Graduation photography: How to make money | Bangkok Post: learning

Learning > Learning From News (เรียนภาษาอังกฤษจาก ข่าวบางกอกโพสต์)

Graduation photography: How to make money

Level switch:
  1. Advanced
- +

Successful graduation day photographer & small businessman shares experiences & tricks of trade ahead of graduation season, just ahead. 

Group photo on graduation day.

Click button to listen to Photography Business download 

PHOTOGRAPHY & BUSINESS

Behind-the-lens perspective

It's the start of the college graduation season, so we ask a photographer to be candid about the experience of capturing a student's big day for posterity
11/06/2013
Parisa Pichitmarn

Taking a graduation day photo from a different angle.

Donning a distinctive top to make himself stand out from the crowd is just one of the survival tactics that Piya "Zong" Chayphiphitthaphan employs to get through yet another graduation/commencement day, that busily stage-managed milestone in the lives of many Thai students.

That particular morning the young photographer had chosen to wear a bright orange polo shirt and he was expecting to take in the region of 500 to 600 shots before the day was out; even more - up to a thousand, he says - if his clients are accompanied by lots of friends or family members.

And this is no laid-back affair like wedding photography, which is often done indoors in air-conditioned rooms ("That'd be bliss!" he says). Zong is on his feet for hours at a time, bustling around under the hot sun to take snaps of first one group and then another, then meticulously photoshopping every single image to ensure the lighting, contrast and colours are just right. 

Finding shady spots to nap in during quiet periods or suffering "photographer's block" because his brain is so frazzled by the heat are just part of the package. The 31-year-old lensman spoke to Life recently and agreed to answer a few questions about this physically demanding, if rather well paid, occupation

How do you prepare yourself for a day's shoot?

You really need to get enough rest and sufficient sleep the night before. You can't afford to be sick either. So if I feel a cold coming on, I'll take some medication as a precaution. 

I have to take vitamin supplements too, because getting up really early and getting home really late can be draining, especially when you're doing it day after day without a break. It's good to get some exercise too, if that's possible, because you have to carry your equipment around all day long and my kit weighs at least 5kg. 

What's the toughest experience you've had?

Once I had to get up at 3.30am for a graduation at Srinakharinwirot University because the campus is so far from where I live. I took photos there all day long and when I finished it was evening and the traffic was so horrible that it was nearly midnight by the time I got home. 

Another time I had a job at Kasetsart University. I was there all morning and then my client had to go into the auditorium at noon [for the graduation ceremony]. By the time she came out again, it was 8pm because HRH Princess Chulabhorn [who was handing out the degrees on that occasion] takes breaks quite often. 

I just had to wait and wait endlessly. Then, even though it was already dark, I had to take another batch of pictures because it was vital to get some shots of my client holding her degree. 

How do you deal with crowded situations when there are a lot of people standing nearby and it's difficult to exclude strangers from a shot

Sometimes you just have to live with it. Other times you can take the photo from a different angle. Or you could ask the client to stand absolutely still and then take a shot of him or her with other people moving around in the background. This creates a sort of slow-motion freeze-frame in which the subject really stands out from the crowd. Or, if the person is completely surrounded, you could ask him or her to raise the arm holding the degree scroll and then leap into the air. A shot like that really makes the client the focal point of the whole image. So, basically, it's all about using your creativity to deal with conditions that you can't change. 

What are the differences between doing a shoot on a rehearsal day, on the actual graduation day and carrying out a commission for a single graduate? 

On rehearsal days many of the graduates' friends tend to show up, so it's usually a lot of fun. The actual graduation day is when all the relatives show up and if the client has a big family, with 20 or 30 relations turning up, things get a bit hectic. It can be tiring to have to shout all the time as you try to get the attention of a big group of people. So those two days have a completely different feel.

Private commissions are the most easy-going and usually a lot less demanding - plus you don't have to start so early in the morning.

Nowadays there are so many photographers with widely differing rates. How can a prospective client know whether a photographer is worth the price?

I think you should simply look at their portfolio and decide if you like their work or not. You might even like the work of some photographer who isn't charging that much! Some of the higher priced ones may not necessarily take good photos. People who like more artsy photos may have to pay more because there aren't that many artsy photographers out there. By "artsy" I mean images that look a bit crazy and unconventional.

The photographer may often use weird props, or powder to create a murky effect - or even smoke bombs. 

