Arts & Culture

This Young Stylist Takes Flatlays And Instagram To Another Level

Meet Ron Lee, who does props and food styling, fantastic mobile photography, and manages a local specialty store. He shares with us his simple but effective visual secrets, and how he wears his different hats.

Photography: Shaira Luna (portrait)

It seems like almost everyone on Instagram is a cool photographer or a stylist these days. But what makes freelance creative Ron Lee stand out from the rest of the minimalist-hipster photo feeds we usually see is because he is a professional stylist, and not just an Instagrammer with a bunch of good filters and a lot of hashtags.

As a set, product, and food stylist, Ron shows us that being a young creative has a lot of privileges—including helping out startup entrepreneurs, and being able to share one’s style knowledge to an audience. You can get a taste of that knowledge and style from his Instagram feed, which is filled with his vignettes and flatlays (both personal and for work). The styling has a very distinct, natural, undone feel about it; all washed in dramatic chiaroscuro (light and shade) effects that remind one of old still-life paintings. The captions are straightforward, witty, and totally unlike the other self-conscious quotes we see on most Instagram feeds these days.


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Ron is also an assistant creative director for Mutiara, a local concept store that promotes Asian culture and mindful living. Find out how he does all of these through his creative work and candid observations about life in general.

What made you pursue the creative path?


"Like every other kid, I had a lot of dreams and considered a lot of professions. For example, I wanted to be a doctor, an architect, a marine biologist, and minsan naisip ko gusto ko mag-sundalo. But Iooking back at the old photo albums, encyclopedias and other books I had when I was kid, puro drawing eh. Siguro that time my parents knew and my young body knew that I was gonna be used mightily in the creative field."

You're a freelance set stylist, product stylist, food stylist, and an assistant creative manager of Mutiara. How do you manage work?


"It's not easy, I'm gonna be honest with you. Especially these past few months we had major events na kailangan namin asikasuhin. Aside from freelance works and my regular work, I also have major events sa Church that I have to keep an eye on. But with the Grace of God, He guides me, gives me rest, and provides the resources I need to lighten the stress for all these works.”


"Having regular rest is as important as you think it is. Others force themselves to work more and more, and won't stop until they snap. That's not wise at all. Having good regular rest contributes a lot sa creative process mo and the way your body works when you're in the field. Regular exercise is important as well. It affects greatly how our mind works. Having regular time for recovery is important."

Can you tell us more about Mutiara and your role as an assistant creative manager?


"Mutiara started last year of November [2016]; it was a vision transformed into a store that encourages families, especially the youth, to embrace culture in our modern lifestyle. Hindi lang tuwing Buwan ng Wika or something. It should be a part of us and be proud of it. Hindi 'yung puro Western culture yung hinahayaan natin mag influence sa youth natin. And as a creative associate for Mutiara, my role is to interpret the vision in to something that they'll appreciate through photos, videos, events, etc.”

You styled for TriNoma Malls sale campaign. How did you conceptualize the look and approach the project?


"I wanted the photos to be clean so it can accomplish the objective, which is to highlight the products that were featured. White background, minimal props—dinaan ko na lang sa placement and arrangement.”

“And I think I'm blessed enough that the photographer was a good friend of mine, Ben Beringuela. Nakatulong yun, kasi we already know each other's style. It's a big factor, ’pag okay chemistry ninyo ng co-workers mo, you'll work fast, smooth, and masaya.”


Your clientele consists of big corporate brands, as well as local startups like Straightforward, a clothing and lifestyle brand. Can you share with us your experiences working with both kinds of clients?

"It's a joy, actually. One of my main target markets are startup brands. I think it's because they are like me…a lot of these young entrepreneurs have this ‘tickled spirit’ that makes them excited and I want to help them accomplish the visuals they have in mind. Kasi ganun din ako dati. It was only a dream before to style for brands, but because certain people believed and supported me despite the resources that I lack (wala akong matinong camera, wala akong lights, phone lang gamit ko 90% of the time), they know I can achieve good quality output. Because of that, I grew professionally. And now it's my time to believe in other people's dreams."


It seems you love to share your passion and you hold product and photo styling workshops. What prompted you to start this, and how is the experience so far?

"At first my reasons were simple: ang konti naming stylist, gusto ko mag-share ng tips as much as I can to those who also want to become stylists; and for those small entreps that can't afford photographers and stylists yet. But as I grew, and as I meet new clients and people, mas lumalawak din mga gusto kong ituro, not just the creative side of styling but also the ethics, the professionalism that I think they should learn. I want to share with them that the values and respect for people, the way you respond to challenges, is as important as the quality of your work."


You make amazing flatlays. Can you give us one tip for our RL readers?

"Always try different angles, never be contented with one perfect shot. Study color palettes and you can never go wrong with natural light. Trust me. That's my favorite tip. Also, always make the most out of the resources that you have and stop focusing on the things you don't. Hindi mo kailangan pilitin ang sarili mo na mag-karoon ng magagandang gamit to achieve good photos. And hindi mo kailangan magbago ng lifestyle just to fit in the industry."


What’s next for Ron Lee?

"I'm as curious as you are. I don't know what to expect, but I am excited. And sa dami kong pinagdaanan, ’di na ko takot sa challenges, ’di na ko nag-wo-worry sa future, rather, I am excited for what the challenges will bear. I'm excited for the fruit of learning, and wisdom that God will reveal to me. I entrust my life to Him, Siya na bahala sa akin."


You can see Ron Lee's works on his Instagram @thatdesignerguyy. Ron was one of our 25 Creatives To Watch in Real Living print’s July 2017 issue.

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