Juan Carlos Ortiz

Street | Last Updated: September 5, 2023

I discovered photography as a young boy when my older brother installed a darkroom in our house and taught me some of the basic principles. As I grew up, I developed a love and fascination with cinema.

It has always been a significant influence in my life and I think you can see this in my photography and portraits, taking inspiration from directors like Pedro Almodovar and Fritz Lang. I like the grainy effect that is especially possible using analog.

(Related: see how to fix grainy photos here.)

I studied Photography at IDEP in Barcelona and IED in Milan and while living in Italy I worked as a photographer on fashion shoots for Vogue Italia, Vogue Uomo and Grazia.

Later while living in Australia, I advanced my skills in digital photography in Sydney at the Australian Center for Photography. While there, my portrait “Aina” won the first prize in the 2016 Annual Photostart Competition.

I am now a resident in Tokyo where I am focussed on my current project called ‘Souls of Japan’. This creative body of work is my first serious venture into street photography and I am pleased to say that in early 2020 it was a ‘Nyu-Sen’ prizewinner in the 45th Exhibition of the Japan Professional Photographers Society – a national award.

‘Souls of Japan’ is very special to me. As a foreigner in this intensely private country, I often feel like a spectator of a very different culture. I am continually amazed by the contrasts here, visible in the various aspects of life and in the souls of the people who form this nation.

I observe these people – their routines, their habits and their rituals – all of which so different from what I am used to as a Westerner. But there are, of course, some similarities: life, work, love, searching for who we are and what our place is in the world.

As I explained earlier, my first explorative years in photography were with analog (amongst the things that are most dear to me in storage in my hometown in Spain are my 35mm film and medium format cameras).

My digital experience began only five years ago and little by little I continue to build my equipment and expertise. My next priority is to update the body of my Olympus and then follow that by buying a medium format digital camera for portraits and professional projects.


Olympus OM-D E-M1 – I chose this camera for its size and weight. Easy for traveling and for doing street photography.


Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 – Great zoom lens that I use when I have to be very quick and I don’t have the time to change lenses. I like the wide aperture that allows me to focus easily on the subject while leaving the rest out of focus. It allows me to create a dramatic effect by exaggerating the perspective.

Olympus 25mm f/1.8 – This is my favorite lens. I use it for my portraits because the wide aperture allows me to have the sharp detail that I am looking for. It is also my primary lens for my street photography.

Olympus 45mm f/1.8 – It is very similar to my Olympus 25mm f/1.8 but allows me to take the picture with more distance. It produces excellent focus.


Olympus Electronic Flash FL-600R – I love this speedlight because despite being a small light item, it is very powerful. I use it mainly for events or street portraits to create a dramatic light effect on the subject. I sometimes use it with a softbox or a diffuser.

Godox LF308Bi LED – Love this light because of its dual purpose of being used as a flash or continuous light. I mainly use it with continuous light because it produces a very soft glow that I adore. Also, when I do color photography, it can be graduated from cold to warmer tones. It is a small but powerful light and it comes with a diffuse filter. It is my first option for portraits and product photography.

HÄHNEL CAPTUR Remote Control/Flash Trigger – Usually I use the synchro of my camera for the speedlight but, when this is not possible, I use this trigger. It is easy to use either remotely or by cable attachment.


It took me a long time to find the bag that I wanted. For the equipment that I currently use, I love my North Face Padded Tool Box 8.5L. It is well designed, resistant, light and easy to carry. I really love it!

I have many straps, but these days, because I shoot a lot in the streets of Tokyo, I am using a Patidpator. It is a cool accessory, not too wide and far from the obvious camera strap.

If I am going to shoot somewhere where I need to be safer or will spend a long time carrying the camera on my neck, I swap it for the original Olympus strap because it is padded (better for my neck) and very safe.


I use a Velbon Tripod. It has a vast range of positions and heights and is light but at the same time sturdy enough to keep my camera safe in windy or unstable conditions.

Phottix 5-in-1 Reflector 42” – Just the right size, easy to use and with the usual diffuser options (gold, silver, black and white).


I use Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop, but usually I don’t use too much postproduction.


Water. Always water. And music. I need music to help me create, especially in my street photography. Listening to my favorite composers while I am exploring inspires me to find the perfect subject and the ideal moment.

I carry a polarizer filter, a couple of extra batteries for my camera, an additional data card and rechargeable batteries for my speeding and/or triggers.


Before a shoot, always take time to prepare for it in advance, but don’t let your organization kill your creativity – maybe do a mood board or storyboard. Stay tuned to your inspiration and your heart, remember that it’s essential that your photography expresses what you feel or what you want people to feel.

I remember being very young, living in Milano, Italy, and going to some fashion magazines to show my portfolio and work for them. Once, a fashion editor told me that “fashion photography” is not made in black and white or with grainy pictures. The following year Steven Klein shot the campaign for Prada in a grainy B&W and then this style became a trend. So my parting words – always believe in yourself and your work.

www.jcophotography.com | @jcoportraitist

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