Crafted By – Singapore Tatler Cover Shoot
What goes behind the scenes at a magazine’s cover shoot? Singapore Tatler invited Know Or Not? to take a peek at the team behind image, including the magazine’s Editor, Fashion Director, Senior Art Director and the Photographer, as well as interview the lovely subjects of the Passion Issue cover, Beppe De Vito and Lynn Yeow-De Vito. Read the article at
Welcome to The Know or Not? podcast. I’m your host, Kenn Delbridge, and in each episode, we’ll explore different topics that hopefully will enrich our understanding of the world we live in. In our first season, I’m going to focus on craftspeople and artists in Singapore and learn more about the wonderful creative community around us. For our debut episode, Know or Not goes grand on glamour, as we listen through the lens of a top fashion photographer.
0:30 Mathilda “You take two steps back and look at the screen, you just know you got it. It’s got feeling that’s it.” (laughs)
0:38 A picture is worth 1000 words. It’s a phrase first coined over 100 years ago, and in the age of Instagram and image-driven social media, the power of a photograph is stronger than ever for photographers, who’ve gone from the analogue world of 35mm film to that of the digital camera, the picture on the front of a magazine, the cover shot, still holds a magical place – a single frame that captures the essence of a publication.
When you’re Singapore Tatler with a reputation for beautiful, eye-catching cover shots, the pressure can be enormous. In this episode of our mini-series on photography, the Know or Not? podcast brings you behind the scenes of the cover shoot for Singapore Tatler’s passion issue.
1:26 It’s an overcast Tuesday afternoon in early January, and the lunch service at the restaurant is winding down. In the bar section upstairs, the creative team from Singapore Tatler has commandeered the area, setting up for the first of four shots. They have a tight deadline – the dinner service that evening means the full photoshoot has to wrap by 6pm which gives them just an hour for each setup. The core of the team here from Singapore Tatler is its editor, fashion director and senior director. And, of course, the photographer. We’re going to meet each of them. And at the end of our podcast, we’re going to talk to our passion couple
2:04 Terence Lim: “I’m Terence Lim and I’m the editor of Singapore Tatler.”
2:06 In any magazine, the buck stops with the editor. They’re the one responsible for every word and image in their publication. It’s a huge responsibility, and it’s down to Terence to decide on the cover shoot for an issue.
Terence: “Usually when we select the personalities, there has to be a news point of all the personalities. Could be them starting a new venture, it could be them celebrating a milestone in their business, or it could just be something interesting about them that people don’t know about. From there, once we have fixed the news point about the person and all the personalities, we will expand the story from there. It depends on how long the story is supposed to be, whether it’s spread over six pages, eight pages, or ten pages, we will try to work backwards and then to decide how many photos we need for that story. So let’s say we are doing a six page story. Generally we need about three big anchor photos for that and then we will sit down and discuss based on the theme of the story. What are the angles, what are the things that we want to capture about the personalities. Of course, we will do our own recce at the same time. So we will find three suitable locations – it could be within the same place, but you know, three different spots and then we will try to articulate from there.”
3:25 Terence: “The cover of a magazine makes the first impression for that issue, for newsstand sales-heavy kind of magazines, covers definitely work. That is very important for us. We are a subscription-based kind of magazine. Of course, the cover still matters because (if) you are reader we have many copies of different magazines on your desk, or at the airport lounge, which magazine re you’re going to like pick up? The cover that appealed to you most is the one that you’re going to pick up.”
At the shoot, Terrence is keeping tabs on everything as his team gets ready for the first frame to be shot. What’s the secret for keeping things on track during the shoot?
4:01 Terence: “I’m generally the force at the back. I leave it to the fashion director and director to move things around, but we work as a team, so after they shoot the picture, they have composed their crop of the photo, the three of us will down look at the photo and then we’ll decide, “Does this work? Does this not work? What’s lacking? If it’s good then shall we just move on to the next photo
4:22 For the passion issue of Singapore Tatler, the decisions regarding the fashion worn by the cover couple fall on the broad shoulders of one man,
4:30 Desmond: “I’m Desmond Lim, I’m the fashion director for Singapore Tatler. I think the process of setting the fashion for a photoshoot really depends on, number one, the personality, seeing how they are in their own natural style. And then us, being a Tatler, we try to sometimes push them just a little bit more. And also working very closely with the advertisers seeing what works for them in terms of a particular trend, or what’s in stores. So I think these are the process we think about. And also in line keeping things in line with what the cover topic is. For example, if it’s a passion issue, or it’s an issue on philanthropy. So these also kind of put things together into perspective and make us think a little bit harder on how we actually decide what sort of fashion should be on the magazine or the kind of image that will be on the cover”
With trends in fashion continuously changing, how does Desmond decide which direction to take?
