Promises are Meant to be Broken Not

Dejection, disappointment, frustration – these are just part and parcel of lives. However, within this two years of my life, I have been encountering them probably on a weekly basis on average.

It all begins with my photography journey, from a total rookie to a confident photographer who has a portfolio solid enough for models and clients to approach me regularly.

Sometimes, people will ask me how I have managed to find so many models. I will tell them honestly that every beginner has to approach his friends or pay for freelance models, and when people start seeing nice work from him, they will approach him instead. Unfortunately most of the new portraiture photographers who can afford to pay for freelance models are mostly into sexy hotel kind of shoot and thus their skill is more difficult to be improved since they have to think with two heads during every shoot.

Only experienced portraiture photographers can understand the hardship I have gone through all these while. For every 10 potential or cannot-make-it models you approach, depending on your personality and popularity, probably three will be discussing enthusiastically with you. However, out of the three, two will promise to “get back to you” once they have gotten their schedule. The final one is quite likely to postpone the shoot once somehow.

Even after I have started taking projects from clients, I would still need to look out for potential models to collaborate for themes that no good-looking client will be paying for, partly for marketing purposes. There are also some friends whom I wish to take nice photos and do good write-ups about them. Model-wannabes of all shapes and looks have been approaching me. With all the friends and model-wannabes who have talked-about-heaven-and-sea with me, it is no surprise that I have been facing huge number of empty promises.

“No matter how often people are breaking their promises to me, I would never play the same game to hurt others.”

Some people say “promises are meant to be broken” but I will never agree with it; this theory is simply from people in despair and I uphold my principles till this day.

Also, I have this good friend telling me that those people who have promised me anything are nice enough to have promised me, which I have to disagree. If you are not interested in something that can benefit you as well, do not waste time and then cause more severe disappointments.

Of course, how many people still keep promises nowadays? The very few losers.

Fake Friends

The feeling of people ignoring your texts and festival greetings, and only return to you when they need help is bad. Would you consider them as your friends?

How about someone who spams you to LIKE certain photo for a Facebook competition and becomes hibernate when you ask for a return favour to LIKE yours?

They are lower-grade than hi-bye friends.

If you have met such people, don’t bother to get angry because they are just everywhere. Nevertheless, they do give you the assurance that they are not worth much of your time. Skip them and spend your time on better people.

Ridiculous After-Sales Service from Gain City

I purchased a front-loading washing machine (brand Electrolux) from the Gain City fair at EXPO on 1st November 2013. The order number was SORCS-80050274.

The salesman, Gary Kee, from the Elextrolux booth was very approachable and with the information given, we chose the brand despite there were quite a number of cheaper alternatives for the same basic specifications.

My family was in need of a washing machine badly to replace our spoiled one and thus we got the earliest delivery appointment, which happened to be on 5th November 2013 in between 4-7pm. The old washing machine had caused quite a big dispute among my family. The urgency was the reason why my mum and I had rushed down to the fair on its very first day.

On the delivery day itself, the delivery-man (phone number 93847140) called me at 12.19pm and said that he would reach my place at 1.30pm, which was a few hours earlier than the scheduled time (4-7pm). I thought it would be good for my side since we could use the machine earlier to clear the days of unwashed clothes and I gladly agreed. I changed my personal plan in order to receive them at the amended timing.

Two Malay men arrived at around 1.30pm to clear my old washing machine and fixed up the new one fast. Since I thought Gain City was a big company and that Electrolux was an old brand, I did not do thorough checking. Besides I was also not familiar with washing machine since I had not even used my old one. I played a good host to the two gentlemen and even offered them packet drinks before they left.

Earlier on during the purchasing day, despite repeated prompts from us, the salesman insisted the wasted water release hose that was routed upwards and clipped on the top corner could not be detached. Since we had been using top-loading washing machine all along, we were totally clueless about the system of front-loaders. We were shocked but glad when the delivery-men detached the hose from the corner of the new washing machine, such that the hose was long enough to be dragged into my bathroom, which also meant that my mum had wasted her effort and money to purchase a hose extender. It seemed that the salesman had given us a silly wrong information (he was right actually – read on to find out why).

The nightmare came right after the delivery-men left. We tried using the new washing machine by pouring detergent in and we realised the compartment could not be closed fully. We were told by the salesman that water would be splashed into the compartment to load the detergent into the main compartment, and logically thinking, the detergent compartment had to be closed fully if we did not want any water to spill out.

