Search Results for: copyright

Valuing your images and managing copyright and intellectual property

_8049031 copy
I’ve chosen this image to illustrate the article because although it may have commercial value to say, an old folks’ home, I cannot even let them use it for free because I do not have a consent release from the subjects. Yet it’s fine to use it for editorial – e.g. this article – because there is no commercial value derived, and I’m not promoting, selling or associating with any product. By showing it in more places, I’m also ensuring that more people will automatically be able to attribute the work to me.

“Can I use your image for X? You’ll get credit as the photographer,” is probably something you’ve been asked more than once. How do you respond? How should you respond, from the point of view of something that works for both yourself and preservation of the industry as a whole? How do you ensure that your images are used in a way that you agree with, and with appropriate compensation? Read on. This article will be written mainly for the professional photographer trying to do two things: figure out the value of their images, and then protect it.

[Read more…]

Thoughts on copyright, intellectual property, images and Section 114A

Here’s a question of moral fiber for you: if you were moderately hungry, for a let’s say a piece of fruit; you happened to walk past an apple on a table. Would you take it, if:
a) A sign said ‘please help yourself’
b) There was no sign, and no obvious owner
c) There was a tag on the apple saying ‘this belongs to’
d) The table with the apple on it was in a grocery store.

Most people would take it in situation a); some might take it in situation b); and almost nobody in c) and d) because it would be outright theft. Simple, right?

Let’s look at this situation again. Suppose you needed an image of an object. You find one on the internet that suits your purposes. Would you download and use it, without asking, if:
a) The image was under a creative commons license
b) The image was a sample for royalty-free or licensed stock
c) The image was on somebody else’s gallery site, say Flickr
d) The image was on somebody else’s site with a watermark and ‘all rights reserved’ in the fine print.

Not such a straightforward answer now, is it? For one, people tend to behave with much less regard and decency in the anonymity of the internet than in the real world. Images are intellectual property. This has monetary value, especially if you are a photographer; taking them without permission if you are not allowed to do so is plainly theft. The answer to the above dilemma is that only in situation a) would you be able to use the image without obtaining the image owner’s permission. b), c) and d) are all theft. However, most of the time asking nicely and offering credit is usually enough for the image owner to agree. After all, everybody knows that anything and everything put on the internet is fair game for viewing and public consumption.

Returning to the fruit analogy, the problem comes when there’s nobody doing any policing; how many of you would still follow the law to the letter if you were almost certain you’d never get caught? The reality is that it’s impossible for a photographer to police their own IP on the internet; there’s simply no way to prove that an image hasn’t been used other than by seeing every single image on the web and coming to the conclusion that none of those images are yours.

It gets even more complicated: although use of an image for any sort of use other than the license granted – and creative commons is the only license that lets you use an image without attribution (usually) for non-commercial purposes – is theoretically theft, there’s no point in following legal recourse if there’s no value to be gained. In such situations, the only people who win are the lawyers. Thus we are left with a perceptive difference – even amongst photographers – that ripping an image that’s not yours for editorial or blogging purposes isn’t as ‘bad’ as commercial use.

True, but theft is theft – would it matter if somebody stole the apple to eat themselves or to sell on to somebody else? No.

It doesn’t help that the majority of photographers are completely unaware of their own rights, and don’t bother issuing licenses or clear terms of engagement and usage conditions to clients or recipients of images; the problem here is that there’s now no way of proving whether the user of the image is a rightful licensee or not – such claims will be extremely weak in a court of law, because of the precedent that the photographer himself/ herself does not value their own images or intellectual property.

There’s an obvious cascade here: If the photographer isn’t aware of their rights, and doesn’t stand up for them, how can they communicate that to clients or persons infringing? The answer is, they can’t. And you can be sure that nobody else is going to, because it simply isn’t in their best interests to do so. This results in a wide base of consumers of media who simply expect it to be free, and pout and lose their temper when they’re told it isn’t.

