This is interview #5 in our series designed to showcase some of the talented clients in the Photo Folio family.
Steve Bronstein is a legend in the field of advertising photography. He is the photographer behind the famous Absolut Vodka advertising campaign which ran for more than 25 years. Steve has taken the time to share thoughts on the creative process of his photography, the Absolut Vodka campaign, and how the industry has changed over the years.
What was your first paid shoot? I do remember… an ad for Mount Gay rum. Straightforward beauty shot, but still a big deal to me at the time, as my first national ad.
Did you aspire to be an advertising photographer from the beginning? I went through a photojournalism program in college, but about halfway through I realized that studio work was a better fit for me.
All of your work has a creative element. Are you the creative mind behind these shots or do they come from ad agencies/art directors? It depends…if it is an advertising assignment, sometimes there is a lot of input, sometimes not. Sometimes it’s more about figuring a way to execute the project in a timely, affordable manner. Ad agencies frequently don’t have a good hold on the best way to approach a project from either the standpoint of budget or schedule.
How much collaboration goes into the process of what you do? It can be significant…model making (I work a lot with Prop Art in New York), stylists, home economists, etc.
You have had an incredibly long run in this business. What keeps you excited about shooting? It is always interesting to learn about whatever new business/product you are working on and to see all the accompanying dynamics at play. Plus, I still enjoy the problem-solving aspects of what I do. Recently I was involved with the launch of some new products for Keurig/Green Mountain, which was quite interesting. I’ve shot all sorts of computers and consumer electronics that have come and gone, and a lot of products before they really caught on, from the Sony Walkman to the Nintendo Game Boy. Guess it shows my age a little bit.
You are the photographer behind the famous Absolut Vodka campaign. How did that opportunity present itself? I was just starting out and my agent at the time was friends with an art director at TBWA, who was working on the Absolut campaign. Keep in mind that Absolut was not a well-known brand at that time. He had hired another photographer at the time, and he was not pleased with the results (The Absolut bottle had a reputation for being tough to shoot). I took a different tack, and it was well received. That was the beginning of the Absolut campaign, and I shot for them for 25 years. It’s pretty remarkable in the advertising world.
Are there any particular shots from the Absolut campaign that really stand out as favorites? I like the executions that broke new ground, or were challenging. Remember that most of these were well before the age of Photoshop. For ABSOLUT ATTRACTION, I figured out a way to precisely align a progression of 4 bent Martini glasses to one piece of film. Then there was the segue into miniature sets, which was both fun and challenging. The LA, Miami, Rosebud, Hamptons are a few of my favorites. These were all done largely or exclusively in miniature. Some of the cinematic series (Rosebud/Psycho) are also favorites…they make you think a little. I think Absolut really changed advertising.
What Absolut image was especially challenging to shoot/capture? ABSOLUT HAMPTONS (though also used for a variety of other beach towns) was particularly satisfying. It’s all miniature, built in forced perspective. The sky is a painted backdrop, and the background ocean is rippled dyed aluminum foil. It took up most of my studio. Not every material lends itself to a miniature approach, but in this particular execution the elements were such that they all worked very well.
Many of your images are done with models and incredibly precise scaling. Were you into models growing up? Not particularly…I was more the kid who would take something apart and then could not put it back together.
So much of what you have done in the past with models and props is now being done with CGI software. How do you think they compare in the finished product? There is certainly great CGI out there if you hire the right company, but there are also a lot of poorly done GCI. Miniatures, even in features, are still a viable tool. It’s a question of using it correctly. “Good” CGI can also be very expensive and take a long time.
It looks like some of these miniature shots are extremely intricate. Is working with scale models a tedious process? It’s more about the lead time to build them. Shooting them is not particularly time-consuming Most projects are a pre-light day and a shoot day, plus the pre-production.
It seems that many of today’s studio photographers spend 10% of their time setting up the shot and 90% of their time editing/tweaking the image in post for the desired result. How would you define your time split? That’s because they have too much time on their hands…I’m not any different. Certainly it is easier to spend time tweaking your images. I try and shoot so I have less to do in post, plus I don’t always do my own. If it’s something relatively straightforward I will, but in general I think the professional retoucher who does it 24/7 every day is going to have more tricks up his sleeve than I do, particularly in challenging circumstances. I’d rather be in the position of supervising him.
