After seven years in an advertising firm and spending late nights chasing deadlines, Ashley Low soon felt weary and disconnected from her life and career.
When she saw a pregnant colleague burning the midnight oil despite being due the following week, she decided that was it and quit her associate accounts director role.
She eventually left her high-paying job in 2009 to pursue her passion for photography.
Today, the founder-director of Ashley Low Photography celebrates her company's tenth year and has seen more than 2,700 families and 1,500 babies through its studio doors.
Her bold mid-career switch did not come easy.
Low, 40, told The New Paper: "Even though my (former) boss offered me a promotion and an almost double increment in salary, I was still not happy with what I was doing."
A dinner conversation with her family after she resigned was the turning point when her brother encouraged Ms Low - who carried her DSLR camera everywhere - to attend photography school and further develop her skills.
She said: "My parents are quite traditional, but they saw how much I disliked my previous job and supported me to pursue my dreams.
"But I still had to take care of myself financially."
Funding was a struggle, especially after facing sponsorship rejections for her studies from more than 20 parties.
She eventually took a $40,000 loan from her uncle.
After completing her year-long diploma course in photography at the University of the Arts London in 2010, Low decided to focus on family photography as she did not want to delve into anything advertising- or product marketing-related again.
Capitalising on the Groupon trend in 2011, she attracted 500 clients within eight months by offering low prices and outdoor shoot packages.
While she was unable to make profits, it helped her build a customer base and expand her network.
Low then started to specialise in newborn photography.
"Initially, newborn photography was daunting as the babies looked fragile and would often cry, but attending courses and promoting my business at baby fairs helped me navigate the challenges. Now, I am most comfortable with newborns."
After a decade, she now works with 60 to 100 clients every month and charges fees of $699 onwards.
Ashley Low Photography has grown into an award-winning brand known for its use of textures, props, colour theory and floral design.
It also introduced fine art photography to family photos, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and solo portraits.
To offer more affordable packages, Low started Bloom Photography last year with her business partner, Lim Su Wen, 38.
Low takes care of the business side of things while Lim is in charge of the photoshoots, with prices from $159.
Low also invested in influencer marketing to amplify her brand amid an extremely competitive industry, and her network of mothers helps spread the word about her newborn photography packages.
She said: "I find purpose in capturing some of my clients' vulnerable moments. I did a Rainbow Babies series to commemorate the joy of birth after a tragic miscarriage for the family. Capturing the bittersweet moments makes what I do much more meaningful."
Secrets of the trade
- A large capital is not necessary to start a photography business. A DSLR camera and laptop are sufficient, and outdoor shoots should be considered, as studio spaces can be quite expensive.
- Establishing your unique creative stance is important. Find something that sets you apart from the competition. You can get inspiration from other photographers, but do not copy from them.
- Have a growth mindset. Always think about how you can better yourself in the business, whether in terms of attending more workshops or engaging in collaborative conversations with other creatives. Do not stagnate and get too comfortable with your work.
This article was first published in The New Paper. Permission required for reproduction.