The Details Are In The Photograph

Here is a recent photograph of me taken days ago by the awesome Jo Quah.

Looking at the photograph, you can tell that:

1) I have a new camera bag. It is a Manfrotto shoulder bag, a smaller version just enough to fit one small DSLR sized camera (such as the OM-D E-M1 Mark II) and one or two more small prime lenses.

2) We had a photowalk. It was in the morning and what a fun and productive shutter therapy session!

3) I always stop when cats appear. I immediately drop what I do and pet the cats. They always gravitate to me. This time, I gave the cat a command to "sit" and the stranger cat actually obeyed! I was shocked myself. There is just something about playing with cats that I find on the streets to be fun, therapeutic and relaxing all at the same time.

4) I don't always wear shirts with prints or patterns. I prefer plain, basic shirts with no logo or any details. Just simple and blank, with different muted colors. I do explore brighter color options these days. Wearing a striped bright blue shirt was a rarity for me.

5) I probably need a haircut.

6) We were in an area where the remnants of the election campaign flags were not completely cleaned up yet. You can evidently see the banners and flags of different political parties in the background.


8) I am obsessed with red shoes.

9) For street shooting I don't use neck straps anymore. I much prefer shorter wrist/hand straps. The reason is sweat. Malaysian sun is cruel and unforgiving. Sweating so much during a photowalk makes wearing a neck strap of any kind uncomfortable. And if you don't wash it often it will smell badly too.

10) Nothing makes me happier than doing shutter therapy, petting random cats and spending time with friends shooting together and having overpriced coffee after the photowalk. I find joy in simplest things and I appreciate that I am still able to enjoy doing so.

Bean Brothers - The Cafe That A Meteor Ran Through

During the recent long weekend I had some time to catch up with some friends. We initially wanted to hang out at a audio library cafe where we can sit down and sip overpriced coffee and sample some incredibly expensive headphones that I know I will not be able to afford ever. I found out that the audio cafe was closed on the day we wanted to go so we had to find an alternative location. Bean Brothers was just a few minutes drive away and this was my first visit.

When I first entered the venue I knew I have fallen in love with the interiors immediately. It has an unfinished construction look with modern industrial appearance. The slab from the first floor has a huge opening. I took some shots and sent them to other friends, and one of them commented how the opening looked like as if a meteor has run through the cafe!

I can imagine how amazing this place would have been to test out a new camera or a new wide angle lens. The uneven lighting added interesting characteristics to the images. Nevertheless, it was supposed to be a day out spent with friends so I decided to leave the camera behind, else I would spent too much time with the camera ignoring conversations. I did have the Motorola G5S Plus with me, so the smartphone camera with a default wide angle has to do the job for the day. All images were shot with Google Camera (mostly with HDR+ enabled) and edited in Snapseed.

Shooting True Black And White Mode on Motorola G5S Plus

Today I experienced a horror I have not since 2008, I unintentionally left the camera battery in the charging dock at home without carrying out any spares! Not letting that push my shooting enthusiasm back even the slightest, I whipped out the ever-ready budget friendly entry level smartphone, Motorola G5S Plus that I have grown to like so much and decided to do something with it on the street with my friends today. You see, the cool thing about the dual camera module setup of the Moto G5S Plus is that one of the cameras has a true black and white (monochrome) image sensor, stripping off the traditional RGB filters. Having a "true B&W" mode itself is an exciting feature for a photographer like myself who does love black and white photography, and I have not had the much needed nudge to test this feature out extensively. Now that my main camera was battery-less (and basically useless), I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to see what the "true B&W" mode can do.

But first let's do a blurry selfie...

Jo Quah staring at me shaking her head in the background

I did not really have anything particular in mind and I was not doing a review, so this was just a casual outing with trigger happy snapshots. I pointed the smartphone camera at anything that I found interesting and joyfully clicked the shutter away. There is something about stripping all the colors away and have everything fade into shades of grey that makes street photography more thrilling, you get to see things differently. The vision focuses more onto the subjects rather than processing on unnecessary distractions that are caused by colors throughout the frame. While I shoot dominantly in color for my own work (as shown on this blog) I do sometimes convert my shots to black and white. I rarely just turn on the black and white mode and do a full series of monochromatic shots. 