We tried calling Gain City but nobody picked up the phone. After some trying, I decided to contact the delivery-man who called me earlier instead. It was 2pm and just less than half an hour upon the delivery time. The man told me he was already at Bukit Merah – my location was Tanjong Pagar. I told him the problem of the detergent compartment and he insisted the washing machine was designed this way. As I insisted, the delivery-man promised to return.

My family (mum, sister-in-law and I) waited at home for the delivery-men until 6pm. Then, we called Gain City directly again and managed to get through. The staff helped us to arrange with the same delivery-men to return at around 7.30pm, which they did. After some reasoning with the delivery-men, they finally admitted it was a defect. One of them made a phone call (probably back to his office) and he claimed the product was perfect during delivery just because I had signed the paper to verify that I had received it. He also told the person over the phone that we had contacted him over the defect an hour later (it was definitely less than half an hour, inclusive of the time we had tried to contact Gain City directly).

Logically and obviously, the product arrived with the detergent compartment not able to be closed completely and the delivery-men had initially claimed it was designed to be that way. By insisting that the washing machine was built that way (“spoiled”) as it arrived, the delivery-men had indirectly admitted that it arrived as a defected product. It was stupid for them to point fingers at us just to get away with it.

I received a call from Electrolux (phone number 65078699) on the next morning (Wednesday) and was informed that the technician could only drop by my place on the next day. This means that if it happened that the defected washing machine had to be replaced (which we hoped), it would take more days for the new one to come.

Gain City could have replaced the new washing machine and settled the defected product with Electrolux directly. Eventually, the problem was pushed to Electrolux and we had to wait for Electrolux’s technician, who happened to be so busy that we had to wait until the third day.

If you were the consumer who had to waste so much time in order to get a proper washing machine, such that your household laundry could not be done for days, how would you feel?

These were the initial conclusions I had drawn from the entire incident:
– Gain City’s salesmen did not know their products well (I was wrong)
– Gain City’s delivery-men did not know their products well
– Gain City’s staffs would try all ways to push away their responsibility, inclusive of insisting defected products were designed the way
– Electrolux’s products were not as great as I had heard, such that their technicians were overloaded with servicing of their customers’ problems with the products

I was furious when I realised I had to wait for another day for the technician to come over. The thought of the blaming game forced me to email both Gain City and Electrolux to get advice whether there was any way I could get my new washing machine ready/fixed sooner than the next (third) day and if Gain City or Electrolux would send manpower down to hand-wash my clothes before the new machine was settled (sarcasm of course!).

I attached four images:

1. Phone log from my phone. The delivery-man arrived at around 1.30pm and I managed to contact them in less than half an hour upon they left, inclusive of the time I tried to contact Gain City directly. It was never as claimed by them that I contacted them about the defect after more than an hour.

2. The back of the washing machine. The salesman gave us the wrong information that the hose could not be detached from the back where there’s a screw (top left of photo). If the hose has to be routed from bottom to the screw part, it would not be long enough to be pulled to the bathroom to release the dirty water, and thus my mum had bought an extender.

3. Side view of the washing machine. This is the main problem. The detergent compartment cannot be closed completely and the delivery-men initially insisted it was meant to be like that.

4. Front view of the washing machine. Obviously, no designer would design the compartment to be not aligned with the main body when closed.

Gain City ignored my email but a gentleman from Electrolux called me directly to assure me that his technician would fix all the problems. Furthermore, he told me that the delivery-men from Gain City should not have detached the hose behind – the salesman was right after all.

Electrolux’s technician arrived as scheduled. He was a very friendly man around my age who helped to entertain my mum while he worked. He opened up the washing machine and hammered something inside to loosen the detergent compartment. He said one possible cause was that the washing machine was knocked during delivery. Then, he also attached the hose at the back, telling us that the water might flow out continuously if the hose was not placed at a higher place. He brought along a very hard hose to extend the existing one for us. Things were sweetened by the gentleman.

A week later, my mum noticed that the pail she placed besides the washing machine was filled with water. There was a few times when the floor was wet as well. It happened that all of us had used the washing machine during that period of time. We were all wondering if one of us had been forgetting to place the end of the hose to the bathroom while using it. After some inspections, we realised the hose attached to the tap was not properly joined by the Gain City delivery-men and thus some water was dripping.

Eventually, I could only conclude that the Gain City’s delivery-men knew nothing about their products. After sales service was disgustingly terrible. They did not even care to apologise for the problem they had caused.

My advice for all customers of Gain City is to make the delivery-men stay behind during the delivery to make sure the process of washing the clothes by the new washing machine is completed without any problem before signing any document to acknowledge receiving the product before “releasing” them.