How has the move to digital from film changed your process? Quite a bit…and on a certain level, I’m nostalgic for film. I used to shoot 8 x 10 mostly. You would need the stage space to accommodate multiple set-ups since you were always waiting for the lab and approvals (Inevitably if you struck a set before seeing the film, there would be a lab accident or the client would have an issue). Sets sometimes stayed up for days, so you needed a lot of space and loads of cameras, grip and lighting equipment. Working with big view cameras, you would need huge f-stops, which made shooting cumbersome. Frequently had to pop the strobes multiple times, bracket exposures, deal with sheet film, and worry about the camera moving or the building shaking….(hey, NYC has subways!). It was much more time consuming than digital. That said, you had the satisfaction, of seeing the incredible detail of an unforgiving 8 x 10 transparency, still warm from the lab on your lightbox, 90 minutes after your shoot.
Digital changed all this…. suddenly you compete with the entire world, not just your backyard. You can do equally good work, actually better work because you don’t have to get it all in one shot. Still I’d like to think that film, shaped my sensibilities in terms of how to approach a project, and made me a better photographer. I think “film”, but shoot digital.
How do you come up with the ideas for the images in your “conceptual” gallery? I don’t have a set process… ideas just come to me. It might relate to something going on in my life or in the news. Some of those images are from assignments as well.
The images in the “Frozen Moments” gallery have so many elements to coordinate? How many takes does it require to capture the frames you need to build the finished image we see? In that category, some of the images I got in one shot because most of the action is rigged. For a majority of the images involving live action, there are usually at least four or five significant separate captures. Many of these images also utilize specialized short duration strobes and some sort of triggering device as well.
What is the perfect Steven Bronstein day look like? A balance…some time outside, I bike and hike, and snowboard in the winter. Some time with my family, and some work time as well. I don’t live in NYC anymore. I’m just finishing a small studio, steps from my home. I can work here, or for bigger projects, be an easy day trip into New York.
Why did you choose a Photo Folio for your website? It was easy. Nobody else makes anything else that comes close. There is tremendous flexibility in the way you present yourself, and it is fast, reliable, and reasonably priced. Plus the interface is great, and you don’t have to be a computer geek to figure it out.
This is interview #4 in series designed to showcase some of our amazing clients, what makes them tick and how they have found a niche in the world of photography.
Meet Shea Evans. Shea specializes in shooting food including the raw ingredients, preparation, and the finished product. Shea’s background prepared him for a career in shooting the culinary arts and through his website we can all enjoy a feast for the eyes.
You are known as a “Food Culture Photographer”. How does that differ from being a “Food Photographer”? I use the term Food Culture Photographer because I feel it’s a more accurate description of what I do. My target clients need more than just “food beauty” imagery, they also need portraits of chefs or owners. They often need editorial style story telling for their business marketing and social media. They might also need interior and exterior shots of their restaurant/winery/farm, etc. So I’m keen to identify myself as someone who can provide these assets to them, even though it’s all in the scope of the food world, hence “food culture photographer”. Hopefully, it broadens both my client base and my own work.
You were a chef before you became a photographer. How has that benefitted your photography? In a couple of ways, I understand how food works, what is going to last on set, what’s not, how to communicate that to the stylist or chef I’m working with as well as bring my own concepts from my days as a chef to the table, literally. For smaller clients it means I can wear the food stylist hat too, though the deeper the team the more realized we can get a shot. I also know how to move in the restaurant environment. Working in tight spaces with lots of people moving around is something I’m more than comfortable with and that comes from my years in the restaurant industry.
Sometimes you use all natural light when shooting food and others you have used lighting. Do you prefer the end result produced from natural light or a more controlled lighting source? I wouldn’t say that I prefer natural light, but I do think that natural light can usually be more interesting, the way it’s bouncing around a room, coming through a particular window and bouncing off a wall. You can get great light from a big umbrella or soft box too, but it’s going to be the same every time, and that means so are my shots, so it’s great to get as much diversity as I can.
Given that you are using a perishable subject matter do you have a small window to get the shot before the appearance of ingredients changes? The short answer here is yes. Some food you’ve got more time than others, but in general, it’s a pretty small window, 10-15 minutes before it’s dead. It could be less if there is a sauce involved or a temperature issue, something really cold on something hot melts fast, and something really hot gets a film or glaze over it after a bit.
How do you make food images so compelling when your viewers can’t use their sense of smell?I try to use visual flavor cues as much as possible in my photography. In a way, this is the essence of the Deconstructed Flavor project, showing the viewer what something tastes like, by visually showing them what is in the dish.
How long was the learning curve to figure out how to shoot food in a way that provided you with a finished result you were really happy with? I think that’s simply an ongoing process. I rarely come away from a shoot happy with every image result. It’s the nature of honing a skill, you can always get better. Having said that, I think it was more about figuring out the light I wanted and once that clicked and I had a language to communicate that in my mind, my shoots started getting more consistent. I’d say at least two years of shooting two dishes every week.
