An Interview with Lightedpixels Photography + A Giveaway

If a picture paints a thousand words then Kelvin Koh's photos speak volumes. Today we're privileged to bring you this interview with Kelvin of Lightedpixels Photography - a pioneer and, dare we say, an institution, in Singapore's wedding photography industry. On a personal note, two of The Wedding Scooper's founders also had the happy occasion of engaging Kelvin for their own pre-wedding and wedding photos and chimed in to say that his captures still bring smiles and joy three years on.

 

Getting to know Kelvin of Lightedpixels

 

TWS: Hi Kelvin, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some of our burning questions! But before we start, please tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into wedding photography?

Kelvin: I took up my first photography course while dating my then girlfriend (now wife, Elizabeth) in NUS. We eventually got married and it was during my honeymoon that I pursued photography a lot more seriously. Eventually, I ended up asking a close university friend of mine if I could shoot her wedding. I had no interest in wedding photography then. I just wanted to practice my newfound hobby and passion - photography. However, it was at this first wedding that I caught the bug. I have always loved shooting street photography and people in general but it’s never easy capturing strangers who might or might not open up to you. At a wedding, I discovered, it was quite the opposite. People were more than happy to let you shoot them and very often, we get a peek at real emotion. It brought me great joy shooting these images. It was also more personal for me as the subjects I shot were people I interacted with and had a personal connection with. They were not just random strangers.

TWS: You're the man behind Lightedpixels Photography, one of the most acclaimed wedding photography studios in Singapore. Your studio has won Tatler's Best of Singapore in Wedding Photography award for 9 consecutive years. What's that one special ingredient that you think has helped push you to the top of the industry?

Kelvin: Thank you. When I started Lightedpixels, I was truly excited about doing wedding photojournalism here in Singapore. There were already some photographers who were shooting in such a manner but they were mainly photographers with the local papers or magazines. It wasn’t readily available to the masses. Most wedding photographers only shot scenes that they thought were important—like when the couple cuts the wedding cake or when they first kiss during a ceremony, for example. In between these “events”, most of what was happening, the camaraderie between friends and family and all the warm-hearted moments displayed were not captured. The general rule then was that you do not shoot the image unless the subject is looking at the camera! To me, a wedding is ALL about these moments.

I started posting images of weddings I shot on my blog and in the photography forums. This was back in 2003 and the response was tremendous. Among my friends and peers, there was a huge demand for photography that went beyond just posing in front of a great backdrop and the camera.

I was also very keen on shooting couple portraitures (or pre-wedding photography, as it is also known). However, I did all my shoots outdoors and moved away from a studio setting. Back then this was a novelty, as most studios would typically incorporate a studio session as part of their photography package. Doing a completely outdoor photography session wasn’t the norm but once again, there was a huge demand for it. My shoots would start, and still do, at 7.30am and last about 3 hours before we take a break and continue with a second optional session from 4-7pm. As the photography is done outdoors, light is very important and at these timings, the light is the softest and the most ideal. The weather is also cool and there are not many people on the streets.

The main reason why I was such a strong advocate of shooting outdoors was because I wanted the couple to feel at ease; that we were going to shoot a portrait of them as a couple and doing things that a couple would do. I was mindful of the fact that it was going to be a legacy of them, and for the people who love them and are dear to them. It was not about what the photographer thinks they should be. To do this in a studio would be extremely challenging, as the couple would not be at ease.

Through the years, we helped popularize destination shoots for pre-wedding sessions and lately, the focus during the shoot is as much about the experience of being shot as it is with the images we create. 

To sum it up, I think it’s the reinvention of what we do and popularizing it that has brought us to where we are. Besides the photography, we are very mindful of the community we are in and have constantly shared what we know and learned with our fellow photographers. We also treat our couples as we would our friends and have built up great genuine relationships with many of them. Personally, I am inspired to get to know the couple more for who they are, and I sincerely appreciate them as unique individuals and couples who have their own stories. I am fascinated by their stories and am genuinely interested in knowing more and being a part of it. Shooting weddings allows me to do just that and very often, the bond we build during the course of our shoot (before, during and after the shoot) develops into an amazing friendship. Nothing is more satisfying than starting off the relationship with a handshake but ending it off with a good hug of appreciation and heartfelt thanks by the end of the wedding.  

