Sean + Seng Interview – Travel Photography


Sean+Seng on the set of one of their photo shoots in London.

Last week I posted a chat I had with Sean and Seng about getting great photos of yourself.   You can read that post here.  Just to re-cap, Sean and Seng are good friends of mine in London and renowned fashion photographers. They travel the globe for fancy photo shoots and possibly as a result recently have gotten into travel photography. Seeing as they are insanely talented photographers, I really wanted to chat with them about it – I mean, we could all up our game on our travel shots, get great tips on which cameras to use, etc… right? …Or is it just me. Find some of their travel photography here.

Here are some pics from their recent trip to Malaysia. All photo credits: Sean + Seng.

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Me: Okay.  So you’re also into landscape and travel photography.  Have you always been into landscape photography or is this new?

Seng: Yeah, I think that was our passion.  I think we’ve always loved to travel.  And yes, nature, landscape.  I think yeah, we’ve always been in love with it.  I think what’s the best thing about our work is that it takes us to places that we never otherwise afford to go or afford the time off to do.

Sean: I think we’ve always been interested in nature.  I think it’s expressed itself in different ways in our work.  Like, I think, at first when we were students we were kind of into like dead things.  I think it’s also about access or it was like going to the taxidermist, we could probably rent a dead bird or like get to the church and find something like a stuffed fox.  Then it grew into like having real animals in pictures, which was really fun for a while.  And then now…

Seng: A bit more costly.

Sean: And now we’re into… yeah.  I suppose we express it more through like actual travel, like travel photos.

Me: Where have been your favorite places to photograph in terms of landscape travel photography?

Sean: It’s so hard to pick.  I suppose the places that stand out are like Isle of Skye, which is probably like maybe my number one most incredible place I’ve ever been to.  And the middle of Africa.  The sunset in Africa, the red sand, the animals.  And then Cuba, the people, the locations.

I also love California.  I really love L.A.  India, just like everything about it.  I suppose like yeah, I think there’s potential pretty much everywhere.

Me: What do you guys look for in a good travel picture?  Like is it more about perspective, or lighting, or capturing kind of the human element in the places where you are or is it a combination of all of those?

Sean: I think light is really important.  As a photographer really that’s what it’s all about.  So sunrise and sunset.

Also when we travel, we usually get up really early.  We just came back from Japan and we were up at like 5:00 a.m., out by 5:00 a.m. everyday ready to start shooting.  Same with when we were in Isle of Skye we were like hiking up mountains in the dark with torches and then being in the right position to get pictures as the sun comes up.

And then being out you always think, oh, I’m going to have a sleep in the afternoon, but you end up staying out all day until the sun sets.  So in the summer, that’s a really long day especially somewhere like Isle of Skye.

But I think light is so important.  And then also it depends, secondary, is like light is really important but also subject matter is probably just as important.  Sometimes, you can take in the really hard light a really great picture because the person you’re photographing is so interesting.  It actually doesn’t matter how you took it.  It could be on your iPhone just to capture someone, a moment in time.  Someone you want to remember, someone you want to show people, something you’d want to see yourself could be also really interesting.

Me: What kind of camera do you use?

Sean: Oh, we have a lot of different cameras.  It depends.  Ideally, we love to bring everything.  When we travel to Skye, when we were hiking over mountains, we’ll probably bring like a Canon 5D or something like that.  Then maybe also a digital camera, and then we’ll bring like maybe a Pentax K1000.  Something very easy.  A film camera so it’s small.

But then if possible we’ll bring the Mamiya as well, like a big old film camera.  And a Hasselblad, a big digital camera.  You know, we have a lot of cameras.

But also, like I say, if we’re going out not with the purpose to take photos then most of the time I probably just have my iPhone and take pictures on there, which I really like.

**Don’t feel badly if you take photos on your iPhone… even professional photographers do it!

Me: I take all of my photographs on my iPhone.  But sometimes I wish that I was using a proper camera, but I would have to get like a really nice camera because I love like the instant, like you just press the button instead of having a focus and wait for like 0.05 seconds or whatever.  I’m so impatient… Do you have a digital camera that you like that takes quick snaps?

Sean: I do but I don’t… actually, it’s the one camera I don’t use.  It’s my small digital camera.  I just don’t really like the quality.  Yeah, I probably go for something like the Canon 5D, which is quite a big digital camera but it’s not huge.  It is quite practical.  Sort of all-purpose.  And you can bring your zoom lens which is quite light.

But then if I was going to bring a small camera, I’d probably bring my Pentax K1000 which is manual focus.  It’s so beautiful.  It’s like if you want to go somewhere special and you want to take some really beautiful pictures, I suppose I would take a film camera with me, a small one.

**But if you want to use a proper camera, the Canon 5D is a good one to use.

Me: I’m going to look for those, like, tomorrow.

Sean: They’re so cheap.  I think you can pick them up for like less than £100.  A secondhand one.

Me: Wait, really?

Sean: Yeah.  eBay’s got tons of them because nobody really uses them.

Seng:  Obviously, the cost comes from the film, like, edit process and develop and then you get prints done.  It’s not as cheap as with a digital camera where you just edit it on the phone, dispose of whatever you want.  So I guess you think more about each frame you’re going to shoot because you’ve got only 36 exposures on that.