Since the camera has a true black and white image sensor, by theory it should produce images that are superior in resolution and tonality. I expected the images to be crisp and full of fine, beautiful details. I anticipated the gradation from bright to dark areas to be more gentle and natural looking. 

While I did see the subtle advantages of implementing a full black and white sensor, having shot in only JPEG (no RAW mode available for this model) I was quite disappointed with the JPEG compression. The sharpening was badly added resulting in unnatural looking edges and the aggressive noise reduction smears any fine details, rendering the images looking like oil painting when viewing at high magnification. Of course at web-size the images look perfectly normal and we don't need to pixel-peep any of these shots but the photographer in me was extremely frustrated due to the fact that I knew very confidently the black and white camera has so much potential. The capabilities were all nerfed by one lousy JPEG engine. 

Huawei did a better job with their monochrome mode in P9, P10 and any other models with monochrom eimage sensor in one of the multiple camera modules. However, these Huawei flagship/high end phones also cost significantly more and were not in the same category as the Moto G5S Plus that I am currently using, so the comparison was not a fair one. 

To understand more about the "true black and white" mode, you may refer to my old blog post here (click). 

Jo and Chun making an appearance! Always awesome to shoot along-side similar-minded people on the street. Shutter therapy is meant to be shared and enjoyed together. 

Whoever said one selfie was enough?

The "true black and white" mode on Motorola G5S Plus was a simplistic approach that I felt could have been better in many ways. I would appreciate some sort of control instead of just being fully automatic at all times. I wish there was the ability to control the shutter speed and ISO as well white shooting in pure black and white mode, so that I can have some creative freedom in executing slow motion shots (panning, motion blur, etc). Shutter lag has always been a problem for smartphones, and I have missed some crucial moments because of my inability to time my shots precisely. The smartphone camera just reacted much slower and not instantaneously during the press of the fake touch shutter button on the touch screen. 

I am also not a fan of shooting in wide angle mode, especially not for a full series of photograph. Nonetheless, I can complain on and on or I can choose to talk less and start shooting. 

If you own a phone that has a black and white image sensor (in one of the dual or more camera modules) why not give it a try? Maybe you will love the outcome of the smartphone black and white mode and it is after all, a camera that you have with you at all times. 

Do You See Camera As A Photographer's Tool Or A Gadget?

I rarely talk about gear when I meet my photography friends, we usually hang out and catch up on the happenings of our lives or just go out have fun shooting together on the street. Therefore, when people start conversations about which camera is better or what lens is sharper I tend to shy away from the topic. You see, I need to know first how do the person I am speaking to view the camera? Is it: a) a photographer's tool that is used to create images and work of art or b) a modern gadget that pleases the craving for something newer and better.

Image by Raja Indra Putra

I have no issue with people wanting to upgrade cameras and lenses or if they are absolutely dominated by Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS). I also have GAS to a certain degree, I am sure everyone who is a photographer has GAS, at different levels. 

There is a difference between discussing about gear productively versus endless obsession on the best of the best. 

I like to listen to photographers talk about their work, what motivates them to shoot, what are the challenges that they face during their shooting process and how they overcome them. Their choice of gear and the practical implementation of certain techniques help in getting the results needed, I learn from such stories and sharing. Or even stories of failures or things that the photographers wished they had done differently to obtain different outcomes. These are productive discussions about gear which I can add on to my own learning database. 

However, there are also the hollow talk about justifying an extremely expensive purchase of that spanking new lens to achieve that 3D look which other lenses could not. These newly acquired "gadgets" only shine for a period of time, and you rarely see these gadget owners shoot much and use their gear to the fullest potential. I sometimes find myself trapped in such discussions that internally I am screaming for help and find whatever ways I can for an escape. Who cares if your Canon lens is bigger and better? Who cares if Nikon has more dynamic range? Who cares if Sony is the ultimate camera for 4K video? Who cares how amazing the bokeh of your Leica lens is? I don't care about your "gadgets", show me your photographs, then we have a more interesting and exciting conversation. I don't get turned on by how new or how advanced your photography equipment is. I will get crazy thrilled if you are willing to share your thought process on how you go about your photo project and show me your curation process. 

