Street Photography in Hong Kong with Billy Ha

 Reading Time : 10 minutes

Billy Ha, a photographer specialised in street photography and social documentary, captures street scenes of Hong Kong through his lens. Like many others, he was inspired by a world-class photographer, Fan Ho. Here is KAKAHUETTE's interview with Billy. 

How did you start photography?    

I have been working in Catering industry for years and I am currently doing Marketing job in a hotel. About 3 or 4 years ago, I picked my first camera for food photography at work without much knowledge about the lenses. For my first taste of photography, I got a medium-priced device with interchangeable lenses, allowing me to customise at will. At first, I barely had a clue about those buttons, P mode and etc. All these little letters didn’t make sense to me at all. Until now, I think I still have not explored most functions of the modern cameras, but I started watching series of YouTube videos teaching me how to handle the camera. Every time I got behind a camera, I just focused on ISO, shutter speeds and obviously the aperture setting. As the time went, I shifted my focus from food photography to portrait photos, in which I could learn more stories from those faces. I started thinking about portrait stories. At first there was no composition. However, as my obsession grew with photography, I started reading more about composition, aperture setting, high, low, eye level angle, foregrounds, backgrounds. Once I am in the scene, I can utilise all these to create a photo I like.

“Every time I got behind a camera, I just focused on ISO, shutter speeds and obviously the aperture setting.”
Billy Ha


Explore Billy Ha street photography on his profile 

How did photography grow on you?    

It began with random photos taking without composition and I became more obsessed with photography. When I approached street photography, it basically captured people’s ordinary lives and I put the emphasis on their faces, which expression told stories. When one of my photos was appreciated by my friends, my attention was drawn towards the details of photos which might help get more audience to adore my photos. As to keep improving my photography skills and maintain the standard of my photos, I am keen on reading and replying to comments on my Instagram account. Sometimes, those “likes” and praises from the online community encouraged me to do more photography. I put less and less people in frame; instead, I was catching those little moments in the frame and started to become more patient. I am now creating something that, hopefully, can tell a story. I wish to train myself by just looking at one person and find an angle that tells a story with my photos.

How about your inspiration?

It was first inspired by some senior street photographers, who were called social documentary photographers. I don't remember all the names, but I kept looking at those photographers mastering the art of photography. My electronic devices assist me with the light metering, autofocus etc, but to create amazing photos, composition is key. My question is - How do I tell the story with my photos? I cherish moments because they cannot be repeated nor staged. I know I have to capture the moments at the exact timing. I just need to be ready, train my hands to be quicker on the shutter button.

What is your new focus?    

My focus nowadays tends to be social documentary. I am attempting to search for a new, unseen angle that tells stories instead of imitating what other people did in the past. To catch the best moments of people’s interaction or their behavior, I have to train my finger to click the nobs faster and at the same time, be prepared to shoot photos at any minute. 

I also try something completely opposite to what I usually shoot. I've been training my eyes to minimalist, simplistic style and I want to integrate those into my own photos. I really hope to evolve and hopefully, my photos won't look the same as the time goes.

Which device(s) and gears do you own?

I used to take Canon 6D Mark 2 and a 85 mm lens, which was handy, but I don’t use it much now. When I carry a bulky DSLR camera, it is inevitably easy to get noticed in crowds. I also own 2 other old cameras and I like the shape of those cameras. I found them in very mint condition and they are on my shelf right now. I have a 85-millimeter F/1.4 lens, which is heavier.

I also use a Fujifilm X-Pro. One of my bad habits is to delete photos directly on the camera. The menu is so old and slow you may miss the next moment. Sometimes, I thought I had captured a hero shot on my camera, but when I reviewed it on my computer screen, I'd just delete the photo eventually.

Is there any photo that caught your attention on KAKAHUETTE art gallery?

I think it was a photographer called Sean Foley - his creation Calm - a photo with neon signs that he shot, had my Chinese name on it. That was very cool! When I looked into that shot, I was also fascinated by Chinese characters in frame as well.  I was indulged in that picture for a very long time. It was a back alley with some cool shops on the side and neon signs on the left with a gentleman in a chair sitting at the end of this alley. 

Any advice for the beginners?  

I’m not sure if I’m the right person to give advice, but speaking from my own experience, beginners should not be too lazy or reply on auto mode too much. If you really want to learn the skillsets, you should get your hands on the camera setting. Here are the basic elements of photography – lighting, angles, the ISO setting. With the advantage of modern technology, you may always review the thousands of photos you took and reconsider how to make less flaws next time. It will take time to get a sharp eye on the composition, but continuous learning and practice would make progresses. Cameras now have so many pixels that you can easily crop the photos. Take advantage of all these and practice as much as possible.

Explore Billy Ha street photography on his profile 


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