Howie Choo is a versatile photographer, often shooting a wide range of subjects. But sports photography remains close to his heart. He talks about common misconceptions (that sports photography is ”easy”) and tips for aspiring sports photographers.
A little over a decade ago, Howie Choo was very much like any other hobbyist photographer. A graduation trip to Bali sparked an interest in photography, and he started "messing around with a camera", as he puts it.
He later found himself hooked with the craft. "Messing around" turned into a serious hobby, as he began taking photos for friends and friends' friends. Soon, he was getting paid jobs from companies. Things snowballed, until one day, he found himself with a lucrative means to make ends meet.
So in 2005, he set up his own photography business, Howie Photography. "I have since been living my dream in turning my passion into a full-time profession," he offers.
A versatile photographer, Howie shoots pretty much everything from portraiture to architecture. His deepest passion, however, lies in sports photography.
"Sports photography has always been close to my heart, being an avid sportsman and hardcore windsurfer myself," he shares. "I shot a lot of surf photos in the beginning. I get totally stoked when looking at a perfect wave shot."
"Some of my early days’ most memorable shots were from water sports-related overseas trips," he adds. "Some of these surf shots were also my very first internationally published work. All these have inspired me to put in special effort into sports photography as I progressed from shooting surfing to sailing, extreme sports and other mainstream sports."
Contrary to popular belief, sports photography is far from easy. It's about "capturing the peak action" and "freezing the defining moment", according to Howie.
Addressing the common misconception of sports photography being an easy skill, he says: "Sure, you need high frame rate to capture the peak action, but it’s more than just point and trigger. You need a lot of skill to be able to lock focus on fast moving subjects in every frame."
"Different camera settings are also needed to suit different sports. Not to mention some very specialised lenses and equipment like remote trigger and water-housing that are needed to produce top grade images."
Another misconception is that "Sports photography needs top-of-the-range camera bodies and big white L telephoto lenses that cost tens of thousands of dollars. As such it must be a highly paid job."
The first part is true, but the second isn't. "Sports photography is just an extension of press reportage photography and is paid the same industrial standard rates," he explains.
But that shouldn't be an excuse to scrimp on your camera gear. Howie's advice? "Buy the best gear you can afford." Then get to know every piece of equipment inside out.
He recommends top-end cameras with high FPS and fast AF paired with big white L telephoto lenses with a small stop like f2.8 to elevate your shots to pro-grade level.
To ensure you capture the peak moments in the sport, it's imperative to be able to anticipate the action, which comes with experience and practice. Also, take note of the light and background - "these are the two most important elements that turn good shots into great shots," he says.
Last but not the least, it's important to stay fit to keep up with your subjects - often with heavy gear slung across your back.
All photos were taken by the Canon EOS-1D X or Canon EOS-1D Mark II.
Passionate, creative, with extremely high work ethics, Howie has been producing beautiful images on assignments that have taken him from helicopter high above Maui waters in Hawaii to the rolling waves in Indonesian surf; from the runway of Singapore Changi Airport to the production factory in Vietnam. Some of his recent high profile works include formal portraits for several Government Minsters, 28th SEA Games sports coverage, Changi Airport New T4 Project and Extreme Sailing BAR Ben Ainslie Team coverage. In addition, his works have also been published in internationally renowned magazines including UK’s “Boards”, Japan’s “Hi Wind”, USA’s “Kiteboarding”, “Kite Boarder” from France and “Free” from Germany.