All it took was a little bit of curiosity and now, eight years later, content creator Lee Yik Keat has over 1.1 million followers (and growing) on Instagram.
Popularly known as YK, Yik Keat is one of the few content creators featured on Apple’s ‘Create Your Way’ series. In an exclusive interview with Geek Culture, the 25-year-old photographer shared his journey from being a curious onlooker to the content creator he is today, and how community plays a big role in one’s creative journey.
Unlike other creators who charted their path in schools, YK had no creative background to speak of. Instead, he was an Aerospace student with zero experience with photography and his foray into photography was largely based on curiosity and the emergence of Instagram. The photo-sharing social media platform saw many regular folks post selfies, or #OOTDs (outfit of the day) with the ‘Valencia’ or ‘Mayfair’ default filters but the accounts that caught YK’s eyes were the urban photography ones.
His curiosity got the best of him and soon, YK found himself shooting around Singapore with his iPhone 4, and it didn’t take long for the hobby to turn into a journey.
“Back then I was just curious and just wanted to go around and really explore. Fast forward one year later, my curiosity actually turned into a passion. I was just shooting on the phone for a good few years,” said YK.
“Halfway through four or five years, I had to choose between University and photography full time, and I managed to convince my parents to let me do photography for one year full time and see how it goes – and that’s where I am today. Shooting everyday life and just documenting the moments in between.”
Shooting everyday life and documenting moments now comes easy for YK now, who mainly shoots on his iPhone. The creator does use a professional camera for campaigns and major projects, but he loves the convenience and quality the iPhone provides him.
“I definitely need to have my phone and my camera and my laptop with me, anything other than that is supplementary but I would say, for the past four years, I’ve slowly transitioned to try and use more of my phone because I really love the fact that it is just very convenient to pop out your phone, and just shoot something,” shared YK.
“I really want to show my audience and people that are looking at my pictures that things can be captured just by anything you have in your pocket!”
The magic to capturing stunning images, according to the photographer, is to get creative with your angles and to play with light and shadows.
“I don’t walk around and I don’t look at eye level. Sometimes you’ll see me squatting down or climbing up to a different vantage point. I think it’s very intriguing to see things from a different perspective other than eye level. That’s why my tips are always to look out for things that are not often in the line of sight!” laughed YK.
“This really helps in shaping my perspective in photography. One super cool fact that I find very interesting is how when we were younger, we were very curious, and I think it’s because of the height. Everything appears bigger when we were a kid so that’s why I always go really low to see something different.”
Shooting aside, YK is a big fan of editing images to bring a photo or story to life. The photographer often uses apps like VSCO and Lightroom to enhance his photographs. Both of these apps are free on the Apple app store, and according to YK, are great tools as they’re simple and easy to use.
“I stick to what I really am comfortable with so I use VSCO and Lightroom. The reason why I love to use [these apps] is because of the simplicity of the interface. It just explains itself! You just put the filter, and I think this is what stands [Lightroom and VSCO] out from other apps, is that you can change the intensity of the filter. I love plugging in the photo into VSCO and putting a tone on it and, and then for further advanced adjustments I will go into Lightroom.”
Apart from having beautiful photos, a big portion of YK’s popularity lies with his willingness to share tips and tricks with his audience and fellow creatives, who like him many years ago, were fresh and new to the scene.
Reflecting on why he chose to share his secrets, instead of gatekeeping like many other creatives in the scene, YK said it was a “no brainer”.
“I have built my audience based off the community and most of the community are always hungry to learn, and it will just be a no brainer to share everything with them. I guess this is probably a generational thing, probably in the past – and I don’t blame them – but in the past, older creators or photographers had to compete harder, so that’s why they’re a bit more selfish,” YK reflected.
“But I think nowadays, especially in my own perspective, I think it’s very important to religiously share what you have because it really empowers the next generation, and the enthusiasts to really do well and even do better than you. It just drives the whole community to be a stronger community!”
In fact, YK’s love for sharing is the very reason why he was happy to collaborate with Apple on the ‘Create Your Way’ series.
“When Apple approached me, I was like ‘of course!’ because I think sharing is the most powerful thing you can do,” said an excited YK.
The photographer was even happier to learn that the collaboration would be related to the App Store, and on sharing the apps he uses on a daily.
“For photo enthusiasts, that’s usually their first few questions. I’m sure if you ask all photographers, people always ask them ‘What app do you use? What editing stuff do you use?’” laughed YK.
“When I first started out, I was clueless about what apps to use, and I love that feature of how the App Store recommends you photo and video apps and has previews of it. There’s even like 10 seconds or 15 seconds thumbnail preview and that really helps a lot. There are thousands of apps out there but like, through research and through the app recommendation, it helps a lot.”
At the end of the day, YK hopes that the Apple ‘Create It Your Way’ series will strengthen and grow the photography and videography community.
“I guess it’s a two way street for the App Store team to really understand what creators have in mind so that they could recommend apps that the creators are looking for. And for creators, it’s just a great way to further enhance the community.”
Apple ‘Create It Your Way’ series features inspiring stories of extraordinary creators from around the region, from Thai calligrapher Chaiwat Sriwilard, Malaysia’s children illustrator Lyn-Hui Ong, Ukrainan and Russian TikTokers Artem Nevmyvaka, Sergei Loginov and Serghii Keovlenko who are based in Vietnam and of course, Singapore’s Lee Yik Keat.
Find out what inspires these creatives and the apps they use on the ‘Today’ tab of the App Store of visit the ‘Create It Your Way’ website from 15 October.
Photos courtesy of YK.