An Unique Studio Family Portrait Photography Session with the Songs

It is going to be a long post… but bear with me as I would like to share this unique experience…

As I read through my daily emails and reply all the enquiries, one email stand out.. CK email me to ask for a possibility to have a session done for his family.

It reads “… indoor photoshoot for my 6 year old son Ryan, my wife and I. Ryan has global developmental delay, cannot sit unsupported, and may have to either lie down, be carried, or propped up.

1. Do you have any experience with such children? If not, are you game to take up this challenge?

2. can you please send me info on your packages? I would like to keep some of the hi-res edited digital images (suitable for enlargement to > 8R)”

My heart sink and I just froze in front of the screen and my eyes are watery… It reminds me of my late mother whose great soul was trap in a body…

I pick up the pieces and decide to do the session for them… As much as I would like to control the release of the high res images, I will make exception.

Here is my email to CK:

“Hi CK,

Thanks for your email and the introduction.

I am happy to do the session for you and offer you the high res images free of charge.

I have not photograph a child with global development delay but my purpose is to preserve memory for people. It means something for me to be able to help you guys with small part of memory preservation for your child. I will do within my capacity to give you the best images that I could produce.

If you insist of paying me for my work, you can take the amount of money that you want to pay and donate it to any charity that you support in exchange.

Let me know when you can do that, I will check my schedule and arrange a suitable time.

Thank you for contacting me.”

So I am glad that CK took the offer and it was a profound experience when they arrived in the studio. However, I treat it is like any other studio session… I learn to formulate what I could photograph through observation and digging out information from clients when we meet. It is the body language, the way people connect, etc gives me the ideas what to capture. So I love to give time to understand the family if I meet them for the first time.

CK told me, Ryan didn’t smile once a shoot that they did some years ago. So I understand where i stand.

To me, Ryan, child being a child, is a cheeky boy who is happy but has a very strong personality… though limited in what he can communicate. The gaze in the eye contact is intense, the smile makes me feels like we are out in the open field, so spacious, so free. These are what touches my heart when I saw him. The connection of the parents with the child is natural and beautiful… it reminds me LOVE is an universal language and connection is how we communicate the Love.

So keep my lighting really simple, something more or less offer flexibility to everyone to move around my studio.

I am surprise that Ryan was rather open with some minor nervousness and I am happy to be able to use my gift to preserve part of their memories for them.

To me, it is a pat on my back knowing I have done well.

To the Songs, here is what CK wrote me on email:

Dear Hart

Thank you very much for doing the shoot for my family yesterday. It was a radical departure from our stereotype of what we thought a studio shoot should be.

In spite of being a pro-bono shoot, there was no sense of rush as you chatted with us and we fed Ryan in your living room. And no, it was not contrived small talk and gossip, but an open sharing of your experiences and the philosophy behind your work. Your words clearly reflected the deep passion that you have for your art, and your conviction to preserve memories. We also noticed you listening intently as we shared our experiences in bringing up and living with Ryan. I feel that the rapport and understanding built through this chit-chat was crucial in the success of the subsequent studio session.

The shoot itself was a whole lot of fun. My wife and I really enjoyed posing with our little prince, and look back in awe at how you managed to adapt to Ryan’s quirks on-the-fly, work around his limitations and capitalize on his idiosyncrasies to produce really beautiful and natural portraits. Without being able to speak or move much on his own, Ryan’s rich facial expressions and piercing gaze are some of the very few insights into his mind.  You have captured the best of Ryan and the innocence of his youth, from the joy of being held and loved, to the bewilderment of being kissed or chastised, to the disgust of doing something that he doesn’t want to do.

We were very surprised to receive the images today, only a day after the shoot. It was an emotional experience to see the beauty and innocence of our little prince frozen in time and captured for eternity. Many years from now, we will look back at these images and smile as the memories of Ryan’s childhood come flooding back. We once again thank you for volunteering to do this shoot.

