Tse-Wei Lim – Both Sides of the Camera

Previously working as an international high-fashion model, Tse-Wei transitioned to working behind the camera a little over three years ago. With his natural talent, dedication, and experience as a top model, he’s been making waves in just a short period of time. Based on his visually compelling work, we have an inkling he will continue to have an auspicious future. Check his story out below. 


Say hello to Tse-Wei:

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Where are you from?  Where have you been?

From Singapore. I’ve been to Milan, Paris, London, Thailand, Korea, HK and I’ve found my way back to SG. Currently, I travel to and fro SG and HK for photography projects.


What’s your favorite place in the world?

My favourite place in the world would be the Cathedral in Duomo. For me, the place was simply breathtaking. I remember spending almost half the day just sitting in the Cathedral back when I was modelling in Milan. Since an early age, I always fancied the cathedrals in Europe. They evoke a mysticism that always draws me in. 

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However, if we are talking about a place to stay, that would be none other than Lake Como. To me, there is no place better than Lake Como (Italy) to visit. It’s beautiful, serene, and affordable – best of all, I love Italian food.

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What’s on your “bucket list” of ideas to create?

Can’t really be shooting off ideas here – I would rather keep the surprises coming. But if we are talking about location-wise, I would love to shoot in places like Iceland.


How would you describe your visual style?

Sensual and moody. It’s concentrated on the mood aspects of imagery.


How do you find your inspiration?

IG, shows, movies, and different photographers. However, my main source for inspiration would be from the different cultures that I am exposed to.


Do you get photographer’s block? If so, how do you overcome that?

Oh, I get that all the time. Sometimes, you just need to walk away from your field for a period of time and it will slowly come back. Aside from that, watching shows actually helps me generate ideas for my storyboard.


Previously working as an international model, had you always intended to shift over to photography at a certain point or did it happen organically?

Actually, this came about by a surprise. Honestly, I just picked up my first DLSR camera in April of 2013. It was then I did a test shoot for two of my Korean model friends. They wanted more pictures in preparation for the upcoming Europe fashion week. Hence, I just told them, “let me borrow a camera from a friend and do some shots for you guys.” Ironically, the shoot turned out pretty well and the images were used by their respective European agencies, Independent Men and Urban Models Milano, for their comp cards. It was also reblogged on several Korean model Tumblr sites. This in turn led to a sudden growth of people noticing me. However, photography wasn’t my primary focus at that time, and I kept up a pace of just doing one shoot every two to three months. It took me over a year before I really got into it, and the ball just kept rolling from there.


How has your experience in modeling influenced your photography?

Modelling taught me how to frame an image and showcase the styling and details of a garment. It also taught me the shapes of fashion photography.


Tell us about your career. How did you get into it?

The time I have now used a DSLR is three years and six months. For a year, I played around with my first DSLR doing ad hoc tests with my friends from the industry. I became serious about photography after a year of playing around with it, and when I stopped internationally modelling in September of 2014. I told myself I would give a shot at photography and try to make a career out of it. I did eight months of freelancing alongside ad hoc modelling before I realized there was still much for me to learn and I needed more time to build my client base as it wasn’t substantial yet. In May 2015, I took up an offer as a Creative and started working for a creative agency doing show producing and events catering to photography and videography. However, it wasn’t long until I had an opportunity to work in HK. A good friend of mine showed my work to a publishing house in HK, and they were keen on working with me. However, the flipside was that I had to be based in HK for it to work. In September of 2015, I left my job and took a leap of faith – now, I’m here. 


What types of photography do you do?

I started from street and lifestyle photography before slowly transitioning into being a fashion photographer. Honestly, I still prefer to shoot fashion as I love beautiful things, and the beauty of shooting fashion is that I get to meet people of different cultures. I love meeting new people, and fashion photography works hand in hand for me. Secondly, I love storytelling. I am not gifted with my words so if I can convey a story through my imagery, that’s fantastic.


What was the moment you decided to become a photographer?