Is what we see in the finished product the way it looked in the camera or do you have to spend a lot of time in post production? My post production workflow has recently changed to Capture One – Photoshop – Lightroom. My goal is to make it look how I envisioned it when I shot it. I find myself shooting most of my food work with one light source and then using bounce cards or relying on the depth of the file to pull shadows. It can depend, but usually it’s a pretty accurate representation of what was actually on the table.
Given that you love to cook, what would be your single favorite meal to make from scratch? Man that’s a tough one. Pesto from scratch (Garlic, fresh basil leaves, parmesan, salt, pepper, olive oil, pine nuts all in a food processor) is my go-to comfort food, served with sautéed mushrooms and shallots or maybe seared scallops over linguine. But I’ve got a pretty mean carnitas taco recipe that involves slow cooking a pork shoulder for about five hours. I don’t think there’s a single meal I could narrow it to. I also think I should say I make almost everything from scratch. There’s not a lot of packaged food in my house, just a lot of ingredients.
What ingredients are the most enjoyable to shoot? I’m noticing in my own work that I’m drawn to vibrant colors, so tomatoes and citrus are kind of a slam dunk in this arena. But in other ways, the thing that’s the most enjoyable to shoot is the thing I haven’t shot before.
When you are shooting for a restaurant do you find that chef’s want to be very involved in the shoot to make sure their product is done justice? It can go either way, and I’m more than happy either way. A chef could be very hands on, and that can help make a shoot more authentic, it can also mean building a rapport with a chef to either work him into your food shots (hands plating a dish, etc.), or he can suggest some valuable ideas of how to shoot something that then pushes your own envelope. This is also a time where I build the relationship, that comes around to help me make a more authentic and comfortable looking portrait when it comes time for that shot. Then again, a chef usually has a ton going on and may not be very involved at all in the shoot other than to direct his line cooks which dishes to send out. I find more often than not, I need to slow the kitchen down, to get the shot, before another dish comes out and then dies on the table before I get to shoot it. That’s the most common issue.
Since you are so comfortable in the kitchen does that put other chefs at ease when you are working with them on a shoot? Being able to trade war stories and relate to what their life and work is like is really helpful. I try too to make it clear that it wasn’t like I was some big to do chef anywhere, I was just a guy in the trenches for years. I come into their environment with an open and curious mind and wanting to learn more, not trying to one up anyone with a crazy story or how much experience I have. There is simply nothing like working in a restaurant. Everyone should do a year of it, just to get the feel, I think it would make better patrons and people out of all of us.
Restaurants are an incredibly hectic environment. Do you find yourself feeling rushed to get shots when shooting on location?Working in the industry for as long as I have, I’d say no. I work fast. I set up shots before any food comes out and I’ve got a couple of tricks up my sleeve to switch things on the fly to get a variety of shots in a single location in a short period of time. I think I also just handle that kind of stress, the pressure of the moment stress differently than a photographer who hasn’t worked in the industry. I simply ignore it, just like when I was a chef. Allowing stress into a shoot is going to kill it, really fast, you just have to roll with the changes and sometimes this is where the best and most unexpected imagery comes from, the moments of “this isn’t working out like I thought”. If everything worked out like we thought it would, life would be pretty damn boring.
Do you prefer to do a shoot where you prepare the food or would you rather be given a dish to shoot prepared by someone else?I’d rather someone else prepare it. I did a blog for years where I did everything and that’s fine too, but it takes so much longer.
Is it harder to make the perfect dish or to shoot an image of that dish? If you mean make the perfect dish for the shot or to get the shot of that dish, I’d say about equal. If you’re talking about a perfect dish to eat, than that’s the harder one. So much goes into making perfect food and it’s a shared experience right? For instance, say I snowboard all day and then go to my favorite Mexican spot and get a burrito, that burrito is going to taste amazing compared to if I had gone to the same spot after having just worked on the computer all day. You see what I mean? The eater brings in his own set of history to the table and the chef needs to somehow anticipate this and prepare a meal accordingly. That’s nearly impossible It takes two to tango.
Are you at a point in your career where you can shoot only the things you love or do you have do shoot other things to help pay the bills? I try to take only the shoots that make sense for my brand and career. Essentially there are three questions before every shoot. Is it good for my portfolio? Is the money good? Is it a good networking connection? If the answer is yes to two of these three questions, I take the job. Having said that, and maybe this is hokey, but you have to love a lot of things to be a good photographer. You have to be interested, to be open, you have to want to say Yes to questions much more than you say No. Saying yes to things usually gets you pretty far, pretty fast.