With warmest regards

CK and PM

Here is something about Ryan:

Our 6 year old son Ryan suffers from Isolated Sulfite Oxidase Deficiency, an extremely rare and eventually fatal metabolic disorder that causes progressive brain damage and severe physical and mental disability. There is no definitive treatment that can stop or reverse the progression of this condition, and we have been advised that most children do not survive past early childhood. In spite of this rather bleak prognosis, my wife and I believe that each day with Ryan is a bonus, and are committed to giving Ryan as normal a childhood and family experience as we can. We do not shy away from exposing Ryan to the world,and we bring him along when we go shopping, watch shows, visit parks, and even on some of our overseas vacations  (So please don’t stare at Ryan if you see him in Parkway Parade, Vivocity or anywhere else…because he gets self conscious too!).  We are fortunate that Ryan is looked after by a dedicated team of doctors and nurses from NUH, and that we have excellent family support.

So I hope this post offer some awareness to Ryan’s condition.


Hart  Tan

Natural Family & Children Photography at home

Photographing a family is somewhat easy… just get everyone together and point the camera at their direction… wah lah… you got a family photo.

Of course, if all you need is a family photo.

When you hold up a photograph that you took a while ago… what does it mean to you? first thing that most people do is to re-live the moment when that photograph being taken. The emotional responses that you associate with what is in the photograph. So that is why, one of the key things a photographer needs to provide is the experience, because you are part of it. Hopefully, what you provide is what they remember as how happy the children were laughing, smiling, perhaps a tantrum or two, how everyone connect as a happy and harmonious family… simply a sense of happiness.

To many of my clients… a family photography session is a very important occasion. It is a time that you gather with people that you love, perhaps you even dressed up a little and make a little more effort to prepare you home ready for the session.

Being asked countless time, when is the best time to take family photos? in my mind, when is NOT the best time?


Here is a home session that I did recently and I am glad that I have exceeded the client’s expectation and being part of their happy memories.




Studio Children Photography – Rafael

My children are no longer little babies… at the time I wrote this blog, my youngest is already 3… I was cleaning up my computer and come across a photograph that I took of him when he was merely 1 year old… which I posted on my facebook. Time flies and I am glad that I spend more time with my children nowadays. Photography is always a fun things to do and it simply preserve the memories of my children so I can look back and remember how they look like.

Geraldine did the same thing and photographing her little baby annually…  This year we did a simple one in the studio.

For me at least, it was like a chat with a friend while taking picture of her little baby playing un-interrupted. Just Rafael…

I am glad that mom was happy and in her email, she mentioned,

Hi Hart,

Thank you for the photos. As before, I’m spoilt for choice and love all of them! …


So for me, it is a job well done for another happy client, to Geraldine, the memories of her child is forever preserved and for Rafael, he just had great fun playing in the studio.



Hart Tan

Children Photography 101 – Tips and Tricks…

I hope this article help parents who would like try and capture images of their child…

1) What are some of the main challenges with photographing children, especially infants and young kids?

The main challenges in photographing children lies in 2 things:
1, the behaviour of the child and also
2, the our own expectations.

Each child is unique and the more we can understand the children, the easiest to get the real emotion from the child. For example: a strong will child usually like to be challenge, so challenge them will work wonders and on the other hand, a very shy child usually need a lot time to build the rapport and gain their trust, etc

What is our expectations determine what we are going to take. For example, if I am looking to preserve memories of my child at a particular stage, I will look for the “milestone” kinda image, such as the first steps… walking with hands balancing… etc

Different scenarios:
My idea of photography is simple, capture the memories for the child as you interpret it as their parents. Allow them to be who they are and add or remove elements that you want to be in or out of those memories so we can remember them.

— When they’re sleeping  
When child is sleeping, they really don’t mind what you do as a parents. Use smaller and unintrusive camera would work. Child’s room tend to be dark, use of small flash light bouncing away from the child should give the right illumination that needed to get the images.

