July 2013 Singapore workshop report

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This workshop very nearly turned into ‘how to shoot under atmospheric haze’ – but thankfully the airborne remnants of Indonesia’s forest-clearing lifted at the eleventh hour, and we enjoyed two days of spectacular weather. Even when rain threatened during lunch on the second day, the clouds miraculously lifted. Perhaps it was the collective power of 18 prospectively very angry and disappointed people that did it, or maybe the chicken I sacrificed before driving down. In any case, read on to see what we got up to.

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Singapore’s syllabus was a revised and improved version of the Making Outstanding Images framework I used for the USA workshops earlier in the year, and a prototype of what I’ll be covering on days one and two in Amsterdam and Prague later this year. We covered the fundamentals of what makes a good image: a systematic decomposition of the four things* I keep going on about. I’d also have liked to include the exploring style and editing/ postprocessing days, but unfortunately the schedule simply didn’t permit – I had to be back in Kuala Lumpur for another shoot the day after we finished the workshops.

*Light, subject, composition, idea.

We started off with the exploring light and metering session at the top of Fort Canning Park; the participants learned that a) light is incredibly critical, b) metering makes a huge difference to composition, and c) the hill is actually a lot taller than it looked. A lunchbreak was called, during which I looked at some images from the morning and talked about the importance of subject isolation and its various methods, against the nearby background of Clarke Quay. I hope I also managed to cure some of them of their bokeh-addiction, too.

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We completed the afternoon downtown around the skyscrapers of Raffles Place – a perfect setting to talk about choosing the right perspective, and how that keyed in to the use of leading lines and natural frames.

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Day two began with a blitz exercise: the fun (but of course intensely challenging) kind that I like to set to keep participants on their toes. Fifteen minutes to make five pictures. Seems easy? Yes, but the catch is that you have to imagine you only have those five empty slots left on your card or roll of film; no deleting is allowed. The interesting thing is that when you give people an assignment, they’ll shoot hundreds in an hour – but when you say you can only take five, a lot more thinking takes place, and most people didn’t manage to find all five. A good exercise in shot discipline, to say the least.

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We then made our way to Chinatown to talk about balance and the use of quadrants; I filmed a few segments for the upcoming video series (more on that tomorrow) and we repaired to a rooftop on Club Street for lunch and the challenge of composing without the crutch of bokeh.

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The remainder of the afternoon brought things together: how to use secondary and tertiary subjects for storytelling; another flash challenge shooting with cameraphones, and the final graduating assignments: open subject, bringing together everything learned during the earlier assignments. More importantly, participants also developed their ability to objectively assess images and realize the value of different points of view in relation to the subjective nature of art/ photography by critiquing each other. We then gave everybody another chance to incorporate the feedback from the group. I was very, very impressed by the level of improvement between the start of day one and the end of day two – everybody managed to up their game significantly. In fact, there were a number of images in the final submissions which I’d have been proud to call my own.

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A huge thank you to all of the enthusiastic participants – especially those who flew in – for being great students and also turning up on time to every staging point! I also owe quite a number of people an apology for not being able to accommodate them in this session. Rest assured that I will be back soon, and this time I’d also like to bring days 3 and 4 (exploring style and editing/ postprocessing) along with me. Until next time! MT

The full set of images from this workshop is here on flickr.

One last thing – if you can’t wait and would like to do a workshop in person, I’ve got a final slot left for the Prague session in October due to a scheduling issue with one of the participants. If you’d like more info, please click here, or send me an email. MT


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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. Michael Mak says:

    Looked like everyone had a great time. Would love to go to your next workshop (esp. with the day 3 and 4 included).

    You are probably very busy but do you have a tentative schedule for the next workshop in Singapore or anywhere in Asia?

    • Thanks Michael. Not yet – I’m thinking probably Hong Kong and Singapore in the second half of next year. I’ve got one spot left for Prague in October, then there will be Melbourne and Sydney in early 2014, London in July, and Montreal and Seattle or Miami in autumn. All of those are a long trek out, so I’d be doing the full blown four days.

  2. The first thing I noticed? The compositional balance demonstrated in the first group shot. Why am I not surprised that even your group shots look interesting? Was it arranged, or did they just sit themselves randomly?