If you could only use one lens to shoot food, what would you choose and why? 50mm 1.4. I think that focal length is pretty close to how the human eye sees food. I love my 105 macro too, but the shots I get with that, I’m usually showing the viewer an angle or a closeness that they don’t see when they go out to dinner. I think to be successful you have to keep it as natural as possible. People need to immediately know where they are in the scene and the 50mm doesn’t put them too close or too far way.
Most photographers can’t say that they get to eat their subject matter after they are done shooting. Do you enjoy that perk? Yep, but not as much as folks might think. However, I have eaten some amazing food while at work, not always fresh from the kitchen, but amazing none the less.
There is a perception that food we see in photographs isn’t really edible. Is your subject matter heavily staged for the photo or are we seeing what would actually go to a table? Almost everything I shoot could be eaten or was eaten. I think digital has really changed the food photography game is this respect. Seeing results is so much faster that we can shoot real food, there’s no need to do stuff to it to make it hold up.
You have a gallery called “Deconstructed Flavor” that contains images of raw ingredients before a dish is made. How did you come up with this concept? Is there any particular shot in that gallery that is a personal favorite? I don’t have a personal favorite here. The leeks and scallops was the first one. I just noticed the similar shapes but contrasting colors, pushed them together and made a photograph. At the time I was trying to maximize my learning so I was taking a before and after shot of my meals to learn as much as I could about lighting and styling. It just grew out of that, then became this thing I’m now known for. I’d encourage young photographers to experiment. Make weird images, follow your creativity. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t but you’re going to learn so much more by failing than by playing it safe. I certainly failed a bunch with these. There are quite a few Deconstructed Flavors that will never see the light of day, haha.
You have some great scenic shots on your website. Do you enjoy getting out of the kitchen and shooting landscapes? I enjoy mixing it up. I have a good friend, Rachid Dahnoun (also an a PhotoFolio guy), who is a landscape photographer. We joke about how frustrated I get with the weather and waiting for light, and how frustrated he gets with the meticulousness of styling food or a table. I like shooting different things, but I’m also aware that Rachid and I will probably never be in competing markets.
In your “Restaurant Life” gallery, you have shots that bring people in as subject matter. Does this add a significant variable to what you are trying to achieve in a finished shot? I think food is tied to the people that make it, to the people that serve it to the people that eat it It’s purpose is all of these things, to provide a medium for an artist (the chef), to provide an income for a worker (the server) and to provide sustenance to a patron (the eater). That to me is the story of food photography. It’s not just food on a plate with no one around. That’s a waste.
Do most of your clients know what they want in a finished product or do they prefer to hand you the reigns to do your thing? Again, really depends. I shot a job earlier in the year, where the client didn’t really even know what they needed so I wrote the shot list for them, then just shot things on it and handed everything over on a drive. A recent job I did in Napa was completely different. The client had a very specific shot list and not only that, but we shot tethered as much as possible with the client on site, approving and making changes in real time to each shot. There are pros and cons to each, but I’d say overall I prefer to have a direction. The best creativity comes from working within boundaries.
Why did you choose a Photo Folio for your portfolio/website? A lot of reasons here. Superfast load times, ability to customize to a fantastic degree, huge images, back end SEO, ease of interface, ease of making changes to site, ease of creating new galleries for clients. A lot of reasons. I still think they are far and away the best option on the market right now.
This is interview #3 in series designed to showcase some of our amazing clients, their work and learn what inspires them to be the best in the business.
Meet Clark Vandergrift. Clark is a Maryland-based photographer that travels the world looking for unique ways to share his vision. Clark is a visual storyteller inspired by a sense of pure wanderlust. He describes his photographic style as being based on reality and embellished by his imagination.
You have a really diverse landscape portfolio ranging from mountains to lighthouses and everything in between. Where is your favorite place to photograph and if you could only shoot in one state moving forward where would it be? That is a cruel question. I love traveling, exploration, and finding new places. To have to narrow my options to one area would be like prison. However, there are two states that I keep revisiting; Colorado and California. I love them both equally, but if I had to pick just one I would say California; but only because it has more diversity in the terrain.
The Yukon Crossing shot in the Landscape Portfolio is stunning. Did you just happen upon that scene with the northern lights firing or was that a shot you had to wait patiently to capture? That shot is actually somewhat of a figment of my imagination. It is composited from multiple images. I actually did video depiction the compositing/retouching of a similar shot in that series. After the first time I saw that train station I knew I wanted to photograph it. I just didn’t know how I wanted to depict it. It is actually located about an hour from my studio in Maryland. Once I settled upon a concept I calculated when the light would be right for the composite and shot it then.
