What turns a lawyer into a photographer – Justin Lim

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Justin’s gear

Photography has become a skill that seems like everyone has – with their smartphones and DSLRs, it is easy to take a thousand photos to choose one from. But when it comes to the  split second “seize the moment” shots at events and weddings, techniques and a solid aesthetic sense are key.

I had a chat with a good friend Justin Lim, who decided to leave his job at a law firm to be a full-time photographer. His works display a cinematic story behind each of them, which had gained international features in official Instagram (as suggested user), Flickr (on their frontpage), Emirates Airlines in-flight magazine, and many more. I would call him an artisan of photography.

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Justin himself

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Justin displaying his love of whiskey

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When and how did you start with photography?

I’ve been a photographer for 20 years back in England, since when I was a teenager. I picked up my first camera when I was 14, which is in the mid-90s. I used to shoot a lot of black and white films of landscapes with an old Pentax film camera.

And eventually I came back to Hong Kong to the corporate environment and did photography part-time. Until a few years ago, I have decided to go full-time.

You have shown a lot of landscape photos on your IG, is that what you like to shoot most?

I’ve always been interested in travel and lifestyle photography. What I mean by “lifestyle” is the design hotels, architectures, restaurants and going to foreign destinations. That is always a good long-standing personal project for me, which is different from what I do for clients.

I am very interested in minimalism, and that is why I love to go to places like Iceland to spend time with yourself and nature.

Is “minimalism” the word you would use to describe your style?

My photography is a mixture of things. At the heart of it, I like simple, minimalist moods. But sometimes living in Hong Kong, it is impossible to not photograph anything but very crowded scenes and set-ups with a lot of props in them. I like the essence and simplicity of photography – just shooting a subject in a singular form.

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What is your favourite part of the job?

 Since I turned full-time, I have had a lot of opportunities to meet people from different areas. In terms of collaborations, I have done hotels, fashion, and with interesting people who are driving towards creative goals. This is very different to my old life as a lawyer, as you tend to meet people at their low points of their lives.

Would you say you are providing solutions to others?

Photography has moved on with social media, such as Instagram and blogging. When you compare my clients with the ones I had 10 years ago, a lot of them now not only want someone to shoot a project, but also to be able to offer styling advice, and to help with props and come up with ideas to make photography more social media friendly. Because there is a difference between the traditional photography style and today’s social media Instagram style. So they would appreciate to have someone with an opinion and can translate that as well.

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You have been shooting for 20 years, do you have your all time favourite equipment?

For nostalgic reasons, I still love to shoot with a lot of films. Film doesn’t have any commercial applications anymore, but I really enjoy the feeling of capturing a moment, as is. And then developing the film to find out later, almost by surprise, what the image looks like. Of course I fully embrace digital photography now, but there is no surprises left. Even with some of the photos that you take are substandard, you can always photoshop them.

If I have to pick a favourite, I would pick my Leica Rangefinder or old Nikon film cameras.

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What is the most interesting project you have done?

A project that I enjoyed recently is shooting succulent and plants here at The Kandid for the HOME Journal Magazine. The reason I liked it was it was the first major shoot I had conducted in this space. I had the opportunity to work with plants (which I am very fond of in my personal life), and I had quite a lot of input to the styling as well.

In terms of personal projects, I have been to Iceland twice, which is a very important place for me. Even now, when I take on new clients, I sometimes ask how they found out about me, and they said “I saw your Iceland photos”. It was just a personal project, which opened up new worlds for me too.

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Where do you see yourself in the coming 5 years?
Photography will always be the core for a creative studio enterprise like mine. With The Kandid being quite a small space, and hosting small events and workshops at the moment, I would like to see it expand into a bigger space at some point. I don’t know yet if it is viable, but I would definitely like to become more involved with running events. And one interesting aspect of my business is that there is a high demand in social media training. A lot of companies approach me now because they have budget left for what they call “alternative platforms”. They want to learn things like Instagram, hashtagging on social media. So maybe in the coming 5 years, I could be teaching that more often.

Which 3 words would you use to describe yourself?

I am creative, inventive, but I am also a procrastinator.

Lastly, what is “LUSH” to you?

“LUSH” sounds like something very vibrant, colorful… something with a lot of passion in life. Like I said earlier that I like plants, “LUSH” is something to me that is alive and thriving.

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My lush portrait taken by Justin (Credits to Justin Lim Photography for all images)

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If you are looking for a photographer who respects aesthetics and can offer you social media advice, you know where to find him:

Photography service: Justin Lim Photography 

The Studio: The Kandid Unit 207, 222 Queens Road Central, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

His IG: @hurtingbombz

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As a daughter of an entrepreneur and being one herself, Grace has lived and learned all sides of creating and growing businesses. She is excited to bring all that life experience as well as 7 years of crafting content to G Edition, her very own edition of experience sharing in work and travel. She is a full-time bag designer and manufacturer, part-time traveler, and a lover of creative crafts.

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