I’ve recently had several cases of unauthorized image use – some on blogs, some editorial, and some commercial – not one single person bothered to have the simple courtesy to ask if they could use the images in question. I would have given permission for editorial use with attribution; for commercial use with licensing (if you’re using it to make money, it’s only fair that I should receive a license fee for helping you to do so). The most ignoble part of it was that in all cases, images were stripped from the server or screen capped, most of the time with the watermarks cropped out, and in some cases, manipulated to form horrible collages or crops – with the watermarks in. There’s another obvious problem with this: not only does it clearly demonstrate that all of the offenders knew what they were doing, but they also didn’t care. Do you think they would feel happy if somebody did the same to their content? Would they sit back and do nothing? I don’t think so, somehow. I put a lot of time and effort into creating content for this site – images, text, graphics etc – and it angers me when I see somebody else profiting off it without even the courtesy to ask permission. Only one apologized when confronted. The rest didn’t even respond, and will be the recipients of legal documents in short order.

It gets worse: what if one of the images used without permission is used in a defamatory or negative way? Or even displayed badly, but with the photographer’s watermark in place? The reputation of the photographer is on the line here – both professionally (what if influential people/ potential clients see the poor crops or presentations and make conclusions unfairly, leading to loss of business?) and legally – if used for defamatory purposes, the photographer can be liable – the onus of proof is on them to demonstrate that that was not the intention, and use was without permission. As with all demonstrations of negative proof, it’s extremely difficult to do and highly time consuming. You as a photographer have a responsibility to your own work and image to ensure that they are not used in a negative manner.

This problem isn’t just limited to images – music, articles, writing, artwork – anything creative that can be easily replicated and distributed – is also fair game. The more effort required to produce something, the more likely the creator is to defend their rights – you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be almost no court cases involving camera phone images, but no end of those for piracy of big-budget movies. Simple rule: the more effort you have to put into creating something, the more value it should have – else economics simply don’t make sense.

Speaking of economics, there’s a concerning trend here, too: free markets are dictated by willing buyer/ willing seller; prices fluctuate proportional to demand. If there are no or few willing payers for photography in today’s marketplace, what does that mean for the industry as a whole? Aside from the big budget productions that still require commissions, you can be sure that will translate not only into falling photographer rates, but also increasing image theft or copyright infringement. It’s happening already, and looking rather grim.

So as a photographer, what can you do to prevent this? What can you do to safeguard your rights and preserve the value of your images? Several very simple things:
1. Do not use anybody else’s images without permission, except if the images are available under a creative commons license, and even then, only for non-commercial use. If you have used images in the past or are still using them, either remove them or seek permission from the owner of the image. Don’t forget to give credits.
2. Issue licenses to all users of your own images, that clearly state the parameters of use (consideration, applicable images/ file names, date and region of validity, permitted media) and some form of signed agreement.
3. If you see images being used which clearly do not belong to the photographer, please make the photographer aware if you can – often this is the only way we will find out (and thank you to those readers who’ve drawn such situations to my attention in the past)
4. Support photographers who are exercising their rights. If there is enough social pressure not to do something, it will reduce in prevalence and hopefully eventually cease.

I want to finish this article by talking about a new act that’s coming into force affecting all Malaysians: Section 114A of the Evidence Act 1950, amendment passed April 2012. It’s the complete opposite of intellectual property rights: the implication is that we are now legally liable for every single distributed piece of information via whatever networked means we are deemed to control or have administration rights over, whether we posted it or not. If somebody hacks your site and posts a defamatory, libelious comment or something similar, you are responsible. If somebody leaks confidential information, you are responsible. If somebody uses your site, your devices, or even your internet connection, you are responsible – regardless of whether you did it or not, or whether you were a willing participant or not. Yes, that means if your laptop was stolen at gunpoint, then used to rob a bank, you are legally liable to be prosecuted for the bank robbery. The onus of negative proof is now on you, the site owner – and every good scientist will tell you, that’s impossible to do. Notably, the act does not cover copyright infringement – so that means you have no additional legal recourse if somebody decided to steal one of your images.