Your website is a collection of both photography and video. Which medium are you most passionate about? That depends on the day. I always seem to be most excited about what I’m doing at the moment. Video is a little bit newer to me and that has made it exciting. But there is also a certain magic about that frozen instant that is the still image. What I enjoy about both is the entire process from conceptualization to finished file. This is true for me whether the magic is still image compositing and color grading or creative cutting of video.
You have a couple video’s about baseball that are loaded with great nostalgia for the game. Are you a fan? I am a fan, but I would say that I’m a super fan of baseball. What I am a super fan of is nostalgia itself. My studio is a rehabbed barn (on my residential property) that is loaded with vintage props, signage, gas station memorabilia, and neon.
You are a master of post-production. Is this process something you love or is it a necessary process to achieve the end result you are seeking? Both actually. One thing I love to do is to routinely learn new post techniques. I often will just learn how to do something regardless of whether it is part of my current process. Ultimately what this does is put another tool in the shed and it opens up more possibilities during conceptualization and capture.
Your “Tree People” gallery is jaw dropping. How did you come up with this concept? Thank you. That project is one of my favorites. Purely by happenstance, I noticed at one point that I had a small collection of landscapes that featured trees. I continued to capture these types of shots while knowing I was going to do something with them eventually. I was doing some research one evening and came across a very talented body painter, Jen Seidel, and at once settled upon the concept of painting people to match these unique environments.
How long do each of these shots take to prepare? It usually takes about 3-5 days not including the time it took to capture the initial landscape. Once a landscape image has been selected/processed/ created the usual steps are to: 1) Cast the model 2) Build a set in the studio to replicate the environment and lighting in the landscape 3) Shoot the unpainted model on the set 4) Do a quick composite of the model in the landscape 5) Print a large format print of this composite and hang it by the makeup artist so that she can understand the size and scale of the model in the scene and determine how to apply the paint and at what scale to paint the tree bark, etc 6) Shoot 7) Compositing and finishing of the image
I am assuming you work with an exceptional make-up artist to achieve the camouflage of your subjects. Is this artist someone you collaborate with often? Jen also does traditional Make Up Artist work and we do work together outside of this project.
You have a distinctive look and feel to you work. How did you arrive at this? Has your style changed over time or have you been pretty consistent since you started? I would say that I am always evolving and shooting different things with different looks. I have a much more diverse image library than what is outwardly visible. However, I am careful to keep the images that I use for branding (the ones on my site) consistent and distinctive.
What is one piece of camera gear/equipment you simply can’t live without? Photoshop and whatever gear I purchased most recently.
What advice would you give to a young photographer looking to get into photography as a career path? You have to be tenacious and have equal parts humility, introspection, and self-confidence. There will be setbacks, or at least something that feels like a setback at the time… perhaps just a mental or emotional setback (i.e. writer’s block). Learn from them. Secondly, you can’t waste time on projects that don’t take you where you want to be going as an artist. Where most people want to be is a combination of creative satisfaction and financial success. There is a balance that has to be learned. Some projects will be very lucrative and others will be very creatively satisfying. An ideal project is rewarding in both aspects. Avoid projects that don’t satisfy one need at all and only partially satisfy the other need. The sum of both sides of the equation should equal 100%.
What do you see as the most challenging part of the photography industry today? For me personally, marketing is always a challenge. I love the creative process and working with others, but marketing has always seemed like a chore. It’s a necessary evil in my mind. With that being said, any freelancer should know that you are constantly selling yourself/your business. Even to your most long time clients.
Your mind must be constantly in motion to conjure up all your creative ideas for photos and video. What do you do to unwind? I’m and avid cyclist and I usually ride about 200-300 miles a week.
What does the perfect Clark Vandergrift day look like? Somehow it would have to involve shooting, riding my bike, hanging out with my family (I’m blessed with 3 wonderful sons and a beautiful and supportive wife).
This is interview #2 in series designed to showcase some of our amazing clients, their work and learn what inspires them to be the best in the business.
Meet Ryan Schude. Ryan left art school in 2001 and worked through a variety of approaches to photography before really honing in on something he felt pursuing as his definitive style. He then made the move to Los Angeles and spent a couple years building a portfolio. After his initial portfolio was finished he decided that he didn’t want to shoot just anything that came his way, but rather focus on things that fit within his creative comfort zone. After reviewing his work, it looks like he has found his niche.