5:34 Desmond: “Today’s cover, we’re going to be doing something with regards to passion so February for us is going to be somewhat the passion issue. So I think today it’s going to be a nice mix of seeing them having a little fun, showcasing a bit of passion between the two of them and how they run their business. Also as how they are as partners and how they are as parents, and I think it’s things that are really quite intimate that I think the readers are going to be really quite keen about. So in terms of style, we want them to be quite casual, something that’s quite easily attainable, but the same time you want them to be pretty much quite stylish, so we have very nice things from Prada, we have beautiful suits from Ferragamo. It’s just giving them that just right amount of color as well. So just make these characters “pop”.”
6:22 With movies like The Devil Wears Prada focusing on the fashion world, what’s the biggest misconception that people have about the role of a fashion director?
6:31 Desmond: “Fashion people – we are actually human camels because we spend a lot of time carrying so much things on our backs, running from store to store, going from malls to malls, that it’s just incredulous how we actually pull together a shoot, even though it’s just for a six pager or four pager. We actually have truck loads lots of things in our car. We have a lot of things in our luggage. So it’s really a lot of hard work. It’s a lot of times when people see fashion, they see of it as you know, you go to events, it’s really quite glamorous. You wear nice things. But that’s really just the 10% of it. I think a lot of it comes with being very certain of a direction that you set. It’s also knowing the kind of trend that works for your magazine. Because I think that’s also very key. Everybody could do Lady Gaga. But at the end of day would Lady Gaga be able to transcend the kind of message to your magazine. That’s a whole different story altogether. So I feel being a good stylist or being a good fashion director, I think it’s also being able to take all the big trends and turn them into things that your audience can resonate. And I think that’s very important. So a lot of thinking, a lot of reading as well. You basically have to be like a sponge, you read from all sorts, you listen to different sorts of music, you look at Interior magazines. I even watch like National Geographic, just to get a hint of, you know, how things are sometimes like, what the world’s actually changing what they’re looking as well, because fashion is really not just about pretty clothes. You know, it’s also about changing climate, a change of politics and the change of what’s happening around the world. So I think these are the things that eventually make you have a whole lot more thought process when it comes to creating your fashion pages. And it makes things a little bit more in depth than really just putting out clothing
8:17 At Singapore Tatler, the magazine’s creative output is divided into two departments. How the magazine looks is the responsibility of the art and photography side.
Mathilda: “My name is Matilda, I’m the senior art director at Singapore Tatler”
8:32 Defining a clear vision for the shoot is critical and brings everyone to focus on one common goal
8:38 Mathilda: “it’s teamwork, so it’s not me alone giving direction on the vision itself. We have meetings, channel ideas, and decide on the personality. From there, after we decide on the idea, I’ll usually do a mock up so everyone has a clear idea on how we going to do the cover picture and then I’ll be on set to their right and get everyone back to the original idea that we have, if they tend to, like, stray off course.”
9:05 Singapore Tatler has an unmistakable look to its covers but would it be accurate to say there’s a common theme?
9:11 Mathilda: “Unlike fashion magazines, we are not pressured to do a certain look, because we shoot a lot of real people, we strive to bring out the best angle, the best body language that we have. So each cover, if you notice, they might vary from style to style. But in totality, we do strive to produce good and modern pictures.”
9:35 Like fashion, trends existed on photography. How does Matilda keep our finger on the pulse?
9:41 Mathilda: “I think in this time of day it’s very disruptive. So I think we should see a variety of things, whether it’s fashion, music, politics, heavy reads, easy reads, silly things, Pinterest websites, Instagram, even talking to new people, observing them and having conversations to find new things, (and) understand what’s going on. So we should have an open mind and be exposed to different genres, not just because I’m in media, I should only do creative things, things that look pretty. I think we also can go into social causes, things that’s not related to media. So if you are exposed to different mindset and things, then from there, you can develop and try to ride on the trend, and create your own identity.”
10:27 The photoshoot today will run till 6pm, which means four hectic hours working with the passion couple. At what point will she know she has the cover image?
10:36 Mathilda: “It’s usually a gut feeling. But the main things are the lightning’s right, the face looks great, and the body language is good. And you take two steps back and look at the screen. You just know you got it. It’s gut feeling. Yes, that’s it!” (laughs)
10:51 The other creative side of the magazine is editorial. And if a picture is indeed worth 1000 words, then the words that will go with the accompanying article for the cover shoot needs to be exceptionally well written. The text will need to capture the personality of a cover couple.