If this seems a bit stupid, it is. At the moment it is unclear how the act will be enforced, but you can be sure that if it’s anything like ISA, it probably won’t be fairly applied. The troubling thing is just how much power this gives to criminals and would-be hackers – if you’re webmaster of a popular site, it’s probably time to change your passwords and increase the security around your servers. Sad to say this, but between poor recognition of legitimate intellectual property rights and enforcement of liability against something you didn’t do, Malaysia has taken one enormous step backwards for creativity and e-commerce. I’m not shutting down this site yet, but I’m also not ruling it out if enforcement of the law becomes unreasonable. For more information or to support the opposition to 114A, visit

Apologies for the very serious, heavy article, but I feel that I must use my little soapbox as well as I can to raise awareness and defend the fort for all fellow photographers. Let’s keep this business viable for all of us. MT


Visit our Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including Photoshop Workflow DVDs and customized Email School of Photography; or go mobile with the Photography Compendium for iPad. You can also get your gear from B&H and Amazon. Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and join the reader Flickr group!


Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

Full circle

1/11/20: Final update to the recommended gear list

Almost 20 years ago to the day, a teenager made an unwise camera choice* to record what he was experiencing in case he might later forget. In reality, the choice was really to consciously notice the world around him and single out the bits that mattered – starting immediately with the things he was involved in, which at the time was the crazy period of growing up known as ‘university’. He’d used the family camera before, of course – for the obligatory vacation and landmark images and with the admonition not to ‘waste film on pictures without people in them.’ University represented freedom and the first time he could decide what to aim the camera at – back then, merely his friends’ silly poses and an image or two without people that he felt compelled to take, but wasn’t sure why. It wouldn’t be until much, much later that the process was a conscious one and more importantly, transcended the medium.

*APSC Fuji 1010 Tiara, if you must know. It was battery hungry, the film was expensive and the image quality was questionable. But hey, it was small and unobtrusive, and the really cool looking Ricoh GR1v was way too expensive for a student, even then.

I had no idea that the decision to start seeing the world around me would not just sustain me through the creative depression of the corporate wilderness for the better part of a decade, but take me to places I’d never even dreamed of. It would give me a respite in lunch-hour sized chunks from the sheer mind numbing boredom of audit. It would bring me to the attention of the watch collecting community – in lieu of actually being able to afford anything at the time – and brand principals in the early days of online forums, and later supply my first professional job. It would take me through a part time contributor position at a magazine that would lead to editor, disagreements over commercial/editorial integrity and the formation of this site, to write the truth and present it how I felt was right, independent of influence or dependency on advertising. It would lead me to make ‘pictures without people in them’ for companies and individuals I’d never thought I’d be involved with, let alone creatively contributing to. It would put me in a position to take user feedback and personal experience to directly develop better products with just about all of the major camera manufacturers – and it would leave a lot of things tainted in the harsh light of reality. It would train me to think like an entrepreneur and be self sufficient, and give me the ability to present the best face of my projects to the world. It would give me a meditative reprieve from times when I didn’t want to dwell too much on my immediate situation. It would lead me to question and seek to understand art, human psychology, my own motivations, and what truly motivates us; it would help me to understand the meaning of balance in more ways than one. Above all, it would make me close friends around the world. For all of that, I’ll always be thankful.

It hasn’t always been an easy ride, as anybody close to me will confirm. I’ve had my fair share of uncertain income, business mistakes, taking on jobs I wasn’t entirely sure I could pull off and unpleasant surprises from clients, unrelated individuals, industry peers and entities and everything in-between. I’ve been the target of jealousy and smear campaigns and entitlement and copyright infringement. Some of that frustration I’ve shared here before. Months of drought alternated – often back to back – with months so full I barely had time to sleep and was running on pure adrenalin. I’ve held anywhere between three and six ostensibly full time jobs at any given time, for most of my full time professional photographic career since 2012 – a close friend once joked that I was doing the work of six for the pay of two and a half, which is not far from the truth. I entered professional photography at a rapidly changing time and probably the last period to really make a run of things before fragmentation into quantity, the whole social media influencer mess; my guess at the time was I’d have 3-5 years before I’d have to figure out what to do next.

