Explore Hong Kong

Hong Kong for Instagrammers: app that tells you where to take the best shots launches

  • Explorest is designed to help people discover and photograph the world’s most Instagrammable sights
  • App pays photographers whose images are featured
PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 November, 2018, 7:50am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 November, 2018, 7:54am

Explorest, an app-based database of beautiful photo locations curated by local photographers, has come to Hong Kong. The app is designed to help people discover and photograph the world’s most Instagrammable sights, and with its Hong Kong launch has revealed 80 “location insights” across the city.

“Hong Kong is a really enchanting city,” says Justin Myers, co-founder and CEO of Explorest. “We’ve worked with 15 Hong Kong-based photographers – we look for people who consistently shoot images that have character, high-quality colours and sharpness, and who we know are true local experts from their body of work.”

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Myers is the business half of the venture; his fellow co-founder, Michael Lax, is a San Francisco-based photographer. The platform was born of their mutual frustration at coming across great images on Instagram and not knowing where they were taken. They launched Explorest in Singapore in July 2017 and added Californian locations in April this year. After Hong Kong, they plan to add New York. The long-term plan is to cover the world.

The Hong Kong “insights” include some predictable locations: the view from bar Ozone at the Ritz-Carlton, the porthole windows of Jardine House in Central, the IFC towers shot at night. But there are also some less obvious shots, such as the view from under Stonecutters Bridge on Stonecutters Island and the helipad at Tolo Harbour. Myers says a couple of his favourites are the Whitestone Gallery’s lift lobby in Central and the view from Ma Tso Lung of the Hoo Hok Wai wetlands in the New Territories, which was shot by drone.

“One image will be added to each location every week,” Myers says. “What’s most important to us is maintaining the level of quality.”

The app already has 42,000 free users and 1,400 paid users. It is personalised according to the user’s skill level, adventure level and preferred photo genres. It then shows a scrolling list of photos which users can click on to learn where the photo was taken (address, directions and Google map) and how (meta data including camera model and aperture setting, and the best time of day to shoot). It is effectively a “how-to guide” on taking Instagrammable shots.

But do we really want to encourage more copycat photography? Aren’t there already enough people wielding selfie sticks at the Man Mo Temple or standing in the pathway of trams on King’s Road?

Myers insists that the app does not intend to encourage replication. “Explorest is made by photographers – we want to inspire and encourage people to be creative. The language we use in the ‘field tips’ section is written using words such as ‘recommend’ and ‘advise’ – we’re deliberately not telling people what to do, just suggesting options,” he says.

According to the business model, photographers who take snaps that go on to be featured images – known as “Explorests” – receive a portion of the app’s revenue each month.

“What they earn is based on the engagement on each insight. We have photographers earning US$20 to US$150 a month. It’s a recurring passive income – once the information is on the app, they will get earnings in perpetuity,” Myers says.

The current Hong Kong Explorests are mostly local photographers and travel influencers with impressive social media followings. They include Harimao Lee (@harimaolee), Candy Lai (@flosslai), Kyle Yu (@kyle_yu), Varun Thota (@vnthota), Timmy Lo (@timmy727), Donald Chan (@dchantie) and Irwin Chan (@irwinsychan).

There is an option within the app for users to share one of their best images of Hong Kong and see if they make the cut to be an “Explorest”.

“We are always looking out for talented local experts. People can submit an image for review,” Myers says.

He is keen to stress that this is a platform by locals for locals. In Singapore, most the users are Singaporeans, not tourists. He hopes that many of the locations within the app will get Hongkongers to go out and discover new aspects of their city.

“There’s a lot of the territory not yet covered. We want people to go out to these other far-flung reaches of Hong Kong, to the areas at the perimeter that do not yet have coverage. We encourage people to go out and explore,” Myers says.

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The app is available for download from iTunes with full and free access to all 80 locations until November 7. After that it will cost US$4.99 a month or US$29.49 a year for the entire location database.