Talking about gear is meaningless if you do not have good images to accompany them. That is the sole reason why I always emphasize on shooting sufficiently decent image samples first, before I start to sit down and write my reviews about cameras or lenses. Paper specifications alone isn't enough, they are good previews of what the camera or lens is capable of, but the proof is in the images. 

People may know me from my association with Olympus, but if you have met me in person and have spent time speaking with me, you will also realize that I rarely speak about Olympus. I consciously choose not to. I am not a walking advertisement of any brand. Me not broadcasting my love and passion for the brand does not mean I have no confidence or faith in using my products of choice. I am just comfortable that way and my focus has always been on shooting itself. The process of making photographs. Is that not what photography is? Instead of obsessing over gadgets. 

It is troubling how these people judge the camera by the merits of being a gadget - oh it does not have enough resolution, come on it is 2018, we need at least 50 Megapixels! Oh no, it does not have built in body image stabilization, that is the end of the world! The camera does 4K video but it is significantly cropped? That makes it a bad, bad camera and we can conclude that although we have not seen and tried the camera in real life, the paper specification alone is enough to condemn a camera. The gadget hungry crowd wants their latest gadget to have "EVERYTHING" in it. Dual card slot, a battery that last forever. And maybe some more, like making coffee and offer leg massages. 

A perfect camera does not have to have everything. 

The right camera for the right photographer just needs to have the right features and capabilities. Every photographer is different. Just because the camera lacks certain features does not necessarily make it a poor choice. Some can live with the shortcomings, some may look elsewhere for alternatives. 

A gadget is very different from a photographer's tool. 

A gadget may have everything on paper, but what is the point of fulfilling all specification needs if the camera itself was not built for professional photographers in mind? There are a lot of qualities that cannot be penned down on paper. How does the camera handle? How responsive is the camera? How does the shutter button feel when you press it? How quiet is the shutter? Do you like the color rendering? Does the camera feel right in your hands? Do you enjoy using the camera? Does the camera inspire you to shoot?

Having the highest megapixels, best dynamic range and high ISO performance and fastest AF and triple card slots cannot possibly satisfy all of the above questions. 

With all the hype of the latest launches leading to Photokina 2018, I think I shall pick up the pre-historic Olympus DSLR E-1 and have some shutter therapy sessions. 

What say you?

Wizards at Tribeca

Have you ever wondered where I took my casual product shots and also some of the food shots I did during review of cameras and lenses? My usual haunt was the Espressolab at Nu Sentral which has been recently shut down, but I have a few other locations that I went to for my shooting needs. Of the these venues was Wizards at Tribeca situated in Imbi, downtown Kuala Lumpur,

The main reason I love Wizards so, so much besides the incredibly amazing coffee they made there was the fact that the place is always extremely well lit. The ceiling high glass panels allow abundant natural sun light to illuminate the very plain and white themed cafe. I would usually ask to sit near the windows for better light, and the white table surface is just perfect to isolate whatever subject that I plan to shoot. Lighting and background management are everything in shooting good product shots, whether they are shot professionally, or just for a lifestyle casual experimentation like what I always do.

I have not tried that many of their dishes yet but the Sally Bowles is definitely my favourite, as it contains all my favourite food in one bowl (salmon, avocado, sushi rice, seaweed strips, eggs).

To me, it may just be too much hassle to do a "studio" shoot for products, as my review style has always been very casual and light. I do not intend to pretend like I am a "PRO" level photographer, but that is a work in progress and I am more comfortable showing my work here as well as on Ming Thein's site with a lighter tone. Therefore, you will find my product images of items that I review taken on very natural looking environment with plenty of ambient light and clean background. Overpriced hipster cafes are just the perfect places to get these shots done.

Wizards look like a fantastic place for some casual quick portrait snaps. Maybe I should do a planned portrait shoot there, and we shall see what happens!

