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December 2012
Success in the Frame

Terence Pang gave up a career in the IT industry to focus on his childhood passion of photography.But he credits his time at HKUST for fostering skills that have helped his business to thrive, even in a very competitive world.

Wedding photography is big business these days in Hong Kong, with photo shoots becoming more creative in terms of location and styling. One of those responsible for this trend – particularly with overseas locations – is HKUST alumnus Terence Pang. Terence graduated with a BEng(COMP) in 1995, which is probably not the normal career path for a photographer, so how and why did he get to this point in his life? And how did HKUST help to shape that journey?

"Looking back, I wouldn't say that I started out doing something conventional and then changed," says Terence. "I did, in fact, want to take a film course when I finished secondary school and received an offer from a university, but my family did not think that there was money to be earned in the movie industry. It happened to be the first year of JUPAS and I got more than 10 other offers, including computer science from HKUST," he says.

"HKUST was only in its second year – there was no history, everything was new but I like new things so it seemed to fit. Also, it seemed that it was the best place to study IT because the infrastructure was new there," says Terence. He enjoyed his time at the university and says it taught him about working hard. "I lived in hall, so friendship and communication were important skills to develop. I learned how to think independently and critically."

Terence got a job in IT on graduation and spent a decade in the industry before he started to think about doing something different. "I wasn't doing a lot of programming any way; I was more on the business side of things. In addition, it turned out that the IT industry experiences ups and downs, too, so it is not always so stable. My family was a little shocked but they were supportive."

Having been a keen photographer since he was 12 years old, in 2008 Terence decided to become a professional photographer; he took courses including one in Australia and another with top Hong Kong photographer Alain Yip(葉青霖). He found that wedding photography was a good starting point because of the way the business is structured. "With commercial photography, you don’t usually get paid until after the job is completed, whereas with weddings you can ask for a deposit even if the wedding is not till the following year."

Terence says he did structure a plan, but after initial implementation it is necessary to be flexible and adaptable. "You can plan things very carefully – but you soon learn that everything can change just with one phone call." His background in IT has been useful: "In fact, I only spend around 10 percent of my time on shooting – I spend more time doing marketing, using social media such as Facebook and Weibo and updating my website, for example." Other skills he learned at HKUST have proved a boon, too: "When I first became a photographer, I found that very few of my competitors were as academically qualified as I was – I could talk comfortably with foreigners, and now I have customers from all over the world. I can thank HKUST for its international atmosphere, with professors and students from many different countries."
Today, the profile of Terence's business has changed. "Only about 50 percent is on weddings now, with a focus on overseas destination shots. I am now doing more commercial work, including portraits which I really enjoy. I also do photography tutoring. About 10-20 percent of my time is spent on personal work such as documentaries and photojournalism projects."

His portfolio is diverse – ranging from the wedding photography of Chinese Olympic gymnasts Yang Yun(楊雲)and Yang Wei(楊威)on Hainan Island and portraits of Chinese pop singer Jane Zhang(張靚穎)to a book for the 20th anniversary of the Hong Kong Hospital Authority, as well as publishing his own book Oh! Shoot! with 11 other photographers including Alain Yip and Cecilia Yip(葉童). He has also won numerous international photography awards for his work over the years, as well as staging exhibitions.

What advice does Terence have for alumni who are considering chasing their dreams and want to follow a new path? "You have to have a passion for what you want to do and do what you love. I always recall a script from the Indian movie 3 Idiots saying 'pursue excellence, and success will follow'.  I also like Steve Jobs' famous quote 'stay hungry, stay foolish'. That is also about being passionate, and about accepting that things change. You need to be open minded. Knowledge from today may not be correct tomorrow."


Terence's photographic works