In my humble opinion, this corner of neon signs is some of the best remaining signage still standing in Hong Kong. The sheer size and brightness of the Gam Lai Gung Karaoke Night Club signs that overhang the street corner mean that the entire corner is cast in a bright purple, reddish glow, with any subjects walking underneath it illuminated perfectly. For optimal results, wait until after the rain has settled to capture some beautiful reflections and maximize the effect of the glow from the signs overhead. I’d suggest a wide-angle lens (16mm or 24mm) to capture the entirety of the signage but if you don’t have a professional camera with an interchangeable lens, the wide-angle setting on your mobile phone should be sufficient.
The colourful glow of neon signs was once ubiquitous on the streets of Hong Kong – turn a corner and you would often encounter the lights of large, electric signage illuminating the streets from overhead. It was a veritable paradise for street photographers, many of whom took to the streets in the later hours to document both the signs and the local life that unfolded underneath them.
In recent years, increased building regulations have resulted in the takedown of many iconic neon signs, casting a (literal) shadow over the streets above which they once stood, and the future of night street photography in Hong Kong. Despite their rapid disappearance, several key neon signs remain, serving as worthy pilgrimages for those who wish to bask in their glow.
Photographing these signs is definitely an activity worth doing whilst you still can – neon signage not only represents the heritage of the city and the businesses that built it, but they also serve as 'locational identifiers', specific objects that add uniqueness to your images by providing geographical context and narrative for the scene shown in your photos or videos. The unnatural colours look incredible on a visual medium, providing the beloved 'cyberpunk' effect that many creatives desire in their images.
With this in mind, I’ve done the heavy lifting for you. Rather than digging through Instagram to find a location, only to turn up to discover that the neon you wanted has been removed, take a look at the guide below for which neons you can still capture as of the time of writing. To help you get the best out of your images, I’ve also included which equipment you should take and what subjects you might be able to capture when there. Hopefully, you’ll find the suggestions illuminating!
This article was written by Blair Sugarman, a multi-disciplinary photographer based in Hong Kong. At Time Out, all of our guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines.