We speak to the renowned boot photographer about getting started in photography and his favourite shoots.
What started out as a passion turned into a full fledged career for Amber Teo. His love for football and the boots worn by players such as David Beckham were fuel for him as he picked up photography in his teens. He has since gone on to have his works featured in SoccerBible, had a 3 year stint as Weston Corp’s chief photographer and inspired many more around the world to pick up photography. BOOTHYPE speaks to Amber Teo on his career thus far.
BOOTHYPE: How did you get started with shooting football boots?
Amber Teo: I started as a weekend footballer with my brother and his friends. That was my first experience with boots. My first memory of a boot that impressed me was the adidas Predator Mania in gunmetal grey. I had to have it and when I wore it while playing for the school team, every one was crowding around me to get a view of it. I went crazy after that with the Nike T90 as my next boot. I started learning about football boots, designs, jersey customizations – even the fonts that would make the designs that little bit special. I created the logos for my Sunday league team.
BH: How did you become “Amber Teo – Photographer?”
AT: I started taking photos of my creations at about 17 years old. I was just addicted to shooting them early on. My work was then spotted by SoccerBible through the use of their popular hashtag at that time #sbspotlight. I wanted to get some eyes on the work and my photos of the adidas F50 adizeros caught their eye.
BH: Did you use this chance to work closely with them?
AT: Yes, I contacted them and they sent me a few pairs of boots to shoot. Among them were the Umbro Velocita, adidas Predator Instinct and Nike Magista Opus 1.
BH: How did your stint with Weston Corp come along?
AT: I was graduating from university. I studied interior design and I didn’t want to take that direction. I wanted to give photography a shot and emailed Ami, the owner of Weston Corp, to ask for a role. Just my luck that their photographer at that time was leaving and I got the position.
BH: What was the first project you worked on?
AT: The first day, I received 20 pairs of boots and I was just shooting non-stop! Perhaps this was some backlog from the last guy. It was a shock for me at that time despite my love for shooting boots but it was good for me as I learnt about boots that I didn’t know as much prior.
BH: What kind of challenges did you face, shooting boots and jerseys?
AT: I had no experience shooting in a studio setting and that’s something we learnt and grew into over the years. We converted a section of their warehouse into a studio then but now Weston has a proper studio for photoshoots. Another challenge was the short timelines. Due to the hush nature of some of the releases, I get informed of my shoots late. It gets crazy during pre-season as well when all the jerseys come in on top of the new boot colourways. Usually I have access to information 2 weeks in advance but can only touch and feel them a couple days before launch. Sometimes, they only reach me 2-3 hours before launch and I have to deliver photos for them in time.
BH: How did you churn out photos at such notice?
AT: I hear rumours months in advance online and I’d start picturing how I’d shoot them to be ready for any last minute assignments. It’s not ideal but at least I’m partially prepared.
BH: Did you have a favourite shoot?
AT: The David Beckham Capsule Collection is one that comes to mind as I shot an indoor and outdoor variation. I was also lucky to have travelled to Liverpool’s Melwood training camp to shoot the launch of New Balance’s Visaro 1.0 and Furon 2.0 boots. It was fascinating to see how a big brand would manage a big product launch. We don’t get many opportunities in Singapore to attend such events with players making an appearance. There were so many fans as well even if it was not match day.
BH: Did you have a brand of boots you liked shooting?
AT: This may come as a surprise as they’re not the most popular but I like to shoot New Balance boots. I didn’t realize how nice they were until I started shooting them for the first time. There’s always something nice to capture with a pair of New Balance boots. It just pops. I also personally liked the Visaro 1.0 on feet too.
BH: What are you up to these days?
AT: I have been practicing with action sports – getting to know how these athletes work and how to capture them best. This is a new chapter in my life that I’m exploring. It’s an evolution of my craft. Deep down, I’m still an avid boot collector. For my career, I am at Getty Images now as a Research Editor.
BH: Oh? What’s role like at Getty?
AT: I get to know many photographers’ works and oversee content. I try to understand our clients’ needs and deliver the required images to them through our network. I’m not taking photos but I’m on the other side of the fence – learning about the best types of photos for various clients.
BH: Who do you support?
AT: Arsenal all the way! I have my Freddie Ljungberg jersey from the 2004-05. He’s one of my favourite players with his late runs to the box. He’s very intelligent and knows the game well. I grew up supporting Marc Overmars as well since I play as a winger.
BH: Favourite boot in the Amber Teo collection….
AT: The adidas Predator 18+. The texture is really nice and it feels so different from the 18.1 – the 18+ is so soft. Though, some people may have issues with the lockdown with it being laceless and all but it fits me fine by buying half a size down and wear Trusox which is a bit thicker.
BH: Any advice for aspiring photographers?
AT: I started out with a film camera. I had to make sure every shot counted and that’s good practice. Focus on your framing and composition and work on it. Get to know your equipment and know what works for you and your style. Do your research. Don’t just go to the location and have no idea about the environment and backgrounds you’re shooting at. Don’t just lay the products on the ground. Move the product and you should move around as well to engage with the shot.
Thank you so much to Amber Teo for sharing his stories with us. Follow Amber on Instagram at @amberteokp.