Klaus Tan: Capturing Moments & Chasing Dreams

At the age of 23, Klaus Tan has achieved what many his age can only dream of. BENEDICT KOK finds out what inspired him to build a luxury creative brand while pursuing his studies.



Benedict Kok

Hype Issue #57

Published on
June 28, 2023

Klaus Tan is the founder of  “CHUTTERSNAP”, a luxury creative brand which has earned a name for itself within the hospitality industry. Photo courtesy of Klaus Tan.

Behind every glamorous picture of a luxurious hotel or a dazzling restaurant is a photographer whose eye for detail and aesthetics brings out the best of their subject. However, the process of capturing these moments goes beyond the mere press of the shutter button. 

Klaus Tan, 23, is one of those people who brings out the best of the hospitality industry through pictures, a job that can often be time-consuming and draining.

Despite this, Klaus has made a name for himself in the local photography scene with his luxury creative brand, “CHUTTERSNAP”, all while still studying law at a local university. 

To date, he has worked with more than 52 hotel brands and Michelin Star restaurants, including renowned names like Shangri-La, Grand Hyatt, and Fullerton. 

What is Hospitality Photography?

Klaus Tan captures the elegance and architectural beauty of Singapore Raffles Hotel in his stunning photographs.  Photos courtesy of Klaus Tan. 

In hospitality, shoots are carefully planned and orchestrated in advance to ensure that everything is picturesque and subject-oriented in the final product. Klaus shares that a key part of hospitality shoots is what goes on behind the scenes. 

“Planning takes up about 80 per cent, while photography is 20 per cent of the work,” Klaus said. 

A typical project would include liaising with marketing teams, creating mood boards and doing site recces, some of which have to be planned up to six months in advance. This is one of the reasons why hospitality photographers like Klaus have to be excellent communicators: to bring across their ideas and creative visions in a way that is acceptable to all.

Photos from a shoot for GOODDAM, a modern Italian restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. Hospitality photography doesn’t just include photographing hotels, but culinary experiences as well. Photos courtesy of Klaus Tan.

“Getting some sort of friendship and relationship going [with clients] makes things much easier,” Klaus said. Though the job requires much commitment, Klaus believes that hospitality photography has exposed him to countless new experiences, such as opportunities to taste new cuisines.

Starting out in Photography

Despite the job’s demanding nature, Klaus has as much enthusiasm for his work as he did when he started over a decade ago. He first took up photography at the age of 13 to keep himself awake during morning assemblies in secondary school. 

As his passion grew, he ventured into wedding photography as a way of funding his passion. Starting out was challenging, especially for a 15-year-old entering the industry with no prior experience. However, it was because of these wedding shoots that he eventually became intrigued with hospitality photography, having been inspired by the beauty and magnificence of wedding venues such as the Capella and Fort Canning Hotel.

Balancing Work & Studies

As a freelancer, Klaus believes that it’s often that one may become consumed by their own passion. He mentioned that time management and sleep are two of the most important things when it comes to balancing work and life, though he admits that it’s easier said than done. Unlike many university students who may be concerned of the potential impact starting a side hustle might have on their academic performance and grades, Klaus embraces a more positive outlook on the matter. 

“When I study all day, I can’t really have fun with that, so I take up photography to get a good work-life balance,” he said. Although Klaus still experiences occasional concerns about his university studies and grades, he finds reassurance in the long-term advantages that his side hustle will bring. 

“You kind of realise that the main thing that’s going to be useful for you after graduating from university is the ability to work with people in an interest that is besides your main specialisation,” he added. 

Moving Forward with Passion

Moving forward, Klaus hopes to expand his creative brand by building a team of photographers to take on bigger projects both locally and internationally. Simultaneously, he aims to mentor and guide aspiring photographers, imparting the understanding that photography involves more than just technical training. 

Photos from a shoot for one Michelin Star restaurant, Braci. Photos courtesy of Klaus Tan.

“Photography is about experience,” Klaus said. He believes that it’s important for new photographers to expose themselves to novel ideas and experiences by going on shoots and taking inspiration from visual materials. Knowing what you want to achieve is one of the most important things an aspiring photographer has to understand. 

With that goal in mind, take bold leaps and proactively reach out to individuals you can envision yourself collaborating with. After all, you’ll never know who might respond and where such connections might lead. 

“At the end of the day, you get what you go for, so dream big.”