Year 2013 – Year of Stagnant & Frustration

My year 2013 was full of downs. It was a year when things were not moving fast enough.

Family

My elder brother finally got married. There was not much difference since his wife aka my sister-in-law had been staying with us for more than half of the weeks for many years. A joy for my mum was that she needed not be working super hard to find out if both my elder brother and his wife would be joining us for dinner everyday. There was less grumble about this and thus relieving some stress from me.

Luckie was one of my greatest problems apart from the joy and comfort he had given to me. As I was staying at home most of the time, he had been posing lots of troubles to me. I had to clear his pee and poo and he would pester me to bring him down for a walk every now and then. My elder brother would usually lock him out of the bedroom at night and I would still be the one clearing all the shit since my younger brother was not at home most of the time. Luckie was unofficially an abandoned dog since his daddy had been neglecting him as I could use my fingers to count the number of times my elder brother had brought him out of the house. There was a period of time when I felt so bad for Luckie that I tried to bring him down almost every weekday but I gave up, knowing my elder brother would continue to neglect him if he knew someone was taking good care of Luckie. Whenever I thought of the moment I told my elder brother that I would not be free to help to take care of a dog before we brought Luckie home, I felt stupid.

My younger brother moved over to his good friend Derrick’s place for some months as it was nearer to his school. That was a period of time when I became even more stress since he was the one who would settle everything in my house, including sorting out bills and my mum. I was also worried about his safety, especially his illness, when I could not get to see him during weekdays.

Money was the greatest evil in the universe. My family was plagued with issues with money as usual that often I wished I could just move out of the house to avoid torment of my ears. Basically, my mum continued to grumble at my elder brother frequently for she expected him to help out with the household expenditure, including grocery. My younger brother also joined in to nag over the wastage of electricity. Things got better eventually after some dramas. I felt our relationships had improved a lot and the bond was strong.

My mum gave me one of the greatest headaches as usual, behaving like a child most of the time. It would not going to be fun when you already had big problems with your work and someone kept asking you obvious or stupid questions, grumbling over small things or repeating stories over the phone near you. For example, she would watch her favourite Taiwanese drama and turned over to ask what was happening in the show when obviously I was busy with my stuff to even care about the noisy television.

Friends

As I was stuck with work and photography, and facing financial downtime, I did not get to go out with many friends. At times, I rejected gathering invitations in order to cut down on expenditure and it was difficult to make people believe how bad my situation was – besides, I was really busy, with many non-profitable stuffs though. The person I went out most with was Gilbert. Even for my volleyball gang, there was limited number of beach outing and there were groups within group. I did a few voluntary work with the voluntary gang and the experience with them was fulfilling. The few get-together sessions with my younger brother and our common friends were excellent. I got to meet up with old friends like Hoay Min, Guoxin, Xiuwen, Mike and Wanling etc. There was a rare occasion of meet-up with ex primary school friends and unfortunately I had not been keeping touch with them and could not remember the childhood encounters with most of them. I also attended quite a few wedding dinners and was a loner at a couple of the tables. I got to meet quite a number of new friends through photography but I was not able to keep in touch with most of them. Irwin returned to Singapore a few times but I only managed to meet up with him for once.

I learned to distinguish between net friends and real life friends, as well as true friends and fine weather friends. I was, however, still trying to learn to lower down my expectation for people in order not to torture myself. If you were to treat others very good, do not ever expect them to treat you even half as good. Sometimes, I just felt too guilty when friends like Gilbert treated me too well because there was nothing I could offer to him as a buddy.

Somehow, I felt very isolated sometimes despite I had quite a few groups of caring friends. There was no close friend who stayed near me and shared the same hobby – photography.

Health

Ah Pa introduced her friend, Dickson, to me and with his knowledge and experience in Chinese medication, my back problem improved a lot, even though it was still haunting me. I got sick less frequently than before ever since I started taking manuka honey, keeping the usual sore throat, cough and flu away from me most of the time. However, my right arm gave me pain for many months due to beach volleyball. At the last quarter of the year, I also sprained or slightly dislocated my fingers after holding onto the camera for too long hours without rest.

I rarely exercised. It was the thought that I could have spent the time to bring Luckie down for a stroll that placed me in a deep dilemma. He could not run for long.

Relationship

At the beginning of the year, I got close to a girl but she was too busy to keep in touch with me after a week. Then, I realised she was not the one for me. I was never close to any girl despite getting to know many nice girls, especially through photography; in fact, I was too engrossed in photography that most of my chats were just discussions about the shoots. At least I could stand tall to say that I did not use photography as an excuse to get closer to girls.

