Saturday, November 20, 2010


When you are stripped of everything, when you have lost all your leaves, when birds have foraged flesh off your ribs. What is left? Where is your spine?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The client

Bittersweet. You've got the assignment, you did your best, you delivered. More than that, you know this is good stuff, both technically and artistically.

The client comes back and says "I don't like the photographs". What to do?

- Get over the frustration, it is not personal. Most of the time it is not about you or your work (why did he hired you in the first place?), it is about taste, or pre-conceived imagery.

- Understand what they want, maybe they are not ready for your concentrated creative juices. Give them what they want.

- Educate them. Show them why your images are better, but be prepared to show them HOW, with actual examples, mock-ups.

- Walk away. If there is nothing you can do, maybe is better just to cut it loose. It will depend on you if you give back the money or just stick to your guns, I don't like to have unhappy customers, but after all, the work is done.

- Learn from it. What happened? Did you ask the right questions on what was needed? Did you show examples during the discovery phase? Did you show plenty of shots DURING the shoot to see if you were on the right track? What can you do next time to lock in payment?

Just one of the many aspects of managing a photography business...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Shoot away the Summer

Summer is almost here, usually with the so-awaited-for family vacation. Travel is just an excellent opportunity to take great pictures and Who does not want to have some kind of memories of their trips?

Here are some tips to make the most out of it:

1.- "Dress" adequately. If you have lots of gear, tailor your bag for the destination. Wildlife: bring your longest lens (you can also rent lenses), hiking: wide angle, city: medium range, wide angle.

2.- Go snapshot. A point and shoot is great to carry for those active days, if you are going out with the kids around noon, you would be better off with your smaller, waterproof point and shoot than your heavy DSLR. Who wants those noon shadows anyway? You will still have a camera to capture the moment. Save the DSLR for the artsy shots during the golden hours.

3.- Prefer road-trip over flying. Ground-level just offers so much more photo opportunities. Pack some drinks and snacks, this way you can stop for photographs at off-the-beaten track stops, not to have a drink at the gas station. It is also cheaper.

4.- Plan slack into your itinerary.
This way there will be no rushing you when you are waiting for that cloud to be in just the right place.

5.- Tell a story. If your trip has a purpose, the better. But if you have not figured this out yet, make a story about the expectation of the trip, have plenty of shots the week BEFORE you leave, maybe even have the kids submit plans or draw a map and then record it on film (sorry, SD card).

6.- Make it a family project. If everybody is engaged, they will cooperate more and will nag you less when you are taking the fifth shot of the same thing compensating exposure...

7.- Surrender the helm. Let your sweetie drive, this way you do the important things, like photographing and manning the iPod. (now that I say that...take a look at bonus #2!).

8.- Go undercover. Pack a "day bag". Especially at "adventure destinations", it is important not to be spotted as the Ugly American with the expensive photo gear. Pack a regular backpack or messenger bag, the simplest and oldest you have. Place your gear in a protective case (hard is better, but at least cushioned) inside the bag. This way most people will think it is a ham sandwich and a sweater what you are carrying. Of course, avoid any camera manufacturer logos...

9.- Have a backup plan. Have some device where you can download your cards. You have to have enough cards so they last for the day. You may also want to carry an external drive and give it to your partner.

10.- Before you go, go online. Read about your destination, its history, places to photograph. Look at photographs of the place. Maybe make a list of shots you want. Are there any festivals in the area during your stay? What's special about the weather this time of the year?

11.- (Bonus) Be lazy, it is a vacation. Build in a couple extra days at the pool if you can. You will come home more rested, will have some time to catalog your shots on your laptop, and it is just extra slack that you could use if you find out last minute about this great destination!

12.- (Bonus #2) DJs rock. Make a note of the songs you listen to, these can become a soundtrack for a flash presentation enhancing the "memories" piece.

Have a great vacation!

Huba Rostonics is a Florida-based Photographer. He is constantly looking for new things to put a frame around. You can check his work at, you can also follow Huba on twitter @

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ricardo Bigai breaks the mold with Supersam's musical video shot on iPhones

I was just blown away when I saw Supersam's new musical video. It shows 5 iPhones being rearranged on top of a table with rolling videos on each of them.

It happens to be that it was actually partially shot on the iPhone. Ricardo Bigai is one of the members of the band and he also directed the video.

