7 Hong Kong-specific photography tips
Hong Kong is one of the most photographed cities in the world, so how does one go about capturing its glory? As a professional photographer based in the city, I’d like to share with you a few Hong Kong-specific tips for taking great photos in our mega metropolis.
Think about what is uniquely Hong Kong and may not last forever
Hong Kong’s skyline, as stunning as it is, is going nowhere fast, and neither is the multitude of photographs of it. If you want to capture more unique photographs of Hong Kong, then look for the rare and fast-disappearing aspects of city life. Think hawker stalls, wet markets and old folk. The areas of Sheung Wan and along Queen’s Road West still offer some great opportunities to photograph the historic flavors of Hong Kong.
Be quick to the draw, very quick!
Hong Kong’s fast pace means your shutter finger needs to be even faster or you’re going to miss a lot of wonderful photography moments. Whether you’re taking photos on your phone or a hefty DSLR camera, be poised and ready at all times. This is particularly important when embarking on street photography in Hong Kong. Taking portraits of strangers can feel intrusive, but the trick is just to be respectful and start with a smile. As long as you’re blatant about it – for example, not hiding in the bushes - you’ll probably find most people don’t mind anyway. If they wave you off or say no, just walk away. Another tried and trusted technique for candid street photography is “shooting from the hip,” which means you’re not looking into the camera’s viewfinder at all, maybe not even in the same direction as your subjects in order not to alarm them.
Over 260 Islands!
According to the city’s government, Hong Kong covers Hong Kong Island, Lantau Island, the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories, including 262 outlying islands! That’s a lot of photography, so where and how to start? I suggest heading to Central Pier and taking a ferry to Peng Chau, Cheung Chau or Lamma Island. They all offer some great insights into local life without the hustle and bustle of the city.
Hong Kong plays host to a myriad of international events each year, from the Rugby 7’s tournament to the Flower Show to the Dragon Boat Festival! The tourism board’s website has a comprehensive calendar of events, so just see what inspires you. I’ve taken some of my best photos of Hong Kong at these events.
Check out Hong Kong’s best Instagrammers for inspiration
Hong Kong has a prolific Instagram community with some really big talents, ranging from amateurs to professional photographers, sharing their best work on the social media platform. Get a feel for the city, what’s already out there and what’s popular by searching #hongkong, #hongkongig #hongkonginsta, #hongkonglife, #hkig and #hk, just for starters.
Then work on developing your own style
One downside of there being so many top photographers in Hong Kong is that it can be hard to make your photos stand out. One way to overcome that is to find your own niche, style, or both. Firstly, think about what you want to photograph in Hong Kong. The best photographs manage to transmit the passion of their maker, so find something that fascinates you - be it people, architecture or street food - and photograph that. It’s also totally your choice how you photograph Hong Kong. Think of focus, exposure, shutter speed, etc, as just tools for you to play with. Experimenting with the technicalities of photography and not feeling bound by “rules” will help you develop and showcase an original style. I suggest riding the tram(known locally as the "ding ding") through Hong Kong Island. The top level provides a great vantage point for photos.
Take the road less traveled
Let’s face it, Hong Kong’s most popular photography locations are all well-known and somewhat over shot. The view from The Peak at night never stops being beautiful, but it does lose its luster somewhat after you’ve seen it in photo and time-lapse form for the millionth time. It’s fine to visit Hong Kong’s top photography spots, but try to find a new angle or present the scene from a personal viewpoint. Better still, seek out more obscure locations and look for something uniquely beautiful few have noticed before.
All Photos ©Ali Ghorbani and AliGStudios.com