Justin Fernando is a videographer and an award-winning photographer. He has recently left full-time employment to further his passion for camera works in the world of freelancing. So why did Justin trade a stable job for one that has no guarantee? Here’s his story.
Where were you before started freelancing and why did you leave?
After graduation, I joined my first company doing videography and editing for a year before I was approached to join another company that was starting up. In that company, I was the primary videographer and did editing and graphics as well. I was there for seven years and left just a few months ago to start off on my own. I guess I felt it was about time to venture out on my own and into the unknown. We all like to be comfortable, and I just decided to take the leap of faith and see what’s out there.
How did you conclude that it’s time for you to start out on your own?
I still love my job. However, after seven years I was looking for more progression. I decided to risk the safety of a monthly salary to start off on my own. It was a difficult decision, but it just felt right.
After almost half a year, I enjoy owning my time and developing relationships with my clients to understand their visions. It has become less of a touch-and-go, and more of coming together with them to create contents that are engaging and visually stimulating.
What was your loved ones’ reactions to your decision?
My parents have always been supportive of me pursuing my passion. Never have they told me to get a better job like banking or engineering or what most Singaporeans deemed as a “proper” job when I was growing up. This is the one thing I am grateful for – having parents who are supportive of what I am interested in doing.
What is your photography style? Portrait, architecture, landscape, etc.?
I love taking travel landscapes and portraiture. In my travels, I like heading into the rural parts of a country. The innocence and purity you can capture speak for itself. It’s a unique experience each time when you smile and ask to take a picture of them, show them the photo and see the gleam on their faces as they look at themselves and return the smile. It is humbling, heartwarming, and goes back to the basic of strangers connecting in a foreign land, even when we don’t share the same language. I usually get their contact and send them a print. In Singapore printing out pictures is not very common anymore, and it’s easy to forget the joy of having something physical and tangible to hold, look at, and maybe even passing on to their family in the future.
What was your most memorable work for photography and videography?
Having completed a countless amount of projects over the years, it’s difficult to pick one. When I first started off roughly 9nineyears ago, the Canon 5DM2 came out and changed the way videos were made. At that young age, I was tasked to shoot and edit my first television commercial. It was a surreal experience to have the opportunity to shoot a TVC and doing up a car rig when these were usually left to the veterans to helm. Seeing it broadcasted on national TV was tremendously memorable.
Since starting out on my own, I have had the pleasure of partnering Bask Communications to work with Red Bull Racing for Formula 1, revolving around the concept of Dan & Max trying durian for the first time. We had to work with a tight timeline of having only 15 minutes for the shoot, and editing it overnight so that it will be ready for timely dissemination the next day. The video garnered over 13 million views worldwide and won two PR awards – Best Use of Broadcast/Video and Most Creative PR Stunt – for the campaign.
Freelancing market in photography seems to be saturated. Just browse through Instagram, and you’ll see tonnes of them. So what differentiates you from them?
Yes, these days it does seem like everyone with a camera is a photographer! I try to let my work speak for itself and it’s equally important to provide good service and build the relationship with clients.
One of the most common questions asked in photography and videography is whether gear matters. What’s your take on that?
Gear to me is absolutely secondary. While it does play a big role in aiding you to achieve your final product, I have also seen great stuff done on a shoestring budget. Sometimes not having the luxury of expensive gear pushes you to think more creatively about what will generate the best results. Having always wanted to go against the grain, I decided to go with Sony instead of the obvious two choices around and have not looked back. Of course, every brand has its pros and cons, it’s a matter of knowing what to use to attain the needs of the clients.
What are the gears for both photography and videography would you recommend for beginners?
Sony Alpha makes great, small full frame cameras that film great videos. As mentioned, there is no one size fits all formula, it all depends on how comfortable you are with your gear. Samyang makes awesome glass at affordable prices so starting off on those primes is a sure win start.
What is your advice for people who aspire to be freelance photography?
My advice is just to go for it. The most important thing is that it should bring you joy. You should wake up in the morning not dreading going to work and that is how I know the work I do is not just a daily requirement in life but a joy that completes it.