Azim Zainudin

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and that definitely rings true with our guest today – Azim Zainudin.

Azim is a 26 year old Malaysian with a formal background in oil and gas business who turned his photography hobby into his career. Instead of living a routine life of 9 to 5, he has chosen to become a freelance portrait and travel photographer. Currently based in Kuala Lumpur, Azim Zainudin is available for any assignment both locally and internationally, specializing in travel photography and portraiture. Azim shoots both photo and video whenever required and continues to generate wonderful images over the years. Even though he is still considered a newbie in this industry, his artworks have been featured in some prominent local and international publications.

You can check out more of his work at his website


Our Interview with Azim

BT: So what made you get into photography?

Azim:  Back in 2003 when I was still pursuing my bachelor degree, I was a biker. Traveling around the country on our motorbikes is one of the activities that were done a lot as bikers. It is in this activity that I began to appreciate more the scenery and beautiful faces in Malaysia. Malaysia is one unique country blessed with various lifestyles, green forest, and beautiful islands.

Throughout my student years, I used to borrow a compact camera from my friends. I made it a point to carry a camera or purchase a disposable one wherever I go out capture these priceless moments. You never know what you are going to bump into during traveling.

A young khmer girl wearing the traditional costume Angkor Wat Cambodia
A young khmer girl wearing the traditional costume Angkor Wat Cambodia

BT: How is it that you came across Backpacker Travel?

Azim: I came across Backpacker Travel from Facebook. During leisure times, I constantly search more on travel sites and personal blog of travelers. I did a search for “backpacker travel” and you came up first in the results.

BT: You have recently been bitten by the travel bug. When did you start traveling and where have you been so far?

Azim: Traveling has always been my interest since my motorbike days in 2003. But given that I was just a student back then, I could not afford to travel abroad. Therefore, during semester breaks, with a group of friends, we would usually travel just around the country, especially to the beautiful beaches and islands. Whenever life gets more “interesting” with its challenges, I will find my way to these islands just to relax for a day or two.

In 2007, after finishing my Industrial Training as part of my degree program, I decided to sell my bike and bought my first DSLR camera. It was a tough decision but I know it was for the greater good. Then, what was seems like a hobby turns into a passion. After graduating in 2008, I determined to hit the roads to gain more interesting travel and photography experiences. Since then, I fell in love with the thrills and excitement I get being far from home.

South East Asia has always been my favorite destination because I get to experience and learn more cultures and lifestyle. And it is very affordable.

Every journey has taught me different things. I loved meeting new people, be friends, and get to know their lifestyle. It will make me appreciate my life even more and more. I have been to Thailand, Australia, Cambodia, Vietnam and the island paradise of Maldives. I hope I will finish traveling around South East Asia by end of this year. My next destination will be Indonesia, Laos, Singapore, Philippines and Myanmar for the next 4 month. Can’t wait!

Celebration of the Yi Peng Lantern Festival
Celebration of the Yi Peng Lantern Festival

BT: Has the experience of traveling changed the way you take photos?

Azim: Definitely, YES. I enjoy capturing portraits and lifestyles. Human is my main favorite subject. Taking good photos is one thing but getting to know them closer is another story, which always ensuring better results in terms of photography. They are friendly, accommodating and sometimes very colorful with their local traditional costume.

I try to put every single expression, emotions and characters of the subject that I click so that every time people look at the picture they can feel what I feel at the very moment. I share this to inspire others to always remember the power of simple little things that we gained during traveling, and also to publicly retract old travel stories while the new one takes shape.

BT: If you could give our readers two tips on how to capture the best image what would they be?

Azim: For me, the best picture always tells a story. You need to have a subject. Always keep it simple and be creative. Explore different unique angles, techniques, and approaches. Doing some research and study about the place/event might help a lot to get the best picture, as you will know where and when is the best moment in time.

Be friendly; get to know the locals will add the drama in your picture. Finally, the most important things keep passionate in it and have fun all the time!

Looking through the fence
Looking through the fence

BT: What do you look for when trying to compose an interesting and unique scene?

Azim: Human behavior and lifestyle is my interest in photography, I will make sure there’s a subject and story in the picture. I’m not a big fan of landscapes but if I do take one I will always try to include a person in it. May it be a person doing a work, walking etc. The picture will turn out to be more interesting. I believe that is what travel photography is all about. In addition, when traveling I will try my best to capture unusual views, moments and actions that we could not see every day in our routine life.

The culture and unique lifestyle of different people from different countries all over the world, I must say I love it so much. It is an amazing experience to observe and capture those beautiful things and I see it as a great privilege that I am able to share the beauty and diversity of the world I have seen with others. I hope what I have done now will inspire other people to go out, travel and see the world for themselves.

BT: Everyone always compares Digital SLR cameras with Point and Shoot type cameras. To the average person will they see a noticeable difference in their photos depending on the camera they use?

Azim: For me, it depends. This is because sometimes normal people from non-photography background do not have the ability to differentiate it.

But, today, most of the young generations are more “photo educated”. They even can identify the type of camera and lenses that has been used, although they are not photographers. I think it is called “the art of seeing”. It’s just my opinion.

An old woman selling fruits at the Damnoen Saduk Floating Market in Thailand
An old woman selling fruits at the Damnoen Saduk Floating Market in Thailand

BT: What type of camera are you using at the moment?

Azim: My gear is simple. I do not have expensive full frame body and lenses. Most of the time, I use 35mm or 50mm only. I just bought a new body which is Nikon D7000 which includes full HD video. Before this, I was using a Nikon D90. Occasionally I shoot video for my personal collections. I’m a Nikonian. I feel more comfortable with Nikon.

BT: Let’s say I wanted to go traveling and I don’t have any gear yet. What camera and equipment can you recommend for the first timer and how much should they look at spending?

Azim: I always get this question from my friends who love to travel but don’t take pictures and from those who want to start photography. It really depends on how serious you want to go, how much you are willing to spend etc. There are lots of factors to be considered. In my honest opinion for first timers, a compact digital camera is good enough. It is cheap and easy to bring along anyway.

Learn the basic of photography and composition. But if you have the budget for a proper DSLR, there is no harm getting one. When traveling, try not to bring a lot of equipment. I always travel light and do not carry all my camera and equipment together. Most of the time, a camera body, and two lenses are sufficient.

Local farmer Phnom Penh Cambodia
Local farmer Phnom Penh Cambodia

BT: Now my final question is a tough one but do your best….. What is your favorite photo that you have taken so far and why?

Azim – This is a tough one. Personally, I have lots of favorite photos. But I have this one photo to share; it is a portrait of the younger generation of sea gypsy people from Borneo, Malaysia which was taken last year. Through the picture, I can sense his feeling. The way he looks at me, giving such a sincere look. This photo also reminds me of a quote that has always been my favorite incessantly. “To a beautiful heart, everything appears beautiful”.

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