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How I Started Photography

This is a story about how my life got flipped upside down 🎵
I’d like to take a minute, you just sit right there 🎵
I’ll tell you how I started photography and ended up here 🎵

[Ok that sounded a lot better in my head….]

Many of you don’t know this, but I started tourism before I started photography. It all started with Koonapa Traveler. When I was traveling with my tours, my team and I would document our travels, and create content for our website and Facebook page. I made it clear how important it is that everyone is ready to shoot given anytime during the tours. Like most of you, I started taking photos and recording videos on my smartphone. This sub-conscious thing that I was taking photos on tours, it never occurs to me that I was into photography

The major turning point that truly sparked my love for photography was inside of a cave during one of my tours in Thailand. The cave had a big hole at the top, so the direct sunlight was able to shine into the cave like a giant flash light coming down from heaven, as if an angel was coming down. Not to be cliché, but that was exactly what it looked like to me. My iPhone 5s at that time was unable to capture the true image of its full potential, because it wasn’t a DSLR. The environment was dark, and photo was grainy. I was not satisfied with the end result. The following week I went to the mall and bought a DSLR – Nikon D5500.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I sucked at taking photos, because I wasn’t. In fact, I was good at it. What I sucked at were editing photos, and navigating my camera. What is frequency separation and a f stop? How long is a 35mm? Are those even the right way to ask the questions? The learning curve of the unknown was steep.

As A Beginner

The equipment I used were:

  • Nikon D5500
  • Kit lens 18-240mm f3.5-5.6G ED
  • And 35mm f1.8 DX

You’d be surprised that most of my work showcasing on my website were taken by an intermediate-beginner camera Nikon D5500 and a $200 DX lens. I used my beloved D5500 until I explored every features and pieces of the camera body, back and fourth, 99 times, like if I were to close my eyes I’d have a virtual reality in my brain and would be able to navigate the camera during shoots… with my eyes closed. I used the same equipments for about 1.5 years until I was able to save up for my other lenses, and eventually progressed to Nikon D750 at the end of 2019. 

Click here for a full list of My Photography Gear that I’m currently using.

Models

I got my camera, I needed an object in my frame. I didn’t know any models, but portraiture was the one that I wanted to do the most. I was just getting people around me helping me out. I asked my cousins to model for me. I asked my 4 months old nephew to model for me. I even asked my date to model for me! I needed to practice. I then did some easy editing and put them up on instagram. From there I gained some traction. 

Note: Picture to the right is my 4 months old nephew. I took this image on the first day that I got my first prime lens, Nikon 35mm f1.8 DX. I was still on Aperture setting then, so I didn’t need to set up my camera besides that I wanted it at f1.8. I then used one of the black and white filters on Instagram before I posted the photo onto my photography instagram account.

How I started photography | Emma Tsui Portrait Photography
My 4 months old nephew after feeding.

Instagram

Instagram was my inspiration, and still is. I was learning and seeing so many other people’s creativity on there. Through instagram, I was able to meet my go-to model. We were both starting out at that time, so we just made use of each other for practice (we still do these days!). If you have browsed through my portraiture portfolio, you’d probably know who I am talking about!

Instagram has played a huge role in my photography career, from meeting friends to giving me professional opportunities. The feedback from instagram have always been really good, which was really crucial for one to continue a hobby. In addition, I’ve met so many photographers, models, videographers, and other content creators worldwide. It is now my main way to meet new people and make connections. It is such an amazing platform for beginner to advance photographer.

Editing

The first thing I did, before I posted photos onto instagram, was to install Lightroom, and began using this Adobe program religiously. It was hard to edit, I’m not gonna lie. This. I had no idea what I was doing. To level up my editing game, I invested loads of time watching YouTube learning about Lightroom and editing. I’d come back home after a 12-hours tour and edit photos at night, then wake up at 6:30am again to go on to another tour. I researched photo editing, skin editing, exposure, and etc… it was a none-stop learning process.

It was especially hard, because I needed to start from scratch. I knew nothing about photography and editing in the beginning. If you take a raw file and give it to a random stranger who knows nothing about photography, and say “you have x amount of time to edit to make the model looks like an angel, and the background looks like heaven”, that was me. I was on a mission to learn everything I can. I love to edit, to colour correct, and to soften the skin. 

Youtube

While I was learning, a whole bunch of YouTuber were my teachers and my inspiration. From the lovely Jessica Kobeissi to a more technical YouTuber Sean Tucker, they were my obsessions after work. Besides youtube, I also bought a quite pricy photography book, but it wasn’t as helpful as YouTube videos, and to be honest, it was very dry to read through it. That book ended up on my shelf, dusty. 

Learning about photography, taking photos, editing them, and etc… this was a none stop effort, and it is still going on. So if you are reading this and thinking of getting into photography, you can definitely do it too. Resources are available everywhere if you do your research and be nice to people.

TIPS: If you love the process, then it’s gold 😀

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