How this budding photographer turned his Instagram success into a pixel-perfect career at the age of 23.

Ask any shutterbug worth their salt on what drew them to photography, and most of them would probably share their experiences of picking up their first DSLR camera. 23-year-old Lee Yik Keat – who started out with just an iPhone – has a different story to tell.

Like any other person who grew up in the era of social media, Yik Keat has always been curious about photography, but it was only when he discovered Instagram that he began to take it seriously. What started out as a casual mobile app that he used to document everyday moments in life, turned into a lucrative visual journal that went far beyond the grid.

 
 
 
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With over 300,000 followers on his page @yk, the self-taught photographer has successfully carved a niche for himself thanks to his clever use of lighting, accents and mood. Think epic landscapes and sprawling architectural shots, accompanied by thought- provoking captions that present a refreshing take on street photography. They say that a picture can speak a thousand words, but Yik Keat did just that and more.

Besides his massive social media following, Yik Keat has also built an illustrious portfolio spanning fashion, lifestyle, travel and even music. His work even got noticed by American pop singer Lauv recently, who then enlisted him to shoot for his Asian tour. He may be young, but one thing’s for sure: he’s definitely going places.

How would you define your photography style?

“Determined, carefree and focused. I enjoy showcasing places and attractions that people often visit, but in a way nobody has ever seen before. I’d like to think of it as storytelling through visual, narrative pieces.”

 
 
 
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Where do you get your inspiration from?

“At the exact spot I want to shoot at. I would usually spend some time exploring the streets to feel the vibe of the place.”

Tell us more about your Instagram journey. How does one go from zero to over 300k followers?

“Hard work and determination! I treat my Instagram like how I would run a company, with 101 per cent of effort. One huge factor that contributed to my following, is probably consistency. I realised that I started gaining more traction when I found my own style and kept to it.”

Where do you draw the line between being an Instagrammer and a professional photographer?

“It’s a fine line indeed. In fact, I don’t even know which category I fall under sometimes. But I think what sets a professional photographer apart, is their ability to get a grasp of the real world out there. In reality, being a photographer also requires you to learn how to effectively manage your shoots and be quick on your feet whenever problems arise.”

How was it like shooting for Lauv when he was in town?

“I was so stoked! Initially, Lauv’s team reached out to me only for the Singapore show, but I ended up shooting for most of his Asia tour. It has been a dream of mine to document artistes both on tour and behind the scenes. I always get goosebumps when the crowd erupts into cheers as the singer belts their hearts out – being able to capture and immortalise that very moment onto a picture that lasts forever, is a phenomenal feeling.”

 
 
 
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Which artiste would you like to shoot for next?

“I would love to shoot for Post Malone one day.”

What are your best photography tips for someone who’s just starting out?

“It’d be helpful if you could get a mentor who is experienced in this industry. You can learn so much from them and that’s something you can’t really get online.”

Any upcoming projects we can look forward to?

“Currently, I’m planning to set up a small team to handle bigger projects and fine-tune my brand. On a long-term scale, I hope to give back to the community by conducting workshops to teach people how to get a visually compelling shot that can best convey the story – not just in technical terms, but also on the human aspects.”

 
 
 
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This article was adapted from our latest issue of Teenage Chapters 2019, where we shine the spotlight on youths who are changing the world – one chapter at a time. Out on newsstands now!

Follow Yik Keat’s photography journey on @yk.

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