As much as I want to help them with their event, I have to be firm on my decision as well. I have spent so much time and energy to learn how to capture a good photograph, to attend the course to improve my skills, spending time joining events so that I will be exposed to better photographers. Whenever people say that they will promise you an exposure or they will put credits to your photography, that doesn’t really contribute to the bottom-line. You still need to earn cash to breakeven. Otherwise, you are running a failed business. My advise is, be firm with your stance, charge your clients as per the agreed business. Know your worth. If your potential client is not willing to fork out cash to pay you to pay you in full but still demand the best of your service, just politely tell them that you cannot accept that kind of offer and advise them to look for another photographer. Facebook or Instagram is a great tool to publicise your works, but the hard truth is, “likes” won’t pay your bill. Like it or not, if you wish to make a living from photography, you need to get yourself paid. Otherwise, you cannot sustain your photography and it will be come a liability (read: takes money away from your pocket).

Underestimation of Event

One thing that I always advise my potential client is to look at the importance of the event they are going to have. If that event is not very important, then they may consider using their own smartphone to capture the moments. However, if an event only happens once in their lifetime, like wedding or first birthday for your dear children, then you might consider hiring a specialised photographer to capture the events, but at a considerable price. Why I say like this is because I do not want to regret either you hire a relatively new photographer with low asking fee, but with the cringe-worthy image quality. In this case, it is better to spend extra cash to hire a good photographer. Wedding photography is always on demand, provided your image quality is astonishing, has its own “WOW” factor and tells a story without saying a word, just like Ronan Keating’s song. For wedding reception, it is always best to hire someone who knows exactly what will happens next. Every photographer should be briefed prior the event, and is alert to the Master of Ceremony’s announcement.

 

Way Forward

Let’s face the fact, it is not easy to make money from photography. You can open your shop for days, for months, and no one knocks on your door. That is if no one knows what you are doing. You can have the most sophisticated DSLR on Earth, best lens or the most expensive lens money can buy, but still you are out of job. What would you do then?

I would say, change your approach. Quoting Einstein, to repeat the same approach again and again and expecting different result is madness. It is time to reflect back what went wrong.

What would you do? I would find my way to make things happen. If your skill is not good enough, then learn from the best. Take photography classes or you can even find the specific subject that you want to learn from Youtube or any other sources, although I would suggest you to learn from the masters. I attended Fulvio Bugani’s masterclass once, and it is an eye-opening session. I also went to Mathias Heng’s class also, where he tought his approach to photography, particularly Leica street photography. Gears should not be an issue if you are already using a high-end gear. You can use beginner’s gear, but the end result would largely depend on your skills. Just like a warrior and a blunt sword. The sword will not add up to his skill, but it will make his life easier when he wants to carry out his task. Even John Wick can kill with a pencil, but it does take him some time for him to kill. Let’s say he is using his Beretta, it will take less than two shots for him to kill. Same goes to photography. Better tool will enable you to

To learn, better spend your money on gears appropriate to your skill set first. Then as you know more, you can add up your gear. Don’t go directly. You’ll regret it later. Better start with small, but consistent steps until you arrive. Trust me, you can do it. God bless.

Most importantly, find someone who will support you in ups and downs, because otherwise, your morale will plummet so fast and you’ll hit rock bottom.

Regards,
Claudius

p.s. check out my works at my Facebook Page, Claudius Weson Photography.

Another Claudius BlogDealing With Frustration in Photography

Photography, just like any other field of profession, is susceptible to frustration. Photographers, especially the professionals are also get rejected most of the time. Have you ever experienced long time ago, back in the 90s, where there is this one old man, carrying film camera that goes from one event to another event, which often “forces” kids to gather around and he proceed to take a photo? That uncle, commonly known as Chai Ko Chat (not sure if this is the real name, but most of Serian folks know him, very famous guy). When he tried to gather a group of adults and take their photo, often he gets ridiculed. But he seems to give no attention to them and still move on? Have you ever wonder?

When I was still 9 years old, I have no idea how camera works. I only saw one at my friends house, Ken Efferson. His family has this one non functioning camera that I admire due to its mechanical complexity. However, I never had the chance to know the camera better, but it is a black, film camera, that looks something like Nikon or maybe Canon, the common household names at Serian. As I grew older, I started to take more interest in photography, mainly because our secondary school projects requires us to take photo. However, not yet, the passion is yet to hit me until 9 years later. That is an interesting story on its own, and I wish to save it for another blog post.

Back to dealing with frustration, I observed that there is only few differences between a professional and an amateur. The biggest one is, a professional fails more than an amateur ever tried. A professional produces more bad photos than the amount of photos an amateur ever produced in their lifetime. More failure means that the professional is more exposed to frustration, and yet they did not succumb to it, but rather thrive. Why?

They are passionate.

Without passion, do you think Henri-Cartier Bresson will be able to become a professional photographer? If you are more concerned on making money from photography, and worse, your passion for money is greater than your passion for photography itself, then you will frustrated easily in your first few years. The first few years is very important for a rising photographer to build up their reputation. Without reputation, the business won’t grow. Surely passion will drive things around, but what is the point if people don’t trust your work? You can be a pure artist instead.

Dealing with frustration can be divided into two main parts – internal factor and external factor.

1. Internal Factor

Dealing with yourself is very difficult, because you are your own worst enemy, or your best ally. It depends on how do you perceive frustration. If you are frustrated if you don’t get a good feedback from your clients, don’t be. Your are just doing your job, delivering your work as per your promise to your client and in the end of the day, what matters most is that you are happy with whatever you have done, unless you are not giving your all during the event and its post-processing.

The similar root of frustration can be traced back to your own expectation. For example, I am shooting an event with a Leica M9 only, an obviously purely manual digital camera (save for the Aparture priority mode and auto-ISO, although I never use auto-ISO) and Leica 35mm Summilux f/1.4 ASPH FLE (the best 35 mm lens ever!).  There were many photos taken, but none seems to be up to my taste because I was taking photo of people playing football and all were out of focus, tiny subject and dimly-lit environment.

Second example, with the same camera and lens, I am shooting at a wedding event (in fact, most of my wedding event is using this formidable combination). I had a better shot since the event is at indoor arena and is having a good lighting. However, some of the photos, especially the dancing part, is problematic due to the fast movements of the dancers and mostly were done in low light areas to attract less attention.

So, how you deal with this internally? What I would suggest you to do is to do a short reflection on yourself, and try to identify the areas you are not working well and the areas that can be improved further. If you are telling me you don’t have any other area to improve, you are lying to yourself. Once you have done your reflection, then you can try to apply it again. Try not to do things you will regret later. Your reputation is at stake.

 

2. External Factor

Dealing with yourself is very difficult, but dealing with others is much more complicated. The frustration can come from all unmet expectations, that is where we can learn from all of the others. The best person to teach you what to improve is from the difficult person, those who is willing to voice out what others is only thinking or talk behind you. For this external factor, since it is beyond your control, then you must try to get an agreement from all of the parties involved with the project. Getting their expectation right to the angles is crucial to ensure no backlash from them. Also, I prefer if you can create a black and white to ensure no one is crossing anyone on this matter. Otherwise, if there is any, then you can easily refer to the agreement. At least with this, you minimises your chances of getting hit by the unhappy clients.

However, if there is any frustration occurs, then you would need to consult your friends. That is the importance of having a group of friends that you know you can rely on during emergencies.

 

That’s all I have for this dealing with frustration. It is already 0111hrs at GMT+8. Good night!