Merdeka Self-Portrait

In the spirit of celebrating the coming Malaysian Independence Day on the 31st August, I thought it would be fitting to do an out of the usual portrait shot of myself than what I normally would do. I bought myself a spanking new Malaysian flag and initially wanted to use it as a cape, you know, with all the superhero hype everywhere now. That did not come out right so the next best thing I did was to wrapped it around myself like a sarung. I shot this in the living room of the apartment I am staying at, with the aid of two wireless flash being fired off camera. I intended for this shot to be in full color glory but due to excessive sun exposure I have developed uneven skin tone, my head and lower arms were significantly darker in tone than my other body parts which were usually covered by the T-shirts that I wore. Black and white made it easier for me to fix that in post.

I shot a series of photographs and I was only happy with this particular one. It clearly shows how I feel about my country.

Image shot on Olympus PEN E-P5 with M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 with two FL600R wireless flash.

Happy 61st independence day to all Malaysians who celebrate. The country is still young, we have a lot to do and there is work to be done. Through the recent change of government, we are moving to a new era, but the country will only go as far as the people are willing to go. For Malaysia to change, the people in general have to change too. I cannot say or wish everyone else to do anything or change, but I can play my role as a citizen and be a better Malaysian. I will do in whatever small ways I can to contribute to this growing nation. I am a proud Malaysian and I will always be.

Malaysia boleh!

OMG Nikon Z7 Review by Robin Wong! Kidding. Just Some Quick Thoughts

Nikon has just launched their much anticipated new Z-series full frame mirrorless cameras, Z6 and Z7. There was so much hype and excitement that in an extremely rare occurrence the Amazon owned DPReview crashed after the major Nikon announcement. I did think of trying to get myself an invite to the launch event in Malaysia but knowing how cold the industry has been to myself and other prominent photography bloggers, my chances of getting in would be near impossible. It gets very frustrating that the work photography bloggers do (helping with product announcements, reviewing etc) are generally not appreciated by the brand representatives here. So what else can I do? Just sit back and enjoy watching all the dramas happening from a distance, and maybe, just chime in a little and jot down some of my thoughts on Nikon's latest announcement.

Nikon Z7, they say that if you rotate the letter Z, it becomes N, which is for Nikon. Get it? Get it?
DPReview, the world's largest photography-centric news and review site was unable to handle the heavy load following the Nikon huge announcement. I am sure they have foreseen this coming, yet with preparation, the hype exceeded initial expectation. GGWP Nikon, you have successfully crashed DPReview, that was no small feat. 

There was nothing really new in the photography world when it comes to the Nikon Z series. In fact, Nikon has been terribly late to the game. Sony released the world's first mirrorless full frame camera in 2013. Sony has had many chances to do trial and error and field experimentation with their Alpha series, and they have already so many A7 cameras that it is getting difficult to keep track of the numbering variations of A7 bodies. Nikon taking bite at this chunk of pie this late only meant they are playing very safe, and they better get things right. They have the time to watch and learn from mistakes done by other mirrorless manufacturers. Did they successfully create the perfect mirrorless full frame machine in 2018?

Running down through paper specifications, while the technical aspects of the Nikon Z-series were impressive and possibly spotting some of the class-leading numbers, there were nothing new or revolutionary in the new cameras. 5-Axis Image Stabilization, Olympus got that since 2012, and Sony even implemented their own 5-Axis IS in their A7 Mark not-sure-which-one now. Large and bright EVF, possibly as good or better than the best of what mirrorless today has to offer, but I do not think it is that far from what is in the Panasonic Lumix G9. UHD 4K video shooting with 30fps? I am sure the video will be good, but will not be anything to write home about. The AF bells and whistles, I am sure Nikon being Nikon, they will excel in the AF department, perhaps even best out what Sony has offered. The Nikon Z series seem to be confident and bold and can deliver. They took bits and pieces of the best from many other manufacturers and piece all the puzzles together into a machine that works. 

I am sure the image quality of Z7 will be similar or may even surpass what the current amazing D850 can do. I am sure the Nikon Z series will perform admirably across all aspects, and it will just work. I think the Z7 and Z6 are the mirrorless cameras that Nikon needed to get back into the game. Will they be better than Sony full frame mirrorless cameras? Maybe, but as far as making a product that works, I am sure Nikon will not miss this time. They cannot afford to lose, not this late into the game. 