11:10 It’s a daunting task that goes to the features writer as Terence explains the approach
11:15 Terence: “It all depends on the subject matter, right. We try to keep the voice of the story as “Singapore Tatler” as possible. I mean, there is a distinctive voice in the magazine. We try not to veer too far away from it, so you can really define what it is in words to you. Or when you read a thing about the article or story, you probably get it”
11:38 How would the features writer adapt the words to match the mood or style of the couple featured on the cover?
11:44 The common thread between all our covers is that our main responsibility, as a creative force, is to make our cover personalities look good on the cover, which is beneficial on many fronts. One, the cover looks appealing, people pick up and read. Two, your cover personalities are happy and, three, as a publisher, we want to produce good products. So that is the common thread. But if you asking me in terms of aesthetic style, we try not to pigeonhole ourselves into fixing a particular shooting method or a particular styling look. So we keep it very fluid, we keep it open.”
12:21 There is so much more to the work of the photographer on a cover shoot than merely releasing the shutter. They have to be able to get the most out of the talent within the near impossible deadline, capturing technically perfect shots while letting their creativity flow.
12:36 Darren: “Hi, my name is Darren Leow. I’m a photographer and I shoot a lot of covers and fashion stories for Singapore Tatler.”
12:42 Since this podcast miniseries is about photography, we’ll spend a little more time to Darren.
12:48 Darren: “What I did when I started was more of fashion photography. But slowly as I progressed, I did more real people and more commercial pictures as well. So Singapore Tatler’s fashion director took note of that, and I managed to get a first job with him, and then that’s how I ended up doing a lot of things with Singapore Tatler, and their covers and everything.”
13:08 The cover shot for a magazine is still considered the holy grail for photographers, a milestone that can boost a career. What changed after he shot his first cover?
13:17 Darren: “Was it a big boost for me once I got my first cover? That would be a definite yes, because it got my work out there. People started noticing what I do, because people in industry take notice more so than normal people as well. So yeah, definitely helped my career grow because of that. Once I achieve that mark, I went on to bigger things. I got bigger jobs because of that. So yes, that’s definitely a starting point or for photography in doing covers.”
13:42 Technically speaking, what’s required for a cover shot?
13:45 Having good gear definitely helps, I would say, but it’s not a make or break thing for photography because you can have the lousiest camera, but you have a very good direction, a very good I behind shooting and everything, that is what actually makes a picture. Every commission is different because some clients require your pictures to be blown up big for like buses or advertisements and more. So normally for that we would get like a medium format camera for magazines like for Singapore Kettler, I would use my own things so I have digital DSLR camera and that is usually more than enough for a magazine, cos a magazine is pretty small so you don’t have to have a large size cameras.
14:26 For the listeners who now absolutely have to know what Darren used, his setup was a Canon 4D Mark IV mounted on the tripod with a geared head and he shot with two Canon L lenses. A 24 to 70 mmm and a 70 to 200 mm, both f/2.8 both workhorses for this kind of photography, capable of delivering high resolution images with astounding detail. He used a single Broncolor strobe that was triggered wirelessly. His camera was tethered to a 15 inch MacBook Pro mounted on its own tripod running Capture One software showing the image and also configured with the second window to check focus on the eyes. Okay, back to the podcast.
Once everything is set up, taking a shot is simple. But the magic of portrait photography is the soft skill of working with people. What’s the secret to getting the most out of the subjects?
15:06 Darren: “So this is a interesting question, because I get that a lot. A lot of the times in the past, I would make fun of myself to get the conversation going. So normally when I’m shooting people, I make fun of myself, I say silly things. So I have a conversation with them. When I’m shooting them, I direct them. But at the same time, I talk to them and ask them what they do for a living, or how do you feel right now. And usually that makes them laugh. And it gives you a very good reaction. A good picture as well. One interesting thing for weddings, for couples, I tend to like to say like, “oh, imagine you’re in love, you know, pretend you love her”. And that usually would make them laugh as well. Because obviously they’re in love and it’s a bit silly for me to say such things. So that will give me a good picture. And a good reaction because they tend to look at each other. And that’s a very nice moment between the two of them. So that’s how I get them to laugh and everything.
15:54 So what are Darren’s emotions once the magazine is out on the newsstands?
15:58 Darren: “I generally feel happy! Anybody will feel happy to see their work or whatever they do, put up on a massive scale. And because this is the whole of Singapore we talking about. I feel rather accomplished and recognized for my work. And this always keeps me going as well. So it’s almost like a drug. You know, you see your work out there, and then you want to be better for the next one. So this is something that drives every photographer, I think, or any artist or any person who is like, you know, doing the job that they love. I think they always want to be better for the next one. So that’s how I feel.”