No girl was able to spend time with me and I would never want to go into a relationship that I could only get to see my girlfriend once every fortnight.

I was also never anxious about getting a girlfriend given my financial situation. Perhaps, I had become a boring person with the countless numbers of worries and problems in my mind. I agreed that nice girls would not mind about my current financial status but I would mind if I could not give my girl a comfortable life. I would rather let nature take its own course.

The route to starting a family was not within my line of sight. I was, perhaps, depressed over the price of HDB flats. The supposed-to-be public housing to make sure every Singaporean had a roof over his head was more like a money-generating tool to push GDP up, so that the rich could become richer. I was not confident, at the moment, that I could afford a house in future.

Finance

I could hardly sustain my life despite I had been ill-treating myself. Income was at all time low since my NS days while I had to continue to give “protection money” every month, which was much more than I would spend on myself. CPF’s medisave extortion and life insurance added on to my burden. Basically, I was draining my saving every month with my bank account getting lighter. I got some of the cheapest camera gears but they were enough to weigh me down further more – photography was an expensive hobby and trade.

Most people who knew me well would know about my thriftiness but many did not realise that I was actually not earning much income. Almost everyone did not know I was in fact making negative income due to various financial loads as mentioned above. It was a joke when there were people who still tried to borrow money from met. Obviously they knew I was a very soft guy, and thus they would rather approach me than other mutual friends who were doing very well. This had helped me to reflect a lot on myself.

Due to the income problem, I hesitated a lot over to upgrade my photography gears that would bring me to a higher level. It affected me tremendously mentally.

On a better note, I would never get starved because I was thrifty and there were many kind people surrounding me. Before my saving could exhaust, I would have done better.

Work

My tuition agency was in a bad state as a few of the more consistent coordinators had left or taking up fewer assignments, and SEO was not well. ET got into a Taiwanese singing competition, Super Idol 8, and he had less time to help out, which resulted in a great fall of revenue since he was a very good worker. Unfortunately, the business model was more about helping parents than making big bucks – I knew of more ways that was less manpower intensive. Since it was my only source of income, it explained how bad my financial state was at. On a brighter side, I was also able to spend more time on picking up photography. That was because I was too lazy and frustrated to work on more features on my website.

I had to spend hours on my work everyday, including weekends. The workload was never consistent but the administration work had to be done daily. The least I had to do was to go through every new and updated tutors’ profiles, and also their submitted documents. I had to do SEO at least once in a couple of days. I had to be consistent with these because I placed myself in the tutors’ shoes that I would be anxious about my account and documents statuses. As for SEO, it would fall badly and would take many months or even years to pick up. Nobody understood how much effort I had to put in daily in order for my tuition agency to be recognised.

The most frustrating thing was that most people would think that I was very free. My time was very flexible but I was never free. I did not like the feeling of being the default person to handle everything whenever shit happened. If things had to be done, they had to be done and I would suck my thumb to settle them but not if being forced to. In other words, I hated to be taken granted of. This was pushing me to give up and simply get a “8 to 5” job instead. A pity that I was a very determined person. I had to work smarter but it was never easy to learn.

Photography

I spent most of my time on photography. I went through countless number of Youtube videos and websites. I took lots of time to go through potential models’ photos, discuss with them, shoot and do the post-processing work, which included filtering the photos and photoshopping. Unfortunately, lots of time for pre-shooting was wasted because of “models” who were wasting my time. It was very frustrating when things were confirmed and the other parties called them off out of a sudden or simply went MIA (missing-in-action).

Through photography, I was able to talk to more people but at the same time, I was also distanced away from many people. In fact, I was too focused in photography that I hardly kept in touch with my models after the shoots. Nevertheless, some of them were in relationship and I had to maintain a safe distance with them. I was also able to find out who were my true friends eventually.

Portrait photoshoot was very tough on me since I was too soft when dealing with my models and the shoots usually did not turn up half as good as I had expected. I was never a commanding person – even when I was lecturing in ITE, I would never instruct any student to help me in anything simple. I did learn a lot but the progress was never fast enough as there were too many things to learn at the same time while my gears were limited. In fact, I had to learn how to use the gears, see lighting, get good composition, watch out for model’s appearance and makeup, and pose the model at the same time.