During the times I’d previously dabbled in trying to turn pro, I’d figured out that I would have to have a diversified approach: a professional portfolio that was focused enough to look specialised but with enough skills to take on pretty much any job; a public presence to build reputation and audience; something with more consistent income like teaching or education (which turned into workshops and videos); and something to put all of the pieces together to deliver unique value: this would be the consulting side for the camera companies. It seems that the strategy worked a little too well, because to this day people seem to assume all I do is reviews – even though that’s less than 5% of the content of this site. But they played an important part since validation is by far the most commonly searched-for thing photographically. Why that’s the case, I’ll never know – everybody has different objectives and opinions are therefore of at best relative value.

As it turns out, my workload split itself pretty much equally between professional work, education, consulting, and this site. In the last eight and a half years, I shot 202 assignments excluding those for my own watch company; led nearly 50 workshops around the world including smuggling six Americans into Cuba in 2014; produced close to 200 hours of educational video and two years of the weekly photoshop workflow series; wrote 1,815 posts (and owe Robin Wong a big thanks for another 80+) and replied to nearly 100,000 of your comments. At peak, there were nearly a quarter of a million unique visitors every month, and there have been just shy of 30 million visitors to date. I had half a dozen exhibitions internationally and nearly fell out of a plane making a series that in the end, never got shown. I worked with Hasselblad, DJI, Zeiss, Olympus, Leica, Sigma, Sony, was ambassador for three of those brands and nearly started my own camera company. I wore out three keyboards writing this site, and a further four Wacom tablets in retouching and post processing. Lastly: I don’t have an exact number, but my best guess is I shot more than two million images.

That’s a lot of work – an entire lifetime, for some; certainly a career’s worth for me. (And for increasing numbers of dishonest others, a place to steal content to farm ad revenue.)

If things are starting to take on a tone of finality, that’s because this is the point at which I confirm the suspicions you’ve been having: MT the writer and are both going into retirement. Between the demands of my ‘other’ job, not being able to travel, and trying not to repeat myself – I’ve run out of things to say. There really isn’t anything meaningful which we have not covered on this site in the usual rational, systematic fashion with plenty of images – there are certainly subtleties on subtleties about approach and theory and philosophy that we could continue to debate, but at that point, I’d be writing dissertations for an audience of at best, one. The truth is, I’ve said everything I wanted to say and more; I’ve done enough thinking and dissection about how and why I shoot that the whole enormous mass has become intuitive – and I want to go back to applying that and shooting the things that interest me, for me, without feeling the need to create content for the entertainment of somebody else. The internet has a nasty habit of a short attention span: they tend to look at things in tl;dr terms and not bother to use the search function. There is admittedly quite a lot of frustration in having a comment taken out of context and applied without relativity; a really good example is the inability to decouple equipment from process from creative objective. Yes, I go through a lot of gear. No, it isn’t for the sake of having the Next Best Thing or some sort of placebo – it’s because I’m in search of what I think of as envelope; the ability to achieve very specific creative objectives, which change – and therefore so must the tools.


But it does get tiring having to explain this all the time. I’ve always said that the very best position to be in as a photographer is an amateur: a person who engages in the activity for the love of it, without the constraints of shooting to a client’s expectation – be that a social media audience or a paying employer. This is my chance to go back to being an amateur, at least for a little while. The whole COVID situation has enforced a strange motivation on us creatives: at the start, I had one of my most productive periods because there wasn’t a lot else to do being under lockdown and unable to leave the house. But it was productivity in a different avenue – I did a lot of designing, and almost no writing or photographing. I’ve long come to accept that creativity needs multiple outlets; a single medium isn’t enough to fulfil one’s vision. But for photographers, the last few months has been a bad period not just professionally but also creatively: when you’re constrained to the same familiar environment you’ve probably already photographed to death within the first few months of moving in, what’s left? You’re forced to either not shoot, reshoot the same images, or try to see something different in the familiar. Many documented the personal process of lockdown, including myself; but after a while, routine looks the same. But the process of doing it felt oddly familiar: it was like starting to shoot all over again, and I kinda liked it.