Your “Tableaux Vivant” gallery is a fantastic update to an old style of shooting popular in the 1800’s where photographers married stage and photography. What made you decide to shoot images in this style? I was shooting editorial portraits at the time and became more interested in a narrative approach as opposed to documentary or a traditional, formal portrait. Many of the stories I wanted to tell required multiple people and environments that drew me in and these happened to exist on a larger scale.
Some of these images look to be extremely complex. How long do these shots take to set up and shoot? Generally, the larger scenes are shot in one day over the course of many hours to pre-light, set build, and block. The actual shooting time with the actors is usually around 2 hours.
How do you keep all the models/subjects engaged and focused in a long shoot? This is always a challenge as there are a lot of variables needing attention while the action is happening. Light is changing, props are being moved around, etc. It’s always good to add some humorous action into the mix to keep everyone engaged. If they get to watch someone take a glass of milk to the face once in a while it feels more like we are having fun and horsing around rather than working.
How do you orchestrate everything when shooting? Do you have a large crew to help coordinate all the variables? Ideally there are a handful of assistants, digital techs, producers, wardrobe, catering, hair, makeup, props, set designers, all with their own teams as well and that can make things go a lot smoother. I have done this size shoot all by myself before, but it’s certainly frowned upon.
How much of what we see is in-camera versus post-production? The final image doesn’t look much different than what you see in camera. The composites are simply a blend of multiple frames that look almost identical except for the characters being in different versions of their actions. Everything is lit and shot at the same time to make it look as real as possible, I always at least try to get it in one shot, but it would be a waste to not take advantage of the luxury to pick the best frames from each person’s action.
Of all the shots in the Tableaux Vivant gallery is there one in particular that really stands out? They all have their special places in my heart for the sheer memory of the experience while making them, but the most recent ones that I was excited about were shot with my sister and her kids in a house in Big Sur and a farm outside Sequoia National Park. Those were essentially done all by myself with a little help from my brother so it was great to have such an intimate experience with my family and still be able to make something I was as proud of and feel looks as good as any of the ones created with 30 people on set.
You are like the Norman Rockwell of our generation as your shots capture a slice of Americana. Was there a painter/photographer whose work inspired you when you were getting started? Norman Rockwell and Edward Hopper have crept into a few of these for sure, but I would say David LaChapelle, Philip Lorca DiCorcia and Gregory Crewdson were bigger influences early on.
You seem to have an affection for capturing people and their cars “Them & Theirs”. How did you come up with this concept? I started that project in college on a 4×5 camera and focused on people with vanity license plates. It got shelved for many years and when it reemerged I dropped the license plates aspect and became more interested in the people and vehicles themselves. Now I look for environments that can tell a specific story surrounding the first two elements.
It looks like you have a lot of fun when you are shooting. Are these shoots as fun as they look in the finished product? I hope so! For me the process is important and even if an image ends up falling short of my expectations, the experience is usually well worth the effort.
I assume that these shots take a ton of gear (lighting, etc) to put together. What do you enjoy shooting when it is just you and your camera? Simple portraits of my friends and family traveling or touristing around somewhere. Also, the anonymous vehicles and buildings I see while biking, driving or taking public transit around LA.
You have a new book “SCHUDE” that showcases your work. What was the hardest part of putting the book together? The hardest part should be finding a publisher, but I was fortunate in the fact that they found me before I ever even considered the possibility that it was time for a book. Once that was done, we did have some difficulty since they were in Dublin and communicating via email about important issues is never ideal. I am extremely grateful for their support and love how it turned out but would much prefer being able to meet in person if the opportunity arose again.
If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be doing? Selling pork bellies.
You have a tremendous social following. Do you ever get ideas/concepts for shots from your followers? The online community that I am involved in has been quite helpful in terms of feedback and inspiration in lieu of a scholastic environment. I hope to foster this into a specific platform at some point that allows constructive criticism and support for artists of all mediums who are interested in helping each other grow and be challenged creatively.
A Photo Folio is excited to launch a series of interviews to showcase some of our clients, their work and what inspires them to be the best in the business.
Our first interview is with photographer Andrei Duman who specializes in landscape, aerial and travel photography. Andrei is originally from Romania and now resides in LA after stops in London and New York.
You have images on your site from every corner of the world. How many countries have you visited to shoot? I have been fortunate enough to have traveled to over 70 countries. I have always been an open-minded traveler and am fascinated with going to locations that are not your “go to” places. The ones off the beaten path were and still are the ones that intrigue me as they are still unspoiled. The harder it is to get to the location the more determined I am. The culture is still relatively untouched and you really do get to feel the place. In my younger days I was a semi-professional tennis player and had to travel to tournaments in far off lands to get points such as Brunei, Syria and Tunisia.