Tricia guided me a lot through her experience but her critics killed my confidence often. I had problems communicating with her at times because of her extremely serious typing errors in Facebook messenger. There were too much expectation on me, pouring pressure and stress over my helplessness. Sometimes I felt like I was trying to fly before I had learned how to even crawl. Throughout the entire year, I spent most of my days in depression because of the photos I owed people despite I had warned them of the long timeframe before the shoot. I was more anxious than the models to get the photos done so that I could move on to other shoots. Tricia was too busy to go through the photos with me but without her catching errors on the photos (mostly due to makeup and hair), the final photos would not turn out to be good.

I got to realise the limitation of my first DSLR camera – Sony NEX F3 mirrorless. The auto focus speed was simply too slow and I could not expect the models to pause their expression, especially during event shoot. It did not come with a hotshoe and I could not attach an external flash without buying an additional costly adapter. I bought my Canon 650D but things did not go smoothly. I realised the cropped factor of the body was 1.6x, which was lousier than Sony NEX F3’s 1.5x – 1x (full frame) was the best. Since Sony was using Carl Zeiss lens, the quality was much better as well. Canon’s 50mm F1.8 lens was far lousier than Sony’s. Therefore, it was actually a downgrade of image quality that I could never get used to and in fact, it was affecting me badly. Instead of working on my creativity during the shoots, I was badly distracted by the quality of images. I lost my confidence ever since the switch. I knew I needed a better camera.

AFter I got both my photography website and Facebook page up, there were more models approaching me for photoshoot. However, most of them were not serious. Unfortunately, I was someone who would be putting in my best effort every time. I was also disappointed by the results of my Facebook marketing, such that the number of fans for a start was far less than what I had expected.

Through photography, I had learned a lot, especially on human. Most people would not bother much if things were to come for free. I had tasted lots of fake enthusiasm. At least, I was comforted by the existence of great friends, especially Tricia.

Bad Encounters with Online Sellers in Singapore

For certain thing such as photography, your skill is restricted to your equipments. I may not be an excellent photographer yet, but I’m already being annoyed by the restriction, such that my full potential cannot be shown. My current camera bodies cannot give me the clarity of photos that I need to impress (to get businesses); my flash is not powerful and has limitation in rotation, and I need at least two of them for portrait photoshoot. Such restrictions can be neglected by playing around, but, at the lost of creativity. Therefore, I have been looking at refurnished (second hand) gears that I can buy at a cheaper price to move further in this trade – photography.

I have so far done three meet-ups and two are disastrous.

http://www.clubsnap.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1343429

Nickname: maxspeed
Name: Lum
Number: 93800867
Email: sugathlum@gmail.com

I saw this advertisement for a Canon 580 EX-ii flash and the owner made it sound like it was a very good bargain. Indeed, for the price ($400) and extra goodies that came along with it, it was a good grab given that the owner was honest about the condition.

I arranged a meet-up with him at Vivocity last week at 6.30pm. I went earlier to look at stuffs and at the meeting time, he replied me that he was still in a meeting and could not turn up. I told him I would wait for him for some time since I had to do some shopping. About an hour later, I had to leave since I had to packet food home for my elder brother and sister-in-law, and thus I dropped him another text politely. He did not reply me since he told me he was held up in his meeting, showing no sense of guilt.

A few days later, I saw in his forum post that he had sold his flash unit away. I would describe him as irresponsible and proud.

http://www.clubsnap.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1346875

Nickname: canonone
Name: Hua
Number: 9six5899one9 (96589919)

My next disappointment came after I saw a canon 24-70mm F2.8L mark i lens on the same forum. The seller insisted to meet at Ang Mo Kio and I made my trip all the way down, thinking it was a good bargain again since it’s written as “good condition and clean”.

The seller turned up earlier than the meeting time and I thought all was good. He started speaking in English and I thought he was an Indonesian Chinese who could not speak well in the language. At certain point of time, I could not figure out what he was talking about. When I noticed that there was problem with the lens and was discussing with Gilbert right in front of him, he suddenly started speaking in Chinese and I realised he was a PRC.

When I looked through it at the light, there were something like bubbles. The seller kept insisting his lens was in good condition though. It was obvious that there was a big issue with the glass of the lens at the part where it would fit into the camera, which was very unusual. I was not able to make out what those things were, but they were obviously not dust. I tried asking him to use a spectacle cloth to clean it but he insisted we could only use a blower, which I did not bring along. He was also quick to want to brush off the deal politely, which showed his guilt.

http://www.clubsnap.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1347448

I realised he posted a new advertisement on the same forum a couple of hours later. There differences were:
1. The price was reduced from $1200 to $1100.
2. “good condition and clean” description was removed.
3. Rating of condition was reduced from 9/10 to 8/10.

