Go behind the scenes with Malaysia-based lifestyle photographer Min Mohd and discover her secrets for capturing authentic and emotional images of family.
When it comes to creating emotional images of family that tell stories, a photographer has to become a part of the moment. It takes a certain level of skill to make families feel comfortable in front of the camera, and look natural and authentic for stock. One photographer who is an absolute pro at creating these natural moments on camera is Malaysia-based photographer Min Mohd.
Min is a contributor at Offset, where she shares her emotional images of family captured perfectly by her lens. There are happy moments, there are sad moments, and there are the moments in between that truly tell stories. We spoke with Min about her creative process, and her tips for photographers to capture emotion when taking images of family. Here are a few shared words with professional photographer Min Mohd.
Offset Featured Artist: Min Mohd
Thanks for speaking with us Min! Tell us a little about yourself.
Happy to be here! My name is Min Mohd, and I am a lifestyle documentary photographer in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I’m a mom to three beautiful daughters and one energetic boy who turns six in a few weeks. My eldest is married and is now living in Ireland while my second and third daughter are still in college. So I’m a little busy when it comes to family!
My interest in photography didn’t really start until I reached my thirties. My first professional camera was a Nikon D60 with a kit lens. I learned to take pictures by practicing every day and taking photos of literally everything! I mean everything. I still keep some of the earliest photos I took and it serves as a reminder to me that everyone has to start somewhere.
Besides photography, I love to read and I really enjoy walking in nature.
Malaysia must be an amazing place to enjoy nature. Have you always lived there?
I am a Malaysian born and bred. However, growing up we moved around a lot because at that time my dad was working with the Malaysian government. We used to live in Kuwait when I was little, and fortunately I have a very vivid memory of that time. It’s all thanks to my dad, who’s also a shutterbug himself. He documented a lot of that experience with his film camera while we were living there.
It sounds like he would have been incredible to learn from. So what’s it like being a photographer in Malaysia?
In Malaysia, the majority of photographers are wedding photographers. The competition is quite tough as the market here is really small. Lifestyle and documentary photography is still new and only a handful number of photographers have ventured into this line of work, compared to wedding photography.
It is definitely a challenge for me to get a good client pool with the work that I do. I believe one of the main reasons it’s a challenge is because of the priority of photography. It tends to be among the last few of items in the list for prospective clients. They still have this idea of not wanting to spend a fortune on priceless images.
I imagine that can be a struggle. How long have you been a photographer for? Tell us about your photographic journey.
I am a self-taught photographer. I learned a lot through reading various photography books and photography blogs and practicing without fail, every day. When I started, I took pictures of literally everything that I encountered. I did part-time photography for a few years before jumping in and doing it full time by 2015.
It was then when I quit my job and decided to look after my son at home. That’s when the magic began for me. I decided to do a personal project of taking one picture every day for a year and to post it every day on Flickr. I really enjoyed the learning process while doing the project.
At the same time, I took up a few short photography courses with some of the big names in photography and that proved to be a great investment. I learned so much on how to really find the light and look for it even in ordinary places. I have always trained my eyes to look for the beauty in my own backyard so to me, it does not matter where I am.
I love that. How would you describe your photography style?
I love unposed and candid moments so I would say that my photography style are honest, artistic, and timeless.
I can definitely see that looking at your images. Your images are so emotional. What made you start contributing to stock?
I was invited to become one of the contributors by Offset. It’s an opportunity for me to share my work to a wider audience.
Well, we’re happy you signed on! Your work mostly focuses on creating images of family. Why did you choose that genre?
To me, family is the most important thing in your life. After going through a tough divorce (which was actually a blessing in disguise) I feel more through my heart the importance of having a strong foundation in a family. And that’s why I am so in love with creating an honest image of families. To me, nothing is more sacred than the love you share among your loved ones.
What a beautiful sentiment. What do you love most about photographing family moments?
I love when a client can be honest with me and tell me anything they want to so that I can get to know them a bit more. My sessions with clients are always around two to three hours as I think it’s crucial to get to know all family members before trying to capture their personality and soul. To me that is the most important part of my work.
I cannot work in a short period of time. And when I get to that part when my client is just being themselves and are relaxed and calm, that’s the part I love the most. Everything is honest. Even the smile is not made up! And my works gets easy from thereon.
You’re a pro at creating those emotional images of family moments. Is there a favorite photo or shoot that you’ve done?
I don’t have any particular favorite. Every session that I have done is unique on its own.
Absolutely. Does your own family influence the photography work that you do?
Yes. I have a very big extended family so when we get together, it can bit a bit chaotic but so entertaining at the same time. So, yes, I think my own family influences some of the images that I have taken.
I am so drawn to the connection whether it’s verbal or nonverbal and I’m always on the lookout for that one special moment where everything just blends together well. Whether it be the light, the expression or the mood.
Striking the perfect balance. How do you create emotion in your images? They always seem to be telling stories.
Having done this for a few years, I have learned a very important lesson. I always try to shoot my clients at their homes or somewhere where they are familiar with because this will create a very relaxed mood for the adults and children.
One more thing is to be on the look for those important moments. It can be very subtle and happen so quickly that you have to be very mindful and focused on set.
Do you ever conceptualize or plan your family photoshoots?
I try not to conceptualize a family photo shoot before the actual shoot. To me, every family is different and special in their own way so my job is to bring out those specials moments in a way that only they can understand when they look at the images that I have captured.
Even with that, your work always looks so authentic. How do you capture authenticity in stock images?
I try to make my clients feel as natural as possible and allow them time to be themselves. Natural lighting also plays an important part in trying to produce authentic stock images.
Do you have any tips for capturing emotions in your models? I feel like this is especially difficult when photographing kids. How do you direct them?
My top tip is to get to know them. Talk about what they love to do, their hobbies, who’s their best friend at school, their favorite food, their favorite show, anything! And don’t be afraid to look silly. Kids just love that!
I can imagine! What do you shoot with? Do you have a favorite setup?
My workhorse is my Nikon D750 and Sigma 35mm 1.4 lens.
Do you prefer to shoot with prime or zoom lenses?
I love images that tell stories so prime lenses are my absolute favorite.
What’s something we may not know about your work?
I will try to get all my images right on camera so I don’t have to do extensive retouching.
Wow! That’s amazing. And have you had to face any obstacles to become a full-time photographer?
To be a full-time photographer is always a challenge. You are very much dependent on work, some may like it and some may not. I learned through the hard way by getting familiar with the gears and settings and interacting with my clients. I am also always looking for a breakthrough. Being one of the contributors to Offset also helps me a lot.
We’re so happy to hear that. What advice would you have for photographers wanting to take the leap into full-time photography?
Just be yourself, don’t be intimidated by other photographers. Knowledge is important.
We couldn’t agree more. Any last words?
Know your worth.
All images by Min Mohd
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- Taking Authentic Photos with India-based Photographer Chhagan Shelare
- Diverse Images that Redefine What It Means to Be Dad