COMING TO MALAYSIA
I met a Malaysian girl when I was working in Hong Kong and we decided to come here to settle down because it was close to her parents. That was 23 years ago! People look at me as an expat, but I’ve actually lived here longer than I’ve been in New Zealand! I love going back to visit, but Malaysia’s where all my friends are now. I’ve been doing weddings here for about 15 years – I’d say right now I’m at about the 700-800 mark. People like to get married, which is good!
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY IN MALAYSIA
What I like about it is that there are so many different types of cultures, ceremonies and ways that a couple express their love for each other. Besides the three main races and indigenous people, you also have the expat community and they’ve also got different cultures. Last year I shot a wedding for a girl from Bulgaria who was marrying a Punjabi boy, and they had two different ceremonies. I’m familiar with Persian weddings too because I’ve done a few of them now and they do very different ceremonies as well. All of them are really nice – I meet a lot of people and have made a lot of friends doing it.
My definition of a photographer is someone who draws with light. I believe in controlling the light – it’s what I do wherever I go. I can go in and evaluate a location in less than a minute, then set up radio-controlled flash equipment all over in five to 10 minutes and it gives a very different look to our images.
I tend to be very discreet when I’m shooting and that can sometimes be a problem. I’ve had occasions where I’ve been standing back quite a way with a nice long telephoto lens, ready to shoot a kiss, and just as I’m about to shoot the kiss someone stands up in front of them. That’s one of the things that makes us a bit unique. In Malaysia, most photographers are in-your-face.
I do suggest concepts to my customers if they want me to – oftentimes they want to do their own thing. I try and find out what sort of people they are. If they seem adventurous, you can suggest something more adventurous; if they’re not, then you stick to the bread-and-butter shots. I like to call them timeless because they don’t go out of date. Most of my photos aren’t heavily stylised because I want them to be timeless – I want their children and grandchildren to be able to look at the photos and see how their parents or grandparents really were.
I love shooting beach weddings in Langkawi, Perhentian and Redang. I like the blue skies and I grew up by the sea so I love the ocean, so all that feels like a happy experience to me. The weddings tend to be a bit more informal and intimate because people have to fly to and stay there. The smallest wedding I’ve ever done was two people – they had actually flown out here from Ireland and basically eloped!
CHALLENGES ON SCENE
Keen amateurs are a challenge. People get up in front of you and put their phone in the way, totally oblivious – sometimes they’ll even knock you out of the way! Very early on, I watched a photographer at a wedding I was at who was really struggling with all the other relatives with their own cameras, including the best man – it was crazy!
I learnt that the hired professional is there for a reason. They’re going to get better photos than anyone else, so pay them the courtesy of letting them do their job. You need to be very patient and forgiving of people because they’re not in your way on purpose, just very excited and ignorant.
WHY HE LOVES HIS JOB
Meeting people and making them look awesome. I’ve had people who are just shocked at how good they look in the photos I take of them. Part of the experience is the rapport I have when I’m talking to them and trying to get them look as handsome or beautiful as I can. I try to have fun with people on the shoot because a lot of people are very self-conscious in front of the camera.
One of the secrets of being a good photographer is to make them feel relaxed, so I talk to them normally and when I get a shot I like I’ll show them and say ‘see, this is what I’m doing’ to them so they know what’s happening.