📷I'm Julian Cheong, picture maker behind @julian_cheong on Instagram. Ask Me Anything!
Hi Grouphunt! I'm Julian. I enjoy my music, coffee and reading, above everything else - photography is my passion!
I first got into photography as a hobbyist about six years ago and since then the hobby has grown into a passion and a big part of my everyday life. A year ago, I left my job as a marketing executive to pursue this passion of mine full time. Although this journey hasn't been completely smooth sailing, I can't say that I have any regrets.
Fast forward to today, my life revolves around Photography. When I'm not working, I would be out shooting with my friends. Through pet projects like Through my iPhone and my Instagram handle @julian_cheong - I've been privileged to have been connected with over 78k fans who are equally as passionate about picture making as I am. That's why I try to give back by helping out in a local Instagram community and organising local photowalks whenever possible. If you are passionate about photography - I'd love to meet you!
For this AMA session, you can ask me questions like:
NOTE from the community manager: This AMA session has ended! If you have any questions you can post them first and Julian will answer them when he is available. Remember to subscribe to this thread by clicking the button below so you will get updates on answers! It's a community discussion so please be nice! Rude/tasteless remarks will be moderated.
EDIT: This AMA has officially ended, big thanks for everyone's support and thoughtful questions! I feel there's so much to learn from Julian today, will be taking time to digest everything :) If you have more questions you can still post them and it will get answered over time. Do watch out for more AMAs from Grouphunt in the future!
Hi Julian, what do you recommend for a successful Instagram account? Do you prefer sharing all kinds of pics or just photos that follow a specific theme?
Hi Nicholas, thanks for asking!
I think the definition of a successful Instagram account can be quite subjective. To some, it can be having as many followers as possible. To others, it may be having as many likes as one image can get. I do know of some people who take really beautiful photos but do not have a lot of followers and vice versa... What accounts I think a successful, would probably be Australia's tourism account and Herschel Supply Co.. They engage their followers and constantly post images that are of a certain quality.
Personally, I like doing landscape and street photography, so those are the most common themes on my feed, although I do try my hand at other genres as well :)
Hi Julian! How's a day in the life of a freelance photographer? What are some of your ups and downs in the journey? =)
Hmm... this is a really good question! It all depends on whether I'm working or not. On days that I have a job, it would be a whole day thing, so I would be out shooting till night. On days that I do not have to work, I would usually be out with my friends shooting, if not I would be bumming around at home.
There's lots of ups and downs so far. For starters, my income isn't very stable and it depends on the jobs that I take. Which means I would normally think twice before making a purchase and I can't travel as much as I would like to. On the bright side, I get to pursue my dreams. Monetary terms aside, it's especially gratifying when your works get recognized. For instance, seeing your photos in the newspapers, or up on display at an exhibition :)
Hey Julian, thanks for doing this! Just wondering if you can shed any insight on growing your instagram audience - 78k followers is no mean feat! Keen to know how you started, how you got traction, any tips for aspiring photographers/instagrammers, etc.
Also, as a photographer, what's your view on Instagram and it's impact on your work?
Hi Joel, thanks for your question! I'll try my best to answer it :)
I started Instagramming 2 years ago when I got my iPhone. The photos I posted on the platform back then were all taken from my phone as compared to now, where most of it comes from my DSLR.
The thing about Instagram, apart from it being a photo sharing app, is that it's also a social media platform. Hence, interaction with your followers and other users are important. Staying on the topic on being social, I try my best to attend as many Instameets as possible. It is through these Instameets that I get to meet other Instagrammers/photographers. It's also a good way to know more about the community and at the same time, getting your name out there. It is through all these interactions that I think I got my following. Instagram placed me on their suggested user list so that was when the followers went up.
The impact Instagram has on my work is huge. When I first started out, I would never have dreamt about using Instagram to get jobs. But through it, I've made many contacts, and have gotten some jobs, as well as collaborations with brands. I think in this day an age, apart from having a presence on Facebook, having an Instagram presence is also important for a photographer.
Hope I managed to answer your questions :)
Hello! Julian, what do you personally feel about Instagram implementing sponsored ads and what impact (if any) does that have on the Instagram community in general? What are some brands that you've worked with before?
