It Is All in the Expression

I was doing some update on my online portfolio that showcases only my paid assignment photography work.  Yes I do take in some freelance photography work (I know professional and full time photographers frown upon the existence of us freelancers and part-timers) to supplement my equipment purchase, and you have to admit photography is not exactly a very cheap hobby. In the process of adding sets of photographs I noticed I have missed out on particular shooting session from last year's wedding shoot in Bali, Indonesia for my dear friends Mabel and Calvin (friends I have known from my old days in Perth, Australia). It was their wedding reception dinner, right after the sunset church wedding ceremony in Bali. The reception dinner was held at the beach. It was one of the most challenging, yet fulfilling wedding shoot I have encountered so far.

Here are some shots from the reception dinner.

One of the most romantic dinner reception venue I have shot, just by the beach. 

Smiling until the eyes were closed. Genuine smiles are the most beautiful thing to photograph. At least I thought so. 


Tender moment with the grandmother. 

Technically, this was one of the most difficult photo-shoot job that I have been assigned to so far. The venue of the reception dinner was on the beach, with the tables and chairs being set up on sand literally. The only available lighting came from the soft glowing lanterns and some candles, which was not much help either. (With exception to the stage area where there was spotlight, which was bright but still not good enough) Many would say that an Olympus camera in such low light condition is completely useless, and I do agree, it was one of the few rare occasions that full frame cameras that has superior high ISO shooting capabilities (we are talking about clean ISO6400) and availibility of fast F1.4 lenses would surely make a huge world of difference. 

I can complain on and on about how better gear would have helped me get better shots, but I reminded myself that in such an assignment, technical perfection was very important, but not the priority that the clients seek. I was there to capture very important moments that could happen only once in the lifetime. I was there to shoot the facial expression that prominently displayed pure joy and happiness. No technical perfection can recognize and appreciate over-flowing emotion, your camera's superior high ISO shooting capability and expensive glass won't make the shots, if the photographer behind the camera did not see and respond fast enough. Most modern DSLR has very good (more than good enough) Autofocus capability, that if you miss the moment, the camera or lens are not to blame, but yourself, as the photographer. It takes high level of alertness and very quick reflex to respond to that moment that can happen in a blink of an eye. Those priceless moments, those intense emotional expressions, are what make the photographs stand out from the session. Not clean high ISO images. 

Burst of energy on the dance floor. 

They say photographs are silent but in this one, you can tell who shouted the loudest. 

Small gestures can tell stories. The audience may not know what this meant but for the couple, it has a special meaning. Not missing these small moments was crucial.

For more photographs please visit my Portfolio here (click).

and the Pre-Wedding Shoot at Bali

Many people think taking photographs is easy. I agree, to a certain extent. All you have to do is pick up a camera, any camera and click the shutter button, and there you have it, a photograph. However, it takes a lot more than that to take great photographs that stand out from the rest. It takes artistic vision, perseverance and countless hours of dedication, hard-work and experimentation. It takes a lot of patience, and passion. You have got to have the heart in the right place. 

I may not be producing anything great at this moment, or shooting any photographs that are "award-winning" worthy, but I do recognize what makes great photographs work. What is the consistent theme in the photographs in this blog entry's set so far? It is all in the expression. Facial expression, emotional response, and body language. Every expression tells a story. It was those expressions that made the above photographs work. I acknowledge that in execution, when it comes to composition and technical improvements, things could have been better (some would cry foul when they saw the highlights on the shirts). Again, lets take one step at a time. Each shooting session was a stepping stone. 


  1. Hello Robin,
    Thank you for sharing these moment of sheer joy in the life of your friends. I like the loving expression and the touching moment in the Grandma image and the 2nd last shot. It's a very touching feeling when we view it and you have captured those moment with perfection, great alertness and spot-on timing.
    Well done!
    May you have a peaceful evening.
    John Ragai

    1. Thanks again John for the kind compliments. I have my friends to thank for having faith and trust in me to deliver the photographs.

  2. Robin, your work is beautiful. As a working pro, I never begrudge freelancers their income. There is not enough space for me to explain my position clearly but more importantly I really enjoy your posts and the very real contributions you make to the enjoyment and understanding of photography.

    1. Thanks Mark for your compliments, it means a lot coming from a working pro !!
      I think the situation in Malaysia is a bit different, and the photography industry here can be quite viscous. Nonetheless that's a story for another day.
      Thanks again for your support, appreciate it !!