We have the privilege and honour to have an interview with a young and talented photographer who recently caught our attention with his documentary photos submitted for the LIFE @ SG50 Project. He is selected to be one of the featured photographer on our site as well as acknowledging his work and his talents. So we decided to ask Arif some questions about himself and his thoughts on photography.
What kind of gear do you use?
Camera body – Canon 5d Mkii, Nikon FM2, LC-A+, Holga 120
Lens – Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art Lens, Canon 24-105 L Lens, Nikon 35mm Prime lens
Tripod – Vanguard
Which is your favourite lens? Why?
My favourite lens has to be the Sigma 35mm prime lens for many reasons. Some has said that it is better than the Canon 35mm equivalent and I for one, can vouch on that one too despite having a lower price tag. On top of that, I prefer 35mm over 50mm prime lens because of my preference to always include a little bit of foreground or background in my photos, so the 35mm gives a nice scope to that. It also has a character in terms of its colour saturations and sharpness when shot at wide open. So all of these are the qualities that I look for when selecting a lens.
When you go in one of your travels, what all you take with you? Why?
I bring along my only two lens. that is all I have got anyway, haha! 35mm is good for people and street photography while I use my L lens that is versatile enough for either landscapes or on situations when I need a reliable zoom lens.
Among the gadgets that you own, is there something that you wish you hadn’t bought? Why?
None, I am very particular about the gears I purchase and own. I made sure they are really the ones that I need.
In the field, what are your settings?
Aperture – f2.8
Shutter Speed – 160 to 200
ISO – 200 to 400
White Balance – Auto
Focus – Manual at night and Auto in day
Image Format – RAW
What kind of tools do you use for post processing and what is your work flow?
For commercial work, I prefer to use photoshop but for my personal work, I prefer to use Lightroom. This is primarily because I love the touch of film to my photos, so the Vsco film packs are much easier to be applied via Lr. Depending on the type of work, I will generally start by selecting the ones in complete focus first, followed by working on my composition. I personally find it important to get my composition right before I embark on any colour corrections as I feel that both are highly intertwined with one another. I cannot envisage one without the other, so I would normally work on the composition right before moving on.
How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?
I read up a lot on photography related materials! To a point that I can be considered as a closet geek, in that sense. From DPS, Petapixel and Eric Kim blog post, I read them all. Tutorial youtube videos are also very useful if you are more of a visual person too. Eric has some really great videos on composition, for example. The best part is that there are no gospel truth when it comes to education in photography, there is no one single source that you should only learn from. As such, I read a lot from these materials and learning from the subject experts. But ultimately, all these knowledge needs to be translated down into action itself which is to go out and take more photos. I believe that the act of taking photos is, in itself, a form of self-education too. Don’t ask if your photos is not good enough, ask what is not good enough in your photos. That will make all the difference in the world.
Among your works, which one is your favourite? Why?
Whose work has influenced you most?
I admire Ansel Adam’s work a lot but not for its composition superiority or technical prowess. When I look at someone’s work, I look for their philosophy behind their work, the way they think often gets conveyed through their work. And for that, I admire Ansel Adam’s work for the philosophies he had when it comes to his work.
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
I wish I knew the importance of composition when I first started. Because I first started out in street photography, composition had taken the back seat to prioritise getting the moment captured on camera. Basically, for 6 or 7 years, that was what I had been doing. Getting sucked into that frenzy of not losing out the moment. But as time went on, I slowly understood the importance of composition which can be very challenging, especially out on the streets when everything is always moving and always changing.
Any advice you will give to young photographers?
Find that style of photography that speaks to you the most and also helps you to speak to the audience too. This is important to keep the passion burning alive after many years practicing this craft. Whatever style of photography that you adopt, there must be an overarching guiding direction in all your photos. For me, the overarching guiding direction are the stories in my photos. My photos must either help to convey a story or help the viewers to imagine one. So, I have stopped looking for moments worthy to be converted into a photo but instead, I am now looking for stories that can be best conveyed in a single frame.