Sean:  I would say the worst thing about travelling is people like traveling and seeing everything through their digital cameras, taking pictures of every single boring nook and cranny of…

**Using a film camera can get you out of the constant snapping mode and into the really experiencing the place you are in mode.

Me:  Yes.  So they’re just kind of…

Sean:  And since they’re being there, being in the moment.  Sometimes I hate being a photographer because usually when we’re going to like, I don’t know, Isle of Skye, I wish I could just like appreciate what’s around me.  But a lot of times I’m there actually to get pictures.  And so then we’re like, I find ourselves seeing Skye on a boat with people with like 10 other men with like much fancier cameras than us just for their holiday pictures.

And they really love their shooting with their tripods and their lenses.  I just find it a little bit depressing.  But yeah, I feel like I’m one of them with our big camera as well.

That’s why I think it’s nice to go… you know, sometimes it’s nicer to take an iPhone or a small camera so you can be there in the moment and still take some pictures or memories to take home and not take a billion sets of the same thing.

So that’s where the film camera, that’s where it’s really good actually.  I think it really makes you… rather than taking, you know, everybody these days instead of taking one picture, they’ll take 10 of the same thing and then edit it out, which one’s the best one.  This is really magical about the film camera.  It makes you look again.

**Back to simpler times when we as a whole were more present in our lives. Yeah, let’s get back to that. 

Me:  Like what Seng was saying.  Yeah.  Be more thoughtful instead of just kind of snapping the instant… because who really does go back?  Like don’t just stay on your phone.

Okay. What are your travel essentials?  Do you have like a sweater that you always wear?  Like a scarf or a bag or any… like what do you always have with you when you travel?

Sean: Well, I think we travel so much and, at times, when we’re in the busy periods we travel so much that we’re super quick at packing.  We usually pack in about half an hour – an hour before we leave, because we pretty much pack the same things.  We pack as little as possible.

I suppose we always wear Prada jumpers because both of us are really into them.  So that’s our sort of like luxury easy thing to take.  Always feels nice.  Always feels comfortable.  So we probably take a couple of those each.  And then just try and wear everything else the same.  Some clean t-shirts, clean underwear.

**Prada jumpers (sweaters), clean undies and clean t-shirts. A combo that goes anywhere. Sounds great to me!

Seng: Yeah, have some clean underwear.  Otherwise, you take things that you can wear for whatever occasion really and you’re always comfortable with.  And always under-pack.  I think that’s the best thing.

Sean: I love having a small bag.

Me: Yes, me too.  I try to not ever check a bag.


Sean:  Yeah.  And I just love being like when I land in the place, if I end up not going straight to where I’m staying, I can go anywhere.  I can go out all day, all night, come back.  I love not being tied down with like a huge load of luggage.

It’s different for different trips.  Like if we go to Cannes Film Festival it will be more of like two outfits a day, three outfits… for like 2 weeks, and so we bring a lot of luggage.  We’re staying at The Martinez so you have a lot of support.  Like the hotel staff.

**Cannes Film Festival = high maintenance packing

And it could be more fun and glamorous but, these days, I think when we’re younger we’re more interested in like experimenting with those kinds of stuff, but now we’re very comfortable with very little.  I prefer that.

But anywhere I travel, we usually try and find a barbershop nearby.  So I’ve got lots of barbershops that I know around the world.  Like New York and L.A.  As soon as I arrive, I might go for a haircut when I get there.  We’re kind of obsessed with getting a haircut.  We go about once a week.  So that’s kind of a travel essential.

Me: Your hair is always rather good.

Sean:  I can’t bear men’s hair when it grows out so we’re both obsessed with that.  So finding a good barbershop and maybe a good massage place nearby.  And what else?

Seng:  I always think it’s as important as a good outfit.

**As important as a good outfit. So.

Sean:  And also when we’re in India as well.  That will be the thing we do is like we’ll go and get a haircut.  I love going to the local barbershops like where you pay a pound or a dollar to get your hair cut.  It’s so much fun.

We do it everywhere.  And everywhere we travel we try to get a haircut.  I think it’s part of the travel experience for us.

**Guys? This is a great travel idea – everywhere you go, do something you would do at home- in the local way. Maybe it’s finding a coffee shop, maybe it’s a facial or maybe it’s a trim! 

Me: Where are you guys going next?

Seng:  Good question.  Maybe China.

Sean:  Unexpectedly, I think this time we’ll be going to China for a job but their plan was to go to Japan.  That will be our next big travel thing, back to Japan, to finish… we sort of started a project when we were there that we want to finish.  More like a travel document on Japan and male beauty.  So I suppose we’re planning China or Japan as the next places.

Interviewer:  Cool.  That’s it.  That’s all I got.

**To see more of Sean+Seng’s work check them out here!


6 thoughts on “Sean + Seng Interview – Travel Photography

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  1. Oooh, I’d been meaning to read this post after your Instagram post. Glad you posted it to #FlyAwayFriday. So interesting to hear how “real” photographers shoot and what equipment they use.

  2. How fun are these interviews?! Loved reading their travel photography style! Sorry we couldn’t meet up – turns out I have acute bronchitis and now laying in my bed 🙁 Thanks for joining Fly Away Friday, hope to see you again this weekend! xo

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