HAVE you ever wondered how some photographers are able to produce photos that really stand out? The images have almost everything: the right composition, prop, lighting, subject, background, etc.

The secret to such natural yet dramatic photos is lots of planning and proper execution. This is called set-up or salon photography, an approach that fosters craftmanship and rules in order to create a good photo.

Good photos come from 60 to 70 per cent planning, while the rest depends on skills.

You seldom come across a subject complete with the perfect settings that will give you that dramatic photo; everything’s planned ahead.

One of the best ways to get good dramatic human interest photos is by joining salon photo trips, normally organised by seasoned and professional photographers. In Malaysia, top photographers who organise salon photography trips include Yaman Ibrahim, Arif Kaser, Mohd Irman Ismail, Nazri Sulaiman and Khairel Anuar Che Ani.

You learn advanced editing techniques by joining such trips.

Below are some of my photos from past salon photo trips.

1. The mask maker: I took this photo in a village in Indramayu, West Java. The smoke effect, the mask maker sitting in a wooden hut, the rays, lighting and timing are all planned carefully. There are photo assistants who help in tasks like holding the LED lights, flash, reflector, and creating the smoke.

2. Farmer’s best friend: This photo of a farmer in a padi field with his buffalo is not a coincidence. We hired him to walk his buffalo back and forth so we could get the perfect shot.

3. Lady of the lake: You are unlikely to get this picture if you just sit by this lake, which is in Situgunung in West Java. The girl and the man were hired, together with the prop, to float in the still lake so that photographers could capture something unique.

4. Masked dancer: The Indramayu dancer in colourful traditional costume was asked to look out of a wooden window wearing a serious expression. A reflector bounced sunlight towards her face to give her that glow.

A dancer in Cuba.

5. Chips maker: A worker at a tapioca chips factory in Indramayu, West Java, was asked to flip a tray full of dried chips. She did it over and over until the desired shots were achieved.

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