Secret? No Secret, Just Shoot

One of my favourite things to do on the street is to shoot portraits of strangers. I have been asked too often the techniques I used to approach random people and get friendly looking shots. I have also repeatedly answered that I did not have any secrets or techniques, I just walked up to people and took their photographs. With consent? Definitely, else their facial expression would look very differently. Yet people have difficulties believing that I have no other ways to making my portrait of strangers shots. And believe it or not, even cats come to me and pose willingly for my shots. I have friends who have followed me around to testify.

Photo credit: Matti Sulanto


Here is what matters: show yourself, don't hide and pretend like you are invisible and sneak around like a thief or someone suspicious. As stealthy or invisible as you would like to think you are, people can see you with your camera. Present yourself as a human being, show respect and kindness, and prove that you are not a threat and you do not have ill intentions. Be open, be courteous, be polite and be generous with your smile, because how people respond to you is usually a reflection of how you show yourself to them in the first place. 

People are not stupid, they know that you have a camera and you want something from them. Be up front and tell them your intentions if you have to explain yourself. Don't give excuses and don't challenge people into an argument. If your subject is not willing, move on. What is the point of aggression and in the end you end up with all the negativity dragging at your feet all day? Drop it, forget it and move on. There are plenty of opportunities waiting, just keep an upright attitude and walk on. Rejection is part of life, deal with it. Resisting is making things worse. 

I like natural looking poses, like my subject is exactly right in his environment, doing whatever he is doing. I don't mind smiling human subjects in my images, after all it is a perfectly normal thing for humans to do: smile. I know many street photographers discourage this, but you are your own captain of your ship and you may set your own directions and course. You decide what you want in your image. 

No matter how many times I have been on the street, no matter how many portraits I have made, each time I nailed a portrait of a stranger shot, I get that satisfaction which I cannot describe in words. That is why I keep doing it. The magic never fades. 

Secret? No, not really. I just go out and shoot. I shoot a lot more than other photographers, perhaps, that itself is the secret. 

OBSCURA Festival of Photography 2018 in Penang, Malaysia

If you are a photographer then you will definitely want to check out the upcoming Obscura Festival of Photography in Penang, Malaysia on 25 to 31 August 2018. The festival is the place to be deeply immersed with anything and everything photography related, with highlights including print exhibitions, photo sharing sessions, photo books and mixed media presentations spanning 5 separate venues by 22 artists.

All images & captions by Tang Chun Cheuh. Used with permission. 


Masterclass with Maggie Steber

True Black and White Photo Mode on Motorola G5S Plus

It was rather disappointing that there was no dedicated black and white mode utilizing the one camera that has only black and white image sensor on the earlier camera app on the Motorola G5S Plus. One of the perks of having dual camera is the advantage of a true monochrome image sensor in one of the modules. In Motorola's latest firmware update, the "True B&W" mode was added, finally, after relentless requests from their fanbase. I have just discovered this mode last night (pardon me, for I only use smartphone camera for my daily casual snaps), and can't wait to bring the new monochrome mode out for a spin.





My previous experience with multiple Huawei dual camera iterations (P9, Mate 9 Pro, P10) has been positive when it comes to monochrome shooting using the dedicated black and white image sensor. I may not necessarily expect similar performance on the budget-friendly Motorola option, but I am very curious on how Motorola renders monochrome results.

Lets hope the shooting session goes well and then I shall have a full blog entry update on smartphone black and white photography!

The Secret To Studio Like Product Shots Without An Actual Studio

Recently I conducted a new photography workshop for Olympus Malaysia, dealing with casual and lifestyle product and food shots. In that workshop I have shared several interesting tips and the one that got everyone chuckled in disbelief was this particular figurine shot in a simple plain white background with side lighting. When I revealed that the shot was nothing more than a simple, straight to the point image taken on a white chair by the window with no other tricks, I could hear some people gasped.



I think improvisation is important. Of course it would have been better if there was a proper studio setup with professionally done background and wireless flash or strobes for better control of light and a more polished finish. If you are a working professional photographer you do what you have to do to get the shot. However, I was not speaking to a crowd of pro photographers. I was speaking to hobbyists, amateurs and also social media users, who were looking to improve their shots. Simple messages like these go a long, long way: 1) Watch your background, keep it plain and simple, 2) Utilize effective and beautiful lighting, opt for abundant natural light, windows work wonders and of course some basic camera settings and fundamentals of how to get sharp and well composed images.