The thought of becoming a photographer actually came before I actually held a camera. I came across a photo biography of Angela Baby, shot by Wing Shya when I was still in University. The moment I saw the images, I was like, “Man, I want to be photographer to be able to capture and create beautiful imagery.” However, I didn’t have the financial means to buy a proper camera back then. Even though my dad proposed buying a DSLR for me, in my mind, I couldn’t reconcile it as I knew photography was an expensive hobby. Hence, the thought of even starting to be a photographer was put off until later years.


What is the strangest situation you’ve ever faced as a photographer?

I don’t think I have been in any strange situations yet. Everything seems pretty normal to me.


What has been your biggest setback as a photographer?

Well, that’s easy – my background in photography as I started not too long ago. No matter how you look at it, I am still green and there are a lot of things I still need to work on and learn. I never had a proper photography mentor, hence I never had the opportunity learn proper lighting and stuff. I learn a lot of things through trial and error from test shoots and even on jobs. However, there are a couple of key names who have contributed to my growth:

  • Daniel Ho, a lifestyle photographer who guided me along for my first studio shoot. 
  • Kevin Ou and Elwin, for giving me the opportunity to help out as an assistant. (The only two assisting jobs I did in my entire career). 
  • Dennis, a good friend of mine, who always helps me with my lighting and taught me the SOP or the basics of lighting. 
  • Bhisan, for teaching me the importance of storytelling. 
  • Nick Knight, my mentor who helped me channel my style of photography.

Of the photos you’ve taken – what are your three favorites?

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The Fashion Plate Mag Issue 1 Story. A modern take of a Tibetan Girl. This was a story I wanted to do for a long time. Something iconic yet so cultural.

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This was my favourite picture for a campaign I did in HK. It wasn’t the imagery that made this picture memorable, but it was the process and the thematics that got me so into the shoot – SEX. This was a forbidden theme that I wanted to shoot for a long time. It wasn’t about the nudity aspect, but the emotions and experience behind it. I always wanted to shoot a series of images/stories that portrayed beauty and art with a sense of sensuality. This shoot represents the fruition of my ideas.

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A brief for 10 Mag. Mastered a year ago – I was still exploring my style of photography and this series serves as the root to my current style.

Photography is competitive. How do you stand out?

You just have to keep working on your craft. It’s a neverending learning process. A director from a photography agency once told me this: “You are talented, and you have the eye. However, you are still green. You need to shoot more. Just keep shooting. If you are good, you are good, no amount of road blocks can shut you down. Listen, Mert & Marcus used to be under me and they used to do test shoots for modelling agencies for their compcards. Those kinds of jobs pay peanuts; however, they used it to hone their craft. If they can work their way up, so can you.”


What’s the best advice you can think of for someone just starting in photography?

Just keep shooting, that’s the only way to improve.


What is the best thing a model can do to make the most of a photoshoot?

Give it your best. Honestly, if the model is not cooperating, there is no way the shoot will turn up well, no matter how good the photographer is.


What was your most memorable photoshoot?

It was for a HK designer, Ayu, for her CLEO AW 17/18 collection. The theme, the model, the team, the setting – it was just perfect. It was the the first time in my entire life where I felt exhausted after the shoot as I gave 120% the entire time for four hours. I was so into it that the moment the shoot ended – bang! The exhaustion kicked in.


What’s the funniest story you have from being a photographer?

Sadly, I have none at the moment.


If you could photograph anyone in the world, who would it be? 

As far as male, it would be Rick Genest, no question. Tattoos are hot – I have a thing for people with good tattoos. As far as female, it would be JingWen – for me, she is the hottest female model right now. Location-wise, it doesn’t matter as long it suits the mood of the overall story.


Who was the most unforgettable model you’ve ever met?

Juli Kozyr – the model I shot for CLEO AW 17/18. She was simply sensational. I was extremely interested in the theme of the shoot, but had it not been for her, it would not have been possible to pull off. She was so suitable for the theme – she’s the only model thus far who has made me shoot 120% for the entire session. Period!!!


Who do you want to give a shoutout to?

-In Italy

  •  Nichelle Cole (Editor in chief & Publisher at The Fashion Plate Magazine), for her continuous support since I started photography. 