TWS: How have wedding photography styles or trends changed since you first entered the industry? Are there any styles or trends that you miss in particular and hope to see make a comeback?

Kelvin: There is always a flavor-of-the-month type of photo every now and then. When I first started, having just a particular subject in color while the remaining image in black and white was really popular. This was, no doubt, because people were slowly learning Photoshop and had realized that it was something they could easily do, and everyone was doing it. Do you remember how you would have an image of a bride holding a rose and only the rose was in color?

Then, there was a fascination with adding textures to the images. This was followed quite recently by images that have a High Dynamic Range (HDR), where the contrast is strong and the shadows and highlights are played up and emphasized. 

Lately, there has been a great use of props and it’s almost like recreating a studio shoot but in an outdoor location.

While I have tried all of them, I am also very mindful that they are but trends. While they are pretty cool when done in the moment, they do run the risk of looking dated eventually. Almost all of us want images that are timeless, to echo the timelessness of the love between couples. As such it might be wiser to have your images taken in a manner that will still inspire in the years to come.

Personally, I think photography will eventually, if it hasn’t already, focus on capturing the person rather than the mask he is wearing. We present ourselves in a specific way to a specific group of people. It’s our way of coping and dealing with relationships. It’s how we want the world to see us. The challenge I feel, for a photographer, is to get beneath that and capture the person for who he is. In wedding photography, it is about capturing the essence of the relationship between the couple—to show and highlight the moments shared by them. Photography is so accessible nowadays and it has ironically made it a lot more challenging to master. Very often, images are captured for the sake of taking an image but we do not understand the subject any better. This is a tremendous waste of opportunity especially for wedding photography. 

TWS: What do you think couples should consider when selecting a wedding photographer?

Kelvin: If a photographer’s images speak out to you, that’s the photographer for you. This sounds cliché, but I think listening to your heart is a good way to decide. There are many things in life that your heart knows better than your logical brain. Just as you would use your heart to choose a life partner, this is one of those instances. Be aware of the images that burn into your memory even days or weeks after seeing them.

Once you have decided on the images you love, meet or chat with the photographer either online or in person if possible. Although it is not entirely necessary to meet in person, it is always good to see if you are on the same wavelength and have a good rapport.

TWS: What are your favorite tips for couples when they're on photo shoots with you?

Kelvin: That their hands must always be loving each other! Hahaha!

TWS: What are some of your favorite things to do in your free time?

Kelvin: Spending time with my family, else, you can probably catch me at the cinemas or visiting flea markets!

TWS: What is your favorite thing about being a wedding photographer?

Kelvin: I love everything about it! I love that I get to meet people who are willing to open up to me, that I get to create images every week, and it’s a great bonus that I get to travel and shoot all over the world. And finally, it all boils down to doing something I like and I’m good at, and getting paid for it.

TWS: Here is a tough one: how did you choose a wedding photographer for your own wedding? Did you ever feel tempted to try and shoot your own wedding photos?

Kelvin: Unfortunately, I wasn’t into wedding photography when I got married. It was only after. We went with a photographer from a bridal studio and till today, the album is stored somewhere in our cupboard and that’s mostly because, while the photographer captured us pretty well and it was quite flattering, both my wife and I are unable to recognize the two people in our pre-wedding album. It was a series of images that the photographer thought was cool or sweet. The wedding day images, though not done in a journalistic manner, were still a good record of the day’s events.

We did another couple portrait for our seventh anniversary and the photographer we chose was Jesh De Rox. This was based on the images he captured, and we shared his philosophy. Actually, it was all me – I confess. I decided on him and Beth came along for the ride. She trusts me. Ha!

Kelvin, the man behind the lens.

TWS: What has been your most memorable assignment and why?

