Featuring Kuoloon Chong & Qiya Ng with Kompactfaen
We hear it all the time. The old saying, “you can’t please everyone.” But in the social media-focused world of wedding photography, it’s important to be liked. The more people like you, the more work you’ll get.
So in an industry that relies so heavily on referrals, ignoring criticism from other photographers and vendors is a big gamble. But it’s one that paid off for Qiya Ng and Kuoloon Chong. Despite a lack of support from their community and colleagues, just one year after the couple created Kompactfaen they were named one of 30 Rising Stars of wedding photography in the world by Rangefinder Magazine.
Focus on Your Vision
The Singapore based photographers were invited to speak on a panel at WPPI earlier this year along with several other Rangefinder Rising Stars. The panel was about how to build a brand, find your style and overcome insecurities.
For many newcomers, self-doubt can take hold, making you think you’re not good enough, that people will question your artistry, and clients won’t like your work. Usually, that chorus of negativity is just in your head and can be chalked up to nerves and a lack of self-confidence. But for the creators of Kompactfaen, it was real and coming at them from every direction as they were trying to start their wedding photography business.
“It was really hard in the beginning because we were constantly seeing comments from photographers and vendors telling us that they didn’t like our photos or our style of shooting.” Qiya remembers how hard it was to stay true to herself amidst so much criticism. “They would say they wanted something different and we thought, ok, what can we do to please them?”
But, in order to actually grow their business, Qiya and Kuoloon had to stop trying to make other people happy and just focus on their own vision for their company. “You end up looking sideways to your competitors to see what they are doing to please people to move ahead and you get lost. You stop moving. You don’t look forward anymore.”
Diving Deep Into Emotions
Kompactfaen’s photos are dark and moody at a time when many photographers have adopted a light and airy shooting and editing style. They focus on diving deep into emotions and going beyond just documenting the day’s events. In the exceedingly diverse industry of wedding and portrait photography, by no means is any of that controversial or deserving of criticism. But Kompactfaen photography is based in Singapore and serves almost exclusively Asians; couples with very traditional families, and a deep-rooted culture of keeping emotions private. “Being Asian, sometimes we can be closed off. Even our parents, they don’t really kiss you, or tell you they love you. That’s why we try to bring out emotion in our clients and their families.”
Going Against the Grain
Shaking up the ceremonial tradition of Asian weddings didn’t go over very well with the wedding industry in Singapore. Kompactfaen’s ability to draw out and capture raw emotion in such a reserved culture was getting them a lot of attention, but unfortunately, it wasn’t positive. “We got a lot of criticism but that was ok because our photos were able to make people think a bit deeper.”
Qiya says their clients were excited about seeing and doing something different but it was difficult to get their traditional parents and other family members on board. “We push people to dig deeper and to understand that although on the surface it’s a happy event, the underlying theme of weddings are the emotions inside them. It’s a lot more than just being happy. Sometimes happy is just something that’s shown on the outside.”
Now that they have survived their first year of business and received international acclaim for their photos, Qiya and Kuoloon are grateful they didn’t give up on their outside-of-the-box shooting style, even when it felt like they were doomed. Kompactfaen set out to change the way Asian weddings were experienced, celebrated and captured and despite all of the criticism and negativity, they resisted the urge to look sideways and kept moving forward.
Written by Sabrina Sabbagh