Hi Bobby! I have yet to come across any ads on my feed yet (I'm probably one of the lucky few) but I guess it's only just a matter of time. But from what I know, some people view it as an annoyance and they tend to hide them. I don't really think it's all that bad because brands can use it to promote themselves just like on Facebook. But then again, I'll probably have to wait to experience them for myself before I can really say...
Anyway, some brands that I have worked with include Daniel Wellington, JustPorter, Bull & Stash, and I am currently working with Heineken, Singapore :)
Hey Julian thanks for your replies! Lol do you find it slightly troublesome transferring photos from your dslr to your phone to post? I guess that's the price to pay for high quality photos huh.
No worries! Loving all the questions :) It's not really a hassle for me because my phone is usually plugged in to my computer so all I need to do is to sync my phone with my photos. There are other ways to it though, like putting the photos in to Dropbox then downloading them onto the phone :)
One more question:
Are there any genres that you do not enjoy shooting? If yes, would you take a job (of that genre) up just so that you can earn additional cash (since you mention that the income you have got isn't stable).
Hey Julian, nice to meet you! Curious - what are some of your most desired lenses? What's the no. 1 lens in your arsenal that you can't do without, and why? Lastly, what's your opinion on the saying that the "best camera is the one you have with you?"
Hi Jackie! I currently shoot a lot of landscapes and street photos so I would go for wide angle lenses. Currently, I'm looking at the 16-35mm F/2.8 from Canon. Although the new 20mm F1.4 from Sigma is a really tempting choice... I would probably wait for more reviews before making a decision.
My go-to lens at the moment is a Sigma 35mm F1.4. It's not too wide and not too cropped, ideal for street photography. It's also the fastest lens that I own and is the one lens that always leaves the house with me.
As for the saying "the best camera is the one you have with you", I kind of agree with it. Even when I don't have my DSLR with me, my phone is always with me and it has a decent camera on it. But then again, sometimes it's best to just enjoy the moment :)
Hope I managed to answer you!
I see, definitely :)
What are your go to sources for reviews online? i.e who do you trust most?
100% agree on enjoying the moment! Slightly off topic, but here's a new video recording app that I found that specifically cries for being in the present when capturing memories: https://beme.com/
Just linking in the Sigma F1.4 product, for those who are interested:
Hi there Julian, big fan of your work on Instagram :) Here are some of my questions:
Read that you were based previously in Perth...Are you back in Singapore already? Just wondering - are there any observable differences with the photog community in Perth and in SG?
Where is this place? https://instagram.com/p/88OvFoKXa3/?taken-by=julian_cheong
Is there anyone that you admire or seek to emulate professionally as a photographer?
What's your favourite food?
Any other hobbies or interests other than photo making?
What's something surprising about yourself that you can share with us?
Thanks in advance!!
Hi Patrick, thanks a lot for your kind words!
Yes, I'm back in Singapore, though I travel there at least once a year as I have family and friends there :) From my observations, there are a lot of wedding photographers in Perth as compared to SG, where they mainly focus on commercial work.
That's in Orchard Gateway. The bridge on the third floor :)
As a photographer, I think one of my goals would be to some day work for NatGeo, or at least try to be of the standard of Steve Mccurry. However, there are other photographers that I really admire. For one, there's Chris Burkard. He's a travel photographer, and also an arctic surf photographer. If you have the time, you should check out his works. Or at least watch his TedTalk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VwTZFY-fvw A really inspiring piece.
My favourite food would be junk food. I know it's unhealthy, but I eat a lot of it still. Although as an Asian, I still like my rice and noodles. Hahaha
Other than photography, I love drinking coffee, reading and watching football.
Something surprising about myself... That's a tough one... Well, before I got into photography, I was a long distance runner until injury took it's toll on my body. So perhaps it was a blessing in disguise?
Hope I answered your questions!
Do you consider yourself more of a photographer or an Instagrammer? Is there a difference between the two?
What do you think of paid/sponsored ads on Instagram?
Are there any compact cameras that you would recommend for someone who doesn't like the bulk of the DSLR, but wants something that takes better pictures than their mobile phone?
