"How DOES he do it?" goes the refrain. I dunno how he does it, but I can spend 20 minutes pulling together some ideas and create a rough facsimile.
Original boring shot:
Same shot, Minged(tm):
The first thing to notice is the crow on the wire. This is basic stuff, I learned it embarrassingly late in life from an Adam Marelli video. Figure to Ground relationship. Dark crow on a light background. White seagull on a dark background. Silhouetted figure in a bright doorway. Dark-skinned man against a pale wall. White girl in a light coat against a dark doorway.
The second thing to note is that Mr. Thein always seems to get rich color, but doesn't oversaturate everything. My gimmick here is to saturate one band of colors (red, in this case) and desaturate globally to compensate. This gives rich reds but doesn't botch the whole thing.
The third thing to note is that, man, it pops. I used an Unsharp Mask of "large" radius. Your unsharp mask tool is probably going to default to a radius of 5 pixels, or something. Crank that up. Way up. Try 50, try 100, try 25. Also, pound on the "amount" quite a bit until you can really see the effect. Unsharp mask with a normal radius increases very local contrast, it makes the edges jump out. At large radiuses, the area of the local-contrast boost goes up. You get larger scale contrast boosts, which gives that punchy feel without mucking up the global contrast too much.
Learned that one from Ctein, who uses it in a less violent way to create film-like looks.
Edge burn. A gentle vignette that you can't even see unless you're looking for it, and even then it's subtle. (source: Ansel Adams) A thin black border, always chic (source: everyone). Presentation matters.
Put the subjects off-center, look for reflections, strong grids, and strong diagonals.
Done. Now you can shoot like Ming.
And it didn't cost you a thing.
But it's still got that swing.
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