The first time you do anything creative is difficult, because you’re not just grappling with trying to get the desired outcome from the building blocks you’ve got, but also the entire mechanical process of things. There are experiments that yield results that move you for reasons you don’t quite understand, and unfortunately cannot repeat; and others that fail completely. It was really that feeling of challenge and constraint again, and with the very same initial backdrop of documenting my personal sphere: it’s very easy to make different images of different subjects you’ve never seen before; it isn’t so easy to make different images of subjects you see all the time, but likely fail to notice. I found myself being forced to real see again, and in the process realised how much I’d been stuck in my comfort zone. The weight of experience becomes a tangibly corporeal thing that can sometimes hold you back from experimenting because of the expectations attached. Ironically, it seems the task of exiting my comfort zone would happen within the most comfortable of zones.

Except this time I had the vocabulary and technique to get the images I saw in my mind’s eye; but I just need that eye to see differently. I needed to not care about who would see the images (i.e. nobody); what I would use them for; what else I had to do with my time – in short, nothing more than whether I liked the result or not. All of the rational means of assessing and curating I use like the four things aren’t so much ignored as practiced and internalised to the point of becoming intuitive. I have had, and can have, pretty much whatever hardware I want; I can extract the full potential from that hardware. I needed an irrational, emotional thing to match an irrational, emotional process – something limited and constrained, but not constraining; something tactile and encouraging but not emotionless and functional. Yes, I did buy something; no, I’m not going to say what it is so I can avoid the risk of having it ‘spoiled’; I don’t need the affirmation of the internet that I made the right choice – I know I made the right choice for me. I enjoy the process of using it and it enables and encourages the kind of images that I’m making now – the images in this post – that move me but require no justification to anybody else. Odd as it may sound, the lack of negative emotional connotations for my tools is very important to me. It’s one of the reasons I have very few holdovers from previous collaborations/jobs/engagements; the creative in me needs a new, clean tool for a new job, and the businessman needs fiscal efficiency and low wastage.

There will always remain the need for dichotomy and contrast, however: I will still continue to produce work for my long-standing clients, and I’m fairly sure this creative loop will result in better work than before. I will still produce all of the images for my watch company because there’s a certain nice continuity between seeing a design that doesn’t exist, to translating it through physical process into an object, to being able to highlight detail and intent. As much as I hate retouching dust (now worse than ever with the kind of resolution media asks for and the insensitive cropping that accompanies it) – we aren’t going to move to CG imaging. Hell, I don’t even composite images – I’ve had more than one client surprised when they find out all of the watch images are a single shot in-camera and you can really see the same thing with your own eyes if the lights are set up right. It is a hard-won and exceptionally masochistic lost art that I have no intention of relinquishing.

At the same time as the world around us is changing and I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to travel to the places I have with the freedom we had previously – the immediate world around me is also changing. My daughter is growing up, and as much as I never quite understood the obsession and lack of objectivity that comes with photographing one’s children – it’s starting to make a little more sense to me. The last coupe of years have seen less photography and documentary of the younger one, offset against being busy with other things or directly involved and not having free hands or mental space to shoot – but I have the sudden realisation that time has skipped a gear and now seems to be progressing faster again. It’s certainly time to for me to put a bit more effort once again into trying to freeze her personality in a defining moment or two. She’s also turned into a bit of a camwhore, but I guess the outcome was always binary with a photographer father: either comfortable with being in front of the lens, or avoiding it entirely. At times I’m probably almost more self-conscious than she is about the camera.

