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Inspirations >> Photos & People

Shooting Unpredictable Subjects - An Interview with Stanley Cheah


How did you start out as a sports photographer? What areas of sports were you most interested in, and why?

I love fast speed and moving subjects. I started out with travel and landscape photography. Subsequently, I found that sports photography suited my shooting style best.

My journey in sports photography started when I shot for Redsports.Sg in 2011. In 2013, I was chosen to photograph Team Singapore at the Myanmar SEA Games.

I love Track & Field, especially steeplechase. There are just so many unpredictable moments.  Swimming is also very interesting.

How different is sports photography as compared to generic photography?

Sports action only happens once, unlike portraiture or model shoots, where you can repeat the shot and make adjustments. The athletes cannot repeat the action for you. I create great shots by preparation, pre-focus, prediction, anticipation and initiative.

How well do you need to know the sport you’re photographing? Do you get to meet many sports personalities?

Every sports photographer needs to know the rules, the scoring system, schedule and total duration of the games. They should also have current information on the favourites, record holders and rising star athletes. Knowing the common style and habits of each athlete will help you prepare for the moments.

Meeting the sports personalities is a bonus!

What was your most memorable snapshot?

The most unforgettable was the shot of footballer, Hariss Harun, who ran towards me instead of to the main media during the winning goals against Malaysia at the Myanmar SEA Games 2013. Both my team-mate and I got the front-facing shots of him celebrating.

What was your most memorable experience?

I was involved in the construction of the Singapore Sports Hub and covered the memorable moments of Team Singapore Track & Field athletes practising at the newly open Hub in 2014. During the 2.5 years of involvement in the landmark project, there were many milestone events captured on camera.

Sports photography is about capturing the moments of triumph and defeat, and the sportsmanship.  What’s your philosophy on that?

My sports photography philosophy is to artistically capture the action shots without modifying reality. I do only minor editing in Photoshop. Thus perfect exposure, angle and focusing are the elements to be mastered. You must understand your equipment well, memorise the key buttons and be fast enough to adapt to any situation.



Isaiah Tan
Profile of writer

A professional videographer with a love for photography, Isaiah Tan runs a video production company and a small bar in Singapore, among other businesses. He enjoys experimenting with different photographic techniques and always wants to learn and discover more of the world around him.

Stanley Cheah
Profile of photographer

Stanley’s love affair with photography began with admiring scenic shots on postcards. “I wanted to be able to take photos like those,” he remembers. In 1992, he bought his first fully manual SLR Minolta X7 to learn photography. But it was only 15 years later, in 2007 that he got serious, and started attending courses by the Photography Society of Singapore. Today, he travels less to such exotic places due to work commitments, concentrating more on sports and arts events in Singapore.