Do you ever get bored taking pictures of smiling faces all day long? 

Not really. It's kind of fun, actually. You get to meet many different types of graduates: some are really tough and can dash around all day without a rest and others stick to the shade because they get tired very easily. I've never met any really difficult graduates yet - maybe because I always let them have their own way. 

Are there photographers who don't let the clients have their own way?

Definitely! Some photographers are bossy and are after a certain kind of shot; they won't stop until they get it, even though the graduate might not feel the same way. Some photographers get moody because the graduate might have so many relatives that there isn't time to take the sort of pictures that they really want to take.

What does it take to be a good graduation-day photographer?

You need to have a high level of tolerance in order to put up with the hot weather and all the people. Some graduates have picky relatives, with the mother wanting one thing and the father wanting a shot from a different angle. If you order them around, they can get irritable because they already have something in mind.

You must also be loud and assertive enough to deal with other photographers who are competing with you for the best spots. And, most importantly, you mustn't miss any of the important local landmarks.

To see some examples of Zong's work, visit www.facebook.com/piyaphotographypage.

(Source: Bangkok Post, INTERVIEW, Behind-the-lens perspective, 11/06/2013, Parisa Pichitmarn, link)

 
Photography Business Vocabulary

photography - the art and science of taking photographs การถ่ายภาพ (See Wikipedia & Portal & different kinds of photography)
photographer - an expert in taking photographs ช่างภาพ (See Wikipedia)

wedding photography - a variety of photography & business for photographers (See Wikipedia)
entrepreneur - a person who starts a small business, a small business person (who has to work hard to make money from the business) (See Wikipedia)

lens - the glass in a camera or eyeglasses that changes light เลนซ์, แว่น, กระจกส่องภาพในกล้อง, ชุดเลนส์
behind-the-lens - where photographers work
zoom lens    เลนส์ขยายปรับภาพโดยรักษาโฟกัสเดิมไว้

perspective - a way of looking at or thinking about things influenced by personal experience and beliefs; opinion, view on an issue มุมมอง ทัศนะ ทัศนคติ
behind-the-lens perspective

capture -
record, record something that is happening now in a photo, video or writing
posterity - the people who will exist in the future คนรุ่นลูกรุ่นหลาน

capture for posterity - record something or take a photo to see in the future, for people who live in the future
capturing a student's big day for posterity

candid - tell the truth (even if painful, embarassing and difficult to say), be frank เปิดเผย, ตรงไปตรงมา, จริงจัง
It's the start of the college graduation season, so we ask a photographer to be candid about the experience of capturing a student's big day for posterity

distinctive - easy to notice and recognize as different พิเศษ, มีลักษณะเฉพาะ 
top - a shirt or jacket (clothes worn "on top")
a distinctive top

don - wear
donning a distinctive top

stand out from the crowd

tactics - particular methods for achieving something วิธีการ ไม้เด็ด กลเม็ดเด็ดพราย
survival tactics

survival tactics he employs to get through yet another graduation/commencement day

stage - to organise and event ทำการเปลี่ยนแปลง ปฏิวัติ
stage-managed

milestone - an important event in the history or development of something เหตุการณ์สำคัญ; ความสำเร็จอันยิ่งใหญ่; เหตุการณ์สำคัญ (ที่ควรบันทึกไว้)
stage-managed milestone

a busily stage-managed milestone in the lives of many Thai students

Donning
a distinctive top to make himself stand out from the crowd is just one of the survival tactics that Piya "Zong" Chayphiphitthaphan employs to get through yet another graduation/commencement day, that busily stage-managed milestone in the lives of many Thai students.

clients - (formal) customers ลูกค้า
accompanied - went together with ติดตาม, ร่วมทาง, เดินทางไปด้วย
clients accompanied by lots of friends or family members

bright -
a bright orange polo shirt

That particular morning the young photographer had chosen to wear a bright orange polo shirt and he was expecting to take in the region of 500 to 600 shots before the day was out; even more - up to a thousand, he says - if his clients are accompanied by lots of friends or family members.

laid-back
- relaxed, comfortable, untroubled, at ease  ซึ่งผ่อนคลาย, ซึ่งรู้สึกสบาย,
affair - an event เรื่องราว

a laid-back affair - a relaxed event
no laid back affair -
an event that was not relaxed

single - one only ดี่ยว

bliss -  extreme happiness, being very happy, happiness, joy ความสุขสำราญอันสุดยอด,  ความสุขบนสวรรค์, ความสุขอันล้นพ้น, สวรรค์
That'd be bliss! - I would be very happy if that happened !