HR: Ricardo, tell me a little bit about Supersam...
RB: SuperSam is a spanish rock band from Miami, members are José Martinez leads with the voice, Carlos García-Menocal on the Drums, Jorge García does the Guitars, Daniel Lazo Guitars and myself on the bass, we've been playing with this line-up since 2008, and "Un Tiempo En Marte" is our first CD. "E.M.O." is the second single we release from it.

HR: How did you guys come up with this idea?
RB:Immediately after we decided to release that song (E.M.O.) as our second single, the idea came to fruition. We have a lot of talented friends in the video industry willing to help us, but this time we didn't want to bother them, and we wanted the video as fast as possible, so the initial idea was "Why don't we shot the video ourselves with the iPhone camera?, cool! we said, but next question was "so what do we do in the video". That's when came the idea to shoot the video with the iPhone and present it with iPhones, initially the idea was to put 5 static iPhones, each member on each one, interacting, moving from one to the other, etc. The more complex "choreography" between them came after, when I was working on the story board.

HR: What was the processes to shoot and edit the video?
RB: After creating the main screenplay on paper, I had created 5 different ones from that main one, for each memeber of the band. Once everyone was happy with that, we went for production. The whole point was to create a "guerilla style" video, but even for that you need some level of artistry, specially in the photography department, we had the idea but we need those professional eyes, so we ended "bothering" our good friends Rafael Mata for DP and "camera" (the iPhone's )and Alejandra Romero and Marlene Mata from Blue Hope Prod for the production. We shot five different videos in five different locations, with a very simple illumination and production, a very detailed (and strict) screenplay but with a home made feel. Then I edited each one (in Pro Tools!) placed them in five different devices, and then we shot the 5 iPhones playing in sync (with a Panasonic P2 HD cam) in a single pass. After a little color correction... done!

HR: What were the technical challenges that you found?
RB: A few, for example, to create a smooth camera movement with such a small and light device was a difficult task for Rafael, we created what we called "the woodycam" we tied the iPhone to a piece of wood with velcro, and we used 2 C-clamps as handles.
The actual syncing of the 5 devices was a pain since we had to do it manually. For this I placed a one frame flash with a beep (a 2 pop) in the first second of each movie, so right after we press play on all of them we knew we were in sync already, and if not we wouldn't have to wait for almost the whole video to know if we were in sync. If all the 2 pops flashed at once we knew we were OK right from the beginning.

But the real problem was that we had 3 different devices, 2 iPhone 3Gs, 2 2Gs and one iPod Touch for the playback. 3 different devices, 3 different cpu speeds, 3 different times to start playing after you hit play! we figured out "by ear" more or less those timings, (thanks to the 2 pops).
The other challenge was to film the 5 iPhones and find a good balance between light and the brightness of the devices, also focus was an issue, because part of the choreography was to sometimes put the devices very close to the lens, Rafael had to follow those movements and correct the focusing thru the entire piece.

HR: How about the capabilities of these devices for this task?
RB: At some moment I thought to shoot each video with a pro camera and then play those videos on the iPhones, but I quickly abandoned that idea after I shot with the guys a scratch version of the video with the iPhone (as originally planned) , and we realized that the iPhone camera was very "forgiving" with us, you know, we are a bunch of ugly guys, but we liked how we looked filmed on the iPhone, I guess its texture helps us a lot! LOL!. Also the iPhone lens and autofocus are very versatile, it really is shoot and go, it adapts rapidly to any lighting conditions, so the shooting was very easy .

HR: Do you think this is a trend? We will be seeing more videos shot with handheld devices? Or Supersam did it and now its 'passé'?
RB: I'm totally positive that people is going to start doing things like this, because is a tool people already have in their pockets, and is a very versatile one. Possibilities are endless. Artistically speaking people just need to know their technical limitations and put them on their side.

HR: Yeah, I guess the old saying that "The best camera is the one that it is with you" is truer than ever...

There is a lot of discussion about people stepping into each other courts, amateurs selling stock photos on the internet, photographers shooting video...What can you say about a bass player directing a musical video shoot on iPhones?

RB: With today's technology, the sky is the limit, and especially in media arts the rules are there to be broken,every day. I don't see a problem with that . There is good and really bad stuff made both by professionals as well as by amateurs in every field.

