Widely recognised as the crème de la crème of Singapore’s creative industry, Edward Matthew Loh is the recipient of over 50 international awards for commercial photography and digital retouching. Not only has he been named as one of the Top 200 Photographers in Archive International magazine from 2003 to 2007, Edward’s portfolio also contains a diverse range of projects from companies such as BMW, Cathay Pacific Airlines, DHL, HSBC and Singtel.
Here are 7 insights from the talk he shared with the students and graduates from Make The Change’s Essential Communication Design for persons with disabilities (PwDs).
1. Changing Nature of the Creative Industry
Having started his career in 1993, he took the plunge to study and learn animation at a time where digital design still had an unpredictable future. For the next 24 years, he witnessed the transformation of demands and supplies in advertising, design and marketing. Nowadays, the proliferation of networks and technology has enabled companies to source for ideas, skills and tools individually.
Rather than having the engaged agency source for elements other than the idea itself, the client now sources for their own photographer and let the parties work together for the execution. Hence, the photographer today has to have better coordination skills to adapt and understand what the agency and client are looking for.
2. Ride Along the Waves and Make it Work for You
Observing the trend above, Edward Matthew adapted quickly to the changing creative landscape. Likewise for him, he made good use of communicative platforms to source for elements in his own projects. For example, it was a prudent move for him to go through profiles of photographers available online and engage him/her to shoot the background for him overseas. Even if he needed a shot of an alley in New York, He did not have to make a trip down personally. By listing down his exact preferences (lighting, angles etc) to a local photographer in New York, he is able to get the photos within a shorter and more efficient time frame.
3. Show, Not Tell
The group present at his sharing had the privilege to watch a few videos of his process of retouching, filming and creating. Accompanied with a light-hearted and humourous tone, he brought the audience through the editing process and showed how small details come together to form the finalised product. One of the projects he shared on was the HSBC Lion Campaign Shoot, and a few noteworthy insights acutely captured the essence of a conceptual photographer/retoucher/film storyteller in problem-solving, risk-taking and perseverance.
4. Expressing Yourself through Your Work
Other than corporate clients and commercial projects, the seasoned creative tapped on his artsy mediums to express his own thoughts and beliefs as well. Out of his many creations, two were shared during the talk. The first was a pair of spectacles remoulded into headphones, symbolising his belief that hearing - the receiving of ideas and thoughts, carries more importance than superficial, temporal first glances. The other was a tribute to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew. It was a formal blazer patched together by skins of different races, underlining Singapore’s unique gift of multi-racism and racial harmony.
5. Practical Retouching 101
Mr Edward went on to touch on several useful tips for beginners. All in all, he emphasised on the age-old saying that practice makes perfect, for a heightened familiarity with your tools breeds skillfulness and sharpens crafts. Additionally, he demonstrated how a retoucher should be aware and sensitive towards light and shadows. Pointing out that the retouching details in clothing (especially jeans) are of high importance, he also elaborated on varying heights and angles to achieve desired results. One special tip that he gave for retouching cars was to use the pen tool instead of others.
6. Beyond the Technicalities
The dynamic nature of a creative demands for skills outside design technicalities as well. The people factor is also paramount. In creating his desired shots, he often has to work with his team, engaged actors/models and other affected parties. This interpersonal skill fostered over time as he met and collaborated with new people and ideas along his career and journey as a creative.
A creative needs to have the grit in order to succeed. Mr Edward shared on his toughest times and how his faith in God has helped him to have hope, regain strength and accept difficult, seemingly impossible challenges. His faith and support from his family have propelled him to venture and persist in his vision of solving problems and creating stories, one project at a time.
Believing in restful increases, he also advised on taking frequent breaks and spreading out projects overtime to enhance quality and productivity.
7. “You guys are stronger than me.”
When asked if persons with disabilities can achieve and excel in the same line of work as him, he replied in a genuine and humbled manner, saying that he could not answer the question for them as he had not gone through the same journey. He also told the students that they were all stronger than him, and encouraged the students and graduates of the Essential Communication Design program to keep on fighting the good fight . He beautifully ended his sharing with one of his core beliefs: “ You must enjoy what you do. You are your own client. Set your own standards.”