bustling around  - being very busy, going to many places, doing many things ทำนู่นทำนี่ตลอด, ย้ายไปย้ายมาตลอด, วุ่นวายไม่หยุด
bustling around under the hot sun

take snaps -
take quick photographs 
take snaps of first one group and then another


ensure - to make certain that something happens or is done รับรอง ให้ความมั่นใจ ให้การยืนยัน
are just right - correct, exactly right (the way it should be)
ensure it is just right -
make sure that it is correct (the way it should be)

lighting - the way light is arranged in a room or place; illumination การจัดแสง,  การจัดไฟ, การส่องไฟ
contrast - a difference between two things when you compare them; a noticeable difference ความแตกต่าง
ensure the lighting, contrast and colours are just right. 

meticulously - in a very thorough way and with careful attention to detail อย่างพิถีพิถัน
image - any picture, especially one formed by a mirror or a lens ภาพ  
meticulously photoshopping every single image to ensure the lighting, contrast and colours are just right

And this is no laid-back affair like wedding photography, which is often done indoors in air-conditioned rooms ("That'd be bliss!" he says). Zong is on his feet for hours at a time, bustling around under the hot sun to take snaps of first one group and then another, then meticulously photoshopping every single image to ensure the lighting, contrast and colours are just right. 

shady - dark because there is not much light (under a tree, in the shadows) เต็มไปด้วยร่มเงา, เป็นเงามืด, ให้ร่มเงา, มืด
spot - a place
shady spots - a dark place (under a tree, in the shade, in the shadows)

nap -
take a short sleep (to refresh yourself and gain energy) 
shady spots to nap in during quiet periods

writer's block - when you can't write (thoughts and words won't come out)
photographer's block - when you can't take photos (just can't do and think the things needed to shoot photos) 

suffering - having physical or mental pain or problems ความทุกข์ทรมาน
suffering photographer's block

frazzled - tired and worn out and not working correctly
frazzled brain
his brain is so frazzled by the heat

Finding shady spots to nap in during quiet periods or suffering "photographer's block" because his brain is so frazzled by the heat are just part of the package.

occupation - the work or a job that one does to earn money and support one's family
lensman - a photographer

demanding -
requires a lot of something
physically demanding - requires a lot of energy, need to use your body a lot (walking, standing, carrying heacvy things, getting into weird positions to take photos, etc) 

The 31-year-old lensman spoke to Life recently and agreed to answer a few questions about this physically demanding, if rather well paid, occupation

How do you prepare yourself for a day's shoot?

sufficient - enough พอเพียง
You really need to get enough rest and sufficient sleep the night before.

can afford to - not have to worry or think about something สามารถทำได้ (example: I can afford to take a rest after I finish a lot of work.)
can't afford to
You can't afford to be sick either.

medication - a medicine, or a set of medicines or drugs used to improve a particular condition or illness
precaution - safety measures, things you do to be safe; something you do to protect from danger, harm and loss

take medication as a precaution - take medicine to be safe
So if I feel a cold coming on, I'll take some medication as a precaution. 

vitamin supplements - extra vitamins that you take for your health (in addition to the food you eat)
take vitamin supplements

draining - use up all your energy (so you have no energy)
getting home really late can be draining

kit -
all the equipment you to do your job
my kit weighs at least 5kg. 

I have to take vitamin supplements too, because getting up really early and getting home really late can be draining, especially when you're doing it day after day without a break. It's good to get some exercise too, if that's possible, because you have to carry your equipment around all day long and my kit weighs at least 5kg. 

toughest - most difficult
experience - thing that happens to you in your life ประสบการณ์

toughest experience - most difficult thing that happened to you
What's the toughest experience you've had?

traffic - the number traveling to a place during a period of time (people, aircraft, ships, trains, cars, trucks, etc.) ความหนาแน่นของจำนวนคน หรือยานพาหนะในช่วงเวลาใดช่วงเวลาหนึ่ง

horrible - very bad
the traffic was  horrible

Once I had to get up at 3.30am for a graduation at Srinakharinwirot University because the campus is so far from where I live. I took photos there all day long and when I finished it was evening and the traffic was so horrible that it was nearly midnight by the time I got home. 