If he was not guilty of the condition of his lens, he would not have done these. The problem on the lens was definitely not dust, which could easily be blown and wiped off. To put it in simple, the lens was not even 1/10 for the condition – it could not be used at all.

I’m not sure if he is out to cheat.

People Take Things for Granted

Just recently, I faced another setback in my life in the name of kindness.

Many months back, a net friend of mine approached me to take photos for her son’s one-year-old birthday party, which would fall on 21st September 2013. During that time, I was only doing voluntary work for charity and friends, and I was not prepared to get any paid shoot. She was a young mother (born in year 1991) after all and I thought I could help. However, I did not want anyone to take things for granted, and thus I told her I would not do it for free but she had to give me a red packet. She even had to ask her husband about engaging me and the green light was given the next day as expected. Then she confirmed with me the location, date and time.

Within that few weeks, I saw photos of her son doing baby photoshoot in her Facebook profile, which she stated cost hundreds of dollars – nearer to a grand figure if I did not remember wrongly. It was really stunning because not many parents whom I knew of had spent that amount of money. The most outrageous thing was that she could afford such photoshoot package and yet tried to get me to shoot for her for free. That was when I regretted promising her for the birthday party shoot but a promise was a promise.

The day before the event, I messaged her in Facebook to check if there was any changes, which photographers would usually do. She took a while to reply me, telling me “Yes. Currently bz. Text you Later..sorry!”

I realised something was wrong and went into her Facebook profile again. I was amazed to see a photo of the printed invitational cards that stated 22nd September 2013 instead of 21st. It was obvious that she had changed the date of the party and she had left me out totally.

Anyone with a brain would have informed the photographer (or any party) if there was a change of date, time or venue. Even if she was not interested in getting my help, she could have told me directly. If I did not check with her, or rather, check it on my own, I would have gone down to 30 Sturdee Road like a fool on the initial date she had told me. The most amazing thing was that when I messaged her, just the evening before the “actual” date, she did not even bother to tell me immediately that the date was changed.

Instead of getting back to me to explain anything or cancel the appointment with me, due to her very busy schedule, she could update her own Facebook photo. To think I had even told my elder brother that I could not attend his company’s barbeque session, which fell on the exact “same” day and time, it was silly. I actually had blocked out the date in my schedule for her party.

It took me lots of patience to message her again hours later at 11 plus in the night. I blasted out the little intelligence I had gathered and she simply said she was overloaded that day that she had not even taken her dinner. It was only when I pointed out that the the invitational cards were ready a week ago and that the date was definitely changed earlier, she admitted it was her fault. I got to realise that it was the actual birthday of her son on that day itself and she had spent money to engage another freelance photographer for a photoshoot during the day, which “explained” why she was so busy at night – I could not understand it though.

I was lucky because I did not get to help her eventually. I was used to do free work for the society and friends, but I would never want to give any free work to people with such attitude.

My mistake is trusting people too easily and being too kind to net “friend”. The fact is even rich people ask for “free” stuffs and thus do not assume people are not well-to-do just because they want free help from you. The reality of life is that if someone is given something free or almost free, she will likely to be unappreciative of it, and probably forget about it. This incident will act like a gun pointing at me, reminding me to be fair to myself and also to collect a deposit upon confirming a photo shoot. I’m also done with free event photo shoot, unless it is for charity organisation.

Marketing is Most Important for Photography

After doing portrait photoshoot for nearly a year, I have to concede to the fact of the trade/hobby – marketing matters most. My experienced ex-classmate, Benson, has warned me a few times that the real photography work will take up just a small portion of time of most professional photographers.

The most popular photographer may not be the most skilful photographer. There is definitely some standard in most popular photographers but most of them are being overrated by their “fans”. There are actually more hidden talents in Singapore who can amaze me with their work. It actually takes some experience to differentiate a good photograph from a normal one. I’m still learning to judge, although I can already easily identify awful ones by now.

I have seen many normal standard photos of hot freelance models in Facebook. They are considered as “Club Snap standard”. Club Snap is a forum that many people organise mass shooting at, which around six photographers would surround a model each time, such that it is difficult to improve with the restriction. It is more about networking and trying luck to get some nice photos.

It just takes some connections to get more freelance models dying to work with you. You can either suck up to the bosses of some modelling agencies or act friendly to some of the freelance models directly. You do not need to be extremely good in your skill, but you need to at least know how to pretend to be. As long as your photos turn out not awful, with the hot girls as your models, all photos will appear awesome, psychologically, to most others. It will not take a long time before friends of the models start approaching you to work together.