The more important question now would be: what will the smaller players do? Everyone knows the Nikon full frame mirrorless was coming, and Canon may not be too far behind. What does this mean for Olympus, Panasonic and Fujifilm? Previously, smaller players had many product differentiation factors in the earlier game - Olympus E-M5/E-M1 at that time were the only mirrorless cameras to be fully weather sealed and have 5-Axis IS. Panasonic had their wonderful 4K video implementation. Fujifilm's X-Trans sensor was showing promise but honestly was not going anywhere either. The specialized features were not so exclusive anymore, everyone else has drastic improvements in Image Stabilization, everyone else has good 4K video capture now. The advantages of these smaller players are vanishing. What will they do?

I am interested to see the smaller players fight back. Create a new revolution. 

As impressive as what the Nikon Z series cameras are, they have nothing new, as I have argued earlier. They basically just adopted what everyone else have been successfully doing. If the big players are playing too safe and just work on formula that guarantee results, then the smaller players will have to be more creative and daring in pursuit of stronger product differentiation advantage. Sony has been known to be very disruptive when it comes to product strategies. I think Fujifilm, Olympus and Panasonic can benefit from the same and release something completely unexpected and shake the ground a little bit. 

I am thrilled about the announcement myself and cannot wait to read full reviews from reputable sites on the Nikon Z series. Comparisons against Sony is inevitable, and I am not the only one anticipating this. Also, it is about time that Sony is not being the only full frame mirrorless maker anymore. Canon, please do something already. 

What are your thoughts on the Nikon Z7 and Z6? Do share your thoughts! How do you think these new Nikons will change the dynamics of the imaging industry?

Quick Post-Processing for Food Shots Using Google's Snapseed on a Smartphone

Following the revival of my Youtube channel, I am now creating more fresh contents, but more focused on lighter guides and tips when it comes to general photography. I am not trying to add to the abundance of widely available "how to" videos or tutorials, instead I shall be sharing my own workflow on how I get some of my shots done as shown here on this blog. While most of my photography heavy content will be published on Ming Thein's site, here I shall discuss topics that are more photography beginner/new-comer friendly.

It does not matter if you are not using the latest iPhone or the best Samsung smartphone. Any mobile phone camera is sufficient for some quick food snapshots. I personally do not like the idea of spending almost RM6000 for that flagship smartphone, it is just absurd. Use what you have, make the best out of it, and here, some post-processing magic may just add the much needed impact to your shots.

Straight out of camera shots from smartphones are usually dull and lack the "oomph" that make people go wow. The quick fix is normally the appalling filters or horribly rendered presets of ugly color bleaching and hipster-looking touch-ups. I believe photographs should be shown as close as possible to reality and post-processing can be used effectively to accomplish just that. Adding dark corner vignetting, overly warm color tones and that unfitting vintage look will not do your food photograph justice. Therefore, I was compelled to do a short step by step video to show you how you can achieve a decent looking food shot by improving it in post-processing using Snapseed by Google, an image editing app available free for both Android and iOS. Spending that additional 1 minute or less for each photograph will make a world of difference. Watch the video below to find out how.

Images and video capture were done on a Motorola G5S Plus. 

Generally, here are the tips that can help you with your image editing, especially for food shots:

1) Color Balance
The camera may not necessarily get the color balance (white balance) right all the time, hence it is crucial to pay attention to the colors of the image you have shot and how closely they match what you saw in real life. Sometimes the camera overcompensates the colors, artificially neutralizes the natural warmth in the image resulting in cool, bluish tint that may not look so attractive in the image. Depending on the app that you use, the quick fix would be pushing the "warmth" slider to either boost the warmth or tone it down for that natural pleasing look.

