From Curious to Pro - How photography took over my life
Well here we go. My very first BLOG post!!
It's 9 pm. Kids are in bed, animals have been fed, I have turned off Facebook, I am munching on Jalepeno chips and hubby is cooking his own dinner.
I can smell burned meat but now it is MY time and after all I am a vegetarian so it is only fair that he cooks his ribs himself. :)
So here we are -Mama, wife and photographer turns into blogger!
I am laughing out loud as I type this because I have avoided writing blogs for so long. Life is busy and it seemed unnecessary, yet I am now in a growth phase as a business woman and I am learning more about how to positively drive my business growth. Plus I like to tell a story.
For the last 4.5 years, since I started photography, it has been a constant juggling act as I 'switch hats' throughout the day. Evenings are my most productive time and I work until midnight most evenings. I occasionally watch a movie or have a special night out, but generally I work most evenings.
My life may seem boring to some, but I don't mind it because I truly love my work. Without that passion I would not be where I am now. Writing a blog is the next step on my winding path of reinvention. I hope you will enjoy them. Please let me know what you think.
Here is a pic of my family and I. Taken by my friend the highly talented Julia Whale when we thought our dog had days to live ...that was over 9 months ago, Kari is a tough old chook and it helps when Mama is a veterinarian. :)
My greatest treasures in life
Yes I am also a vet. I often get asked about how I became who I am now. How I turned a hobby into a profession and why I gave up being a vet.
Well it seems only fitting, that my first blog will attempt to answer these questions. You might as well get to know me first. It is a bit of a long story.
Please bear with me. I promise to be more concise and focused on being of value to you in my future posts.
My love affair with photography started 4.5 years ago. Sometimes I still can't believe my own journey and to be honest I don't think I always had full control over it. It seemed to have a life of it's own and I was happy to go along with it, as it was (still is) a pretty enjoyable and highly educational ride.
So let's go back....way back....feeling old again!
24 years ago I graduated from the Veterinary School of the University of Sydney. What a day! I was finally a REAL vet! For 20 years my whole life revolved around this amazing career and of course animals. I practiced my much loved profession in Australia, Hong Kong, UK, Thailand and Singapore. It was a very demanding but equally rewarding calling.
I became a proud Mama for the first time 12 years ago. Unfortunately I soon realised that not being able to be at the clinic until all hours of the night to look after my patients and to perform cool surgeries was starting to get me down. I worked part time for many years and enjoyed it, but the passion was gone. I had to accept that my career was no longer giving me that amazing energy and feeling of fulfilment. It made me a little sad and frustrated as well. There was an empty space within me, that needed filling to make me feel good about myself and my work.
5 years ago, when we were still living in London, my husband bought a Nikon D5100 with an 18-105 kit lens. Little did I know that this camera would allow me to fill THAT space, unleash a creativity that I had no idea was residing within my science orientated 'Veterinarian Self' and to find a second career that fulfilled me and gave me great energy and joy.
It wasn't love at first sight! This first camera intimidated me because I had NO IDEA how to use it. Sure I could pop it into Auto and snap away yet I had so many awful pics. Many were not in focus and of poor quality. Most of them were sooo BORING!! Occasionally I would get a lucky nice shot, but overall I had a stack of lousy shots. At first I blamed the camera, but hubby was kind enough to let me know that it was me. I wanted to learn how to take a good photo and I wanted to master the little 'black box'. This curiosity to understand the 'why/how/ when?' of a great shot has been a great driving force for me ever since then. Even now I will closely study the work of other photographers to try and understand what it is about the image that made me stop to take a closer look. Some images have a certain magnetic magic. They want to be viewed, they need to be printed and immortalised. The truly speak to people.
It wasn't until we moved back to Singapore that I found the time to look for answers. I was still working as a vet but I had time at night. I had spent half my life in academia, hence education seemed like a better option than trial and error. I started looking for an online photography course. I found The Photography Institute . I convinced my husband that this really was what I wanted to do. He asked me "Why do you want to do this?" and I remember saying " I don't know! I just feel I need to do this". All my life I had moments where I get a strong feeling to do something that wasn't quite explicable or even reasonable. I call it my 'dolphin vibe' ( ask me about it one day, I better not get side tracked now) others call it a sixth sense. These moments are often positive opportunities in my life that could be easily missed if I didn't pay attention to them. I embrace them and hubby does too now. It is so important to trust your inner voice!
Needless to say I LOVED the course. It opened up a whole new world to me. The assignments made me focus and study I finished it within 8 months and I realised I had quite a good eye. The FB community was fantastic and offered so much help and support throughout the course. I became brave and posted some of my images in the group for constructive critique and hence grew even more as a photographer. Nowadays I still visit the group occasionally and offer my support to those who are just starting out.
I became quite addicted to it all, but throughout the whole course I seriously doubted that I had it in me to become a professional photographer. I was still working as a vet and it didn't occur me that I could switch from clinic to camera. I learned to master the camera, took a gazillion photos of my kids, my dog, flowers and still life. My photos became so much better but I never believed anyone would want to pay for my services or images.
My desire to get very good at photography grew constantly. I read books and photography magazine, watched you tube videos, taught myself post production editing etc etc. I was completely in love with all aspects of photography! This was the beginning of me 'working' late at night every night. No more TV !
Note: it is now 11 pm - writing a blog is hard work!