  3. Wow … that looks like fun. You should host a workshop here in San Francisco. I’ll be first in line!

  4. Rule#1. No bumble bee outfits or stupid clothing that makes you stand out on the street. Stealth is your ally. The shadow knows! They made cameras black for a reason.

    • Absolutely – depends on your objectives though. I also prefer small cameras for that reason (that and they’re less of a burden to cart around your neck for days…)

  5. Nice pics … is it just me or are they slightly more “high key” than how you normally expose?

  6. John weeks says:

    How about a workshop in Florida Ming….sun, fun, beaches!!

  7. sergeylandesman says:

    Excellent workshop and lovely photos. Wished I was there…

  8. Tom Liles says:

    Poor old videographer doesn’t get in the lead group shot…

    [and for some reason that rig makes me think he could just boost two plumes of RP-1 exhaust out the back and take off]

  9. Thanks Ming. I had a great time, and learnt a good framework to use as a starting base. Looking at some of your pics from the weekend, I’m a little annoyed that I recognise so many of the buildings and subjects from the walkaround, but I didn’t capture any pics half as good as yours 🙂 (Especially that shot of the cloud in the reflective glass building, and the bloke in the calligraphy stall. Must have walked around them for a good 45 minutes and have 5-6 shots from different angles, none of which really worked!)

  10. wayne s. says:

    Really like the IQ of the D800E on these shots and they stand out compared to the OMD you used in the US photo workshops.
    What lens were you using on the cinematic shots?
    Only one square shot? What happened to all your ‘blad shooting way of composing? 😉
    Hope you keep shooting the D800E and ‘blad more. Really nice stuff!

    • It’s pretty hard to tell the difference in pixel or file quality at this size. What you’re seeing is the difference in the way the formats render, and some new processing I’ve been experimenting with in the last two months. In any case, these were a mix of the D800E and Ricoh GR, the former with the 85/1.8G. The images included in this post were ones I used to demonstrate (and I think the participants wanted to see). I didn’t do much personal work as we were also filming two workshop videos…

      • wayne s says:

        I was looking at all your flicker shots from Singapore.

        • Still not a big enough file to judge; I never upload more than about 1.5MP. That’s barely 10% of the OM-D and 5% of the D800E.

          • Michael Matthews says:

            Faked me out with the square crop, the city skyline with low tile roofs in foreground. I thought it was the D800E.

            Just goes to show how little I know — or how little is needed for web images: 3264 pixels reduced to 876. How large do you think the original would print to your satisfaction?

            • I did some 30×30″ test prints from the Coolpix A – same sensor – and they turned out just fine. That of course assumes your images are perfect at the pixel level, or they’re of subjects without too much fine detail. I think that’s about the limit, though.

  11. What a wonderful time! Great pictures as well. Lots of smiles.

  12. Hi Ming, looks like an amazing workshop with a fun group of people. If you eventually incorporate postprocessing into a workshop, I’d love to see that to get an idea of what you do for your final images. Cheers

    • Thanks Tony. This is actually the first workshop which hasn’t had post processing – schedule constraints on my side. Take a look at the USA sessions, for instance. The European sessions will incorporate PS too.

      • I just saw your most recent post and I couldn’t be more excited. I also learned that you are selling DVDs covering an intro into Photoshop, which I desperately need since I really feel like post processing is holding me back from making the most out of my OMD. I’ll look around the house for some loose money and I’ll get that asap. Looking forward to your workshop DVDs as well!


  1. […] you will conduct a workshop in Singapore, just like those you have done in Venice, Hanoi, etc. I already have. If there is sufficient demand I’ll do another one, of […]

  2. […] from previous workshops can be seen here – Amsterdam/ Prague, NYC/ San Francisco, Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong/ Macau, Kuala Lumpur one, two and […]

  3. […] from previous workshops can be seen here – Amsterdam/ Prague, NYC/ San Francisco, Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong/ Macau, Kuala Lumpur one, two and […]

  4. […] from previous workshops can be seen here – Amsterdam/ Prague, NYC/ San Francisco, Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong/ Macau, Kuala Lumpur one, two and […]

  5. […] Singapore and USA workshop reports are here and here […]

  6. […] Singapore, Saturday 6th & Sunday 7th July 2013 – Workshop complete – the post-workshop report is here. […]

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