What is the most unique place you have ever shot? I have a few but if I had to name one it has to be Easter Island. I fell in love with the place as soon as I touched it. The history, the culture and amazing feats of engineering to not only carve the statues but the way they moved the stones from the one quarry on the island all the way to the coast is nothing short of breathtaking. What enhanced the experience was the fact that we were pretty much alone and felt we had the whole island to ourselves. Really had the time to take it all in and prepare the right shot.
Of all the places you have been to shoot, what it the one location you would love to go back and visit/shoot? That would have to be Iceland. It is my favorite country that I have ever been to. It is a land of amazing contrasts from the black stark beaches to the majestic glaciers and bewildering waterfalls. It is also one of the most challenging places that I have ever shot in because of the constant changing weather. I went during the summer and also returned to shoot the ice caves, both experiences bringing their own unique complications. It was the first time that I used crampons to abseil down a huge glacier, cross a raging river on a ladder, crawl on my belly through an ice cave, all with my camera equipment in tow. The results were worth it all.
What is one place you have been to shoot where the photographs simply couldn’t do the location justice? That’s a hard one to answer. I would have to say Namibia in some ways, especially in the Namib desert simply because it was so difficult to get the scale of the dunes. I felt that even with my widest lens, I could not present them in the light that they deserved.
What destinations are on your photography bucket list? My bucket list is ever growing, with Madagascar, Bhutan, Antarctica, New Zealand, Galapagos and Maldives on the soon to do list.
What is the hardest part about shooting on location? With all the research I do when planning a trip to know the best time of day to shoot and how to get access to certain locations, it is only when you physically are there that many other obstacles arise. You realize that the sun does not follow the path you planned and does not shine correctly when shooting in a building (like my experience in the Namibia ghost town), that you cannot get access to the location unless you bribe the locals or that the vegetation has grown a lot more than you imagined (Cambodia Temple) and that when shooting animals, they do not play by your rules and do whatever they want (Gorilla Hike in Uganda).
Can you go someplace exotic and leave the camera behind? I do struggle with this one. I find it very hard because no matter where I go I am always on the lookout for that great shot, so leaving all my camera gear behind is tough. I do think that it is important to walk away from your camera from time to time. It gives you the time to think a little and take in some of the sights that one normally misses when behind the lens.
If you didn’t have to pay the bills with photography, what would you love to shoot? Exactly what I am shooting now. Remote locations, unique landscapes, fascinating tribes
You have spectacular images from Africa. What are the challenges of shooting in that environment? First of all it is hard to get your equipment there as they use small planes to get around the countries and they do not allow my big bag at the back of the plane. Also bringing my big tripod is a challenge and they will ask you to check it in. I never do and I try my hardest to persuade them otherwise. When you do make it, I did not find it too much of an issue to shoot in the Masai or Serengeti for example. The light is good most of the time, depending on time of year, it does not rain too much and overall, the biggest issue is the unpredictability of the animal behavior. We were driving around in Etosha National Park in Namibia every day for 2 days and did not see any big cats.
You have some amazing aerial images. Are these shot from a drone or helicopter? I shoot mostly from helicopters with the doors off after lengthy discussions with the pilot about the location as well as the flight path/panning to gain the optimal angle for the shots.
How will drones change aerial photography? I think drones will change aerial photography a great deal. I am in the process of working with a drone company to start incorporating drones in my work. First of all it is a safety issue, so reducing chance of harm to yourself and it allows you to perform maneuvers that will be difficult with a helicopter. You can also get more interesting shots and get closer to certain subjects so I am sure that as technology progresses, we will be seeing some new angles and types of photos. Being aware of the negative aspect of using drones, such as privacy and locations where you cannot fly are important lessons to learn.
You are opening a new gallery on September 17th in Los Angeles. What is the most daunting part of opening a new gallery?Everything! The build, the spiraling costs, the chance of total failure, will people buy, what will people think of the work? There are a lot of things that can go wrong, but also a lot of things that can go right and that’s what motivates me to keep going. All I am trying to achieve is a place where people can enjoy good quality, true to the subject photography.
What part of the gallery business are you most excited about? I think it is meeting new people and making connections. I am looking forward to discussing my work with regular customers and other photographers alike and learning more about their experiences and travels. I want the gallery to be a place where people can come in and learn more about photography and it is my intention to provide classes to support that. I was recently made an Ambassador to Hoya Filters and Icebreakers Clothing and have a few other companies that will be sponsoring the gallery which is also exciting for me. Continuing to build those relationships is what excites me from a business perspective. I am also in the process of partnering up with St Jude (an organization that is very close to my heart) and I will be donating a certain % of my sales for the good cause that they do on an everyday basis.