Only practice makes perfect and my family was starting to get sick of my camera and I. So I started to offer my services for free to friends and charities. I took headshots of staff at my work Best Vet in SG, offered to photograph shelter dogs that needed some nice pics to increase their chances of finding a new home, took photos of friends, at events and so on. It was getting busy. Yet I wasn't being paid yet.
I started to feel that maybe there was a chance that this could become a new profession for me. So after much procrastination ( fuelled by the fear of failure) I created my FB page Photography by Sandra Macheroux . My friends were very supportive, bless them! They gave me likes and positive comments. It encouraged me to keep on posting. Suddenly strangers started liking my page and my posts and I began to feel like a proper photographer rather than just a hobbyist.
I continued to play in the field of pet photography, portraiture, events and even a wedding ( luckily just as a 2nd shooter and never again haha !)
None of them felt quite 'right' but I kept doing the family portraiture because I was finally brave enough to charge a ( ridiculously ) small fee for my services. Clients referred more clients to me and so it grew. I took any paid job Icould get and also continued to shoot for free for animal welfare groups. I started to get featured in pet magazines, ANZA magazine and so on. The wheels were in motion and word of mouth and a small amount of advertising pushed them along nicely. Slowly but surely I knew I could actually become a professional photographer.
Not your usual family portrait This would have to be one of my most favourite family portraits ever. So much fun!
This was my next big growth phase- I had to become a small business owner! I never wanted to be a business owner. My father offered me the funds to start a vet clinic many times. He left the corporate world and started his own business in Australia. He wanted me to have the same freedom. I didn't. I liked working for established vet clinics, charities even a university teaching hospital.
Yet photography was different. I actually wanted to establish myself and my own brand.
I registered as a business with ACRA and applied for my 'Letter of Consent' with MOM. It was a very exciting day when it arrived in the post! Yet it also meant that I could no longer work as a vet since expat women on a DP pass can only have one LOC. I had to make a choice, so I changed from clinic to camera. I also upgraded my gear which was pretty exciting!
I did not really ask for much help or input from my husband. He was more than willing to advise me but his advice was too "corporate world-ish". I wanted my business to be warm, genuine, personalised and most of all fun. So I looked for help in a variety of different places.
I can't remember how I found the Business Women Network SG but through it I met so many lovely women who were also trying to establish themselves in their chosen field. I felt the power of women supporting each other and I learned so much about running a business. Many of them have now become good friends and the FB community is still a great platform for me to share, learn and network.
Most of you know me for my street photography. It finally came into my life on a Singapore River cruise. I photographed the shophouses and high rises along the river and posted those shots in an expat wife FB group.
My first attempts at SG street photography
I received so many likes and people really enjoyed my images. They even enquired about buying prints! It appealed to me because I did not have to deal with people and I did not have to go out shooting every weekend. I decided to put some energy into this kind of photography. I took myself on many walks all around town and since my skill level was pretty good by now, I managed to get some nice shots.
It lead to more social media interest and I started selling my prints from home and at weekend markets. This is my first print on FOAM BOARD - omg so cheap and nasty. Well I have learned a lot about printing as well ( that will be another blog post one day!).
My first skyline print EVER on a foam board. Cheep and nasty but it showed me that photos deserve to be printed
I also realised that there were many women in the same situation that I was in 4.5 years ago. They had all the gear but no idea ! So I started offering free photography classes for a while, founded a FB page for those who were interested in learning more about photography and then this got so busy that I also needed to take it more seriously. I found a nice space to teach in and a started charging. Most of my clients now are still women ( 95%). I enjoy helping women to conquer a skill that many feel is just too technical, too hard or more of a 'man thing'. The group has grown and has a lovely atmosphere. You can join as well if you are still learning and of course men are welcome too. I am happy to teach any beginners who share my passion for photography Photography Workshops Singapore - educational and fun Through my classes I hope to educate and inspire others to become much better photographers.
Raffles The location of my very first outing with students!
I soon set up a website, looked after my FB page on a daily basis and it just kept on growing. I educated myself continuously throughout this growth phase and I still do so now.
To me curiosity + education+ passion + commitment = Success
I have so much more to learn and have so many ideas and new plans for the business. It is amazing to me, that I now have a photography gallery and retail space at 16 A Haji Lane! Kampong Glam is such a fabulous part of town.
Singapore Squares - Kampong Glam one of my bestsellers
The location itself is inspirational and having people come upstairs to view and buy my work is such a buzz! The positive feedback is humbling and I am determined to continue to impress my followers, to create beautiful wall art with my Singapore photography prints and to also put more energy into my charity work. I am even employing my first staff member this week!
It is 1 am now and writing this blog was exhausting but actually quite therapeutic. I had never written all of this down.
I am impressed if you read all the way down to here. High five and thank you to you. Let me know what you think of my wonderful photography journey. xx
As I promised future blogs will be shorter and of more real value to you. So please stay tuned!
Love Sandra xx
I like your journey, it is very inspiring.
Hi Sandra, thank you for sharing with us your experiences and your pictures.. really interesting to read and in some way - to know you better..
would love to join in one of your's class or visit your shop in Haji lane and even your lesson...
so that I can improve on my skill in photography..
Please do keep us update in your blog for any New interesting ideas ahead.. and more interesting new pictures ..
Good Job Sandra!! Xxx from Germany
Great blog Sandra.
So glad things are only getting better and better (and busier and busier) for you.
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