Photography tips from a pro

Capture with the right light… Hilarion Goh posing beside a lighted panel on a wall that helps illuminate the subject.

PROFESSIONAL photographer Hilarion Goh was only three years old when he picked up his first camera, the Kodak Instamatic 126, and took a photo of the former National Theatre. Today, the 61-year-old bachelor is a commercial photographer specialising in fashion. In his 30-year career, he has photographed over 2,000 weddings, and was also the official photographer of beauty pageants such as Miss World Singapore, Miss Universe Singapore, Miss Earth International and Miss Universe Vietnam.

Hilarion also enjoys taking photos of landscapes, nature and animals. In 2018, his pictures and videos of Singapore’s unofficial mascots, the adorable otters, were featured in Ms Indranee Rajah’s Budget preview video. Ms Rajah, then Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance (she is currently a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Education and Finance), titled the video “An Otterly Singaporean Budget” and posted it on Facebook. It was a hit on the social media platform in Singapore and overseas.

Hilarion shared the photos and videos with her since she is his Member of Parliament in the Tanjong Pagar Constituency where he serves as a grassroots volunteer. He has also been an adviser to the Tanjong Pagar Photography Club for 15 years. This year, he will be taking on the role of an honorary adviser. We asked Hilarion to share his five simple tips to take better photos. This is what the pro says:

1. Explore the world
Move around; run, cycle and drive to find new and interesting places that will inspire you to take photos. If you want to photograph rare and pretty birds, you can explore Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, the Botanic Gardens and Pasir Ris Park, just to name a few. There are also beautiful sunrises at Changi, Gardens by the Bay and Marina Barrage, and sunsets at Labrador Park and Kent Ridge Park. Photography is a good form of exercise as you get out and about to capture images.  

Break of dawn… Hilarion took this photo at Gardens by the Bay overlooking Marina Barrage. 

2. Capture at the right light
Photos taken during sunrise are the best as the light is softer and your photos will be filled with the warm, golden hues of the sun’s rays. In the afternoon, the light is harsher and the objects in your photos will have ugly shadows. Photos taken just before and during sunset will turn out great too. 

Otter-ly adorable… Hilarion captured this shot of otters at Gardens by the Bay in the morning using a mobile phone. 

3. Dare to be creative
I’ll be honest – it’s very hard to define what’s a nice composition; there’s no right or wrong. However, photography, like any other artistic pursuit, is a creative process. In photography, there are some basic framing techniques such as the rule of thirds – breaking an image down into thirds vertically and horizontally and placing your subject at the intersection of the lines – but following them might not make your photos creative. Sometimes, you need to break out of the mould and challenge the rules, otherwise all your photos will look the same. 

Stork image… the principle behind the rule of thirds is to imagine breaking an image down into nine equal grids and placing your subject at the intersection of the lines. This helps to draw the viewer’s eye into the composition. Hilarion’s photo above used the rule of thirds, where the stork lies at the intersection of the bottom-left grid. We added the grid lines for illustration purposes.

Think out of the box… Hilarion challenged the rule of thirds by framing the otter in the centre and using the circular ripples of water to emphasise its position. 

4. Use photography apps
There are many applications that you can use to fine-tune your pictures. For mobile photography, I recommend Snapseed; it is a decent, free app. As Snapseed may not be very easy to use for beginners, it is good to take some courses to learn how to use it. If you’re willing to pay for photo-editing apps, I recommend Enlight for iPhones, and Toolwiz Photos and PicsPlay Pro for Android phones. If you are a more experienced photographer, you can consider using Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom to edit images on your computer; Adobe Lightroom is also available for photo-editing on your mobile phone. 

In full bloom… Hilarion used his mobile phone to take and edit this photo of pink flowers at Gardens by the Bay. 

5. Have a clear concept
Before you release the shutter, you should have a concept in mind to guide your shots. Let’s say that you wish to take photographs of people. However, ‘people’ is a very broad concept; it can comprise people from different cultures, and even people on the streets… the list is endless! You need to define your concept and think about the shots you want to take. This encourages you to think out of the box and look at things from a different perspective. 

Japanese geisha
Have a concept in mind… Hilarion worked around the concepts of 'Japanese culture' and 'street photography', which led him to capture this image of a geisha walking down the streets of Gion, Japan. 

You’re now ready to embark on your photography journey. Give it a shot; who knows, you may just end up with a new hobby! View more of Hilarion’s works at for inspiration.

Article published on 12/03/19