— When they’re playing / doing sports
If they are on the small play in the house, don’t interrupt them, let them do what they do and capture those moments as they will grow out of it in not so distant away. If they are playing sport outside the house, try to use longer tele-photo lens (something like 70-200mm works the best) to capture them without interrupting their activity.

— When on vacation and you want to take scenic shots
Vacation is the best time to do the shoot as you tend to be relax and there are a lot of things going on during the vacation. Bring small camera and bring one zoom lens instead of a lot of them. Spend time capturing what you want to remember them. Forget about bringing tripod, find somewhere to lean on and stabilise the camera by pulling the strap down and pull the camera up gives you the stability on the go. In short, keep it simple and focus on what you want to include as part of their memories

— When doing portraits
Control of lighting is crucial hence, usually off camera flash works better to control the shadow or find somewhere that has a big window. Use bed sheet as backdrop. Remember portrait is about the subject, set your camera and forget about it. Talk to the subject and find out the interesting expression of your child… you will surprise you see a lot of genuine expression when you talk to them like a little friend.  Don’t criticise them and keep the session short.

— In the water or pool
Waterproofed your camera!!!…
Those plastic enclosure works really well and go in the pool with them… give them direction and where to swim towards so you can control the overall image. Be patience as in the water takes a bit of time to focus and enclosure usually bulkier. Children usually like to do things repeatedly so just ask them to repeat them until you got the shots might work, but keep it short on each repetition.

— When you have a group of them
In the group, you need to find the “leader” of the pack if they are older then 4 years old and guide the leader and the rest will follow.
Younger than 4, just give them something that will make them sit down together… whatever… food, drawing, activities… etc.

General tips like lighting, camera modes, tips for getting kids to settle down, etc:
Soft lighting usually works better for children, so bounce the light if you have something to bounce, a big white towel makes a perfect bounce surface… I tend to shoot with Manual mode as I can control the light and other variables the way I want it, but Aperture more is commonly use as you just need to worry 1 variable. Keep things simple really.

Understand your child is crucial, never push what you want into them… if you want them to smile, make them smile, don’t ask them to smile. If you want them to happy jumping around, do that with them… they are a reflection of you… do remember the less you ask, but more you do with them gives you more things to shoot.

Last but not least, you need to always remember the idea behind why you want to take a photograph of your child? It is all about them and you are just an observer…

Here are some images I took of my kiddo during our recent vacation:


Hart Tan


Tips for Travel Photography

Making pictures during travel is often challenging when you have 3 kiddo in tow. Family, Landscape, portrait of my children are important part of my photography during travel.

You want to spend time with your family and experience different things during the trip but of course, some “record” of the trip is great to refresh the memories.

So the kit should be great for me to capture the high quality images while being not too heavy to bring around.

Here is what I bring with me:

1. Sony A7 Body – very compact full frame camera
2. Sony Carl Zeiss 24-70 f4 – New lens for A7, very modern rendering with great color but lack of the “classic” feel that I love
3. Minolta 70-210 f4 – a beautiful 20+ years lens that gives me the characteristic that I love.
4. Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux – a beautiful old lens that really gives the “classic” feel to the image that I love…
5. Voigtlander 12mm f5.6 – Beautiful wide angle prime lens which is my choice for wide angle shot.
6. All in a small Domke F-3X bag
7. Gitzo traveller series CF tripod.
8. MacBook Pro 13″ laptop

These are my working tool that I use regularly to shoot beautiful portrait for my customers too.

So, what do I take?
I usually take about 40-50 images a day and usually it is a record of what I experience during the trip. I will get someone take a couple “family” shot of us and majority of time, I just take my kiddo running around as well as some images that let me remember my travel. I am not so much of “portrait” of street people because I can’t spend time with them hence, can’t understand more of them, so I don’t take picture of people on the street.

Anyway, here is some of the images I took during this trip to Cambodia and Vietnam.

I hope this article helps you to decide what you want to bring and what you could take.


Hart Tan



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