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Adjusting his focus

Mr Jeryl Tan at Mount Rinjani.
Mr Jeryl Tan at Mount Rinjani. PHOTO: JERYL TAN
A photo taken in Greece, which Mr Jeryl Tan considers his favourite photograph.
A photo taken in Greece, which Mr Jeryl Tan considers his favourite photograph. PHOTO: JERYL TAN
Sunrise in Tegalang Rice Terrace, Bali.
Sunrise in Tegalang Rice Terrace, Bali. PHOTO: JERYL TAN

Millennials are putting their stamp across the world, making real their aspirations in ways that previous generations might never have thought of. Our series delves into how young people took bold steps to achieve their life goals in Big Plans Take Time. Self-taught photographer Jeryl Tan, our 14th profile, shares his inspiring journey of self-belief and gumption with Czaraim Carreon.

Exploring Europe is something that Mr Jeryl Tan had always wanted to do.

After reading a story on TripZilla about Singaporean Dominic Phua who traversed Europe in 50 days on a shoestring budget, he decided it was time to tick this item off his bucket list in June 2015.

Mr Tan, who had just finished serving his national service then, booked the cheapest round-trip flight he could find, and spent $1,000 of his savings on a Canon 6D camera to document his adventures.

An additional $6,000 — saved over his two years in the army — was used to fund his mission to visit 11 countries in 69 days. After his trip, he returned with a portfolio of snaps featuring landscape architecture, nature, food and portraits.

Getting started

Mr Tan’s adventure began in Italy. Upon disembarking, he received a notification from Instagram that he had been selected as a suggested user who would appeal to others with similar profiles. 

He started by travelling from Rome to other cities by train, using the long hours between the stops to read photography articles and watch video tutorials. He then applied what he learnt on the go, making regular posts on his Instagram feed. 

By the time he finally ended his trip where it began — in Rome — a little more than two months later, the number of Instagram followers he had had rocketed from 2,000 to about 30,000.

Today, he has 48,300 followers on the platform, a following that Mr Tan attributes to his unconventional approach to visual storytelling.


His winning photograph for the SGIG x Club Med Instagram compeititon, where he won an all-expenses-paid trip to The Maldives. PHOTO: JERYL TAN

After winning the SGIG x Club Med Instagram contest in the same year, Mr Tan soon went on another trip — this time to the Maldives.


INFOGRAPHIC: SPH CONTENT LAB

Not only was it an all-expenses-paid trip, but he also had the opportunity to mingle with other photographers from Singapore.

“I rubbed shoulders with industry professionals, and admired how they pursued their passion full-time. They encouraged me to do the same, validating my work and giving me their vote of confidence,” he says.

Career switch

Even so, the reality of a tough industry hit. A day after he returned from the Maldives, he had to start work in an events company, a gig he held for 1½ years before taking the plunge to be a full-time photographer this year.

At first, he scraped by with what he made from the few clients he had, with barely enough to procure more equipment.

At his lowest, he wondered if the gain was worth the pain. But he persisted, saying, “it was a matter of pushing through tough times until I reached the light at the end of the tunnel”.

Turning point

After months of persevering, Mr Tan started Euphoria Creative House. Today, his clientele includes Coach, Bvlgari and the Land Transport Authority. Recently, a top law firm in Singapore commissioned him to shoot its campaign, allowing him to strike a balance between commercial work and personal pursuits.

“My dream is to have my photograph chosen for the cover of National Geographic magazine one day,” he says.

With his nascent success, he is keeping things real. He knows there is much to learn, and each challenge is, to him, a new chance to grow.