16:30 The Singapore team has been working for over four hours now, as they photographed our passion couple in four locations. The team is remarkably in sync with each, other anticipating and reacting perfectly to keep the shoot and moving forward, together with makeup artist Delaney and Darren’s camera assistant. They work on shoots like these every month and it’s a very well-oiled machine. This is critical because it keeps our passion couple relaxed, and the images previewed on the laptop look stunning. Darren has already shown Desmond several images that could be our cover shot, complete with a temporary crop with the current ratio for the cover of Singapore Tatler. After the shoot wraps, Darren will spend hours deep into the night to complete all the post production required to turn the raw images into print-ready files for Singapore countless Tatler’s print team to incorporate into the cover for that passion issue.
And now, our cover couple – Lynn Yeow-De Vito and Beppe De Vito
17:29 Beppe: “ Hi, my name is Beppe De Vito and I’m the chef owner of ilLido group”
17:32 Lynn: “My name is Lynn, I’m a proud mother four sons”
Beppe: “Marco, Tanin, Nico and Lucio”
17:38 Lynn: “with a Singaporean husband, who is a Michelin Star chef. We run a group of family restaurants under the il Lido Group.
17:46 Beppe: “we have Art restaurant, Aura, Amo, Braci, Sons, Southbridge. I’m pretty much involved in the whole operation, mostly at the back though, I still get my team to shine in front of me.”
18:00 Lynn: “I am a very passionate marketeer, PR person. These days we call it integrated communications
18:06 Beppe: “We travel a lot together, me and Lynn alone. We need that, we do that at least every other month and we’ll make sure to bring the family out at least 2-3 times a year, as well.”
18:20 So why did Lynn and Beppe accept Singapore Tatler’s invitation to appear on the cover of the passion issue?
18:27 Lynn: “I guess it was about the topic on passion and Beppe’s passion in the kitchen and industry as a whole.”
18:33 Beppe: “She’s all, “Hey, you’re passionate, you got to come and do this”… I’m like, OK. Well I think we’re both passionate about what we do, my job seems quite straightforward but actually it’s not just a single job, I’m not just in charge of the kitchen or the floor or the accounting or a marketing. I pretty much have my hands everywhere. So does she. I mean she has several jobs – four children, me as well, I’m the fifth child as well. I guess you have to be passionate about all of those things in order to take that on board more than a single job each time, otherwise you won’t be able to do it.”
19:07 It’s been a long four hour photoshoot. How do they feel right now?
19:11 Lynn: “it didn’t feel like it, honestly. Has it been 4 ½-hours?”
Beppe: “well, yes, six o’clock now, yeah.
Lynn: “I didn’t feel like it for me, I was enjoying the attention.”
Beppe: “no-one was idling around at any given time, everyone was trying to get something done, which is good, although either of us was working at times, you can see that everybody’s trying to stick to the schedule and get things done quickly. Which I guess makes our job much, much easier as well.”
19:34 The issue will hit the stands about a month after the shoot. Have they kept the cover a secret?
19:38 Lynn: “No, we didn’t tell anybody. It’s not really a secret. Maybe I’ll say something’s brewing, behind the scene.”
Beppe: “Oh, her friends are used to it!”
Lynn: “That’s not true!” (laughs)
Beppe: “She’s often involved in these kinds of things… “
Lynn: “…PR and marketing”
Beppe: “Less me”
Lynn: “I think his parents will be happy”
Beppe: “Yeah, relatives always get excited this kind of thing .”
Lynn: “We never had a wedding shoot. We’re not the traditional sort of couple where we have honeymoons and weddings and celebrations”
Beppe: “Just think of it as the shoot you never had.”
20:17 Lynn: “This is really fun. And I’m going to put it in our new house. Today’s shoot has been nothing but passionate and fun. So thank you to the team and to my husband was really participating in this (Lynn & Beppe kiss).. willingly…”
20:39 After four hours of the Singapore Tatler team and being photographed in the gorgeous Aura restaurant at National Gallery Singapore, our interview was the first chance Beppe and Lynn had to have time again as a couple, and it was barely five minutes before they couldn’t resist kissing.
For the passion issue of Singapore Tatler, once Beppe and Lynn agreed to appear, the only thing the team really needed to do was to capture the love between them.
21:04 The passion issue of Singapore Tatler is now available across Singapore, you can visit their website at Singapore Tatler
21:14 This episode of Know or Not? podcast was produced by Splice Cast and hosted by me, Kenn Delbridge
21:21 My thanks to Singapore Tatler managing director Corinne Ng for making this possible, and I am deeply indebted to the creative team for letting me interview them while busy working on the shoot. A special thanks to Beppe and Lynn for being so gracious with their time after the shoot and to Aura restaurant for hosting us. To learn more about this podcast, please visit Know or Not? Website