2) Uneven Lighting
One of the important tips in shooting food is to have good light, and that usually means shooting what's on the table near the window. This often results in uneven light on the food, casting shadows in parts of the plates or bowls. In order to produce a more balanced image, adjust the "shadow, ambiance and highlight" sliders. Sometimes, uneven lighting may give you better results, as having shadows at the right places can shape your subjects better. Nonetheless, you have to be the judge of how much shadow is permissible, and if you have no control during the shoot itself, at least these tools in image editing allow you to manipulate the final result to a certain extent. Balance is what we are after here.

3) Edit In Moderation
Do not over-edit your image. I know it is easy to get carried away when there are so many sliders and you want to just push them everywhere to see what happens. The more you edit the more degradation will happen to the image. The less you edit, the simpler and less manipulation to the image, the better the final output will be. The less is more principle applies here. You are editing on a lossy image file (JPEG). Unless your smartphone allows you to shoot RAW (lossless) but I would recommend you not to do so unless you know absolutely what you are doing with a RAW file. If you are a practicing photographer and you are shooting RAW you should not need to read this guide. For everyone else, stay with as minimal editing as possible.

4) Boost Saturation and Contrast
The two important things when it comes to food shots are: texture and color of the food. In order to add depth and create that highly realistic look, adding both saturation and contrast can add impact to the food images. This works particularly well with shots that have multi-color food, such as vegetables and fruits. Textured food such as bread, noodles, or drinks with bubbles can benefit from contrast boosting.

5) Say No to Filters
I cannot emphasize this enough, using those stylistic filters generally destroys food shots. You can apply those filters on your photos of cats, your selfies or that nice looking bouquet of flowers. But never use them on food shots as they will rob away the natural colors or tones that make the food shots shine.

Here are the four images used in the video for demonstration purposes.

Let me know if you have found the video useful! I have planned a series of videos showing different shooting scenarios: shooting with smartphone in low light, dealing with black and white images and also more "shooting on the street with me" style video. If you have ideas on what else you want to learn from me, please leave me a comment!

Humza Ahmad Visiting from Japan

Last weekend I have an unexpected visitor from Japan! At first I thought, hurray, finally after so many years of blogging I am getting a visitor from the land of rising sun. You see, I have had numerous visitors from many countries: the US, UK, Germany (too many visitors from Germany, not complaining, but certainly the number is alarmingly high), Finland, Russia, China, Belgium, Itally, Australia and many more, but none ever from Japan. Looking at my blog readership demographics, it has been consistent over the past few years that the top visitors are from the US, Japan and Germany. Sometimes UK and Thailand creeps into the top 3 spot, but Japan is always sitting very high in the list. So imagine the excitement when I got someone coming from Japan!

(Having said that, I have met several amazing Japanese blog readers currently working and residing in Malaysia, truly beautiful people.)

Here is the plot twist, Humza is an American from New York currently residing in Japan, with high family origins from Pakistan! I have had visitors from New York before, but no photographer I know from Pakistan yet.

Portrait of Humza Ahmad, taken with Olympus PEN E-P5 and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8

I brought Humza to a local wet market, Pudu and we had a quick shutter therapy there. I had to leave by noon because of work in the later afternoon hence it was such a short session, but a sweet one nonetheless. Humza told me his story on how he got involved in photography and the obsession grew ever since. Along his story-telling, a few lines caught my attention and would definitely stayed with me for a long, long time. He said this when he decided to get a proper camera:

"I am an adult now. I need to take proper pictures. I need a proper camera. Every adult shown own a decent camera." - Humza Ahmad

Wow, I never thought of owning camera that way! I agree, we should all own a real camera and be able to operate it and take decent pictures. It is like a rite of passage and that will be something I tell the younger generation kids - you are growing up, and to be an adult, you must own a real camera!

I hope you have had plenty of fun being in Malaysia for the first time, and do come back for our unhealthy yet yummilicious food! I shall bring you to more shooting locations and hopefully I shall be able to make more time.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Dynamic Range - Sufficient?

One topic that I seldom discuss is dynamic range and that is usually because I rarely stretch the limit of the camera. I always look for good lighting condition and pay attention at how the light falls onto the subject or the frame that I am shooting. However I do acknowledge that in some situations, having good dynamic range capability will can help in obtaining a better photograph. I am not a landscape photographer so I do not need that massive shadow and highlight recovery capabilities. For what I normally do, the worst situation would be people hiding in shades versus those out in the open under harsh Malaysian sun. Even in such a challenging situation an Olympus OM-D (from the first generation E-M5 till now) is sufficient to produce a pleasingly balanced image, with some massaging of the RAW file of course.

