The Story Of Light

The Story Of Light

A fundamental aspect of photography, light plays a crucial role in achieving a visual that speaks volumes. Mastering low light photography gives you the power to breathe life into your photos, to give them a voice. A story emerges from the gift of light that is to photography. And to Alex, this gift is one to be dearly treasured and tirelessly cultivated in the art of photography.

Having been in the industry for close to 17 years, Mr Alex Siew, Chief Photographer for Howe Studios, kicked off his career as a photographer with Singapore's Ministry of Defense (MINDEF) in 2000, before he became a photojournalist with the Singapore Press Holdings in 2003. He is currently the chief photographer of several photography firms. Through the many years spent behind the camera, he has achieved various accolades while making a consistent and conscious effort to contribute back to society through the means of photography. Having been part of our panel of esteemed judges for last year’s photo contest, he has hopped on once again in search for that winning shot of Tampines for #FacesOfTampines this year.

When Alex was younger, he was told that flash photography makes up 50% of all types of photography. Hence, he feels that photographers who tend to say “I don’t like flash photography, I prefer natural lighting”, are those who are probably not good at flash photography.

Wall Bounce

Wall Bounce

“I think the top mistakes photographers tend to make when they are using flash, is that they use the flash directly,” Alex says. “I think that’s the worst kind of flash photography.” In order to have a highly effective use of flash, he recommends to bounce it off the ceiling or wall to give a subtle and natural glow. The rationale behind this technique is the understanding that the larger your light-source is, the softer the light will be.

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If you don’t have the equipment necessary to perform this fanciful technique of flash bounce, not to fret! It is possible to do it with external phone flash accessories like the iblazr. “Alternatively, there are people who just bring along torchlights. That would work as well. Bounce that flashlight beam.” He says.

Light is powerful in the subtlest of ways, and this is most evident when you compare the golden hour lighting between dawn and dusk. “The natural light from dawn is usually harsher while the lighting and colours of dusk are more vibrant and softer,” Alex says. He believes this key difference is due to the atmosphere. The atmosphere is cool before the sun rises, and warm before the sun sets. This affects the overall colour and mood of the photographs taken.

Besides counting on natural lighting bestowed upon us from up above and around, you can also create different moods by playing with lighting and shadows with artificial light-sources. Darkness is associated with depressive moods and feelings of sadness, loneliness and despair. “If you want a very moody shot, try using a single off-camera flash to introduce light into a darkened studio. Focus the flashlight on the subject matter without spilling over to the rest of the room,” Alex explains. “You should be able to create a low-key shot, which means you have more shadows than highlights. What you will end up with is a gloomy shot with lots of contrast.”

Not the kind of visual you’re looking for? Not a problem – the lively, energetic mood can also be easily achieved by keeping the lights in the studio switched on, and bouncing the flash off the ceiling with the exposure set to 1 or 1.5. “This should give you a high-key effect, which means more whites and blacks, with more highlights than shadows.”


Honeycomb grids are also a favourite of Alex’s when he wants to create that spotlight effect. Often used for a hairlight or backlight when you do not want your light to spill onto the background and create ugly shadows, it helps to create a narrow beam of light to highlight a certain area. This tool is especially useful when you need to add light to the subject matter without affecting the background in any way. Here are some of the ways you can use honeycomb grids to achieve your ideal shot:


Easy Steps To Make Your Own Grids Set

For Grid A (10mm)

Step 1 – Cut 13 pieces of the corrugated plastic (coroplast) into equal size of 75mm x 10mm*
Step 2 – Apply Sticky tape on both surfaces
Step 3 – Stack all pieces on top of each other
Step 4 – Cut 220mm* of the velcro (loops side) and go lengthwise around the newly bonded stack

For Grid B (20mm)

Step 1 – Cut 13 pieces of the corrugated plastic (coroplast) into equal size of 75mm x 20mm*
Step 2 to Step 4 as above

Additional steps

- Cut four pieces of velcro, 100mm* in length (hooks side), expose the adhesive and fold it into halves. These will be used to attach the grids to your flash head. 
- Cut one piece of velcro, 210mm* in length (loops side) and paste it around the flash head.

Photography is really all about light and, is in itself a journey of learning to master the control and manipulation of it in presenting an image. When used cleverly, a story can be told in the most poignant way that words could never do. And that, for Alex, is what encapsulates the true essence of excellent photography.

To view more of Alex's work, visit:


Tampines Town Council’s 2018 Photo Contest

Inspired? Wanna take part in celebrating the unsung heroes of Tampines that has made a difference in your life, or the community – through photography?

Whether they’re a family member, a friend, your neighbour’s acquaintance or a group of enthusiasts, send in their photos along with their stories that had moved you (in less than 100 words); and stand a chance to win $1,000 worth of prizes!

*Person(s) in the photo has to live or work in Tampines, and location of photo taken has to also be in Tampines.The Photographer can be from anywhere, open to all. Singapore citizens, PRs and foreigners.

Email your submission (photo + brief write-up) to

For more information, visit

Closing date: 30 September 2018

Click here to read about last year’s winners and click on the articles below, to view stories of the other two judges.

2018 Photo Contest: Faces of Tampines

2018 Photo Contest: Faces of Tampines

The Art of Storytelling

The Art of Storytelling