By Amanda Goh, SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business
Taking photographs has been a constant part of my life since my childhood days. When I was 10, I discovered a passion for photography and joined the photography club in my primary school to learn more. Subsequently during my polytechnic days, I received a grant to pursue this passion further. I would never have foreseen that this pursuit of photography would lead me to where I am today: running a business that specialises in wedding photography.
Pentagraphy Studios was started in 2013 together with five other talented people whom I met in our polytechnic’s photography club. We started out shooting a variety of events, from dinner-and-dances to the occasional wedding. Over time, we decided to steer our focus towards weddings, and we’ve built up a portfolio that currently attracts many potential (and eventual) clients to our website.
Despite their relative youth, Amanda and her business partners have successfully built up a portfolio of wedding photography shoots, which further serve to market their business.
When we first meet prospective clients, many of them tend to comment that we look too young to be in this industry. The good thing is that the quality of our past work, as showcased on our online portfolio, is more than able to demonstrate our capabilities. Our clients soon recognise and accept that our youthful appearances belie our wealth of skills and experience.
As Pentagraphy’s only female photographer, I have additional biases to overcome: many couples don’t expect me to be the official photographer, since photography is perceived to be a male-dominated industry. Fortunately, my photographs and their quality are able to speak for themselves. I also believe that I have the tenacity and drive to prove my capabilities against those of other photographers – regardless of gender – and that my can-do attitude has played an important part in making me the person I am today.
Weddings are unique events as they mainly occur during culturally auspicious periods or on a particularly popular date of the year (like 080808). This factor makes wedding photography a rather volatile industry that requires us to be highly adaptive to the market needs. In an average month I may shoot two to three weddings, but there are also periods where I have no assignments lined up at all.
Many of my peers have the impression that wedding photography is a glitzy and glamourous business, where we get to enjoy the meals catered for the wedding guests. In reality, there is hardly any time to eat! As wedding photographers, we are always on our toes because it is our job to capture the fleeting moments on each couple’s very special day. And after the wedding itself, there is still much to do: in terms of post-processing the photographs, and delivering the final product to the client. Only then is my job really done.
Besides the actual shoots, most of my time outside of classes is spent running the business. I work closely with two of my partners, David and Cuthbert, on the sales and finance aspects. This entails replying to requests for quotations, arranging client meetings and managing the company’s finances. As Pentagraphy is self-run, we have the luxury of providing support to each other to accommodate our own personal lives, rather than being accountable to a boss who may not be as understanding. For instance, since I’m a full-time student, much of my time is naturally devoted towards my university studies, and my business partners will step in to help ease my workload near crucial time frames such as finals.
To be totally honest, juggling full-time university studies and Pentagraphy is really not easy. It takes a lot of self-control and time management to fulfill my commitments – besides my studies and my business commitments, I am also Bondue’s deputy operations director – and still make time for myself, family, and friends. It definitely helps that weddings are usually on weekends, but since they tend to be full-day affairs, each wedding means waking up in the wee hours of the morning and working almost non-stop till late at night. Inevitably, this drains my energy for the next day and can affect my productivity during project meetings. There also have been times where I edited my photographs in school while my friends studied, so as to meet a client’s deadlines.
Getting up close and personal with each of her clients is a big part of Amanda’s role as a wedding photographer, and cultivating their confidence in her photography skills goes a long way towards building the necessary level of trust.
An unexpected benefit of running my own business while pursuing a business degree is that I’ve had opportunities to contextualise what I’ve learnt at SMU into the day-to-day business situations of Pentagraphy. Modules like business law and financial accounting have empowered me with valuable knowledge that has helped me to further improve Pentagraphy’s services and reputation. In particular, my business law module gave me insights into the importance of the law and of protecting my business against any liabilities. It was this module which led me to highlight to my partners the importance of proper documentation, such as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between our business and each client, in case of any unforeseen events that may occur on their wedding day which could impede us from carrying out the agreed-upon services.
If you are someone who wants to start your own business but can’t fathom how to find the time, I hope that you’ll take the plunge just as I did. The truth is that you do have the time and the energy to pursue your dreams, but you’ll definitely have to make sacrifices – sleep a little less and work a little harder. The upside is that you’ll gain much more than you’ll give up when your efforts eventually pay off.
Opportunities are everywhere. Don’t let being a student stop you from venturing out to pursue your dreams!