In a post-pandemic world, I’m left wondering if faces are going to become a very personal thing; a mask lends a degree of not just immunological protection but also personality protection; it’s almost like the anonymity of the internet. We’re seeing a lot of bad behaviour that’s a lot harder to do if you know the person in front of you, and they know you; it’s just no longer personal anymore. Maybe if we go back to being able to travel again, we’re never quite going to have the same experience because people won’t look different; the subtle cues we get from the faces and expressions around us will be lost behind the mask. It makes me really want to take up portraiture; not just of the people I know or posed models, but a wide variety of subjects – almost more to feel what’s really going on at the present moment than to make an interesting image. I’ve said previously that portraiture is really the record of the relationship between the photographer and subject; but perhaps it can be more – it’s also the unspoken thoughts and emotions behind what was held back.


There are professions that are always going to be a bit morose no matter how you view them – an undertaker, for example – but photography isn’t one of them. Anything creative (except perhaps accounting) should come with a sense of liberation and the satisfaction of having made order and beauty out of incoherent parts. When that joy is no longer present, then I sincerely believe you’re doing it wrong. There is a tricky balance between focusing entirely on photography and not having any meaning to photograph and focusing on other things and failing to see; the pro almost inevitably errs on the former side, and the majority of the population, the latter. The hobbyist gets lost in the camera store. I look back at the highlight reel of my own work, and realise the images that spoke to me then and still speak to me today are almost all spontaneous, and produced during those fleeting periods where curiosity balanced opportunity – the last day of a work trip set aside for personal meandering; the free afternoon of a workshop; the time when the weather was crap and we shot documentary on the assembly line instead of on location.

Planned images are limited by one’s means and imagination. Serendipitous ones are unlimited by chance and one’s subconscious. I need to travel again, but not hold any preconceptions about what I’m going to see, or inhibitions against photographing it. Development of any kind – creative or otherwise – can only happen if the right things are broken down in the process. It means leaving your comfort zone and trying something new; of not being afraid that the next step may lead down a dead end. Professional photography, this site, teaching, consulting – has gone from being dangerously scary with a side of doki-doki excitement to business as usual; nobody told me what I was supposed to do, but I eventually found a comfortable process. It’s probably going to be harder to break those habits than anything.

I feel like the only obvious thing left is the question of what’s next – Horologer MING is now no longer a new venture; at some point in the last year I got the distinct feeling we’d transitioned from being the new kids to having our own defined niche in the industry establishment. The plan was already brewing during peak photography for me; by 2016 the wheels were in motion and in 2017, our first model was released to much nail biting and eventually success. In the three years since our public debut, we’ve released 16 models, been shortlisted for and won the industry’s biggest award, and become both commercially viable and sought after. We won’t make the mistake of growing too fast and being unable to uphold the level of collector engagement we started off with; instead, we’ll aim for a sustainable point that lets us have meaningful conversations with our buyers, make watches that continue to interest us personally and have the resources, time and mental overhead to make interesting images and drive engaging cars. I’ve come to realize that the spark required to keep one’s enthusiasm alive is maintained both by not fixating too much on one thing and being open to cross-disciplinary inspiration; it’s hard to keep an open mind if you can’t see beyond your immediate situation.

I’m not ruling out another publicly shared/photographic project in future, but right now I have no idea what form that might take – or if it will happen at all. I’ve been so caught up in the ‘business as usual’ of keeping this site/ client commitments/ teaching/ consulting etc. running that I’ve frankly not had a lot of time to think about a major change in format or direction. Perhaps it will eventually come after some time off, and probably like most inspiration – come at the least expected point. The truth is, I’ve been a photographer for so long at this point – longer than I haven’t been one – I can’t stop being one. It isn’t possible to turn off the seeing, it isn’t possible to completely lose that impulse to frame and capture – even if it diminishes from time to time. I do know this, however – it’ll have to be something that lets me make images in line with my creative and personal benchmarks first and foremost; I will always be the “client”. The curation thus remains simple and there is nothing to defend, apologise or make excuses for – or be overly sensitive of an external opinion about.

