She may have only started her professional photography career in 2013, but Palita Mak-Drury has been shooting beautiful pictures for far longer.
The 36-year-old, who was a corporate executive for seven years, decided to follow her dreams when she realised she wasn’t feeling fulfilled.
“I was nervous to take the leap, but at the time, I felt like I had nothing to lose. Though my parents were sceptical, with my husband’s blessing, I decided to give it a crack,” Mak-Drury recalls. “If the business wasn’t sustainable in a year or so, I’d return to a normal day job. Luckily for me, four years later, I’m still able to do what I love and make a career out of it.”
Mak-Drury, who lives in the East Coast area with her husband, a 2-year-old daughter whom she affectionately calls “nugget”, plus, a furkid, shoots mainly baby, family and corporate pictures. Describing her photography style as candid and moment driven, she explains that it yields the most authentic and timeless images that speak straight to the heart.
“I give minimal directions at photo sessions as my goal is to capture your genuine personality and organic interaction with your loved ones,” she elaborates. “Personally, I know my photos are better when I’m passionate about what I am photographing and don’t just feel like I was hired because I have a camera and can get the job done.”
What do you love most about photographing families, babies and kids?
Being a mother of a 2-year-old, it pains me to see how quickly my little nugget grows and changes on a daily basis. There are so many milestones and memories being made constantly, and my brain just couldn’t take every detail in and memorise everything.
I feel that photographs provide me with a portal back into all these moments, and they give life to a story that I can share with my children and families for the rest of their lives and many generations to come.
When you tell them how much you loved them, how tiny they were or how fun that outing or holiday were, they hear only words. But only when you show them the photos, they truly get it. Even my own daughter gets tremendous joy from seeing photographs of herself.
Photographs are our personal story, a timeline of our lives filled with faces and things we love. They freeze moments of our lives which we can share with others. The impulse to save our photographs rather than valuable material items is a reminder that photographs matter. We record the important events and people in our lives, such as the birth of a child, birthdays, marriages, anniversaries and holidays because they matter.
They form small pieces of a jigsaw that complete the larger picture of our lives. It gives me tremendous joy to be able to record precious memories into images for families and play a part in maintaining the family legacy for many generations to come.
“The impulse to save our photographs rather than valuable material items is a reminder that photographs matter.”
Is it true that babies and kids are the hardest to photograph?
[Laughs] I wouldn’t describe them as being hard, but unlike adults who can take guidance and instructions, babies and children are simply more unpredictable in terms of their behaviour and mood.
When photographing babies and children, I relinquish control from the start and let them be in charge of the session and simply go with their flow.
Sometimes, you get a whole lot of nothing for a while, they may be shy to begin with, play coy or simply have a mind of their own. When that happens, I’d just keep spending time and interact with them and with time, something magical and unexpected will always happen. Most of the time, it happens very quickly, so I always have to make sure I am ready to push that button and capture it with my camera. And when you do successfully capture that honest, genuine moment, it’s the most gratifying feeling, ever!
How do you provide an end-to-end service for your clients?
When a potential client approaches me, I’d try and find out what services they need from me, which could be photography for the family, maternity, newborn, corporate events or birthday parties.
I’d also explain my photography style to them and direct them to my body of work on my website and Facebook, so they have a clear idea of what they can expect from me. Once they decide to go ahead and confirm the photo session, we’d agree on a date and time for the photo shoot, and they’d receive an invoice and some tips regarding the photo session beforehand.
One to two weeks after the photo session, my clients would receive a link and password to their private photo gallery online. The online gallery is a private, secure site where clients can select and download their photos. If they are interested in turning the images into quality prints or canvas, I’m more than happy to help as I work closely with carefully-selected professional printers.
Throughout the whole process, I’m in regular communication with my clients and they know they can contact me with any questions anytime. I’d also offer to meet them in person or talk to them over the phone prior to the photo shoot, but nowadays most clients seem to prefer communicating via WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
How do give your clients what they want without compromising your creative direction?
My photographer friends and I discuss this at length! I’d always make a point of explaining my photography style at the initial consultation and that they take a look at my portfolio to make sure our expectations are aligned and they understand what results they can expect from me.
