Having snapped photos of Donald Trump, the Dalai Lamai and Anthony Robbins, Zung talks to us about capturing candid moments, having a zero-Photoshop policy and tips for selfies.

We are all familiar with the name Zung -- the go-to photographer of Malaysian high society who has captured some of the biggest personalities from Donald Trump, the Dalai Lama and Anthony Robbins along with Malaysia's best like SM Nasarudin SM Nasimuddin, Tunku Naquiyuddin and Diani Lee.

So it comes as no surprise when many identify Zung of The Photoz as the fictional character named Sean O’Connor (played by Sean Penn) from the recently released film, 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty'.

But we were intrigued to learn that Zung actually identifies with Walter Mitty (played by Ben Stiller) instead, “While I am similar to Sean O’Connor now, I was Walter Mitty when I was younger because I’m not a well-educated person and I would do things mindlessly, but with a little courage, I decided to step out and do something great.”

True to his words, the moment he took that step, the momentum just kept building.

From Sekinchan to society's darling photographer
Born in Sekinchan, a small village in the outskirts of Selangor, Zung never dreamt of becoming an international people photographer. While photography was always a part of his life, he was first an engineering student who worked part-time as a photographer to support his education.

Life took a drastic turn when he dropped out of college to become a full-time photographer armed with only a Canon EOS 50.

Zung says, “At the moment, I have no regrets because this journey turned out to be much better than what I had expected. Sometimes people say I’m living in a dream, but I think I live better than what I dreamt of.”

When did Zung actually start his profession as Malaysia's high society photographer? Not even Zung himself knows. Starting as a wedding photographer covering numerous nuptials and receptions, he never realised that some of his clients were among society elites until after the assignment. Word spread among socialites about his ability to capture that perfect moment. 

Zung adds, “One of the very first major jobs I received was to shoot for Tun Dr Mahathir’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration along with a few other portrait assignments for the royals.”

The 'ninja photographer' known for capturing the perfect moment
Dubbed 'the ninja photographer', Zung has a reputation for capturing his subjects in a candid moment. Moving stealthily across the room to snap photos, you won't ever find him sitting still or remaining in a single spot for long.

“People started to call me a ninja because I’m very fast with my camera and I always stay out of the way to remain unnoticed.”

Some might think that candid shots are the easiest form of photography because the stereotypical mind-set believes that as long as you keep clicking the shutter, one of the photos will definitely turn out to be beautiful and spontaneous.

But Zung couldn’t disagree more. He says, “It can be easiest to shoot candid photos because it is about the spur of the moment but it is also the hardest form of photography to master because it takes years of experience to know when that moment is.”

"All individuals are different and that is why every photo I take will always be uniquely theirs. Every one has a story to tell and that is why I love photographing people.”

"I want them to be my friends before becoming my clients"
Every artist has his own rules and principals; for Zung, there are two iron-clad rules in his work. The first is to be real to the clients -- in order to create beautiful imagery, he has to be who he truly is in order for clients to trust him and feel at ease during the assignment.

Zung says, “I always take time to sit down with my clients to understand their story and personality before any shoot. I want them to be my friends before becoming my clients.”

For Zung, images are most valuable when it is raw and unprocessed. It becomes a timeless image that will never feel old and can transcend time. Hence the second rule is zero Photoshop-editing.

He adds, “An original photo with no filter has more value to it. It is timeless.  For example, 50 years from now when technology is more advanced, you look at the photos that had been edited and you’ll see how childish and silly it looks.”

Zung's tips for taking the perfect selfie
Even a professional photographer like Zung has jumped on the Instagram bandwagon. Although he professes to be a beginner in social media, Zung's photography skills are evident even when he's merely using a phone camera. 

We asked the master for a few tips in taking better selfies:

  • Always take photos from a high angle to highlight the jaw
  • When taking selfies, push your face forward and away from body for a longer neck and to avoid double chin
  • Low and wide angle shots make you look taller and thinner
  • If you want to look more petite, always stand a step back from the person you are taking photos with
  • If you’re standing next to the window, always look towards the window where the light comes in. This creates a lot of shadowing to highlight your features, making you look younger and thinner

(All photos courtesy of The Photoz)