This is a processed RAW image, with extensive shadow and highlight recovery. Take note it was not an easy shot, with a dark skinned man in the shade and some of the other guys under harsh tropical sun. 

This was the original unprocessed image. 

Some would say that a HDR image would help with multiple exposures from the dark to bright areas, creating a more balanced output. Nonetheless, street shooting is usually a snap and go situation and I rarely spend too much time at one spot. Besides, the OM-D's RAW file was good enough for some stretching when it comes to highlight retention and shadow boosting. Surely this is nowhere near what a full frame camera can do but it is not too bad either. I do not mind the little overblown background as the overexposed part of the frame was truly representing the harshness of being in a tropical country. Over-correcting the image would have resulted in an over-processed look which may look completely unnatural. 

I understand the pain of dealing with dynamic range limitations when shooting landscape. Sunrise or sunset photography in particular demands every bit of dynamic range you can squeeze out of the camera. Hence the heavy investment in accessories that may help, such as graduated ND filters. Nonetheless, for other less challenging situations, do you find your camera struggling in terms of dynamic range? Or do you think your system is sufficient for what you do? Discuss in the comments below!

Updated Post-Processing Video on Ming Thein's Site - Is There A Robin Wong Secret Sauce?

After numerous requests, questions and weird accusations of me hiding my secrets when it comes to post-processing, finally, I have made a new video published on Ming Thein's site addressing those concerns.

Things that I have heard people said about me and my images:
1) There are hidden steps on how to achieve sharp looking images, a complex sharpening process to have that crisp yet natural look
2) The vibrant colors and how to get that look: vivid yet not overly saturated and still looking pleasing
3) Robin Wong has a secret filter that he applies to his images to automatically generate that look
4) It is impossible to get similar images like what Robin Wong does even if you use the same cameras and lenses simply because he has advanced post-processing procedures
5) Robin Wong's post-processing is cheating, because he gets good results all the time.

Oh dear... in short, my response would usually be:
1) There is no secret sauce and my post-processing routine is perfectly normal.
2) I apply minimal editing to my images and I believe in efficient and quick processing so I can spend less time on my computer and more time out there shooting. Isn't shooting with your camera more fun?
3) Sharp images? Make sure your images are critically in focus. Natural colors? Don't play with the color sliders too much, leave the original color profile in tact. No shortcuts and no secrets. Just plain old shooting discipline, and get it right in camera!
4) Post-processing is not rocket science. You do not need to apply complicated layers, masks and extensive adjustments to make your image shine. I acknowledge the need for extensive image manipulation work in some scenarios, but for street photography and most hobby shooting purposes, why complicate your life? Keep things simple and most of the time, minimalism works. Less is more.

Therefore, I made a short video showing my complete post-processing workflow, right from the start after I have imported my images into an image editing software. Take note that the adjustments and settings I have made are applicable to any image editing software, they are not Capture One Pro specific.

The video that I have made is not a tutorial or "how to" guide on post-processing. It is an extension of my sharing on what I do with shutter therapy, or what happens after a street shooting session. Think of this as me inviting you to see what I do with my images, the selection process and how I do minimal processing to get the final batch of images to be used on blog articles.

I am still noob in making videos so please do bear with me with some kinks. I know the audio isn't perfect and there were some hiccups (uneven levels). If you must know, I am using a RM10 (USD2.50) PC desktop stand microphone that was designed for old webcam use. I am using that same microphone on my desktop to shout profanity and vulgar phrases to my teammates when I play online games such as DotA. For the first time I am putting that microphone into something more of a productive use. I should really be investing in a proper microphone if I were to continue making more videos soon. Nonetheless, it was a good start, and that al-cheapo stand microphone did a good job for something so old and not "pro".

While I am not a fan of making videos, I understand that some things are better illustrated with videos. I sure will be making more contents from now on, so do subscribe to my Youtube Channel if you have not.