ceremony - a formal public event งานพิธี
graduation ceremony  

auditorium -
หอประชุม, โรงละคร, สถานที่แสดงละครหรือคอนเสิร์ต
the graduation ceremony was in the auditorium

client - a customer (a person or company which purchases your products or services) ลูกค้า
my client had to go into the auditorium at noon

hand out -
give to many people
occasion - a time when some event happened

HRH Princess Chulabhorn was handing out the degrees on that occasion

Another time I had a job at Kasetsart University. I was there all morning and then my client had to go into the auditorium at noon [for the graduation ceremony]. By the time she came out again, it was 8pm because HRH Princess Chulabhorn [who was handing out the degrees on that occasion] takes breaks quite often. 

batch - a group of things considered similar in type พวก, ชุด, กลุ่ม
batch of pictures
take another batch of pictures

vital - very important, essential and necessary ที่สำคัญ ที่จำเป็นยิ่ง จำเป็นสำหรับชีวิต; สำคัญมาก
it was vital to get some shots of my client holding her degree. 

I just had to wait and wait endlessly. Then, even though it was already dark, I had to take another batch of pictures because it was vital to get some shots of my client holding her degree. 

exclude - to intentionally not include something แยกออกไป
strangers - people you don't know
shot - taking a photo
it's difficult to exclude strangers from a shot

How do you deal with crowded situations when there are a lot of people standing nearby and it's difficult to exclude strangers from a shot

just have to live with it - difficult situation that cannot be avoided (unrpreventable, will happen for sure not matter what you do)
Sometimes you just have to live with it.

take the photo from different angle
Other times you can take the photo from a different angle

still -
not move
stand still -
stand and not move

absolutely
- completely
stand absolutely still

background - what is in the back of a photo พื้นหลัง, ประวัติ, ข้างหลัง, ภูมิหลัง
foreground - what is in the front of a photo  ส่วนของภาพที่อยู่ใกล้ที่สุด,  ทัศนียภาพที่อยู่ใกล้ที่สุด

in the background

other people moving around in the background

slow-motion - when a movie or video is slowed and everything moves very slowly การเคลื่อนช้าๆ

freeze -
stop movement or motion
frame -
one frame in movie film
freeze-frame - stopping the motion of a film or video (and show one image that does not change)
slow-motion freeze-frame

Or you could ask the client to stand absolutely still and then take a shot of him or her with other people moving around in the background. This creates a sort of slow-motion freeze-frame in which the subject really stands out from the crowd.

scroll - paper with writing rolled into a tube สโครล, ม้วนกระดาษ, ม้วนกระดาษหรือหนัง (โดยเฉพาะที่มีคำจารึก)
degree scroll - the university degree is rolled into a tube so it can be handed to the graduating student easily during the ceremony
raise the arm holding the degree scroll

leap - jump up; to make a large jump or sudden movement, usually from one place to another กระโดด
leap into the air - jump up

focal point - the one point that people "focus" on and look at closely
a shot that makes the client the focal point of the whole image

Or, if the person is completely surrounded, you could ask him or her to raise the arm holding the degree scroll and then leap into the air. A shot like that really makes the client the focal point of the whole image. So, basically, it's all about using your creativity to deal with conditions that you can't change. 

rehearse
(verb) - practise, practise for a performance, practice before doing the real thing, train  ฝึกซ้อม, ซ้อม (ละคร)

rehearsal (noun)
rehearsal day

actual - real; existing in fact จริง
actual graduation day

commission - to officially ask for a piece of work to be done ซึ่งได้รับหน้าที่
carrying out a commission for a single graduate

What are the differences between doing a shoot on a rehearsal day, on the actual graduation day and carrying out a commission for a single graduate? 

show up - appear, come to a place and be there
friends showup

tend - to be likely to happen or behave in some way มักจะ

many of the graduates' friends tend to show up

On rehearsal days many of the graduates' friends tend to show up, so it's usually a lot of fun.

relatives - members of the same family not living together (such as cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, etc)
turning up - Same as "showing up"
hectic - when work or a situation is difficult to deal with; very busy and fast วุ่นวาย

The actual graduation day is when all the relatives show up and if the client has a big family, with 20 or 30 relations turning up, things get a bit hectic.

shout -  ตะโกน, ส่งเสียงดัง, ร้องเรียก, ร้องดังดัง
all the time
- always, without stopping ตลอดเวลา, ตลอดไป, เสมอ,  เสมอๆ
shout all the time
having to shout all the time

attention - ความตั้งใจ, สมาธิ, ความใส่ใจ
get the attention of someone
get someone's attention
get the attention of a big group of people

It can be tiring to have to shout all the time as you try to get the attention of a big group of people.

feel
a different feel
have a completely different feel
Graduation and rehearsal days have a completely different feel.

commission

private commissions
easy-going - relaxed
the most easy-going

demanding
a lot less demanding
Private commissions are the most easy-going and usually a lot less demanding - plus you don't have to start so early in the morning.

