MY PHOTOGRAPHY JOURNEY
Like most of you peeps out there I started shooting on my mobile phone. It was around the end of 2015 that I got inspired to start taking pictures on my then iPhone 6.
I was still serving my national service in the military, undergoing training as a combat engineer specialist when I saw Hypebeast feature one of @the_kafka’s nature photos.
I was just stunned by how beautiful the picture looked and went on to check his page out. Apparently he was in Singapore for some time and took quite an amount of architecture photos that I didn’t even know existed in Singapore.
Astonished by his work, I decided to find these hidden gems in Singapore and try to shoot them like he did.
Undergoing military training wasn’t exactly the best period of time to start photography as I had to stay in camp for most of the week and only got to book out on the weekends. Furthermore, photography wasn’t allowed in military camps for security purposes so I reserved my weekends for exploration and photography.
Another reason I got serious into photography that a lot of people don’t know was because I wasn’t doing very well pursuing one of my other passions, music.
While I was in polytechnic, I got influenced into listening to Electronic Dance Music, otherwise known as EDM. I really loved it and aspired to be a DJ/producer. However, not having much music background it was a real struggle to produce quality music.
I didn’t give up though. I kept trying but it became something that made me more frustrated and disappointed with myself than it was making me feel happy. That’s when I told myself I was going to take a break, besides I was about to enlist in the military and wouldn’t have as much time for music. That’s also when I decided to pick up something new.
Throughout the week in camp I would scout new locations through looking at other local instagrammer feeds and trying to triangulate the locations via google maps street view.
On the weekends, I would go explore with my buddies as much as possible to gather enough content for the following week.
Then, I would edit my photos during my free time in camp on mobile editing apps like VSCO and post them throughout the week.
I kept up with this viscous cycle, which I felt was really healthy for me as there was a balance.
I shot only during the weekends, and throughout the week I build up my motivation and drive to shoot again the following weekend.
I get DMs once in a while from people asking me for tips on staying motivated or sometimes guys tell me they feel like their on a creative block, having a schedule and sticking to it really helps with your success on Instagram.
I was constantly shooting every single weekend and it wasn’t even with people that were photographers. We were just a bunch of guys that were interested in exploring and finding new spots together, regardless if it was a rooftop, a lookup, or even an escalator.
We put in a lot of hard work into navigating to these spots and from that we gained so much more than just commenting on someone else’s picture and blatantly asking where “this” is.
I guess the drive and tenacity to keep exploring was what brought me my success on Instagram. People noticed my hustle and eventually wanted to reach out to me and even shoot with me.
So eventually I moved on from shooting on my iPhone to a compact camera that was lying around my home that nobody was using.
It was a Canon PoweShot G7X. A pretty decent compact camera which suited most of my needs back then. Because it was really small, I brought it out with me wherever I went and shot whatever I felt that could be aesthetic.
Progressively, I felt that I needed something more powerful and gave me more flexibility (lenses etc.) so I invested in my first ever DSLR, the Canon EOS 70D. (I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark IV now)
I continued my routine of scouting/editing on my weekdays in camp and shooting on the weekends when I’m out of camp. Eventually I got my first break and got featured on Moodygrams. (They have not featured me since HAHA!)
Back then when they started the #MG5K hashtag I was the first to get featured on it for accounts with less than 5k followers.
I gained quite a number of followers from them and ever since then I’ve been trying to get better at my craft hoping to reach out to more people.
I continued to shoot and soon people that were visiting Singapore started to hit me up hoping that I could show them around which helped me to showcase my work to their followers.
Before I know it I was getting DMs every other week to bring people around thus I started making new friends, internationally and locally which made photography so much more fun.
One of the first few photographers that reached out to me to shoot was Jethro (@jethoon) and Andy (@_andyyong).
Every weekend we would plan to go to a few locations and try to come up with new ideas. It was mutually beneficial as we inspired each other and more importantly I would have a subject or two to shoot! HAHA. Jokes aside, shooting with friends is another way of finding motivation to create.
As we continued to shoot, we made more new friends and connected with more instagrammers and eventually developed our own unique styles. Even though sometimes we each take the same shot, we always made it a point to try something different back at home.
I also used my military savings to travel to different places like Japan and China which helped me make my instagram feed more diverse.
In the beginning, I never set out to have more than 10k followers on instagram. It was more of just my friends and I fooling around trying to explore places like rooftops etc. It was a really easy going hobby for me and I made sure I didn’t take it too seriously.
Learning the hard way from being meticulous about every detail as a music producer has taught me that sometimes its just better not to give too many f*cks and enjoy your craft while you’re at it.
I feel that a lot of beginner instagrammer photographers are struggling not because they don’t have the talent but because their too focused on the numbers. Just because you’re not getting as many features/likes/followers as your peers doesn’t mean your work isn’t appreciated.
Focus on what matters and build on your craft. At least that’s how I did it ☺
Right now I’ve decided to pursue a degree in the school of Arts Design and Media in Nanyang Technological University and I’m quite excited for what the future holds for me!
That is my photography journey, to be continued…
I still love EDM and DJing and I just put out a mix of my favourite tracks at the moment you can check it out right here https://www.mixcloud.com/ryanmamba/ or on the music tab!