Spotlight Interview … Photographer Banhup Teh

JRP: Banhup Teh is aserious photographer” whose work I became aware of on He has a striking portrait photo gallery and his work exhibits a masterful use of light, composition, and color.

Thanks Banhup for sharing time and your thoughts with JRP Blog and it’s readers.

Banhup Teh: The pleasure is all mine. First of all, allow me to say that photography is a sideline and hence strictly speaking, I am not a professional. I would call myself a“serious photographer”with a very keen interest in available light portraiture.

JRP: Where is your home?

Banhup Teh: I was born and bred in the tin mining town of Ipoh and have since moved south to Shah Alam, the capital city of Selangor (Malaysia).

JRP: How did you get started in photography? Do you have any formal training?

Banhup Teh: I started digital SLR photography by chance in early 2006 when my eldest daughter asked for my Point and Shoot Fuji. Before that it was always shoot in jpegs and printed out of camera routine. I was never introduced to the world of post-processing then.

When she “hijacked” my camera I went to my regular shop to get a replacement, and to my amazement I could actually get a Nikon D50 at a price cheaper than what I paid for my Fuji. Somehow that purchase prompted me to explore more which included learning the power of Photoshop. One month down the road I traded in my D50 for a D200 and the rest is history.

I do not have any formal training and what I know now is through regular practice and assimilating pieces of advice from friends with similar interest. Basically trial and error and each time trying to improve on the previous effort.

JRP: Looking in your camera bag what equipment would I find?

Banhup Teh: I now have a Nikon D3 and for lenses I have the Nikon 85mm f1.4, 17-35mm f2.8, 28-70mm f2.8 and 70-200mm VR f2.8. I now travel a fair bit and whenever I do, I’ll bring along the D3 with my 17-35, 28-70 and the 70-200.

JRP: What type of editing software do you use in your workflow?

Banhup Teh: I started off with Photoshop CS2 and have now converted to CS3. To be honest what I need for my varied workflow is all available in CS2 but because I have upgraded to the Nikon D3, I have no choice but to upgrade my version of Photoshop to CS3 as CS2 cannot read the RAW files from this camera.

JRP: What is it about portraiture that makes it such a focus in your work? How do you approach your location portraiture? What background considerations do you make in picking a location to shoot in? Do you work independently or with the help of assistants? Do you ever use artificial lighting to supplement the available natural light?

Banhup Teh: I will answer the last question first as I am very passionate about available light portraiture. I do not use any form of artificial lighting. I have managed to get by with the help of a reflector.

I have tried many forms of photography, which included macros, landscape, and birding. As you can imagine I took up photography to take images of my family and friends hence portraiture has always featured prominently in my learning experience. I always use portraiture as a yardstick for comparisons between the many forms of photography and I ultimately find that it is with this form of photography that allows me to be more creative.

I have reached a stage, for better or for worse, where each time I meet a person I see the character of the person shining through. Instead of a face I see gradations of light and the various shades of colors. I start to imagine what I can do to make the character more interesting. This gets me all excited.

I am known to corner a person in my photojournalist work and take him/her to a suitable location nearby just to get a shot that tells me more about this person. If I can tell a story of this person the way I see it, that would really make my day. This is what is keeping my hobby alive.

I do photo-shoots too. For that I always do my own location scouting. My single most important concern is lighting and to this end I always shoot in the mornings and late evenings.

The background will be my next concern. I want textures in my background enough to frame my subject but not too strong to take away attention from him/her. I find that most times I ended up in abandoned factories and houses where these characteristics are abound.

As a hobbyist I do not have a regular assistant but because I do have friends who like to shoot with me and I with them I am seldom short of help.

JRP: What are some of the challenges for a photographer in your home market to sell their work? Do you currently market more toward private individuals as opposed to commercial clients?

Banhup Teh: As I have mentioned I do not depend on photography for a living. This is just as well since I do not want any pressure from clients to hinder my creativity. Moreover I do not go out to sell my work. Of course I have sold some of my work through PBase but I don’t depend on that to put bread on my table.

Since I am not fully in the market I am not in a position to assess the challenges in my home market. I will leave that question as that.

Having said that I do run workshops for those who are keen to learn my style of photography and post-processing. I have just completed writing a post-processing kit in the form of an ebook to share with the photography community.

JRP: What has been your most memorable photo session to date?

Banhup Teh: Most memorable? Hmmmn, this is a tough one as I find that the most recent session is always more memorable than the last. With that in mind and all things considered I will put my recent trip to Bali to be the most memorable session to date. I have been to Bali 8 times and each time I was presented with new opportunities to whet my photography appetite.

JRP: What is most important to you, technique or vision?

Banhup Teh: I will have to put vision as many may have the same technique but it is always the vision that makes the difference. It is easy to teach a person the technique but tough to teach them how to see.

JRP: What has been the best advice given to you by another photographer?

Banhup Teh: Don’t try too hard to get good images, just try to get less of the bad ones. That was actually tougher than I thought.

JRP: What advice would you give to a young photographer starting out?

Banhup Teh: My best advice to them is to go out there and have fun with photography. Nothing beats practice and nothing is better than to learn from the mistakes made in the last outing.

JRP: Thank you again Banhup for sharing your thoughts and photography with us. It has been a real pleasure talking with you.

Banhup Teh: It is my honor to be able to share with this community. I must thank you for giving me this opportunity.

JRP: To view Banhup Teh’s impressive photography please go to these links:

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