Design Digest

Patrick Kok’s Photography Tips

How do you improve your photography? Just shoot as many pictures as you can, because practice makes perfect. Don’t worry too much about the framing and angles. Sometimes cropping your photos in post process isn’t a bad thing. Especially nowadays with this Instagram style, you will crop your photos to fit the square frame. At the end of the day, just shoot. Take as many pictures as you want. You will definitely delete unwanted photos but as you gain experience you will know which shots are good.

The camera is not important. What’s important is your skill – because camera gear is constantly upgrading. You can take good shots with whatever camera you have. Only when you have the money is when you should invest in better gear. Even if you don’t have a camera, just use your phone. It’s good enough. Some people are not good with using DSLRs, but are very good with their phone camera. You have a GoPro? Use it! Mastering your skill first is very important.

A tip to taking good candid shots is to use prime lenses. The focusing is faster and it takes in a lot of light. Zoom lenses are good, but zooming in and out takes time. You have to mingle around and be sharp. The moment you see a great photo opportunity you have to just press the button. There is not much time to zoom, to adjust the angle or yourself. Just take the picture first and post process it later.

I am truly amazed of the work by the top photographers in Asia. I’ll look at their latest photos, figuring out how they captured the moment, the story and feeling behind each photo. For me, the most important thing is the story. See, everyone can take pictures – buy a camera, hold it in front of your subject, and press the shutter button. But how to capture and tell the story? The tears that fall, the laughter.. It’ll only last for a couple of seconds before the moment is gone. There is no take two. You only have a few seconds to capture the moment. At the end of the day, I would like my clients to enjoy all those photographs taken. Cherish every single one of the photos and recall those memories of their wedding day.

I never really took any lessons. In the beginning I just followed my friend – Vincent Cheng – around. I admire his work – all of his photos have stories behind them. He taught me some basic knowledge about photography but after that no one else taught me. I just improved my skill on my own. I self-taught myself by looking at other photographers’ portfolios. We learn from one another. Before other people can judge you, you must be able to judge your own photos. Before other people can like your photos, you yourself must like them first. I’ve attended some workshops before. If you have the budget, go ahead and try attending some workshops. Not one photographer is good at everything. Some are good at portraiture, others are good at weddings, commercial photography, and so on. So it is good to attend different workshops and learn from different photographers. Whatever it is that you learn, try to adapt it and develop your own style. If you do not develop your own style, people will not know who you are. If your style is always changing, people will not recognise your photos.

Before I developed my own colours and style, I used to use different colours for all my photos until one day I attended a photo judging session. I paid the fee, printed all my photos – all in different and contrasting colours. The judges said that my photos were very nice, that there is a good story to them and the angles are good. However, all my photos were in different colours. They told me in order to pass the judging, I had to reprint all my photos in black and white. I didn’t. I didn’t want to reprint all my photos just to pass. I went there to be critiqued. So the one thing I got out of this is that I should stick to one colour palette for all my photos.

The point is that if you can get into any workshop or any judging session, go ahead. This is a great time for you to meet other professionals. This is a time for me to humble myself – not to look down on yourself – but to go there and see the work of others. If anyone critiques your work, just listen. It may be good advice, or not. Maybe they just don’t like your photos. But maybe they’re really telling you that there are ways to improve.

Follow another photographer around. It may not be good pay, but it’s good to become an assistant shooter to learn how they take photos, how they direct people, how to find light, and so on.

To be honest, I’m definitely not the best, especially compared to some of my KL friends – but I am still learning. I’m always thinking of ways to improve and upgrade myself in terms of my skills. There is so much room for me to improve step by step. A photograph is not just a photo; let’s build a story with each frame.

Last but not least, I would like to thank God for such a privilege for me to bless the people around me through my photography. He is my provider all the time.

Patrick Kok is a wedding and portrait photographer based in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, who gained experience in Kuala Lumpur. Visit his website at and follow his page on Facebook.

Have you read our interview with Patrick? You have not? By all means, click here!

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  • Reply
    Steve Simmons
    June 6, 2017 at 3:36 PM

    Thanks for sharing.I hope it will be helpful for too many people that are searching for this topic.I must appreciate the way you have expressed your feelings through your blog!.

    • Reply
      Jeremy Tan
      June 8, 2017 at 8:42 PM

      Hey Steve! Thank you for your kind comment. I do hope that many people will find this post helpful as well. Thanks for dropping by, and I hope you learnt something from this!

  • Reply
    Sharon Elleen
    May 2, 2017 at 3:25 PM

    Great article and very well explained. I believe in professionals so this is a very useful article for everyone. Many thanks for your share.

    • Reply
      Jeremy Tan
      May 22, 2017 at 10:41 PM

      Hi Sharon! Thanks for reading the article. Yes indeed. Professional or not, it’s great to be able to learn from one another. Cheers!

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