Why Macau is a model city when it comes to taking great photos

With its unique mix of East and West, Macau is a treasure trove of interesting spots to take great photos

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 May, 2016, 4:23pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 November, 2017, 4:33pm

Thanks to digital cameras and smartphones, photography has never been more accessible or more popular.

The photo sharing app Instagram sees an average of 80 million images shared every day and estimates that around 40 billion have been uploaded since it launched in October 2010.

Facebook, which bought Instagram in 2012, sees a staggering 300 million photographs uploaded every day. Then there are the Chinese social media platforms. 

Macau has plenty of interesting and photogenic spots that are worth sharing, so we spoke to local photographers - both professional and amateur - to find out how to make the most out of the city whether you have a top-of-the-range smartphone or a point-and-shoot camera.

Lisbon native Gonçalo Lobo Pinheiro has been taking photographs since he was 18, but it wasn’t until he completed an internship as a photojournalist with a Portuguese news agency when he was 21 that he became a professional photographer. Now 37, he is the photography director at Macau magazine but also works with several other publications in Macau and beyond.  

There’s a very interesting Portuguese-Chinese mix in this area that helps to make the photos more beautiful
Gonçalo Lobo Pinheiro

A sports photographer by virtue of his experience, Pinheiro prefers photojournalism and documentary photography. He has also started taking more travel photographs.

In Macau, Pinheiro says: “ I enjoy taking photographs in Barra neighbourhood, which includes the area around the Mandarin House, Lilau Square and A-Ma Temple. There’s a very interesting Portuguese-Chinese mix in this area that helps to make the photos more beautiful."

Another area that Pinheiro also loves to photograph is the former leprosarium in Coloane. “It’s quiet and beautiful, with colonial-style Portuguese houses,” he says. 

For Pinheiro, composition is everything, but choosing the right time of day is also important. “The light in Macau is not always the best, so the time of the day is quite important depending on what effect you are going for,” he says. “For instance, foggy days in Macau can have a very nice mystical effect.” 

In low-light situations he suggests using a tripod, but warns that it takes time and patience. Perhaps his most practical tip is to avoid peak hours at major landmarks, when dozens of tours arrive, making locations overcrowded. Going before 9am or in the evenings are best. 

Above all, photography is about having fun and enjoying yourself, so Pinheiro advises: “Relax, enjoy the pace of local life, take your time, and your photos will be great.”

For António Leong, photography is a hobby, but the 12,000 likes for his Facebook page “Antonius Photoscript” suggest his images have a professional quality - and they do. 

A government worker by day, Leong first realised photography was to be his hobby of choice when he went on a photography trip to Guilin. Leong enjoys capturing everyday life. Carrying a small camera, he strolls along the streets shooting whatever he comes across, from well-known Unesco World Heritage sites to stray kittens playing in back alleys.

Leong says his style of photography could best be described as snapshots. Like Pinheiro, Leong suggests slowing down and avoiding the tourists to get the best photos.

“Look around. Each of us has different feelings towards different subjects, so try to look for details that interest you,” he says. “Famous landmarks and sights in Macau are very crowded, so try to wake up early to avoid [that]. And morning light is softer and very suitable for photography too.”

Ayberk Davutoglu is a 27-year-old who transitioned from a career in telecoms to being a freelance videographer, photographer and creative consultant. Relatively new to photography, he started making short films with an old Sony camera but soon after purchased his first DSLR and found that he enjoyed photography more. 

Davutoglu says he is still learning and even though he doesn’t want to limit himself to a specific subject, he is more interested in capturing animals, particularly those in captivity. He says this is because photography is a powerful tool that can help to highlight important issues. 

As for his favourite photo spots in Macau, Davutoglu likes the Coloane trail. “There are some good spots along the way,” he says. “The streets of Coloane village are also interesting.” He also visits the Macau Giant Panda pavilion in Coloane to capture the plight of the animals that are in captivity there. 

As for the more technical aspects of photography, Davutoglu suggests experimenting. “Take your time, pay attention to the surroundings first, then consider the light and think about the angle,” he says. “Trying a few different shots of the same spot from different angles will allow photographers to develop a style.” 

He adds: “Macau is a small but very interesting [destination]. Taking good photographs of landmarks is not too difficult, but I would suggest exploring. Walking beyond the main routes will allow photographers to discover more - small streets, shops, parks and interesting architecture.”