Until earlier this year, I produced microstock content only during the short breaks between assignments and projects. I am originally a journalist and Event Producer and also a rooted surfer, actually bodysurfer. Since I started producing microstock content, I can say that I invested much more time studying the industry and the market in order to understand the possible future trends and niches that were interesting to me, than shooting. This period was also very important for me to learn and develop a workflow to produce content for microstock industry, which was compatible with my limited availability of time and resources. Since then, despite the small size of my portfolio in microstock agencies, the result obtained confirmed my expectations and from the current month (January 2012) my priority will be to produce content for the stock photo industry. I am right now opening an almost 3000 square feet studio in Heidelberg /Germany, setting up a small production team and preparing to produce images on a constant basis and enjoy this phase of my life.
What are your favorite subjects/concepts?
What process do you go through when setting up for a shoot in terms of styling, lighting and location?
• For me, the first decision, and perhaps the most important, is the choice of the subject to shoot.
• The second is to decide where it will be done. Whenever possible, I choose to work on location rather than studio. If the use of natural light is expected, it is necessary to check out the location before the scheduled photo shooting and assess equipment, lens needs as well as other technical details. The guide lines of the style concept are developed during previous researches. As we haven’t got a huge collection of costumes and props, finding costumes and props need to be according to the budget set for the period scheduled for the project, which can be an issue.
Most of your portraits have a natural, casual look, do you prefer natural light to a portable flash system, when it's an option?
Working with natural light has been always my first choice. If there isn’t enough light, I try to find a way that the light in my picture appears natural even using artificial lighting. I am trying to produce images with the look and feel of film instead of the hard light often seen in microstock. Consequently I am avoiding to use any kind of flash if possible and use continuous lightening instead. I usually shoot at ISO 100 which demands a high amount of light. Unfortunately low budget digital continuous lighting offered by traditional photo equipment sellers has an incredible low Lux output and HMI light are just too expensive. That’s why at the moment I am experimenting with products from out of the photography market.
What are your basic rules when taking portraits?
No rules. Each portrait has its own history.
Share your tips for overcoming difficulties when working with models. Have you ever had difficulties getting a model comfortable and casual in front of the camera?
• The casting choice is very important to achieve authentic scenes. If there is no mutual empathy in the test shooting, you know it will not work, so keep casting.
• The maintenance of a harmonious atmosphere is my personal rule. Tune with the cast is primordial in order to get what you want. Without it, the whole shoot can look fake, no matter how much you invested in location, models, props, costumes, etc.
• Metaphorically speaking, when working with models I would not advise you to adopt the attitude of the Mr. Howard Wolowitz, nor of his best friend, Phd. Rajesh Koothrappali.
• My final tip: Make sure that all models have signed the model release and you have made a copy of their IDs before you start shooting.
Three words to describe your photography style.
Real people lifestyle.
I use tripod as much as possible, even if it would be more comfortable without it. Even using the tripod I hold my breath before each and during each shoot. As a sniper. It really helps to avoid out of focus and/or blurred images. The most efficient way is to hit everything in RAW. I never shoot JPEGs. I avoid to shoot at high ISO. I use an old Nikon D3X (now that the D4 is already on the market, I already have the feeling that I have an old model) and ISO higher than 200 seems to be too much.
Using f 2.8 and high ISO to produce portraits with natural light with the left eye in focus while the right eye and nose are totally blurred is not an option for me. Sharpness is not everything. In portraits, working the DOF in a way to separate the model from the background can be a choice. But a dramatic separation of the models face from the shoulders and from the rest of her/his body is not an artistic option. It is a failure. The client will not be able to see in the thumbnail, but will realize after the download.
I still did not have good results with outsourcing post-production. It is also not the part of the photo production I like most. So I try to minimize as much as possible the necessity of it, before each “click“. That’s the main reason why I’ve stopped to do cutouts of crazy hair models!!
Tell us a few words about you and your life.
At the moment, work, family, surf, climbing, family, work.
We would like to thank Mauricio for taking the time to answer our questions and revealing a few secrets behind his success.