Photo studios here let parents and kids live out fairy tale fantasies

Ms Johanna Thean’s newborn daughter, Jodi Huang, dressed as Snow White and Ms Vanessa Ong’s twins, Gerick and Glenise Tan (both above) as the Mad Hatter and Alice from Alice In Wonderland when they were a year old. -- PHOTO: VIVIEN NG
Ms Johanna Thean’s newborn daughter, Jodi Huang, dressed as Snow White and Ms Vanessa Ong’s twins, Gerick and Glenise Tan (both above) as the Mad Hatter and Alice from Alice In Wonderland when they were a year old. -- PHOTO: VIVIEN NG
Ms Johanna Thean’s newborn daughter, Jodi Huang (above), dressed as Snow White and Ms Vanessa Ong’s twins, Gerick and Glenise Tan as the Mad Hatter and Alice from Alice In Wonderland when they were a year old. -- PHOTO: VIVIEN NG
Ms Johanna Thean’s newborn daughter, Jodi Huang (above), dressed as Snow White and Ms Vanessa Ong’s twins, Gerick and Glenise Tan as the Mad Hatter and Alice from Alice In Wonderland when they were a year old. -- PHOTO: VIVIEN NG

A photo studio here is letting children - and their parents - live out their fairy-tale dreams

After doing four conventional studio shoots of her twins, Ms Vanessa Ong, 27, stumbled upon something different - the elaborate fairy tale-themed shoots offered by Wonderland Art Studio.

The first photo shoot, which she did about six months ago, saw her 18-month-old twins dressed up as characters such as Alice and the Mad Hatter from Alice In Wonderland and multiple characters from the Wizard Of Oz, achieved through the wonders of Adobe Photoshop.

The props and costumes are made by Ms Vivien Ng, the studio's creative director. She also conceptualises and styles the shoots and edits the photos, which includes adding detailed backdrops, adapted from illustrations sourced from books and online.

"The rule is I try to do it all myself. At least 90 per cent," says the 39-year-old, who was previously a stylist for magazines.

She leaves the actual photography to the two photographers in her studio (one works there full-time), who also do regular studio and outdoor shots.

Set up in January this year with two partners, Wonderland Art Studio is slowly carving a niche for itself with its highly conceptual creative shoots, reminiscent of Anne Geddes' stylised baby shoots.

Life! did not find a similar service being provided by other photography studios here.

The studio has costumes of characters from more than 12 fairy tales and nursery rhymes such as Snow White, Jack And The Beanstalk and Mary from Mary Had A Little Lamb.

Ms Ng, who loves crafts and picked up sewing from her mother, has lost count of how many costumes she has made. "I can't close the wardrobe door anymore," she says.

She started experimenting with concept shoots in 2012 with her then two-year-old daughter, Sarah, posting them on her Instagram account.

"I was bored and I thought, what else can we do besides playing with toys?" says Ms Ng, who is married to a civil servant.

Inspired by vintage fairy-tale books and Tim Burton movies, her photos were such a hit that the former stay-at-home mum set up shop barely two years later.

So far, response to the shoots has been encouraging. The studio has an average of three shoots a day, keeping the mother of one on her toes.

A $200 starter package gets a 45-minute session for a child, one fairy-tale costume, one 8R "art image" (which includes the digital backdrop to complete the look) and 15 re-touched 5R images.

The pricier packages allow for more costumes and shooting time. The studio charges $80 more an extra child and $120 for customised costumes or props.

Parents who are game to join their children in front of the camera can opt for the $480 package, but have to provide their own adult costumes if they want to dress up.

The studio also ventured into newborn photography two months ago. These shoots, which are taken within two weeks of birth, cost $480 for a two-hour studio session.

Ms Johanna Thean, 41, who booked a session for her newborn daughter, Jodi, a month back, says: "I wanted to do something different for my daughter. I don't like something that is too common."

The mother of three, who works as a senior showroom executive at Xtra Designs, appreciates Ms Ng's creativity, adding that she finds the costumes offered by other studios, like Japanese kimonos, too contrived.

But getting the perfect shot is not always easy.

"I have to play games with them, let them listen to music, do sing-alongs," says Ms Ng, who adds that she has been shouted at by kids before.

Sometimes, an ice-cream run is necessary to soothe tiny tempers.

With such unpredictability, shoots can last from 45 minutes to up to three hours, and Wonderland Art Studio does not penalise parents whose children take longer than others to warm up. It allocates sufficient time for each shoot by booking a maximum of three shoots a day.

But dealing with parents is no child's play either. "Editing the background is a long process. Some parents don't understand that," says Ms Ng, who takes at least a week to finish editing a starter package shoot, depending on the complexity of the project and the number of clients on her plate.

But for her, this is a passion - even if this means clocking 18-hour days at times.

"I want to give more kids the opportunity to have their dreams come true," she says.

Spoken like a modern-day fairy godmother.

nabilahs@sph.com.sg