Our exclusive chat with one of the most prolific photographers in Hong Kong, the notorious G, Ali G.
Ali G is ready to shoot you. One of the city’s most well-known photographers (born Ali Ghorbani but mostly known simply as AliG) has an expansive portfolio, as he’s covered stars, still-life, campaigns, wedding, product shots and so much more over his tenacious tenure in Hong Kong. We had so many questions for the man behind the lens who has heard it all, seen it all and shot them all!
You’ve been doing photography for years now – what still excites you about it now?
Ali G: What excites me about photography now is the rapid development of mobile phone camera technology and 5G. The race is on for better, faster and more powerful sensors in mobile phones. Xiaomi is about to deliver a ground-breaking 100 Mega Pixel phone camera, and I’m excited to see what Apple, Sony, Samsung, Google and Huawei will bring to the market!
Have you shot around Lan Kwai Fong during events – what was the experience like?
Yes, I’ve shot around Lank Kwai Fong for years, including Halloween, which is by far the biggest party of the year in Hong Kong and its always great fun to shoot. I had to shoot in five venues around LKF on the same night for Veuve Clicquot as part of a big project for LVMH. It took a few days of planning on my part to make sure I have all my routes and access points properly mapped out.
What do you look for in a shot?
In general, I like to include a human factor into my photography when possible so I would actually look for angles in which the crowd can add value to my photos. Other flashes are not an issue in big events as we end up taking lots of photos anyway and then we choose the best ones for the client.
What are the challenges when you are shooting food and drink for example?
The biggest challenges for food and drinks are lighting and timing. If you are not prepared and experienced, it’s very easy for the food to lose its freshness and lustre. Proper lighting also makes the difference between an average photo and a great photo. These are two important points I teach in my photography workshops. In fact, I am making a series of short videos for YouTube with photography tips and tricks. Food photography will be one of the subjects covered.
Do you have a favourite venue at Lan Kwai Fong?
It’s hard to choose one venue as the vibrancy and variety of venues and people in Lan Kwai Fong make it one of my favourite locations for photography. Whether it’s for events or people, LKF has something for everyone!
Read More: The Hidden Bars of Lan Kwai Fong
Do you prefer to shoot people, product, or landscape?
I’m a people person! That’s why I have specialised in weddings, events and portraits. However, when some clients ask for product shots, I will do it for them. When traveling, I really enjoy capturing local life and landscapes as well.
Tell us about your favourite portraits – what is it about them that makes it so special?
I have several, but one of my favourites is Donnie Yen facing off with Keanu Reeves was dubbed by the media as ‘Ip Man vs The Matrix.’ It was a photo which set things in motion for my red carpet and event photography. Equally memorable, the photo I took of President Clinton during his visit to the Olympic Village in the 1996 Olympic Games. That photo was shot on a 35mm film camera and I managed to get really close.
What’s your advice to aspiring photographers?
I always tell younger photographers, we are not in the business of photography, we are in the business of people. Obviously, one has to know camera equipment inside out, but the ability to communicate with your clients and subjects is key. Make them trust you – that’s what is going to make them give you their business or their best in front of your camera.
What is particularly challenging for you?
Regarding actual skill challenges, I believe wedding photography is very challenging. People and their emotions are involved, there are a variety of lighting scenarios, sometimes there are last minute changes and surprises. I believe in capturing special moments.
Social media and new technology has changed the photography game – are you constantly buying new equipment?
Thanks to the support of my lighting sponsor, Phottix, I am constantly receiving and testing out the newest lighting technologies. I am a Nikon user, but I also have some experience with Sony and Leica cameras, as well as Zeiss, Sigma and Tamron lenses.
At the studio, we love keeping up with the latest social media trends. Not only are these platforms some of our main marketing tools, but they are also a huge part of what I teach in my mobile photography and social media workshops. Anyone who underestimates the power of social media will perish like the dinosaurs. It’s important to understand the fact that we, as human beings, need to socialize and communicate in order to survive. Even if Instagram or Facebook or Weibo are not around in 15-20 years, there will be other social platforms so one must adapt.
In the digital age – do you miss shooting on film?
When it comes to the business aspect, I don’t miss film at all. Digital is much more efficient, especially when it comes to post-production and processing. Some of the latest features of photo editing software from Adobe and Luminar are simply mind blowing.
However, on a personal level, I miss film as it takes much more patience and there’s a therapeutic element to the whole process. I see the world in colour, especially when photographing Indian weddings, but I believe black and white really lends itself well to isolating the main subject of the photograph.
What or who would you like photograph that you haven’t done yet?
I would love to photograph Al Pacino! Capturing the behind-the-scenes and red carpet events at the Cannes Film Festival is also high on my wish list. When it comes to new business opportunities and travel, I would love to discover more of China with its rich history, people and culture. I believe the new generation of Chinese consumers is extremely smart and they understand quality, which is perfect for my style of photography.
You work with so many clients – do you still get time to work on personal projects?
Yes, absolutely! Working on personal and creative projects is what allows me to grow, both in vision and skill. A lot of the lighting techniques, as well as how I see and compose my photos at weddings, comes from my creative work with dancers, artists and street photography. I’m also a big fan of mobile phone photography, so when I have some free time, I take my phone out for a spin.
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All images courtesy of Ali G.