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The untold secret of starting a photography business

Turn photography as a hobby into a career
With my sharing, I wished to inspire, empower and support any new photographers or anyone who are looking into making photography as a career. This could not be easy in the beginning but it could be a dream come true turning your passion into a career. Just perseverance and time will make it happen!

I AM a never-say-die entrepreneur who started my photography biz The Colourful Faces Studio in 2005. Before that I was working at a Talent agency as a Booker cum Makeup Artist drawing a pretty good payroll. At my workplace, I meet many models and talents for photo shoot at the agency everyday. After doing make-up for them, I learned to operate with simple lightings at the photography studio and pick up some photography tips from other photographers along the way. After working there for 3 years, I made a bold decision to come out on my own to set up a makeover photography studio thinking that I have the advantage of being a make-up artist and I have knowledge of operating a photo studio.

In 2005 I registered The Colourful Faces Studio, borrowed S$13K from a great man (now my father-in-law) who wasn't very supportive of me opening the studio back then but nevertheless still loaned me the money to buy equipments for the studio. I rented a 500 sq feet space for S$1200 at the 2nd level of a shop house in Smith Street. It wasn't easy for the 1st 9 months. Considering myself new in the market, nobody knew my business existed at the 2nd floor of the shophouse and I didn't even know how to do any marketing, I was struggling to pay S$1200 rental and even have difficulties feeding myself. My back then boyfriend Dean (now husband) was helping to pay rental from his little profits from doing long hours small business at Chinatown. Everyday we were eating bread and curry puff with Milo. One day we were sitting together, hugging each other and crying. Dean started questioning if he had made the right decision in supporting my bold decision. He is always supportive of all the things I wanted to do even till now. I was also questioning myself if I have made the right choice in quitting my good pay job and opening a studio, facing 4 walls and eating air. I even have difficulties paying my home ultilites and household money to my family. My family was suffering with me.

At my wits' end, I offered free makeover photo shoot to all my friends and even friend's friends just to create human traffic to my studio and at the same time building portfolio. Once the word was out, out of a sudden my studio was filled with people coming everyday. At our 6th month into the business, many kind friends introduce me paid work and I was really blessed to meet with some business people giving me work and doing collaboration and roadshows with me. Dean and I were working till late everyday, i was busy editing photos and at the same time learning to build my own website and SEO optimization while Dean was accomanying me and doing admin stuffs for me. We start to earn some money from my business and be able to have spare money for decent meals. I started patronising a vegetarian shop just below my studio and I love the organic healthy food they served there. Being a buddhist and believing that accumulating good karmas from being a vegetarian and hoping for a better life for myself and my family, with my love for animals and I couldn't bear to eat animals meat anymore, I turned into a vegetarian from then on. Till today ,I am a 11 years VEGETARIAN and still counting and I am at peace with every living being

Business was flowing in while most of the time I am giving free services. I was able to pay rent and pay alittle to myself. Human traffic at the studio was great however the air-con at my studio was giving us problem every alternate days. The air-con broke down and landlord had to call the service person to have it fix every week. I remembered once there were about 15 people in the studio and all of them are posing for corporate images and all of them in corporate power suit while the air-con spoilt and giving out hot air instead of cool air. All these 15 people are perspiring like crazy. I have to apologize constantly for them enduring the heat with suit on. After that on the computer, I have to photoshop the balls of perspiration away from their faces. Fortunately the end results was good and everyone loves their image and they were kind enough not to blame me for them braving the heat in the studio. After this incident, at the 9th month, we decided to move out, we asked for a early release from the landlord and we rented a smaller unit of 260 sq feet at The Riverwalk Galleria at Upper Circular Road with a glass frontage while we can exhibit my works.

This is the place where my business really flourish and I was really blessed to meet more and more business people, big company bosses, artiste managers, and customers-turned-friends. At the 3rd year of our business, we even manage to handle a big project with a earnings of a 5 figure amount. With this big job, I was able to repay the full amount of S$13K that I initially borrowered from the great man (now my father-in-law) and Dean and I got married right after this in year 2008.

It was at The Riverwalk Galleria Studio that I met Vecce a makeup artist that I engaged to help with my customers' makeup and hairdo. I could no longer handle all customers' makeup by myself. Studio photoshoot appointments were back to back. In year 2009 Vecce and I collaborate to own a bigger studio of 470sq feets at China Square Central where she handle all makeups and hairdos while I focus on photoshoots. During operation at China Square Central, we were introduced to support Chingay creative makeup, we did several Mediacorp Superstars and Campus Superstar photoshoots ( a popular singing variety show back then). We were also actively involved in charity programs and local universities freshman photoshoots.

At the end of the 3 years lease at China Square, Central, Vecce decided to turn to bigger movie productions and I was also pregnant with my 1st child in year 2010, we closed down the studio at China Square Central. This was a huge turning point for me. I couldn't be actively taking photos everyday and operating the studio with my bump getting bigger each day. I turned my business model of a studio at a rental stationery premises to Mobile studio services that comes with instantaneous photo prints for events and weddings. With the help from Dean transporting studio equipments to locations , we introduce this innovative services to many events company, wedding couples and we got ourself busy with many company dinner and dance pre-event activities providing our mobile studio instant prints services. Dean went on to create more products to be able to print on as doorgifts fr guests. For eg, during an event, after a photo taken at our mobile studio, we are able to print the guests photo on a mousepad, keychain, mug, magnet and coaster instantly . That made us more sought after by events and weddings planner as they want a more customised unique door-gifts for guests.

In 2012, Dean and I were nominated for The Successful Entreprenuer Award 2012. I gave birth to our 2nd child in 2013 and over these years, I am a trial and error mum to 2 young kids who is still learning to be a perfect mum. My business The Colourful Faces Studio is stable and under the management of Dean. And I am blessed to have the flexibility of most of my time spending with my 2 young kids, watching them grow day by day, playing with them and showering them with all my attention and love. I know these few golden years will passed very soon so at the meantime spending as much time as I could with them. In the afternoon when my elder daughter goes to school for 4 hours and my younger one under the care of my helper and in-laws, I am at ease to render my PERSONAL BRANDING PHOTOGRAPHY services for clients and conducts photography workshops regularly.

Thank you for reading my long story. I hope that you could succeed in your own field of area, follow your heart, find your own passion. Perserverance and time will lead to Success. Please drop me a line if I could be of any services to you.

For my corporate clients, I prided myself to capture your individualilty for your personal branding portraits to be a powerful one for your own branding and success. For clients who engaged me for maternity portrait, fashion, commercial ,wedding and events photography services, I pride myself to capture your most significant moments for a lifetime to remember.

With Love

Lisa Lum

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