You need to be popular before good models will flock to you; otherwise, even your friends will skip you. I have a number of friends, both online and offline ones, who have wanted to work with me enthusiastically. It just turns out that they are not available after up to a year of “business” talking. The feeling is definitely not worse than when I see any of them uploading new photos taken by other photographers who are obviously more exposed to freelance models. This is called reality. I do believe they have made good choices because those “popular” photographers can definitely give them more exposure compared to me. On the other hand, I prefer working with models who are not so realistic since every photoshoot should be an enjoyment and the model’s character matters a lot. Nobody can understand my happiness whenever I work with models who sincerity wish to help me build up my portfolio.

Of course, if you can even sweet talk to bimbos, you may become luckier. I have a open-and-simple-minded net friend who always initiates chat with me. I do not entertain her a lot because she never seems to get messages right and sometimes her comments on my Facebook status simply makes me speechless. She has happened to see one of my friends in real life and insists my friend will do sexy photoshoot just because of her ah-lian-ness. To be fair to all the ah lians in Singapore, not all of them are wild and wild does not mean they will show their body parts. Back to the point – she thinks a photographer is always sweet to her and she is going to do a sexy shoot with him in future. Good luck both of them for his patience and her self-assurance that she is completely safe. There are also some popular photographers who will comment “beautiful” on lousy self taken photos by models in Facebook. Frankly speaking, I may give a LIKE to show encouragement but I will never lie to the hot model that her photography skill is good.

I’m lucky because I do have quite a number of friends who are willing to work with me, but I’m also unlucky that I have encountered far more bad experiences than anyone. Before you see any release of my work with any kind friend, there are always numerous shit I have already gone through, including last minute cancellation of collaboration from other so-called models. There are also people approaching me but they go missing in action before they can make themselves available. I mean I have encountered lots of challenges that nobody knows to get my photography portfolio up.

No, I’m not yet a master of the arts. At least I don’t boast, but this does hurt me badly. Remember it is mostly about marketing, which includes how you present yourself. If you do not appear confident enough, your models may doubt your work even when professionals think those photos are good enough. You may also sound very humble but it will only make your model distrust your professionalism. Your models may be very nice people but some will hurt you unintentionally – there are too many ways to insult a photographer.

Packaging yourself is a must to progress faster because you need to attract good models to create better portfolios. Before I start to overcome myself to do more marketing and pretend to be very popular and skilful, I will just continue to work hard and improve on my photography skill. For now, I’m ready to face more disappointments because I rather be myself. I will rather under-promise and over-deliver than doing the opposite.

Things do get better no matter what.

Think Big, Think for Your Country

My lunch for yesterday was served with a free show. It was a tired day because I went to bed right before sunrise and my house could never be quiet during daylight for whatever reason. My younger brother, mum and elder sister-in-law had our lunch at the coffee shop between block 7 and 8. We were welcomed with loud noises.

Two women were quarreling very fiercely. It was a good Chinese listening comprehension test for us, as we tried to figure out what was going on while being challenged by the high pitch. They had obviously come over to Singapore from the same country.

I was not trying to be cheeky but at one stage of their aggressive debate when one woman called the other “china woman” and was rebutted that she was also from China, I almost burst into laughter. It was not about any race or nationality that was funny, but the fact that one probably thought her own country people’s were “low class” and tried to insult her kind. Anyway, through this, we understood that the first woman was probably a new citizen who used to be a China’s Chinese.

We were very confused over their roles since we rarely dined over that coffee shop during lunch time, but we assumed a local looking Chinese man standing inside the noodle stall was the owner. The man looked frustratedly lost and tried to calm down the first woman at times. Suddenly, the second woman stepped into the stall’s boundary and tried to take out some dollar notes from a box at the display area. She was stopped by the first woman who threatened to call the police, pointing to the top where she claimed there was a CCTV. The money was eventually safe after some physical contacts like grabbing of hands. That was a time when I thought a fierce fight was going to take place.

We were not able to figure out their relationship and whenever both of them were the stall’s staffs. It was until another man whose accent was obviously from mainland China as well came over to help the second woman, we got some hints. The first woman told them the vegetable cost money and a few cents was also money; and if her opponent wanted, the whole plate could be sold at $10. We might be wrong but the cat fight could be started due to the second woman asking for extra vegetable (the “cong”), and maybe, for large portion. Therefore, we got to figure out that the first lady was from the stall while the second woman was her customer. Since the local man inside the stall was most likely to be the owner and yet he could not stop the first woman, while she tried so hard to fight for the benefit of the stall, she was probably the ladyboss. Of course, I had taken into account that our talented Singapore government was not so lousy to give away free citizenship to just a stall helper (not an elite). However, I was puzzled because even though it was a trend for older Singapore men to “buy” foreign wives, there was definitely some “standard” in the ladies’ appearances. I was being frank and did not mean to insult the “ladyboss”.