I started off wanting to record my experiences. At around the same time, I acquired more than a passing interest in watches and cars; I got a ‘real’ job to pay for that and realised it wasn’t at all what I wanted to do, even if I was quite successful at it. I didn’t really become ‘me’ until I accepted that I would have to take some risks and do an unlikely combination of things to make the puzzle work; it came back to photography, and then watches. Even my watch collecting journey has gone in a circle from affordable to knowledgable and off the deep end to back to now producing accessible pieces with the benefit of knowledge obtained after coming back from the abyss – it is somehow therefore fitting that the ‘retirement camera’ is also the descendant of the one that resulted in my biggest previous creative shift, and a company I’d worked with previously. My fate indeed has as strong sense of deja vu about it – but I’m okay with that, because it feels like I got a second chance. Some of you may be disappointed that this post doesn’t contain a sort of retrospective ‘best of’; I’d argue the opposite because it’s instead a glimpse into what’s to come. I’ll leave a clue: it’s really about photographing light first, transients second, and everything else as a supporting actor. Light and timing transcend the subject from what it is most of the time, into what it could be.

It’s been an intense eight and a half years. Thank you to all of you for the support*, encouragement, challenges and friendship – it’s time for me to start making pictures for myself again, and I hope you all continue to do so too. New comments will be disabled from the end of September and I will no longer be replying, but the archive listings will be updated and site itself will remain active for the foreseeable future – producing it was a huge undertaking and there’s a lot of emotional attachment here. It only makes sense to leave it up as a resource – perhaps inspiring some people, perhaps rewarding others with a kernel or two of insight. If it accomplishes that much – I’ve achieved far more here than I set out to do. MT

*And a special thank you to the patrons who’ve donated monthly to keep the site running – I will manually cancel the subscriptions on 1 September. I will continue to remain online in a more stream of consciousness format @mingthein on Instagram. 

MING 18.01 H41

MING 18.01 H41 diver, August 2020 / 3rd anniversary release. In a 40×12.9mm grade 5 titanium case with matching bracelet, synthetic diamond coated bezel, ceramic superluminova X1 and 1km depth rating. Available while stocks last at


Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved

Photoessay: Patchwork

_Z738965 copy

Presenting today a mixed bag of wimmelbild (fittingly, some of which is actually from Germany) and general urban patchwork accumulated over centuries – and in some cases, quite possibly millennia. There is something about seeing the evolution of a city in a single place that speaks volumes to the traditions and values of a society. The elements that survive tell us as much about changing priorities as the ones that don’t; often it seems that cultures have to come full circle in order to fully appreciate what they have. From a photographic standpoint, the sheer density of older European cities tends to encourage the kind of layering and stacking that results in a high visual density and elements of interest no matter where you look… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, mostly the 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles, with a couple of cameo appearances from an iPhone 11 Pro.

[Read more…]

Photoessay: Ambiguity, part II

_3503916 copy

Whilst the previous post was all about ambiguity in groups, crowds or simply physically larger and visually more dense situations, with the barest hint of narrative (if any) dictated by gross body language – this set focuses more closely on couples or a single individual, thus leaving more room for expression and gesture. It is more of an emotional set that suggests causality from a detail or gesture frozen in mid-motion rate than juxtaposition. Though to be honest, the differences are perhaps not as stark as I make them out to be, even if during the curation process the images naturally separated themselves into two distinct groups. Enough words about images that are intended to stand on pure visual interest…MT

This series was shot with a mixed bag of hardware over some period of time and multiple locations, but predominantly the Nikon Z7, mostly the 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

[Read more…]

Photoessay: Ambiguity, part I

GX85_1000532 copy

I make no claims to have any idea what any of these people are doing – and judging from how some of them look in certain locations, I suspect neither do they themselves. But that’s okay, because it makes for the kind of open-ended storytelling photography that allows us to fit our own narrative to things, and thus manage to satisfy a wider variety of audience expectations. In my previous work of this kind, I’ve always tried to provide some sort of serving suggestion for the narrative; in these sets, I’ve deliberately stayed away from that as far as possible and focused on curation for the sake of visual entertainment only. Shadows, textures, patterns, dynamism and implied flow…but no immediate narrative. Because honestly, why not? MT