Nowadays there are so many photographers with widely differing rates. How can a prospective client know whether a photographer is worth the price?

I think you should simply look at their portfolio and decide if you like their work or not. You might even like the work of some photographer who isn't charging that much! Some of the higher priced ones may not necessarily take good photos. People who like more artsy photos may have to pay more because there aren't that many artsy photographers out there. By "artsy" I mean images that look a bit crazy and unconventional.

weird - very strange แปลกประหลาด
props - objects used by the actors performing in a play or film เครื่องมือ
weird props - strange things that the photographer puts in the photos to make them more interesting

murky - not clear what is going on (probably something bad)
create a murky effect

The photographer may often use weird props, or powder to create a murky effect - or even smoke bombs. 

bored -  ที่น่าเบื่อ
Do you ever get bored taking pictures of smiling faces all day long? 

tough - strong แข็งแรง
dash around all day without a rest
stick to the shade
because they get tired very easily.

Not really. It's kind of fun, actually. You get to meet many different types of graduates: some are really tough and can dash around all day without a rest and others stick to the shade because they get tired very easily.

let people have their own way - do what other people want, not what you want

I've never met any really difficult graduates yet - maybe because I always let them have their own way. 

Are there photographers who don't let the clients have their own way?

bossy - ordering and telling people to do things for you, behaving like you are the boss
moody - to change moods suddenly and often, happy one moment, then sad or angry

Definitely! Some photographers are bossy and are after a certain kind of shot; they won't stop until they get it, even though the graduate might not feel the same way. Some photographers get moody because the graduate might have so many relatives that there isn't time to take the sort of pictures that they really want to take.

What does it take to be a good graduation-day photographer?

tolerance (noun) - endurance  ความอดทน
tolerance to put up with the hot weather and all the people

put up with
(verb) - endure, endure difficult situation  อดทน,
put up with the hot weather
put up with all the people

You need to have a high level of tolerance in order to put up with the hot weather and all the people.

picky - fussy (when a person has to have everything the way they want) จู้จี้มาก, จุกจิกมาก
picky people

angle -
1. a location or position near something used to take its photo; 2. the way two lines meet มุม
a shot from a different angle
take a shot from this angle
try this angle
did you take a shot from all angles

Some graduates have picky relatives, with the mother wanting one thing and the father wanting a shot from a different angle.

have something in mind - know what they want already, decided already
they already have something in mind

irritable -
bad-tempered, touchy หงุดหงิด,  อารมณ์เสีย, ขี้โมโห,  โมโหง่าย
get irritable
- become irritable

If you order them around, they can get irritable because they already have something in mind.

assertive - aggressive ซึ่งยืนยันอย่างมั่นใจ
loud and assertive

You must also be loud and assertive enough to deal with other photographers who are competing with you for the best spots.

landmark - 1. things such as buildings, parks in an area that are easy to see and notice; important places in an area (historical landmarks) จุดสังเกต, สถานที่ที่เป็นจุดสังเกต, เครื่องหมายเด่นในภูมิประเทศ

local - in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about ท้องถิ่น
local landmarks
important
local landmarks

miss - not get or do (something you needed to do)  พลาด,  ทำพลาด, พลาดโดยไม่ตั้งใจ

And, most importantly, you mustn't miss any of the important local landmarks.

More on this topic

Bangkok Post online classifieds

Try buying & selling goods and properties 24/7 in our classifieds which has high purchasing power local & expatriate audience from within Thailand and around the world.

0 people commented about the above

Readers are urged not to submit comments that may cause legal dispute including slanderous, vulgar or violent language, incorrectly spelt names, discuss moderation action, quotes with no source or anything deemed critical of the monarchy. More information in our terms of use.

Please use our forum for more candid, lengthy, conversational and open discussion between one another.

  • Latest
  • Oldest
  • Most replied to
  • Most liked
  • Most disliked

    Click here to view more comments