Instagram photos vs. reality in Singapore


Instagram reality in Singapore

IG feeds matter as much as first impressions these days: you can tell a lot about a person from the photos they share online. While some happily post unfiltered group shots, others ponder for hours over the best photo to fit their aesthetic.

For those looking to level up their IG, we’ve come up with 5 photography hacks – all painstakingly recorded below to showcase the reality behind standout Instagram shots. From capturing the perfect reflectiongram to experimenting with shadows, here’s how you can go about impressing your photographer friends.

All photos are shot at the relatively undiscovered Pulau Satumu, a restricted-access island that’s off the south of Singapore.


1. Reflectiongram




Reflectiongram - expectation

What it looks like: A film noir replica with moody vibes.




Reflectiongram - reality

How to do it: Fill up a bucket with water: this is an easy hack for any #reflectiongram shot. Once your subject’s posing casually by the windowsill – for the soft light to shine through – tilt your camera towards the water and shoot away.


2. Foreground framing




Foreground framing - expectation

What it looks like: A stroll along a scenic foreshore, with rugged rocks all around.




Foreground framing - reality

How to do it: Find a suitably pocket-sized rock – we used an aquarium ornament – to create “ridges” to frame your photos. And if you can’t find any, using your wallet as a prop works too! This creates a dark foreground that’ll help frame your subject, which is a simple way to add depth.

Foreground framing - use shadows

To lend the “ridges” realistic shadows, you can also get someone to hold their hand above your set-up.


3. Lens flare




Lens flare - expectation

What it looks like: The exact moment in time when the sun’s streaming through.




Lens flare - reality

How to do it: For that dreamy “rainbow”-like effect, simply get a CD and tilt it below your lens so that the light reflects off. Now you know what to do with all your old CDs – they’ll add an artistic flair to any portrait shot.

4. Light and shadow




Light and show - expectation

What it looks like: An intriguing play of shadows across her face.




Light and shadow - reality

How to do it: Get a colander or plastic basket – they can be found in any mama shop – and hold it above the subject’s head. This creates crisscrossed shadows and works beautifully for any close-up portrait. It’s a matter of experimenting, till you get the shadows scattered just right.

5. Freeze motion shot




Freeze motion shot - expectation

What it looks like: Posing pretty on a rock, with the salty sea spray frozen in mid-air.




Freeze motion shot - reality

How to do it: Make sure your shutter speed is as fast as it gets – we used 1/1000s. You’ll need a pair of extra hands for this – get a friend to help with a bucket of water as you shoot. Fingers crossed that they don’t aim wrongly and end up drenching you instead.


Instagrammable shots with the Singapore Maritime Gallery


Singapore Maritime Gallery - Instagrammable

Singapore’s filled with hidden nooks and crannies for a standout IG feed – we went down to restricted-access island Pulau Satumu and Singapore Maritime Gallery for all of ours.

Singapore Maritime Gallery - containers

These containers transport 90% of what you’re using in your everyday lives!

You’ll be walking through a vast 20-foot container – one that was previously used for shipping. There’ll also be virtual reality scanners where you can find out more about the different shipping vessels. Considering that our maritime industry involves more than 170,000 people, it’s an intriguing glimpse into one of Singapore’s biggest moneymakers.

Singapore Maritime Gallery - simulator

Taking the wheel with the Gallery’s Ship Bridge Simulator, which closely mimics how a ship is being maneuvered.

Once you’ve mastered the art of faking reality, head down to the Singapore Maritime Trails to take your own high-level expectation shots. These free guided trails go all around Singapore, covering maritime landmarks like the Dragon’s Teeth Gate and historical sites around the Singapore River.

Singapore maritime history - wall mural at Telok Ayer

Image credit: @add1zer0

No one expects maritime history in the middle of the island, but the new guided trail, the Singapore Maritime Trail 3, comes with snippets of interesting facts and rich narratives of how maritime activities in the past influenced our culture today.

The entire trail lasts roughly 2.5 hours and there’ll even be photo stops throughout.

Expectations vs Reality Of Instagram Photos On A Restricted Island
play button
Expectations vs Reality Of Instagram Photos On A Restricted Island

Whether you’re going for the Maritime Trail, exploring the Singapore Maritime Gallery, or just out and about in Singapore, join in Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore’s photography contest. Psst: the guided trails and the Singapore Maritime Gallery are both free!

Here’s how to join:

  1. Like @MPA.SG on Facebook or follow @Maritime_SG on Instagram.
  2. Post a photograph with a short caption on your “maritime moment” or describe how it showcases Singapore’s rich maritime heritage.
  3. Use the hashtag #mymaritimemoment and tag them on Facebook or Instagram!

Good luck! Each winner gets $200, a goodie bag, and also the chance to be featured in a Singapore Maritime Gallery’s exhibition.

Find out more about MPA’s photography contest here

This post was brought to you by Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. 
Photography by John Lim and Pichan Cruz.