Observing the local photography crowd in general, sometimes I feel that people are trying too hard, and stressing out at all the wrong reasons. The best images come from the simplest of setup but with a lot of heart and soul poured into the shooting process. It is not the grade of your lens or the size of your camera that makes or break the shot, but your understanding and control over even the most fundamentals of photography: lighting and of course, simplicity always work.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri 2018

To all my fellow Muslim readers here and also on Ming Thein's site, I wish you Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Maaf Zahir dan Batin! 

May you eat all the awesome festive food and have joyous time with family, relatives and friends in this auspicious celebration. I can't wait to feast on the ketupats and rendangs! Here is a portrait of me in a loose baju melayu to hide my ever expanding tummy.

Image credit: Robert Evangelista
Photo taken with Olympus PEN-F and M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8

But We Can Eat More Burgers

An excerpt from a recent conversation with a friend.

"Whatever happens, will happen. At the meantime, we do the best we can.
Some things are beyond our control.
But...
we can surely eat MORE BURGERS!"

Chicken and Egg Confusion - Myburgerlab, Mytown
Image shot with Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and 12-40mm F2.8 PRO lens. 

The Ocean's Story Photography Competition 2018

If you have been following my writing over the years you would probably have come across me voicing my disapproval on photography contests in general. I believe photography is a personal journey that should not be made into a competitive sport, stroking ego and glorifying stereotypical approach and styles. However, I also believe that if done correctly, photography contests can be a great platform to create awareness and draw a crowd for a good cause.

My photographer friend Sanjitpaal Singh is co-organizing a currently open "The Ocean's Story Photography Competition 2018", and he is also the chief judge for the contest.

Sanjit in action, in his natural habitat shooting wildlife somewhere deep, deep, deeeeeeep inside the rainforest. Photo by Sanjitpaal Singh, used with permission. 

Sanjit has been a photographer that I have admired for the longest time. He is an award winning nature and wildlife photographer, whom I have learned a great deal from over the years. He is always generous in sharing his knowledge and his passion in photography is one of the most infectious I have encountered in Malaysia. He has been championing nature conservation activities and also being persistently involved in Hornbill research in the wild. Therefore, it is no surprise when I found out that he is involved in similarly themed awareness and appreciation campaign for Malaysian sea and marine environment. 

The competition objective is to spread awareness and appreciation for Malaysian seas and marine life through photography. There are two categories: 1) Hope for the Ocean and 2) A Bruised Ocean. The photo contest is open for Malaysians (and expats in Malaysia) in the age bracket of 18 to 30. If you fit into the requirements, why not give it a try, standing a chance to win good prizes and have your photographs exhibited in one of the largest shopping malls in Malaysia (One Utama) as well as helping out a great cause? I'd say go for it. 



To find out more about The Ocean's Story Photography Competition, go to their official site here. 

To find out about the chief judge and awesome photographer Sanjitpaal Singh, go to his page here. 

Olympus PEN E-PL9 Special Edition Blue

I have just found out that Olympus officially launched their special edition PEN E-PL9 Blue. My E-PL9 review was published on Ming Thein's site here in February this year and I was actually using the limited edition blue for the review! I do think that the blue color is rather unique, definitely not a mainstream choice of color scheme. Personally I prefer my own cameras and lenses to be either classic black or silver, and I am ok with any combination of both but I would not intentionally go overboard with color choices. Call me traditional and conservative but hey that just fits my own style and personality.

Nonetheless, for those who love bombastic colors and daring to be fashionably loud, I can totally see how the denim blue can fit into creative style easily. After all, if you are just shooting as a hobbyist, using a camera that looks good can inspire confidence and you want to pick it up more and use it frequently. I always thought Olympus PEN cameras look sleek and classy in their own way, and suitable for everyday casual users. Having used the special edition blue E-PL9 for a week or two, I did grow to quite like it.

Here are some of my favourite shots from my original review article. I remember fondly how impressed I was with the little camera's performance, delivering even in demanding shooting circumstances. I am sure many will complain about the lack of EVF attachment option, but if you do want a viewfinder, there are plenty of other options, E-M10 Mark III or even some Panasonic counterparts.

The Olympus PEN E-PL9 Special Edition Blue is available for pre-order from B&H here (click).