Lights. Camera. LOVE!
Awardwinning images come from sharing in the excitement, joys and thrills of a couple and their families, Malaysian wedding photographer Louis Pang tells Shiva Kumar Thekkepat
Celebrated wedding and portrait photographer Louis Pang was ready with his camera. He loved the light. Flames from the flickering Indian torch were casting lovely shadows on a face. A hint of an orange glow played on the cheekbones while the faint light accentuated the jawline. The light added an enigmatic lustre to the eyes while appearing to embellish the costume and give it an almost ethereal allure.
At just the right moment when his subject turned, Louis pressed the shutter. The image he captured was
not of the bride, however, but of a torch-bearer at a wedding held at Neemrana Fort-Palace in Rajasthan.
A classic image, it went on to earn Louis a runner-up award from among 2,600 images from around the world in the non-wedding photojournalism category at the 2008Wedding and Portrait Photographer International (WPPI), regarded as the ‘Academy Awards’ of wedding photography.
“It was a proud and humbling experience to win an award alongside some of the most respected photographers in the world,’’ says the 41-year-old. But this is not Louis’s first award – he’s won 10 since July 2007 at the annual competition. He is also the first Malaysian and second Asian to win a first place award in WPPI. And to think, photography wasn’t even Louis’ first choice as a profession.
Louis was working as a journalist at The Borneo Post when cost-cutting measures forced him to pick up a camera. “My editors wanted me to take some pictures while I did my stories,” he says.
Although some might think it is unfair to do two jobs for the salary of one, Louis saw it as a chance to learn a new skill. He soon discovered that he loved photographing people
more than writing about them. “As a rookie, I won two district-level photojournalism awards – one for a picture of a local politician addressing people, and the other for a photo of illegal immigrants who had lost their homes in a fire.’’
The fact he had been competing against several veteran photographers gave him confidence. “I knew then I had talent in photography. Most importantly, I loved taking photographs. The job gave me plenty of opportunity to practise daily.”
After a few years, he quit journalism in 2006 to try his hand at being a commercial photographer. “I felt it was time for me to move on to greater challenges,” he says.
Louis felt he could chronicle history and record emotions of people and life in general a lot better with his camera than he could with a pen. “I felt there was so much more you could do with a camera,’’ he says. “Also, it was a more challenging field to me than journalism.
“Some photographers love capturing wildlife, landscapes or food. I am instinctively drawn to photographing people. I love meeting people and interacting with them and trying to get across an entire story in a single shot.’’
He began by taking the photos at some of his friends’ weddings and soon fell in love with, and began to focus on, wedding photography because of the wide range of feelings the ceremony can elicit – joy, bonding, pain, stress, calmness.
There was another reason he decided on his specialisation: “In the press, if I shot a great picture, people would see it for a day and then forget about it. As a wedding photographer, my work is appreciated for a lifetime by two families. So for me, I feel there is tremendous pride and satisfaction from being a wedding photographer.”
And Louis didn’t just take a boring picture of a bride walking down the aisle or the groom kissing her after the ceremony. “I look for more than just the stereotypical shot of a wedding. I want to capture the emotions of the couple, and their family members... just like I did in one of a bride’s father breaking down and wiping away a tear during the wedding ceremony.
“Then there was one where the bride was fixing her footwear just before walking down the aisle, which was hugely praised by the family as well as those in the business.”
Today Louis shoots around 40 to 50 weddings a year across the world. He’s done assignments in places as diverse as the Philippines, Hong Kong, Australia, India, Singapore, the Netherlands and New York. While he charges Dh300 for an hour’s session for
‘I love interacting with people and trying to get across an entire story in a single shot’
portraits, the cost of a wedding shoot depends on where it is and the duration.
“I take a genuine interest in the most important day of the couple’s lives,” he says, explaining how he makes his pictures stand out from those of others. “I empathise with them, I care that they are comfortable and happy. When the flowers
arrive late, I get just as fidgety. I share the bride’s nervousness before she heads up the aisle.”
“So, my job as a photographer is more than merely getting people to pose or getting the lighting correct,” he says. “More importantly it is helping my subjects to forget they are in a shoot and coaxing them to consciously and unconsciously cede control so that I can take great care of them and create amazing pictures for them.
“The wedding photographer has to share moments intimately with the couple throughout the day,” he adds. “It’s when we involve ourselves totally that we get truly unique and beautiful moments.”
Louis says that as a photographer, what he looks for in wedding and event photography is “timelessness, romance and elegance.
“That’s what I want to achieve – to simply shoot from the heart. I’m not into chasing the latest trends. The ‘trendy’ stuff tends to get outdated after some time. I want to create art pieces that look elegant even after 10 and 20 years.
“Also, it’s important that I have great fun with my clients. ‘If you feel good, you’ll look good,’ – that’s my mantra. I make sure every aspect of the shoot is taken care of so that my clients can relax and be themselves. That’s why I always get hugs from the bride, groom and family members at the end of the shoot. My clients and I become best of buddies very quickly.”
There’s a simple reason why he doesn’t do any other kind of photography: “I love working with people. I get to interact with them, get excited with them and for them. I wouldn’t know how to interact with products or landscape, so I stay clear of that. One piece of advice I give budding photographers is that when it comes to shooting weddings, if the passion isn’t there, don’t do it.”
Louis’ wedding shoots, while beautiful, are far from conventional
This photo of a torch
bearer won Louis an award at the ‘Oscars’ of wedding photography;
This bride’s family loved the image of
her checking her shoes before walking
up the aisle
Louis believes he can chronicle events and capture emotions better through images than words
It’s not all weddings; this portrait photo earned Louis a third place from WWPI
Louis spoke at a photography seminar in Dubai recently