Who is Leo Thom, Hong Kong's Star Beauty Photographer?
Hong Kong/ Fashionista/ Style

Fashion and Beauty Photographer Leo Thom Captures HK’s Glitz and Glamour

Leo Thom Hong Kong Fashion and Beauty Photographer Captures the Cities Glitz and Glamour

Leo Thom is a leading beauty and fashion photographer behind the wonders of Hong Kong’s top models, leading makeup products, and glitzy gadgets.

The American photographer is now 852-based with his wife, famed YouTuber and KOL Karen Yeung, also known as Karen O, and first-time father to baby daughter, Dove. Primarily, Leo works as a photographer and creative director in Karen’s team for her social media campaigns.

“Life in Los Angeles had its fair share of ups and downs, like life in any big city,” Leo explains to The Beat Asia, about his former home. “We met amazing people, grew our careers and saved up enough money to purchase a home in Orange County. Working in LA has given myself and my wife Karen innumerable opportunities to pursue our creative dreams.”

Entering his second year living in Hong Kong, after landing in the city in summer 2022, Leo recalls LA’s cut-throat industry and life quality, “close friends backstabbing us for career advancement, heard management horror stories ruining client relationships, shootings in our neighbourhood,” all of these instances had convinced him and his family to live and work in Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong was a natural destination since my wife has many family members in the area and we both loved visiting HK over the years. We’re happy to call the 852 home."

Formerly working as a web engineer in Silicon Valley at LinkedIn, Leo would devote swathes of time to assist Karen with shooting fashion look-book videos at home after work, and take breaks in their career jobs to attend social media conventions hours' away to make connections in the industry.

“As my wife’s success began to grow, we started to get more serious with our time commitments and our gear. I still remember buying my wife her first DSLR camera - a camera in which you could change the lens out. It drastically improved her quality, and we made similar professional improvements like that over the years.”

Karen was hired by ipsy, Michelle Phans make-up subscription bag company, which saw the couples’ content creation “ramp up to full blown professional”.

“We got to be on Hollywood studio sets and see how “the big boys” ran things when it came to video, audio and photography. A few years after moving to LA, I got more serious about my portrait work and focused on taking pictures for my wife and our circle of KOL friends.”

Leo enrolled in online courses, took private lessons from other photographers, and worked deep in the career on fashion and luxury shoots, his skill level grew and was able to assist Karen on capturing high-end luxury imagery for her campaigns. “It’s a nice synergy,” he says.

Transitioning from an amateur photographer in Los Angeles to a full-time member of the husband-wife team to deliver content for Karen pushed Leo to become devoted to his professionalism.

“On our team, we have an agent that helps plan our career and negotiate deals along with our lawyer to help ensure everything is all balanced. We have strict protocol we follow and execute to our client's wishes while still injecting our own creativity into the content.”

Leo focuses primarily on beauty, make-up art and skincare in his work, with Karen existing as his main client. “Personally, I find the beauty space to be so creatively enriching and always evolving. It’s fun to partner with a new model or make-up artist to create unique imagery.”

“The barrier to entry is also a lot lower relative to a fashion shoot, which would require wardrobe pieces, a stylist to put them together well and a larger space to showcase the clothing. I’m all about being scrappy and resourceful, so if I can keep the team and space small, I’ll try to do that.”

Working full-time with his wife, Leo is innately involved in the influencing world of Karen and her online journey, capturing their new family life alongside the birth and growth of their daughter, Dove.

“Fatherhood has made prioritizing my life so much easier. It really surfaces what’s important, and everything else just falls away. I don’t have the time to dwell in negativity anymore when there’s so much positivity and love around me. Fatherhood is the best thing ever to happen to me.”

“I’m much more aware of what I post online if it involves Dove. I ask myself – would she be embarrassed by this post 10 years from now? If the answer is maybe or yes, then I don’t post it.”

“Oftentimes, parents love to embarrass their children without considering the long-term consequences. I want all my images of Dove to make her proud and happy at any stage of her life.”

The Year of the Rabbit in 2023 is bright for Leo. The next chapter, Leo describes, is to “push the boundaries of high-end luxury beauty photography in Hong Kong.”

“As a photographer, I want to shine a light on the immense talent around me in Hong Kong. Outside of shooting, I’m creating Hong Kong's first ‘creativity gym’ with a few other photographers and creative friends of mine.”

“We’re calling it Gymnasia, and we want to host workshops and meet-ups for the Hong Kong photography community specifically focusing on beauty, fashion and boudoir. We’re still building out our curriculum and aim to launch in the second quarter of 2023.”

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