Interview with Chester Ng

Chester Ng is a portrait and lifestyle/fashion photographer from Manila, Philippines. He wants to be a filmmaker and he can eat a Big Mac in 2 bites!

What is your most favorite photo that you’ve taken and why?

I took this photo 3 years ago. I was just starting photography, and to this day, I’m still in love with this image. In ballet terms, I think this is called the firebird leap. This was shot at an empty lot at the side of a building. I’ll admit, this was sort of a lucky shot. But ultimately, I think this has been my favorite. It’s a mix of the gracefulness of ballet, the urban/modern feel of her wardrobe, the way her arms rest off the side as she leaps and her hair keeps up as her head tilts back, the pain of kneeling on hard soil and little sharp rocks piercing through my knees under the hot Manila sun as I tried to get this shot, and finally, the joy of seeing this shot finally coming through the LCD screen of my camera.

What inspires you in doing your photography?

Anything, really. Sometimes I would see a location (usually with a good window light), or a model then a certain idea instantly pops up. Sometimes, a song will inspire me and give a certain mood for a shoot I want to do, or even a photo from another photographer that makes me want to do something like it or makes me say “why didn’t I think of that?” But really, it’s the people who appreciates my work that inspires me.

The critiques (good and bad) that I get from people who are much more experienced that I am, help a lot. Even the ones who bring me down, those naysayers, they light up some sort of fire inside me. But also, it’s the community. You get to meet new people and make friends, who can help you in your works and vice versa. You can also teach and learn from the people you meet.

Of course, not everyone will like you or get along with you, but it’s just a part of the dynamic. The entirety of it all and the experiences you go through as a photographer is amazing. It really inspires me and it’s what keeps me going.

How do you prepare yourself before shooting or doing any assignments?

Usually, I would look up  for “inspirations” on the web or a shoot that has been done with the same concept or something close to it. Then I try to study it, ‘how was it done?’, ‘why it was done a certain way?’, put it all in a mood board (in an album, folder, Pinterest, etc.) then I try to get the idea behind it and hopefully I’d end up with something of my own.

For my gear, I make sure everything on my cards are backed up and all the batteries are charged. And make sure you have extra cards and extra batteries and few extra shirts as well! You’ll never know when you might need it.

What is your one tip/tool/mantra when you’re shooting or creating work?

Be professional but also have fun. Get your subjects to trust you and make them feel comfortable. The last thing you want in a shoot is some hostile vibe. Making sure that the people you’re gonna be working with is comfortable with you is very important. Especially if you’re working with them for the first time. If the subject trusts you and is comfortable working with you then most probably everything is gonna go well.

What is your signature style?

I'm not sure what my signature style is, but I think I do have a certain look to my photos. I know this because people start telling me that they know it’s my photo based on the look and vibe. And maybe the way I edit because I pull a lot of inspiration from photographers that I look up to, I’m sure that plays a big role too.

Any songs that sets the mood with when you’re shooting?

Yeah, I really like listening to Calvin Harris during shoots, also a little bit of Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West. I like putting on chill music too, they usually have a playlist set on Spotify. Or jazz, sometimes, when I’m editing. But lately, I really like listening to Khalid.

What is ultimate goal in your photography?

Well, I haven’t really thought about that. I don't know, but I do have a lot of things that I have yet to check off my photographer’s bucket list. Like getting to be part of an exhibition, or shooting ad campaigns for the more famous brands, both locally and internationally, and I’d really like to help out others, those who are just starting out, just basic stuff, just to get to know the ropes. 

What is your advice to other photographers?

Just keep shooting. That’s really all you need to do. You get better and better every time. Don’t try to be a know-it-all because you don’t know who you might be talking to. They might be smiling and nodding to whatever you’re saying but really, they just want you to shut up. Take all the criticism in. Take it all in. Analyze what they had to say and why they said it. Look up other photographers, especially the legends. They had to work with film. Our generation works digitally. We are spoiled by the digital age, might as well make the most out of it. All the information we need is on our smartphones. We can get information about anything and everything in just a few clicks. Watch movies, listen to music, look at paintings, or even stare blankly into a wall. Anything that will draw inspiration to you and try setting the bar higher after every shoot to challenge yourself. Sometimes a little alcohol helps too. Get lost in it. Photography, not alcohol.

You can find more of Chester's work on Facebook and Instagram

He is also on Twitter, Tumblr and Vimeo