This series was shot with a mixed bag of hardware over some period of time and multiple locations, but predominantly the Nikon Z7, mostly the 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

[Read more…]

Photoessay: Fondazione Prada

_Z737840 copy

I’ll be the last person to pretend to understand the modern art housed within, but the architecture at Fondazione Prada was spectacular – partially rejuvenated, partially new buildings by Rem Koolhaas, and a very sensitive mix of hypermodern and classical Italian. The historical references to arches, stucco and what I think of as typically Italian tile roofs are all present; but modern volumes and spaces are added both above and below ground to house the exhibit and work spaces. I’m not entirely sure about the gilded palazzo, but I have to admit it does feel very much in keeping with the rest of the space and provides an interesting balance against the white tower. That said, I somehow associate this level of…bling with Gucci or one of the more showy brands. One of the most interesting things I found with the space was the feeling that whilst it was logically laid out and easy to navigate, there was always something left to discover – as though there was more volume hidden than actually apparent on first glance. Part of this is probably down to the mirrored theatre in the centre and the half-level offsets in the white tower, but also because there’s a surprising amount of open space present for what was probably a very expensive site. There just isn’t that feeling of crowdedness. Final bonus: the paninis at the Wes-Anderson-designed Bar Luce were pretty darn good, too. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

[Read more…]

What is creativity?

_Z735139 copy

“Creativity” is a term we hear increasingly thrown around and applied to things that perhaps are both not obvious immediate recipients, and simultaneously perhaps the most needing of such treatment. Ask any non-creative person what they think it means, and immediately unstructure, randomness and perhaps some whimsy come to mind. If you ask a creative person, especially a prolific one, it’s probably the complete opposite. I’m going to take a balanced attempt at tackling this from the point of view of a creative person forced to be uncreative for a good chunk of my career, and who’s now finally spent about equal amounts of time doing both. So where does the truth really lie, what does ‘to be creative’ really mean, and why is any of it important?

[Read more…]

Photoessay: Museo Alfa, part III

_Z737692 copy

Continued from parts I and II

In the early days, there really wasn’t that much difference between the race cars and the road cars; often one and the same would be seen at Monza, Le Mans or Spa or the other endurance road courses. The predecessor to Formula One differed a little since those were purpose-built single seaters. But for the most part, there wasn’t anything like the massive differences we see today – even a high end sportscar like a 911 GT3 is still quire different from the actual GT3s that go racing; to say nothing of touring cars, NASCAR and rally – those are basically completely different cars that merely happen to share a deliberately similar looking body. I found the machinery from the early days of racing absolutely fascinating and thoroughly frightening at the same time: notice the lack of seatbelts, tiny brakes, minimal cockpit enclosure, those thin bias-ply radials that would be small on a Prius, and the seat made up entirely of the fuel tank (!). The roll bar is your head, protected by a a very impact-resistant pith helmet. Things got a little better later on, but that spare tire looks to be an unrestrained projectile in the event of a crash. Motorsport is still dangerous today, but nothing near as binary as it used to be. Either you were the champion, or you became one with your machine – permanently. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, mostly the 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

[Read more…]

Photoessay: Museo Alfa, part II

_Z737381 copy

Continued from part I

I think of this set as being full of very distinctive details of a particular era – yet there is crossover and overlap and transition between them. Even though the continuity is present, there’s a very clear looping back to the historical cars after the late 80s/ early 90s – at this point we see a divergence. The exotics retain the volume of recent vehicles, but gain the curves, lines and surfacing of 40-50 years prior. The mass vehicles just start looking a little melted and lose that sharp definition of the Bertone-era; where Alfa is in the present day is yet another mix of those two: more definition, larger volumes, but also more adventurous curves. As a designer, it’s interesting to see these particular details evolve and get re-referenced from other cars in their history; also to see what was kept and in doing so, signals a brand’s particular identity. Sometimes the most unusual or distinctive elements land up reused in the most unexpected places. Plenty of food for thought here… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, mostly the 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

[Read more…]