Kelvin: It’s really hard to just pick one but I am going to go with a wedding I shot in Santorini last year. It was just the couple, our hair and makeup artist and myself. There were no friends or families. It was very intimate and they had the blessings of their parents. I felt so honored to be a part of their union. In fact, I also doubled up as one of the witnesses. After the simple ceremony, we went for dinner together and spent the whole evening chatting under the Aegean night sky. It was simple but very enjoyable.

In a slightly funnier episode that happened earlier this year, I was shooting a pre-wedding shoot for a Singaporean couple who had flown to London to shoot against the world-famous New Year’s Eve fireworks. They had booked a hotel room just for the event and I was in their hotel from 8pm as the streets were extremely crowded and I didn’t want to risk returning to my hotel across the River Thames, lest I couldn’t find my way back! We had dinner together and chatted our way till it was almost time for the countdown. About a minute before the fireworks went off, I had a sudden stomachache and had to use the toilet! In the end, I managed to get out just before the countdown ended. That was really close! It would have been an incredibly silly story if I had missed shooting them and the fireworks!

TWS: Have you ever had anything go wrong at a wedding and if so, how did you handle it?

Kelvin: Oh yes, definitely! We are human after all, and while I take precautions to ensure everything runs smoothly, accidents and circumstances beyond our control sometimes do happen. There was an occasion where both my camera bodies broke down within minutes of each other. I explained to the couple what had happened and started calling friends to see if they had a spare camera body to lend me but all of them had shoots that weekend. In the end, I had to go to the photography forum and buy a camera body in good condition from a hobbyist as all the camera shops were not yet open at 8am in the morning. 

TWS: What are your favourite three images you have shot recently? Can you describe their creation in regards to location, lighting, composition, camera settings etc, also your thoughts when creating the images and what they mean to you?

Kelvin: This was shot in the middle of Regent Street on the day after the couple’s wedding in London. I had shot their wedding a day earlier and we had built up a friendship by then. During the morning after session, it was drizzling and this was shot as the groom tried to shelter his wife down the street. Personally, I was also attracted to the flags that were hanging above for the Queen’s Jubilee. The two London buses that passed by also helped frame the shot by putting the couple into the center of the frame. They were genuinely tickled to be cuddling and strolling down the street in the rain. One of the aims for our couple portraiture is to have images that are real, sincere and heartfelt. These are usually scenarios where a real couple does their usual thing, instead of behaving for the sake of a photo shoot. It has to be believable and hopefully inspiring in the years to come.

Sometimes, an image is simply to highlight the beauty of the bride (or groom) in their outfit. This is a pretty straightforward beauty shot that I and other photographers have subsequently often used. The bride here has such a great expression and she is glowing.

This is one of my personal favorites simply because it is a scene we seldom get to witness as an outside viewer. It is a very personal moment of intimacy that is shared between the couple. As a photographer, being able to earn that level of trust and comfort from the couple is always a privilege. It requires providing an environment during the shoot that encourages the couple to open up and share their thoughts and love for one another. All this is done with the hope that when they look back at these images, it allows them to remember the experience they felt. 

TWS: What do you feel is the most challenging thing about photographing weddings?

Kelvin: The most challenging thing is to be aware ALL the time of what is happening around you. Sometimes, moments happen very quickly in succession or they can be fleeting and if you are not paying attention, they pass you by very easily. The biggest challenge for me is to be mindful that as easy as it may be or sound, it still requires a lot of effort both physically and mentally to shoot a wedding. Another challenge is to not assume that you know what the best angle for the shoot is but to keep trying new angles and ways of shooting. Success makes it a lot more tempting to simply repeat what you do best but it is also an effective way of stifling creativity.

TWS: Name a wedding photographer who inspires you.

Kelvin: Jesh De Rox. 

TWS: Describe your style in 3 words.

Kelvin: Quirky, Heart-Warming and Real.

Giveaway

If these images have captured your imaginations and hearts, have a peek at our Instagram giveaway where 3 lucky winners will walk away with a 1-hour photo shoot kindly sponsored by Lightedpixels Photography! 

 

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Vendor Information
Photography: Lightedpixels Photography

 

{This is a sponsored feature.}


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