Last week we e-sat down with Barcelona-based photographer, videographer, and social media specialist, Juan Galán, to talk all things pictures, passion and the photographer's paradise.
So Juan, where are you from and what do you do?
I’m from Bogota Colombia, but I’ve been living in Barcelona for over 10 years (11 years in September). I ended up working in Marketing for an international company and I really developed a passion for social media.
I started to develop a passion for photography whilst here in Europe. I’ve been trying to combine both of my passions and turn them into a career, so last year I decided to go freelance. I really wanted to build my own portfolio and have my own freedom with time.
Right now I’m managing social media accounts, anything from fitness to travel, and doing photoshoots around Barcelona. After ten years here I know the best spots and timings.
What was it that prompted you to launch the photography side of things?
I was always the friend that brought their camera and took a bunch of pictures. I started my own personal Instagram account for photography and it grew quite fast. I got a lot of people commenting on my work. This pushed me to get better and better and learn more about photography tricks, and just keep improving and posting.
It got to a point where I realised I could use this as a side-hustle as well, especially in a city as cool as Barcelona. It was going quite well, I was getting more requests for photo shoots and product photography- events as well. All of that has been cancelled now, but luckily everyone’s now looking for a social media strategist.
In an ideal world would you want to focus on photography?
In an ideal world, yes, but I know how tough it can be. This whole situation right now has shown me to be careful. If I’d only been doing photography I’d have absolutely no income right now.
Jobs like social media will always be there, I can always have something stable. There’s more need for social media and marketing than photography.
And what is it you most like to photograph?
My speciality is street photography, architecture, as I love capturing different kinds of buildings and perspectives, and landscape.
Barcelona’s pretty great for architecture, have you found another city that compares?
Yes, Porto in Portugal. That was my last trip, I’m glad we could do it. I’m a travel addict, I’ve been there before. I wasn’t properly taking photos at that time, so I didn’t have the same eye for photos. I took a camera but more photos of me and my boyfriend- just random photos. This time I really found the beauty, it’s a bit decadent but very charming at the same time.
What’s the one piece of equipment you don’t leave the house without when it comes to taking pictures?
I have three lenses, I used to only carry one but now I’m like ‘you might need it’ so I carry all three always. I should bring my tripod more, but it’s a big tripod so not that easy to take with.
Must be heavy. I saw that recently you had quite a lot of equipment stolen. How do you bounce back from that?
That day was horrible. I lost all my equipment plus all the photos I had on the camera. The shock lasted a couple of hours, but then I realised there was nothing I could do.
It was a real pivot point- I decided to take photography more seriously after that. I got insurance for all my equipment, from cameras to drones. I also changed from a Canon to a Sony after that and really learned how to use it to its full potential. In the end, I think it really helped me to improve.
What advice would you give to other people that have a passion project they want to launch?
Find a community where you can learn from people. In my case, I started a photography Instagram account and started connecting with a lot of other photographers. They’re all very very kind, they support each other, they share tips- it’s very motivational because some of these people are really great.
Some are professional photographers and taking photos is their main focus, it’s really inspiring to see.
Also, don’t be afraid of showing your work and making mistakes sometimes. Don’t be afraid to share your work with the world, there’s never a wrong or right there’s just this fear.
Any tips for gaining some traction on Instagram?
You have to really focus on being engaged- follow new photographers, amateurs and professionals, and make sure to engage with their content.
You start creating connections, start receiving comments from photographers who you’ve interacted with, and this helps to get your content seen. Use proper hashtag strategy and a hashtag tool, it’s really helpful but not many people bother with it.
When it comes to perfecting your photos, is there a free platform you’d recommend?
I edit a lot of pictures on my phone as it’s often quicker. I use Lightroom as it’s super intuitive and easy-to-use, and the end results are always great. Snapseed is also good and it’s for mobile.
So when all this blows over, where are you and your camera next headed?
Definitely somewhere in South-East Asia. My boyfriend and I were planning on going travelling as we’re both freelancers but everything’s on hold right now. I’ve been to Indonesia and Thailand but would love to go to the Philippines and Myanmar.
Another place I really love for photography is Iceland. I’d love to go back there- it’s a photographers paradise. There’s so much variety- it’s so unique in every way.
Just got to wait out that travel ban. Have you got any projects you’re working on in the meanwhile?
I’m writing about photography tips and social media tips, so mixing my two passions. I have prints available and am looking to start working on presets- filters for photo editing that people can apply to their pictures to take it up a level.
I’m also starting to learn about TikTok- loads of photographers showcase their work in videos on TikTok and I want to start doing that. Maybe tutorials, editing tips, how to make a preset- all these things.
You’re a videographer as well, right. What do you video?
Anything really, I’ve done videos for events. One of my recent projects was a music video for a friend- I love music. I used to write and sing songs but I just haven’t had time to come back to it. It was really nice doing video and photography for a music project, I hope to work on more things like that in the future.
Sounds like you’ve got a lot on your plate after all this is over.
Yes! I’m also writing a blog for OneCoWork on How to Maximise Instagram Engagement, that should be coming soon so look out for it.