Family Photography: How Stan Ong Captures Memorable Memories


As most parents know, snapping beautiful portraits of children can be quite challenging. It's difficult to keep them still. It's not so easy to get them to smile. And they get so easily distracted. It's not surprising then that more and more families have turned to experts in order to capture the magic and mystery of childhood.

Meet Stan Ong, a favorite among many when it comes to creating beautiful photographs of pregnant moms, babies, and kids. In recent years, he has gained quite a reputation for capturing babies at their cutest, kids at their sweetest, and moms at their prettiest. Stan makes it seem so easy, but be warned. It takes talent, skill, and experience to come up with such breathtaking photographs as Stan's.

He says, “Shooting babies, kids, and pregnant women has it own set of challenges. But through experience, I learned how to handle different situations. I understand now that babies and kids have different personalities that I have to work with. I've taken portraits of kids of all ages: babies, toddlers, preschoolers. I learned to handle them all by myself—making them comfortable and teaching them to smile naturally. For maternity shoots, some moms are not as comfortable at showing skin, so I work around it as well. The satisfaction comes when I see the faces of the parents light up when I show them the photos in my camera. It means that I nailed it.”

Some of Stan's lovely photographs: 1a 1b 1c 1d

Stan's interest in photography started when he got his first film camera, a Canon EOS88 in 2001. From there, he took basic and advanced workshops conducted by Ibarra Deri and the late Manny Ang.

So excited was he over his new toy that he took it everywhere with him. And on his travels, Stan would shoot everything that he saw, from memorable scenery to everyday people. He loved film so much that he resisted going digital. But because of his growing passion for photography and interest in graphic design, he decided to shift to digital media.

He bought his first Digital Rebel XT in 2004, and took even more workshops at the Philippine Center for Creative Imaging (PCCI). He trained under legends: Mark Floro for food photography, Patrick Uy for wedding photography, Dominique James for single light and glamour photography, and Raymund Isaac for fashion photography.

In 2007, one of his friends asked whether he'd be interested in opening a children's photo studio in Cebu. While he liked the idea, he just couldn't leave Manila at the time. A few months later, another friend asked whether he wanted to put up a children's photo studio in Manila. It was as if his friends were giving him clues, and so Stan started shooting children and proceeded to develop his own style.

It's been almost a decade since he first started shooting children, and Stan has certainly chalked up many memorable experiences since then. Among his most unforgettable shoots, Stan includes his first cover shoot for a print magazine, Working Mom. He says, “Who wouldn’t want their photo on a cover of a magazine. This made me realize that I can do more and push myself, to never stop learning and contributing.”

Shooting for an orphanage and a maternity clinic to help them raise funds made an indelible mark on his memory as well.

“I learned that I can use my talent to help others. The orphans were able to have their photos taken (maybe for the first time in their lives) and the bahay paanakan was able to use my photos to raise funds and purchase the property,” says Stan.

He also looks forward to his annual breastfeeding photo shoots and exhibits.

“This has been an advocacy since 2009 when I realized how much breastfeeding helped my wife and my kids. I saw the importance of breastfeeding and wanted to promote it as a father and photographer,” says Stan.

While those memories are certainly unforgettable, it is Stan's most fervent dream to travel the world and take photographs of families in different countries.

How's it like to have a Stan Ong family photo session?

“If I am shooting in a location, I do a quick ocular and visualize the shots I will be creating. I then ask the parents the shots they want to achieve and integrate those with my vision for the shoot. Next, I ask the parents or I introduce myself to the kid(s). I talk to them. I play with them. I try to get to know them. When I feel that the kids are comfortable with me, that’s the time I get my camera. I see to it that everyone, not just the kids, enjoy the shoot. I want my shoots to be a memorable family activity that they will always remember every time they see the photos.”

“I describe my photography as a reflection of my personality and my expression of how I view the world. In every photograph I capture, I hope to inspire and intend to make it meaningful to other people.”

Here, more of Stan's beautiful images: 2 2a 2c 2d 2e