Co-founder and one-half of the White Room Studio's brother-sister duo, Elaine Lim shares their journey for the past ten years, and the challenges of managing a niche portrait studio in Singapore

When it comes to photography studios, there are plenty who do it all—from destination pre-wedding photography to event photography. But one local photography studio stands out from the crowd, not because it promises to take you to the best destinations, rather, it strips away the razzle-dazzle of photoshoots, leaving what matters most—the emotions, stories, and relationships of the subjects.

Nestled in a heritage shophouse in River Valley, White Room Studio specialises only in portraiture, capturing the stories of their clients in simple but powerful images. With many awards under its belt—including Singapore Tatler’s Best of Singapore—the studio boasts a clientele of well-heeled individuals and expatriates for personal, corporate and family portraits.

As the photography studio celebrates its 10th year anniversary since its founding by brother-and-sister duo Dan Yeo and Elaine Lim, we speak to Elaine Lim on her passion for photography and how White Room Studio continues to attract a steady stream of clientele despite its niche focus in portraiture.

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Above White Room Studio sits within a colonial-style shophouse which overlooks Fort Canning Park

Why did you and Dan decide to set up White Room Studio back in 2009? Were you guys already photography enthusiasts then?
Elaine Lim (EL) I was majoring in Computer Science at the University of New South Wales when I discovered a love for photography in 2000. I had bought a film SLR camera for a backpacking trip to Japan, and I was obsessed with photography ever since! I enrolled into RMIT’s photography course and subsequently started working in portrait studios and art galleries in Sydney, and when I returned to Singapore in 2009, me and Dan—who had already founded his own studio—naturally decided to start the White Room Studio together.

What were some of the challenges in the early days of the studio?
EL Setting up White Room Studio with Dan is a dream come true. Working in photography, which is our passion, drove us to give 100 per cent of ourselves into creating beautiful portraits over the past nine years.

We had to build up a portfolio from scratch and I remember lugging studio equipment from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur to photograph my friend’s family for our portfolio, though it made quite an interesting experience.

We were so lucky to meet really kind clients who gave us invaluable advice, which helped us tremendously in putting one foot at a time in the right direction.

We had a very tiny studio space initially, and again, we were very lucky to secure our current space in River Valley, which opened up a much bigger variety of styles we can achieve within our studio.

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How long did it take to get the business on track and expanding at a healthy pace?
EL It was after two years of intense hard work, with mistakes and stumbles along the way. I can say that we really learned the hard way, but that has allowed us to constantly reflect on our experiences and apply what we learned into providing the best customer service. 

As our customer base grew substantially, that presented a new challenge—which was to manage so many active projects whilst still maintaining and improving White Room Studio’s standard of artistry and service to clients. From just the two of us, we are now a team of seven, and still looking to hire great staff to be part of our team.

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Above Naturally-lit portraits are one of the studio's specialities

What sets you apart from other photography studios?
EL We listen, and we are always there to help in all the ways we can. We spend time getting to know each family or individual, building personal connections, and we often find intimate, emotional stories in the process which really helps us to portray a genuine side of our subjects.

We are also fortunate to be situated over two levels of a heritage shophouse in River Valley, which gives so much warmth and natural light opportunities in our shoots. The studio has been renovated to impeccable taste, preserving the original floorboards and ceilings and offering a unique Peranakan/ colonial style to our imagery. And of course, the recognition from our multiple awards over the years.

Are there particular styles of photography that your team at White Room Studio prefers?
EL Natural, interactive poses; journalistic images; as well as artistic monochromatic and rustic colour tones. We try to use natural light as much as we can, or even a mix or ambient and studio lighting. We really want the subjects to speak for themselves, so we keep the use of props to a minimum. 

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Above The Third Room

What are your upcoming plans for the studio?
EL It is our tenth anniversary this year, and we are really excited to celebrate this milestone. We also plan to utilise our very own professional gallery space Third Room Gallery, to showcase works that our photographers have done outside of the studio.

Why is White Room Studio the go-to for portraitures?
EL White Room Studio is renowned for passion and perfection: to listen and understand, and to be a friend, capturing the essence of your personality and touching your inner soul through the use of light & shadows.

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