The customers went back to their seats outside the coffee shop eventually. Then, the “ladyboss” went over to continue with the debate, insulting the clients that they were too poor to pay up. After some speeches delivered by both of them, there was a short tea break. The male customer who seemed to be trying to stop the mess earlier started taking photos of the stall using his phone. He was probably going to talk about the incident in his weibo or renren. The customers (probably just the woman) refused to leave. A few minutes later, we were stunned when the “ladyboss” went over to apologise to the customers. We thought she should be more firm if she had done nothing wrong right from the start but it was good that she brought herself down to try to end the drama. The customer was, however, not as graceful and continued to stare at the stall owners. After her partner walked off towards Pinnacle Duxton, she continued to hang around but eventually moved to the corner of the coffee shop where they probably could not have eye-contact.

I was not sure if the customer had left when two policemen finally arrived. The men-in-blue looked lost and went off without walking into the coffee shop. A few minutes later, they returned and the male stall owner approached them to probably give a short explanation. The entire peace was regained very soon after the two gentlemen left. Both of them were lucky since the cat fight had ended earlier, or otherwise, it was going to be a tough situation to handle.

I am quite narrative about the entire drama but the main purpose is not about who had started it nor who was at fault. Frankly speaking, many people from all over the world have quite bad impression on Chinese from the mainland and it is caused by the huge number of black sheep among them. I have quite a number of China-born Chinese friends who are very good people to communicate with, and I really feel sorry for them. Imagine two Singaporeans quarreling at overseas and even try to put one down by claiming she is from Singapore, she is simply slapping herself. It is definitely an embarrassment to their country.

It is a common sense that if you put one foreigner among nine locals, there may be some chances that the foreigner will pick up the local culture. However, if you place four foreigners with six locals, the four talents are more likely to hang out among themselves and there is so much greater probability that some of the locals will be influenced by the foreigners’ culture instead. The first scenario is called integration into the locals while the second one is creating of a new culture by mixing both. The worst thing is when probably two of the six “locals” have just become locals after staying for a few years.

I believe not all citizen from any country is bad (having bad culture), and there are many Singaporeans who are problematic as well. However, the number of black sheep from some countries may much higher.

The Happy Farm Story

A farmer owned a small piece of land that he used to rear some cute animals to make a living. During the initial good years, there were around 30 happy animals sharing the small space comfortably in harmony. The farmer managed to make good profits with proper planning and management.

One strange night when lightning strike through his mind, he realized no matter how good he could manage the animals, there was always a limit to the amount of money they could generate for him. He started to import more and different types of animals from the wild into his small piece of land to the count of 53, such that every animal could hardly move. The old animals could not do anything except to continue working, while the new ones were happy enough that they were able to get food and it was a reasonably safe haven compared to living in the wild.

Needless to say, the farmer managed to generate more income from the larger number of upkeep. He was delighted and proud that he was making more money than other farmers. Before he could resolve the problems of the tight space for his animals, he made greater plan to expand his income by getting more animals. He targeted the final number of upkeep to be 70, which was around 32% increment.

However, in order to prevent further SPCA and public outcries regarding the welfare of the animals, the farmer did something while announcing his plan. Firstly, he reduced the targeted number of animals to 69 instead of 70 because 69 sounded much nicer while it was simply one less than his target, which was a brilliant marketing strategy. Secondly, he announced that he would expand his small piece of land by 8% by filling the surrounding swamp, which was an expensive and time-consuming job. Lastly, he claimed that his animals were not actively giving birth and thus had to take in new ones in order for the farm to continue its prosperity to keep his existing animals alive and comfortable.

As the plan proceeded, the strongest animals were able to live comfortably and snatch the better food. A few of the reasonably fit animals were able to make their escape to join their farms instead but the rest of the animals were too helpless to do anything. The animals’ movements were more restricted than ever as the space added on was smaller than the number of new intakes. Birth rate continued to drop due to unhappiness while the new animals were not reproducing as well.

Eventually when the target of 69 was hit, less than one quarter of the animals were his initial cute animals while more than half of the farm’s animals were too old to work.

Finally, the farmer announced his retirement plan, taking away his windfall made throughout the years and leaving the animals to survive on their own.