IKEA Cafe - An Unexpected Find

I do camp at random cafes often to get most of my blog article writings done, as well as replying emails and doing "paperwork". Why not work from home? Because home is too comfortable, with the bed constantly calling me for short quick naps, the ever present gaming PC with friends forever online with frequent invitations for a game of DotA and basically I have programmed home to be just home for rest and play and not conducive enough for productivity and serious work. Besides moving out of the house into a new environment has its psychology explanation on how it can boost productivity. With good coffee, comfortable environment and a huge enough table for me to work, I am set.

I have some favourite locations that I rotate around but recently I found this really awesome place, and an unexpected one: Ikea Cafe.

All images were taken with Motorola G5S Plus smartphone camera, using Google Camera app ported over and HDR+ feature enabled for most shots. 

An important criteria for my cafe "workstation" is large working space. I cannot work on a cramped table or small seating areas. That is a Lenovo Miix 510, a 2-in-1 tablet/PC device that I have used to write my blog articles for the past 2 years. Yes, it is a Microsoft Surface clone. I bought a clone because obviously the original Surface is so overpriced and I cannot afford it

The abundance of natural light is great to create illusion of space. I have generally favored bright working locations. I hated all my previous employment working offices that use the health damaging, headache inducing and skin-tone disaster fluorescent lighting. 

Everywhere you look at, even up above the ceiling level, the whole place is just beautiful!

The awesome thing about this place? It is not that packed during weekdays, which is fantastic. They serve good coffee too, and at super cheap price in comparison to many other hipster cafes in town! A cup of Latte here costs about RM7.40, in contrast to the typical RM12 found everywhere else. I can't vouch for the coffee quality, but the one time I tasted it was decent enough. 

I honestly cannot imagine how busy and packed this cafe will be during the weekends, when humans from all over the place crowd IKEA for no reason and there is that cheap coffee just outside. I probably will never find out and just come here during the non-peak hours in the week working days. 

I thought to myself, hey this place looks really gorgeous and lets take some photos! I whipped out the ever ready smartphone and started snapping away. Although this particular shooting session was a brief, non-serious and purely for personal "visual diary" purposes only, I did not take it easy. Every photo that I took, even if it is personal use and has no consequence if I screw up, I made sure I did my best and found ways to make them look as good as I possibly can. Photography is about constantly seeing, working your vision and doing the best with what you have in hand. While the tool may be simple (smartphone camera) but the photographer can surely work harder to get good shots. No excuses and stop being lazy! Put some effort, and just start shooting away. 

The smartphone may have a lot of limitations but you know what? The limitations should not stop you from shooting. Same goes with whatever camera you have with you. I see so many friends or photographers feeling defeated when they do not have the latest, most powerful and coolest camera or lenses. I am not saying don't upgrade your camera, I am just saying, whatever you have, just use it. An image is an image, no matter how grainy the high ISO is, how limited the dynamic range is and how little the megapixels it has. 

Coffee is only RM7.40! Probably cheapest "overpriced" coffee in town. 

Obviously all furniture are from IKEA, and the cafe has the IKEA smell. 

Some buttery sugary fatty food to feed you and make you fat. 

I don't think the culture of returning trays, culteries and bowls/plates will catch on in Malaysia anytime soon. 

Using the Motorola G5S Plus for a while now, especially with the Google Camera app installed, I don't think I wish to have a better smartphone camera anymore. 

Yes, it is not perfect, in terms of image quality, autofocus, limited manual functions, and no RAW file support. Seriously, for all these demands, I can have them all satisfied with my Micro Four Thirds system for any serious shooting. For everyday snapshots, the smartphone is sufficient. 

I also found that the HDR+ feature to help tremendously in situations with difficult lighting conditions. Unfortunately, using the HDR+ on the Moto G5S Plus slows down shooting operations significantly, and there is a lag between shots. 

If you walk by that IKEA Cafe during weekdays, do have a peek inside. You might just find me in there working, writing my latest article for Ming Thein, or for this blog here. 

And if you buy me a cup of coffee, I will feature a portrait of you here! Sounds like a good deal?

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