Pink and gold sunsets are paired with teal skies and seas on Julian Cheong’s Instagram. We speak with him about his palette and theme choice for his feed.
You have a stark portfolio of landscape, buildings and people, featuring colour play and contrast. How did this theme come about?
When I first got into photography about 7 years ago, like most people, I took pictures of everything from landscapes to people to food. As I practiced, I started to develop a passion for nature and landscapes. After I completed my studies and started traveling more frequently, my love for travel photography grew. That was how it evolved over time. Living in Singapore, inevitably I included her skyline and the people within.
My favourite times of the day to shoot are during sunrise and sunset when the light is softer, and it’s not too hot. This probably is why the dominant colours of my feed are teal, gold and pink.
What is it about nature, landscapes and travel photography that inspires you so?
It’s nice to get away from the “busyness” of the city every now and then. I find being in nature helps me to recharge my batteries and it’s also a good way to get some exercise in. MacRitchie and Lower Peirce Reservoirs are my usual haunts and I will be there for sunrises or sunsets fairly regularly.
What do you think is your particular strength in this theme that works so well on social media?
With travel photography, people find some form of escapism from the daily grind. For myself, as I travel to Australia fairly often, I guess it supplies that change of scenery that keeps people coming back.
When it comes to taking pictures for your feed, do you have a creative process that you follow through?
If I have an idea in mind, or a certain shot I want to capture, I will do some research on the location and the best times to do so. If need be, I’ll storyboard to get said shot. But on a normal day, I will just go to a general location, walk around and observe my surroundings; sometimes taking photos, sometimes appreciating the moment.
Did you start with a camera for your social media photos?
When I first joined Instagram, all the photos I posted were shot with my iPhone. The convenience of having a camera in my pocket made me “lazy” to carry my DSLR around. But it was also this “laziness” that drove me to pick up my DSLR again. That and one big factor: A smartphone performed poorly in low light or night shots.
What are some of the key advantages that you require for your photos that a camera can achieve but a mobile phone can’t?
While mobile phone cameras have come a long way, even to the point where they can shoot RAW files, I will still pick my DSLR. A DSLR definitely performs better in low light situations and has the dynamic range and image resolutions a phone can’t beat.
Have you seen your shots on social media evolving as you use cameras?
It definitely has! I’ve become more selective with the shots I take now. I no longer take everything and anything, giving me more time to enjoy the moment that I am in.
What camera are you using now?
I’m currently using a Canon EOS 5D Mark III.
Could you share what Canon products you use and why you have chosen them?
I upgraded to a EOS 5D Mark III but apart from that, I carry the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens which is ideal for travel because of its wide focal range. I also use the Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens which is perfect for taking the night sky, a Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM Lens which is my go-to lens for everyday use, and the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens which I use mostly for work, and sometimes travel.
What have you observed about your experience with Canon products that really stood out to you?
From the compact point-and-shoot, to the EOS 5D Mark III that I’m using today has the familiarity and user-friendliness that keeps me coming back.
Could you share with us your technical workflow during post production?
I edit all my photos in Lightroom, and sometimes if need be, in Photoshop. I try to keep my edits minimal, but as a personal preference, tend to increase the vibrancy in the photos.
In terms of photography skills, could you name a trait that you’ve honed over these past 7 years?
Hmm… this is a tough one. I think the one aspect that I’ve honed over the years is probably not a technical aspect, but a personal one. I’ve grown to be more patient with my photos, waiting for the right moment and observing my surroundings before clicking the shutter.
What are some advice you would like to share with those who are exploring the same subjects for their own social feed?
It took me some time and lots of practice to find out what I’m good at, so never be afraid to experiment with different genres and styles. But most importantly, and as cliche as it sounds, just have fun and enjoy what you’re photographing!
For more of Julian’s colourful work, you can visit @julian_cheong on Instagram.