In our world full of influencers today, it’s common to see them posing in cafes and other popular and popular Instagram sites. They usually don’t even need a professional photographer to take some worthy photographs of these sites.
However, if you see an image of an influencer like the following, not every instant-boy, mom or dad will cut it. You will need a professional photographer and one who is able to take underwater photography to boot.
This is where someone likes you Cheah Kim Hup would enter.
A journey from land to sea
Cheah’s underwater photography career really began on land, where he was a nature guide based in the rainforests of Penang and Langkawi in 2014.
“I’ve always enjoyed watching documentaries about the ocean and I joined some conservation activities,” Cheah shared with Vulcan Post. Some of these conservation experiences included working with sea turtles, dolphins, dark-leafed monkeys and more.
One thing led to another and soon enough he applied for a diving license in 2017. His love for the underwater world only grew from there, to the point that he quit his job and went go to Sabah in early 2018 and joined Sipadan. Kapalai Dive Resort conducts underwater videography for guests of the resort.
Now, it’s no surprise that underwater videography equipment isn’t cheap. Cheah revealed that the entire DSLR equipment with underwater housing costs more than RM40K.
Dictionary time: The underwater housing is a case for your popular top camera, but it allows full control of the camera when diving, is waterproof and pressure-proof, and in many cases is as ergonomic as using the camera without it.
Fortunately, the resort covered the costs of the equipment and provided him with underwater videography training, which took about 3 months to serve customers for them.
Guests also have charges for filming
The diving equipment alone weighs between 15 and 20 kg, which is very heavy for those arriving for the first time and forming the majority of their customers.
Cheah himself has to carry between 5 and 10 kg of extra weight thanks to the camera equipment and sometimes he helps guests who are not used to the weight of his own diving equipment.
The amount of additional equipment you need to bring also depends on the situation of the dive. When there is bad weather, poor visibility, or if you are going to take a night dive or need to dive into the water, you will need to attach more lights to your equipment to ensure a clearer shot.
For each dive, Cheah will have an instructor accompanied by him and his clients if they are first, but if the clients themselves are licensed divers, a system of friends can be used (when there is more than one client with license).
For licensed divers, you only need to instruct them by posing, which includes the position of the diving fins, buoyancy control, and so on. But for novices, it’s a whole other story.
Dealing with anxious customers
“Beginners panic easily and their bodies become stiff because they are afraid of the water. When that happens, we usually guide them to breathe slowly and help them practice some basic safety skills before they dive deeper, ”he explained.
“I will also try to distract them from fear by encouraging them to focus on the beauty of their underwater environment.”
There are cases where Cheah has to calm his anxiety and continually practice these safety skills with clients for hours, for fear they would have to dive into some.
Sometimes customers end up giving up diving altogether, and in such cases, Cheah would convince them to take a dive shot.
More customers from China than locally
Although Cheah works with local influencers, he is more popular with Chinese tourists and influencers because he actively publishes in Douyin (Chinese TikTok, for those unfamiliar).
“I have 80.4 thousand followers Douyin, and this is actually how these tourists and influencers from China met me and approached me to work with them during their travels during their travels, ”he shared.
“Normally, before going underwater, I will discuss with them what kind of angles they like and dislike, and I will do my best to meet their expectations during the dive. But in the end, the production really depends on their movements and positions that, with practice, are closer to what they want ”.
In addition to influencers, Cheah has also collaborated with renowned brands such as WeChat China, PADI China, Insta360 China and even Douyin China. These major brand collaborations typically involve underwater product reviews, as it did for Sublue submarine scooter and the Insta360 camera.
Normally, the service is a shoot with two dives and, if you are working with him in the complex, you will be charged 900 RM for 1 to 2 people and 250 RM per person if it is more than 4 people. But if you work with him outside the resort, it is about 600 to 1,000 RM for 1 to 2 people, depending on the location. Cheah shared with Vulcan Post that it has been working with more than 500 clients since it started.
But, of course, the pandemic has changed things for him. Cheah cannot take on any client work, as the tourism industry has been severely affected and most of his Chinese clients are now absent.
So he has returned to land in his hometown, Sungai Petani, Kedah, working as a freelance videographer. He’s using this break from his underwater career to focus on improving skills in products and companies, but he’s definitely looking forward to getting back into the water when he’s safer.
- You can find more information about Cheah Kim Hup here.
- You can learn more about more photographers we’ve dealt with here.
Featured Image Credit: Cheah Kim Hup