Techin5 Interview – Daniel Cheong: Photography, his methods, and the Nokia Lumia 1020

Techin5 Interview – Daniel Cheong: Photography, his methods, and the Nokia Lumia 1020

This interview was made possible thanks to Nokia

Daniel Cheong is a photographer who hails from Mauritius, but has decided to set up shop (figuratively of course) in Dubai, UAE. His amazing shots really caught my eyes on Facebook, and I soon followed him on Flickr where I saw the full range of photographs and blends he had up on the site – and each one seemed to outdo the other. What really piqued our interest though, was when Daniel started posting pictures from Nokia’s latest mobile device – the Lumia 1020, which as you know is of course a 41 megapixel shooter on the back of a phone. It was then we decided to approach Daniel and ask him about some of his pictures, how he creates those amazing shots he takes, and why a professional photographer uses a Lumia 1020 to take photographs from time to time. If you follow me on Twitter personally, you’ll know I’ve shared many of Daniel’s pictures already, and like myself, many people are very impressed with his work.

Curious about his work like us? You can find and follow him on Facebook, Flickr, and as of last month, Instagram!

It made us curious so we asked, and Daniel was kind enough to say yes – so we bring to you our Exclusive Interview with Photographer and Digital Blender, Daniel Cheong, as part of our Techin5 Interviews segment. If you love photography and technology as much as we do, read on to read the interview and to see some of my favorite works from Daniel’s collection below (click on the images to see larger resolution pics).

Techin5 Interview: Daniel Cheong (Photographer and Digital Blender)

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Hi Daniel, thanks for having this interview with Techin5!

My pleasure to be able to be able to share my experience with the 1020 & my work.

Just so people can an idea of what you do, please tell us a little about yourself and your work.

I have been working as an engineer in the mobile phone industry for the past 26 years, working for different companies in 5 different countries. Photography is just a hobby, I consider my style as High Dynamic Range Cityscape Photography.

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DSLR Pic 1

What made you get into photography, and how has the journey been so far?

I had my first camera when I was 10 years old, I’ve always like to take photos, but I only became serious about it when I bought my first DSLR camera in 2006, and also at that time discovered the world of photo sharing websites (flickr).

What tools (cameras) do you currently use, and why did you choose it/them?

My main camera is the Nikon D800 (36 MegaPixels) with a set of Nikkor lenses. What I Iike with Nikon is the great auto bracketing capability of the camera which is required for the type of photography I produce (using multiple exposures). And recently I am using the Lumia 1020, it is my primary mobile phone.

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Lumia 1020 Pic 1: This is a vertical panorama made of 2 single exposures, stitched horizontally. In terms of post processing: Contrast & Vibrance

Personally, I’m very interested in your process from shooting to the final product. Run us through this process a little. Is it possible to get that perfect shot without any post process editing?

There is a limitation today in any camera sensor, which is called ‘Dynamic Range’. A camera sensor cannot capture a scene with the same dynamic range as the human eye. In many cases, the picture that you took with your camera will never look the same as what your eyes saw. For instance, your eyes would have seen all the details in the shadows and highlights, the camera will show you overexposed and underexposed areas. The technique which I used (called ‘Digital Blending’ is an artificial way of increasing the dynamic range of a scene, while keeping it’s natural look, close to what the human eye saw). In my opinion, I cannot get the perfect shot without post process editing, but this is just me :)

Speaking of post processing, what is your go to post-process editing software? What do you feel is the best software for beginners to use?

My post-process editing software is Photoshop CS6. For beginners, I would advise to use a more simple version such as Photoshop Elements, or Lightroom.

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Lumia 1080 Pic 2- Digital Blending 2 exposures (ev0, ev0+1) from the 5 bracketed ones generated by the 1020. Post processing: Contrast & Vibrance

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is an interesting phone, because it combines the latest camera technologies with a very good Operating System. What makes this phone so special?

Well first of all, there is a 41 Mpix sensor, which allows to capture an incredible amount of details, and which also allow to do cropping without any loss of quality. And one of the most interesting feature for professional photographers is the complete manual control of the camera (except the aperture which is fixed to f/2.2). You can change the White Balance, the focus, the ISO, the exposure compensation, and you can even do auto EV bracketing (up to 5 brackets, by steps of 1, 2 or 3 EV)

From what you’ve seen how does the Nokia Lumia 1020 do as your daily driver if you don’t have a DLSR with you, or for those who don’t have a DSLR?