Most clients come to me because they like my candid photography style. At times, I will have to make minor compromises, such as doing a few traditional posed shots for the families. And that’s okay, it is business after all and we all have bills to pay.
Plus, the photos are ultimately for the client and I do want them to be happy with the result. So my mantra is “one of you, one for me”, where I make sure both parties get something out of the photo session. The client gets what they want and I too get to stay true to my vision and reserve time to do the shots I love.
Next, Palita’s tips on the best places to do a shoot...
What are your favourite spots and backdrops to do a photoshoot at?
All my photo sessions take place on location. I travel to my clients’ homes, or to a location of their choosing. Newborn photo sessions are often held in the comfort of theirhome.
If a client prefers doing the photo shoot outdoors and they don’t have any preference in terms of location, East Coast Park and Gardens by the Bay are some of my favourite spots in Singapore, as they have both greenery and water backdrops.
They also have the necessary facilities to accommodate snack and bathroom breaks, which is essential for families, especially those with children.
What should parents look out for when choosing a photographer?
No two photographers are the same, even if all of their equipment is identical. Go through a photographer’s body of work and decide whether or not their style matches what you are looking for.
Ask yourself ― is there consistency in their lighting, edits and quality throughout their portfolio? Does the photographer’s style resonate with you? Don’t pick a photographer who focuses on candid images if you prefer posed images. Pick a photographer that specialises in what you want to do.
Talk or correspond with the photographer ahead of time to get a feel of their personality, style and the management of the photo session. Choose a photographer who best fits your style. If you don’t, you could be disappointed with the images.
Cost is another deciding factor. Make sure you are clear on the total cost and what is included in the cost of the photo session. If something is unclear, ask for clarification before you commit to the photographer.
If a photographer is very inexpensive, you may want to ask yourself, “Why are they so inexpensive?” If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is. If someone is good at their job and in demand, their prices will reflect that. Shooting your photos is a huge thing and you deserve to capture quality shots.
Once you find a photographer you love and trust, stick with them! I love documenting families as they grow. I’ve done family, maternity and newborn portraits for the same family over a few years, and I feel each session gets better because I am connected with that family on a deeper level every time we shoot. There is nothing better than knowing that you have witnessed a family’s monumental milestones.
“I’ve done family, maternity and newborn portraits for the same family over a few years, and I feel each session gets better because I am connected with that family on a deeper level every time we shoot.”
How do you work your shoots around family time?
I’ve always wanted to be a hands-on mother and running my own business means I have the flexibility and control over my own timetable.
For family, maternity and newborn photo shoots, I schedule them in the morning when my daughter is at school, or in the afternoon when she goes down for her nap. However, I do work most weekends as that’s when families tend to be available.
There will be times where I have to be out most of the day for a corporate event as well. I’m incredibly lucky to have a supportive husband and a wonderful and reliable nanny I can count on when I need to work on those occasions.
To be frank, there are still days where I struggle to find that balance as work can very easily take over your time, and take you away from being with family. So, I try to be mindful and efficient with how I use my time, so I can be the present for both my husband and my daughter as much as possible.
Complete the following sentences…
The one superpower I would like to have is… The ability to teleport and arrive somewhere without travelling. Being a mother, wife and a business owner, there just isn’t enough time in the day to do what needs to be done, and quality time with the family and myself can be hard to come by. Imagine being able to go from your home and show up at a work appointment or a holiday destination without travelling or waiting!
If I could photograph anyone in the world it would be… My parents, grandparents and my ancestors, in their youth. We have only a few photos of them when they were young, yet we hear so many interesting stories about them. I’m fascinated by the stories of what their lives were like before I was born.
I am happiest when… I’m with my family, surrounded by good food and with a fresh coconut in my hand.
If I wasn’t a photographer… I would be a location scout for movies or I would be travelling the world for National Geographic, experiencing and documenting people and their cultures from around the world ― probably with my camera in tow!
View more of Palita Mak-Drury’s work here.
Photos: Palita Photographer
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