Yik Keat: Yes. I’m very happy people realize that because Singapore is very small, so I want to put this small little red dot on the map by telling people no matter where you are in the world, you go to work, it’s your everyday commute. Most of the time, you just go through your normal commute and don’t take a second look.
I would like to encourage everyone to take a second look, observe what’s around you. There’s always something to see, something interesting. And you can not shoot it. Document it in your brain, which makes it more exciting. And by observing more, you get more knowledgeable about your own city, your own culture. Open up your eyes. See more.
Edward: Absolutely. Yeah, totally agree. So with that in mind, that you’re trying to drive people to look at different things, what is your creative process? I know you mentioned complementary colors and things like this. What kind of things are you thinking of that will make people see your photos with emotion in a different way?
Yik Keat: It’s an everyday battle. My creative process can change today or it can be a totally different thing tomorrow, but usually what the main motive of my visuals for people to recognize or to see is that there needs to be something that captivates them. There needs to be a story behind it.
If it’s an environment or a new city, I will search it up online. I will do massive research and if I’m at the city or in a certain place. I’ll walk around and talk to the locals. This is one little trick that I always do is take the public commute, observe what they do on the train, on the bus or whatever commute they use.
It’s very cool whatever they do. I’m always observing because that’s the real culture over there. That’s because it’s their everyday life. They do that every day. It’s important to see what they do every day and not just go to touristy places where it’s filled with tourists and you don’t see the real part of the of the world, of the city.
Edward: So wherever you go, you’re trying to give people who may not have been to that place — or even if they have been to that place — you’re trying to give people a sense of what it’s really like to live there. As opposed to just visiting or some superficial view.
Yik Keat: Yeah, and after all of this, y’know, I have to get cliché pictures sometimes of a certain country, like landmarks and whatnot. That’s where the Internet is so powerful. I use the internet to search up landmarks and scroll through social media of whatever composition or framing that other people have shot. I try to do something different, to compose a different image, put a subject inside or anything so that it stands out more.
Because this is what I wanted to talk about: social media is a double-edged sword. It’s full of information, but at the same time, it’s very saturated. So you need to stand out for people to have just those extra few seconds to look at your work, what you compose.
Edward: Absolutely, you kind of got even less than a second. You’ve got almost a scroll.
Yik Keat: Yeah, one quick action and just like that, you’re gone. And those extra few seconds might help you in the future. It may not be now, but it can help you in the future if you’re doing full time. It may attract clients’ attention. That few second is very crucial. So I always do my best to bring out the best and try to give a different perspective. Try to stand out from millions of people around the world trying to do the same thing.
Edward: Right, right. That’s a good way to think about it. One thing you mentioned that was about doing something for the clients, but also doing it for other people at the same time. Do you still feel like now that you’ve been doing this for five years —
Yik Keat: Six years.
Edward: Six. And you are very successful on social media. I know you want more! (laughs)
Yik Keat: Everybody wants more! (laughs)
Edward: You’re already very successful and you’re getting commercial work, but are you still feeling you’re doing it for yourself as well?
Yik Keat: Of course. All in all, balance is is key. It’s very important because being a full-time photographer means you have to do certain jobs that you don’t like but pays the bills, puts food on the table. You can’t do all that all of the time because it burns you out. You need some time to just let your mind run free, shoot things that you like, balance it out. So to your question, I always try to balance no matter how busy I get.]
An example would be if I travel overseas for commercial work, I will always request clients to give me an extra two or three days for me to have some free time to explore around the local culture, interact with people, get some shots that I really like that aren’t for work just for myself personally and that’s very important for me. If you just go there for commercial work and you come back, you don’t experience this city yourself and I wouldn’t say you have been to that country.
Edward: That’s a good tip! As you were saying, I was just thinking: dude, there are a lot of up-and-coming photographers looking to be commercial. Have you got any other tips for them like that? That sounds like one I’ve never actually heard before! Just to take an extra couple of days on your commercial job to shoot things that aren’t commercial.
Yik Keat: And for in the commercial world, everything needs to be on the first try. Very very rare that a client gives you a second try. You need everything to be spot on. You need to nail it. So for many upcoming photographers, aspiring creatives, you don’t have the rope; you don’t have someone to guide you on all these things.
If you do it alone, you just graduated or you just want to try out, there’s a high probability that you will fail the first try. So great tip and it’s what I’m doing now is: you should get a mentor. You can get it through networking, knowing people, those who have been in the field for a long time for like 20, 30, 40 years.
Also get a great production team to back you up because you can’t be jack-of-all-trades. In the commercial world, there’s so many tiny little details: makeup, wardrobe, everything. It’s good to let the best of the best handle many tiny little things and you just focus on creating. Focus on shooting, let them handle all the backend stuff and that’s how it should be because if you try to juggle everything alone before you go to the shoot, you’re already burnt out and you won’t be at your best creatively.
All that creativity. it’s very important. You need to save every bit of juice to make it so that you can use all of your juics for the shoot. It will be wasted if you use it for business and like everything, so it’s good to get a mentor, someone who can guide you and show you the ropes.
And also, with all that, you should also be aware of what you create and put out online because treat every image, treat every visual that you put online as your portfolio because when you put it up, it’s there forever. So put in 101%, be serious from the very start. And when you create your own Instagram or Facebook or Twitter, treat your own social media as your own company, as your own baby. You manage everything. You are a CEO of your own social media.
Yik Keat: And be very mindful of what you post and be very mindful of the tiny little details that you do online because you feel like people are not watching, but actually there are many people watching.