It does an excellent job to capture excellent images with exact colour rendering and relatively high dynamic range. It will surely never replace my DSLR, but I can always carry it in my pocket and I am sure I can still capture great images even when I am not carrying my DSLR. You just have to keep in mind that it is still a mobile phone :)

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Lumia 1020 Pic 3- 5 exposures Digital Blending, (-2ev to +2ev by 1ev step). Post processing: Contrast & Vibrance

Do you feel camera phones such as the Lumia 1020 are making regular point-and-shoot cameras obsolete?

To some extent, yes. I think in general mobile phones with good cameras have already been hurting a lot the P&S market.

What’s the craziest photo you’ve ever taken, from your own point of view on any device?

From an emotional/exciting point of view, I like the Dubai fog shots because this is quite a rare phenomenon,  and having the amazing Dubai cityscape surrounded by fog is extremely photogenic. I was able to capture on both my DSLR and the Lumia 1020.

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DSLR Pic 2

Ok, let’s talk more Lumia 1020 – you’ve taken a few photos that you’ve shared on your Flickr/500px/Facebook pages. How easy is it to get into the dynamics of the Lumia 1020 and start taking photos?

As a professional photographer, if you treat the Lumia 1020 the same way as your DLSR (i.e. shooting with a tripod, manual settings), you will get amazing results. The Pro Cam interface is very intuitive and very easy to use. You can also see in ‘realtime’ the effect of the settings.

A lot of people have said, as beginners, that the Nokia Pro Cam which is my preferred shooting mobile app, is a little difficult to use when you first open in. Take us through the process of shooting a shot with Pro Cam and how you change settings (iso, exposure, focus, etc). What Challenges have you faced with the controls?

I treat the 1020 the same way as I treat my professional DSLR. As any pro photographers, I am obsessed with noise, therefore the first thing I do is set up the ISO to 100 to get minimal noise. Then to avoid camera shake, I activate the ‘Shutter Delay’, so that when I press the camera button (or tap on the screen), there will be about 3s delay before the camera takes the shot. After I take the photo, if I am not happy with the color temperature, I will manually change the White Balance, and if the exposure is not correct, I will use the Exposure Compensation to correct it (for instance, if the photo is too dark, then I will increase the Exposure Compension – you can actually see in real time the effect of the settings). And every time I take a photo, I zoom in at 100% to check the sharpness of the photo. If the shot is blurred, it could be that the camera could not autofocus properly (in that case you might need to focus manually), or there could still be camera shake.

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Lumia 1020 Pic 4 – Single exposure. Post processing: Contrast & Vibrance

When it comes to a DSLR vs Nokia Lumia 1020 comparison, what limitations are there in regards to both?

I think it is a bit unfair to compare DLSR to Lumia 1020. First because of the size of the sensor: a ‘full frame’ sensor of a DSLR is about 8 times bigger than the Lumia 1020 sensor. Because of the limited optical elements compared to a DSLR lens, the images from a DSLR are much sharper than the Lumia 1020.

Final thoughts summed up on the Lumia 1020?

Excellent camera for beginners, using it in ‘Auto’ mode will produce great photos. And also a great companion camera/phone for pro photographers, especially to take ‘Behind The Scene’ shots when you are shooting with your DSLR.

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Lumia 1020 Pic 5 – Single exposure. Post processing: Contrast & Vibrance

Any final budding words to future photographers?

Try to find a genre of photography you like, stick to that for a while, try to improve by finding inspiration from other photographers, and self-learning from web tutorials and books, share your photos on photo sharing website, in order to get feedback from other photographers. And try to find our own style.

Thanks for agreeing to the Interview Daniel, best of luck in the future and we hope to see plenty more pictures!


Founder and Chief Editor of Techin5, currently based in Melbourne Australia. Has always had a deep appreciation of Technology and how it helps people, which led to the birth of Techin5. You can follow me on Twitter at @jubbing and on Instagram
  • Bob

    Beautiful photos without the sci-fi look of most overdone HDRs. Even more impressive getting them on the Lumia 1020.

  • Pete

    Seems like just an advert for the 1020. So half of what was said can pretty much be ignored, as its just marketing.

  • Techin5

    Sure thing mate