You probably already follow Elaine Li on Instagram. As one of Hong Kong’s best known photographers, Li has racked up over 260,000 social media followers with her detailed-focused photography that captures the soul of a city. Her striking images showcase Hong Kong’s urban jungle and Sydney’s idyllic beachfront, but she also ventures further afield for creative inspiration, from New Zealand and Spain to Nepal and Iran. We sat down with Li - and her instantly-recognizable grey pom-pom beanie - for a conversation about becoming a visual storyteller.
What was your first camera? Which camera would you suggest for photographers that are just starting out?
I can’t remember the exact model, but I know it was from the Canon Powershot line. These days, cameras are so advanced that for beginners, I would honestly just suggest a small point-and-shoot or even an iPhone. The new iPhones have great cameras and work well for practicing composition and finding the right light.
As one of Hong Kong’s best known photographers, Li has racked up over 260,000 social media followers with her detailed-focused photography that captures the soul of a city.
What editing softwares do you like to use? Do you have any quick tips for editing photographs?
I primarily use Lightroom to edit the colour and tone of photos. For composition tweaks, I usually use Photoshop. There are so many editing tips I could give, but here’s one I think is important—don’t overedit!
'Golden Days' by Photography Artist Elaine Li
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of taking unique, interesting photos while traveling?
For me, I think the most challenging aspect of travel photography is finding new angles and perspectives to shoot at popular tourist spots. Because photography has become so accessible, so many people take photos at the same places while travelling, and you see all the exact same photos on Instagram. But, while it may seem like everything has been shot before, this isn’t true—you can always find a way to capture a popular spot with your own vision. You just need to take your time to find new angles and compositions.
There are so many editing tips I could give, but here’s one I think is important—don’t overedit!
What inspires your photography the most?
I’m most inspired by the process of shooting. When I walk down the street with a camera, I see everything with a photographer’s eye. I suddenly notice and see things that I normally wouldn’t pay attention to. It’s moments like these that remind me of the beauty that surrounds us everyday.
"Untitled Film Still #16" by Fine Art Photographer Diane Arbus - inspiration for artist Elaine Li
Which photographers have influenced you the most? What did you find most inspiring or unique about them?
My favorite photographers change over time, depending on my mood. In high school, I was inspired by Cindy Sherman - a photographer and film director best known for her conceptual portraits - and Diane Arbus, who’s done incredible work capturing transgender people, strippers, and nudists, among other intriguing personalities. I also loved Gregory Crewdson’s photographic tableaux that put a unique twist on American homes and neighborhoods.
These days I look at different photographers on Instagram and Pinterest and draw inspiration from their unique ideas. Among local Hong Kong photographers, I’ve always been a fan of Jeremy Cheung (@rambler15). His photos aren’t just pretty pictures—they are always meaningful and have a story to tell, which I think is important for great photography.
'Signs of an Era' by Photography Artist Jeremy Cheung
How is your personality reflected in your work?
When people think of a female photographer, they often envision a feminine approach to photography that uses portraits, still life, and soft colors. But with my work, the colors are harsher and darker, and there’s more sharpness to my images. I think this reflects my personality as I’m not the typical girly-girl.
What advice would you like to give to today's aspiring young photographers?
Just keep shooting! It may sound like an old cliché, but it’s true. You have to keep practicing and learning in order to make good photos and grow as a photographer.
You have to keep practicing and learning in order to make good photos and grow as a photographer.
What are your Photography Goals for 2021?
I'm currently 'stuck' in Australia due to pandemic border restrictions. Initially, I was quite frustrated about not being able to go home, but over time I've changed my perspective and am taking this as an opportunity to travel domestically within Australia and discover more about the country I live in right now.
Bamboo Scenes Photography Artist Elaine Li, Hong Kong
Why did you choose Bamboo Scenes to showcase your artwork?
I've been working with Bamboo Scenes for a few years now, and have had a great experience with them. The level of detail the team puts into everything is second to none. From artwork discussions and curation to print production and finding the best and most ethical craftsmen, they really care about delivering an incredible photo art print experience. Most importantly, they truly support and give back to the local creative community.
From artwork discussions and curation to print production and finding the best and most ethical craftsmen, they really care about delivering an incredible photo art print experience.
What is your favorite image from your collection at Bamboo Scenes?
I took it a few years ago, but my favorite image would still be Ten Years. I love the memory and experience of capturing the shot. The scene of fog rolling through the city in the early morning is one I’d been wanting to capture for awhile—I’d failed several times before. I woke up at 6AM to head up to Lugard Road to see this scene with my own eyes, and finally seeing it and being able to capture it meant a lot. I love how the photo turned out.
'Ten Years' by Photography Artist Elaine Li
Thanks Elaine! We are super excited to have you on board as part of the Bamboo Scenes journey!