Can I say that I'm a photographer who uses Instagram? If not, I would see myself more of a photographer than an Instagrammer. The difference between the two, if I must say, photographers would take photos with the view that it would one day end up in print, while Instagrammers would upload photos onto the platform that's all.
I've heard of people complaining the ads are an annoyance and they usually tend to hide them. But as I have yet to encounter them (I think it's only a matter of time now), I think I should reserve judgement on this topic...
There are lots of cameras out there that take good quality images. In terms of digital compacts, there's Canons range of Powershots. I've had the privilege of testing out G7X and I must say, it's quite a delight to use :) Aside from digital compacts, there's also the mirrorless range of cameras. They take DSLR quality images but only weigh a fraction of it, although they cost as much as a DSLR...
When I mentioned paid/sponsored ads on Instagram, I meant brands that paid instagrammers (not Instagram) to advertise for them :)
Hi Julian, thanks for hosting this session! Super excited to have you.. I'll start the ball rolling :)
Cheers and have a great evening!
Hi Johnbosco, thanks so much for this opportunity again!
I've been using a Canon camera since I first got into photography. I've also gotten really familiar with its interface so using a camera of another make would take some getting use to. There's also a running joke between some of my friends that Canon is better than other brands because it's more user friendly. Ultimately, I think it boils down to personal preference though...
My project of Macritchie Reservoir is an ongoing one. It all started with my love of being outdoors and in nature, and to be quite frank, there is only so few places in Singapore where there is such lush greenery and forestry. And thank goodness for me, Macritchie Reservoir is about a 10 minute walk from my home. I go there once a week to exercise and sometimes, to watch the sunset. It was during one sunset about a year ago that it struck me, "what if I photographed inside Macritchie while I trekked around?" Since that moment, I would bring my camera along with me whenever I go there. Apart from my love for nature, what keeps me going back is that I get to escape from the city for a couple of hours and recharge.
I can't really say I'm a full time photographer because there are days when I'm not working. Maybe freelance would be a more suitable word to describe my job. I can't really say if pursuing photography as a career is for everyone, as it is quite subjective. As a freelance photographer, my income fluctuates from month to month, so someone with high expenses, might find it difficult to manage a career freelancing. There's also the issue of what to do during the days when I'm not working. I would normally hang out with my other photographer friends and go on photowalks, so again, it boils down to the individual.
I'm sort of a big history fan and love watching war films. This translates to what I'm reading as well. Some of my favourite books include Guest of the Ayatollah and Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden, and We Were Soldiers Once... And Young by Hal Moore and Joseph Galloway. Of course, I love fictional stories as well. One of my favourites would be the Child 44 trilogy by Tom Rob Smith.
Hope I managed to answer your questions, and thanks again!
Hahah yea... I really love the light there at sunrise, especially when the sun rays come through the foliage!
Not much required when it comes to planning a photowalk. I just need to find a location and recce it to make sure it's suitable. It's good to bring some props too! There's quite a number of communities in Singapore on Instagram. There's @instasg, @sgig and @exploresingapore. They have Instameets almost every weekend so it's best to keep a lookout there. For beginners/amateurs, I think these Instameets are the best place to meet other like minded people as well and they are welcoming of newcomers as well :)
Anyway, I have yet to go to the DMZ... It's on my list of places to go along with N. Korea! I think it would be something to be able to photograph in there..
What are some of most important tips can you offer to a beginner for image composition? Do you normally have an idea of how you want the final image to look like? Or does editing do most of the heavy lifting?
Hi Shulin, there are a couple of different rules when it comes to composing an image. There's the rule of thirds, using leading lines, finding symmetry in everyday life and so on. If it's of any help, this video of composing images is really helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZVyNjKSr0M It gives some compositional tips of Steve Mccurry and I watch it every now and then just to be inspired.
I normally have an idea of what I want to achieve when I go out an shoot. For example, the photo of the jogger that I have in my description. I wanted to get someone's reflection on the water so I got all my settings ready and waited for someone to come into frame. Of course, I would edit my photos later on, but it would be minimal as I personally prefer the colours to be as true as possible :)