-In SG:

  • Desmond (Fashion Director for SG Tatler), for always believing in me and helping me push my work to the next level. 
  • Audrey Ong (Fashion Stylist). My kickass stylist who always supported my work since my modelling days. 
  • Ryan Tan(MUA), Alex (MUA), Marie (MUA), and Xenia T (MUA). They were all gems to me during shoots. 
  • Dennis (Lighting Assistant): A good friend and always a good, kickass support. Can’t ask for more. 

-In HK: 

  • Patryk (Stylist), Syan (Stylist), Bhisan (Stylist), Wil Wu (MUA), Stefan (Director of Fashion – Raffles HK), Gabriel (Model), and Wilfred (Model). They were key components in helping me when I first arrived to HK. If it weren’t for them, the path in HK would have been really bumpy. 

Those are the key names, but honestly, there are too many to name them all. Everyone plays a part in my career, be it the good or the bad.  


What’s your philosophy when it comes to being a great photographer?

Talent can only bring you so far, but working hard and being patient are the most important aspects of being a good photographer.


What’s a deal breaker for you when deciding to do a shoot?

Is my camera working?


How do you bring out your model’s personality in a shoot?

Well, normally I try to be friends with them. Talk to them and really try to get to know them. It makes a big difference.


What do you think is the biggest thing holding you back in your photography?

Money. Honestly, if I had the funds, I would pack up my bag and fly straight to NYC to hone my craft. You get the best models there, being in the center of one of the major fashion cities. That is huge. Imagine all the sources of inspiration.


How do you express yourself through your photography?

Well, I try to express part of my personality, style, and likes through my imagery.


What’s the most inspiring photo you’ve ever seen?

I won’t say one, but the most inspiring series of photos I have ever seen is the photo biography for Angela Baby by Wing Shya. It had a big impact on me.


What photography advice do you wish you had when you were first starting out?

I should have saved more money. If I had, I could’ve bought more gear.


What are 3 tips you have for aspiring photographers?

  1. Shoot a lot.
  2. Keep shooting.
  3. Don’t give up.

What are 3 tips you have for aspiring models?

  1. If you are a fashion model and you have the potential to reach the top, go to NYC. You can’t achieve what you want in Asia.
  2. If you are a commercial model, and a really good one, go to HK/ BKK and work your way from there. You will get a lot of commercial work in those places, and from there, you can work towards becoming a celebrity.
  3. If you do not have the height and you have the potential to be a “Tao Bao Model,” please go to Guang Zhou and work your way up. The chances of you earning more money than some of the Top 50 models in the world is pretty much 99% to 1%. It’s a lot of hard work and there are times you can be working continuously for 24 hours before you get a break.

What kind of gear do you have?

My trusty Sony A7 (2 of them) and my Zeiss lens. Small, light and the colors come out amazingly.


What’s one lighting tip you’d like to share with other photographers?

You can never go wrong with the “Terry Richardson Lighting.” It covers all the flaws on a person’s face.


What’s one post-processing tip you’d like to share with other photographers?

If you ain’t good enough yet, outsource it.


Do you have any projects you’d like to show off?

Feel free to check out on my website. Not everything is out, but most of them can be seen there.


What is your most life-changing event?

Becoming a photographer (laugh).


What has photography done for you as a person? How has it changed you?

Man…now, whatever I see, I kind of judge it instead of just enjoying it.


What’s something no one knows about you that you’d like to share?

Well, that is why it is a secret.


Who’s your biggest hero in your life?

Mum and dad. If it weren’t for my mum and dad, I wouldn’t be born in this world


What’s one of your biggest fears?

Your memory card/ computer suddenly crashing and dying on you with no hope for recovery after the shoot just ending.


What will you be doing five years from now?

I still see myself doing photography. Perhaps moving on and doing more video production and expanding my horizons outside of SG and HK.


What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

Jumping off a boat while attempting to do a flip into the ocean.


What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t?

To do a fashion shoot (moving and still) in Iceland.


For anyone that wants to get in touch with Tse-Wei, here’s some contact information:

FStop: Profile

Website: www.limtsewei.com

Facebook: Profile

Instagram: @tseweivisualartist


Thanks so much for taking the time to share your story with us, Tse-Wei!

If any artists out there want to collaborate with FStop, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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