Hi friends, my name is Tommy Lei.
I am a fine art and documentary photographer who currently resides in Pasadena, located in the greater Los Angeles area. I like to take on commercial work when the project scope aligns with my fine art aesthetic.
My first foray into photography started in a high school darkroom studio class, where I developed my first black-and-white images using a pinhole camera built out of a Nike shoebox.
Over the last ten years, I’ve switched and sold a lot of gear and finally settled on a setup that is uniquely suited for both my fine art collections and commercial projects.
I prefer a minimal setup, hence why both of my main cameras, the Lumix G9 and the Leica Q2, are lowlight powerhouses.
I also use my iPhone 15 Pro and shoot on ProRes Raw with amazing results at 48mp.
Leica Q2 – the Leica look is the best reason for why I love using this camera, and nothing else really compares. There’s a visceral soul to the photos, especially in black and white, and the timelessness each image evokes.
The Leica Q2 is compact enough to be a rangefinder yet possesses capabilities that are found in most contemporary full-frame cameras. This is what I’d consider a generational camera, one that you would pass down to your kids and family.
Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 – I have been a fan of the Panasonic Lumix lineup since the moment I decided to take my photography seriously. This G9 camera has been a constant companion for most of my commercial photography.
It’s equally fantastic as a primary camera for videos, which is why I have it in my setup. It’s incredibly versatile and packs so much power, especially under low-light conditions.
Panasonic Lumix Noticron 42.5mm f/1.2 – this is the holy grail of lenses for Lumix Micro Four-Thirds G Series cameras. The shots and videos produced using this lens are incredibly creamy and sharp.
After all, it is a Leica lens, so you’re getting a superb quality build and optimal stabilization across all aperture stops. This lens is ideal for still life and product photography but will work well in portrait photography as well.
Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH – this is a wonderful wide-angle telephoto lens. I use this mostly for interior and landscape photography.
I love how wide it goes, so if you’re a real estate photographer, this is a must-have in your arsenal. The only downside is I find the video quality a little bit noisy.
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8 – a lovely pancake lens that is easy to travel with. At 45mm and 1.8 f-stops, this lens will be sufficient for those fly shots on the street or tight corners around any tourist landmark.
I also love how discreet the lens is, so it’s an easy pass at museums or concerts where the photography policy can be quite strict.
Neewer Dimmable 176 LED Video Light – this is a fantastic and affordable option as an additional light source for external lighting that easily mounts onto a camera or tripod. It is fully battery-powered, making it convenient to use for outdoor shots as well.
It is entirely dimmable for when you just need a little bit of lighting to enhance your shoot. You can also rotate it at one hundred and eighty degrees when needed to better illuminate your subjects.
Article Goods Crossbody Camera Bag – this bag is from a San Francisco-based designer label that I’ve been wearing and using for years. This beautiful leather camera bag is a no-brainer as it fully packs away my Leica Q2, lens, filters, and SD cards.
I sometimes use it solely as a lens carrier, so everything is packed and organized neatly in one place. The leather strap is adjustable and can be worn across the body for added functionality while on the go. I love that the pebble leather ages so gorgeously over time, too.
Adobe Lightroom CC – most of my edits are made within Lightroom CC. It’s far more efficient to have everything organized in one place. It doubles as an editing tool and storage because it directly uploads to my Adobe Creative Cloud account.
This allows me to work with files pretty much anywhere. I mostly create my own presets to use within Lightroom, but it comes packed with built-in presets that are easily accessible to all.
VSCO – this is my go-to for that analog film aesthetic. The film emulation is pretty extraordinary, and it’s no surprise that the app has managed to build an entire community based on their love for film photography.
While I no longer use it as heavily, I do love the S2, AL5, and V5 filters.
Just like any profession, photography is what you make of it.
Whether this is a hobby, commercial, or artistic practice for you, I believe it’s important to have fun expressing yourself through the lens and any compositions you choose to create with it!