The Andre Duman Gallery
6316 North Topanga Blvd Suite 1170
Woodland Hills, CA.
Why did you choose a Photo Folio for your website? I chose PhotoFolio as my main site because it provided me the flexibility that other websites could not. It allows me to make marginal changes that help me create the look and feel that I am seeking in my site. The control is given to me and I am not pigeonholed into only a few adjustments. The images are crisp, move effortlessly and I get a great deal of compliments on its aesthetic. It is for this reason that I am also using aPhotofolio for the gallery page. It also helps a great deal that the support team is very helpful, efficient and quick to answer all queries I have.
Photo Folio was just awarded Best Website Design, twice, in the 2015 PDN Photo Annual in the Self Promotion category. (They eliminated the website category after we won 12 times last year and 8 times the year before that).
Winning 33 times over the past 6 years is a true testament to the power of our software and the constant evolution of the DesignX program. We’re the only software company to win this year.
We’ve reached an incredible milestone today! Nearly 8 years ago when we founded Photo Folio the industry was dominated by Templates. You locked into a design with a menu location, thumbnail type, transition… even colors and fonts. Heck, one company even charged to upload a logo for you ;). Seems like 20 years ago.
The problem with templates as we saw it, was that you couldn’t customize them, and that the cool new features you developed for the latest template were not available to the users of your older templates. Lame.
So we created one design that was completely customizable and infinitely updatable: Design X.
Today, we’re adding a new feature called Design Switcher that allows you to pick between 6 different designs we’ve created, create variations on those, or create and save your own designs. You can switch between designs with the push of a button.
To us, this is the logical evolution of the template. It’s just a button that engages some settings. It’s exciting for us to be the pioneers of this important idea in website design.
Here’s a video to help you get started:
You can see examples of all the pre-configured designs here:
Couple other minor changes we made:
NEW under ACCOUNT –> SOCIAL: Enable Pinterest Extension. Turning this ON allows pinning your images on Pinterest when a visitors browser has the pinterest extension. A Pin It button will appear on top of the image.
Photo Folio client Daniel Berehulak was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography for his coverage of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa for The New York Times. Congratulations Daniel, we are lucky to have someone as dedicated and hard working as you in the world of professional photography.
I’m excited to announce our latest feature release for Design X which adds Caption Control to our ever expanding list of PRO features you will only find on Photo Folio websites.
Caption Control- Want to place captions on your menu or nav bar? What about different locations for each gallery? What about a caption on top of a single image that looks like a magazine layout? With our newly released caption control feature you can do that and much more. Watch the video to see how it all works:
Media Library Sorting- We’ve added a new sorting feature for the image library to make it easier for you to order your images for placement on the menu. You can sort then drag and drop them onto a menu item. We’ve also added a warning on image upload that will tell you if you’re adding images that exceed our recommended size. And finally the sizes of all your images are now listed on the thumbnail in the media library to help you find any that are loading slow because they are too big.
Advanced SEO and Photoshop/Lightroom Title– We added an advanced SEO option that allows you to designate each and every page title for every single page on the site (instead of appending a global title) at the request of an SEO expert working with one of our users. We are now reading the title field from Photoshop/Lightroom for image uploads (this is how you designate page titles, using the image title).
Note: We do not have captions available on mobile and pad versions of the site but will be working on that soon.
To roll out feature releases we have a Beta Opt-In program that allows you to update and receive Beta Releases. You can also Opt-Out and go back to the last stable release.
To Opt-In to the beta release of Design X Version 12 and receive the new Caption Control Feature do the following:
1. Log into your site admin
2. Launch the ACCOUNT panel
3. If you do not have the “Make Beta Updates” button visible under the NOTIFICATIONS tab FORCE an update
4. A new button will appear that you turn ON to “Make Beta Updates Available”
5. FORCE an update again
You can now put your website menu on the top or the bottom of your site (in addition to left and right). If you didn’t believe we were in the fully customizable template realm before, with our customizable thumbnails and transition types, this will certainly convince you. Design X is the most customizable template in the world:
To roll out these new incredible menu choices we have a new Beta Opt-In program that allows you to update and receive Beta Releases. You can also Opt-Out and go back to the last stable release.
To Opt-In to the beta release of Design X Version 11 and receive the Top and Bottom Menu options do the following:
1. Log into your site admin
2. Launch the ACCOUNT panel
3. Under the NOTIFICATIONS tab FORCE an update
4. A new button will appear that you turn ON to “Make Beta Updates Available”
5. FORCE an update again