HR: On a related note, How does this play out in the music industry and where do you see it going? The musical industry has been dealing longer with the "new economy" of 99 cent downloads and $300 studios...
RB: This video is both cause and consequence of the current state of the record industry and the world economy. You got to be creative to make your work known. The large record companies are not developing artists nor investing in them as they used to do. At the same time they are not strictly necessary anymore to make yourself known. They are guilty of what's happening to them, I don't feel sorry for them, it is just the way it is and we all have to figure out how to survive.

Check out the video!

Huba Rostonics is a Florida-based Photographer. He is constantly looking for new things to put a frame around. You can check his work at and read his articles on The Examiner at You can also follow Huba on twitter @

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The $3,000 brick

The following is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the extremely innocent (and wealthy).

I will call her Belinda. Never told me her name, but sure looked like a Belinda. She came into my tent at the art fair avoiding eye contact and with an air of superiority. She scanned my images like judging them, like comparing them to an imaginary standard. Her face had a hint of dislike.

She had a camera straped around her neck. Then I noticed, it was not just any camera, but the object of my desire, a beatiful and massive Nikon D700. I approached her in an intent of disarming her. "I see you brought me my camera" - I said. She smiled. "May I?" - I further asked while I reached for the camera. I took it in my hands and it felt just as it should.

But something was wrong. I hesitated, Am I really seeing this? An "E" was flashing on the top screen.

I couldn't resist telling her: "You have no card!"

Location : 1599 Winterberry Ln, Weston, FL 33327,

Friday, January 22, 2010

The future of photography as a business

Recently, I got engaged in an online discussion on the future of photography as a profession. Well, more than engaged, I was monitoring everybody's comments.

The predominant topic of the discussion was driven by the frustration of long-time photographers whose business has eroded as a product of the technological evolution.

To be honest, the tone of many of those writing, wasn't very positive.

For many years, professional photography's high fees were based on the exploitation
throughout time of a costly asset. The business model resembled more an equipment rental than a professional service delivered by a skilled tehnitian who is also capable of infusing the final product with creative energy and visual appeal.

I have been lucky enough to work or be related to a variety of fields of work and unfortunate enough to see the competitive advantages vanish in one way or another. I will give you some examples:

The recording industry.
Recording studios used to be expensive, difficult to afford. They would be equipped with hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment. Somebody would make the investment and musicians would use their services for a fee. The quality they offered just wasn't obtainable otherwise. Talent was not necessarily what got you into the studio to record, it was more a function of how you related with the investor, willing to back your musical project.

How it changed? Recording and sound processing equipment got more and more accessible and it became part of the musician's or recording artist's gear.

How did they adapt? After this, everybody had recording gear.The primary value and differentiator became talent,creativity and professionalism in meeting deadlines. The "soft skills" like setting up microphones and blending the layers became also more valuable.

The Computing Industry
I remember when in the 70s my dad was evaluating a business proposal that involved buying a Wang computer with 4K of RAM and a 5M HDD for processing books for third parties.

How it changed? Everybody knows that. Your iPhone is more than 200 times more powerful than that machine. Nobody would hire a company because of their computing power. You can do pretty much everything in-house. That's it YOUR HOUSE.

How did they adapt? Even after all this, you still hire an accountant, and the main reason is usually that he or she should keep you out of trouble.

I am not going to join the whining, I am interested in breakthrough ideas...

* Photography is more alive than ever (look at all the DSLRs sold), it is the Photographer species that is hurting.This means there is a demand for the still image, it is just being fulfilled differently. How do we steer them back? Most people want to do them themselves, not because it is less expensive (they shed $600 out already), but because they want that sense of accomplishment. Don't you enjoy making images? Why shouldn't they!

* The Tablet/eBook reader hype as a magazine replacement: They come with a monopoly built-in. Most of this is just new media with the same hurting business model. I am not sure on how Pro Photographers can "plug-in" here...

* There will always be need for new images, stock can't win. Images wear off, customs and fashion change, you have to update the library constantly.

* Whoever shoots his once-in-a-lifetime event with somebody who cannot guarantee results is making a poor choice. It will not take very long until the market understands this. Listen to me: there will be skits about this on SNL and will become an example on what not to do.

* Video might be the answer, but it looks like just another field. I have a videographer friend complaining about "all these newcomers with their 5Ds" cannibalizing his business...

* We should look at how other industries are tackling this. Some examples:
- Phone companies: No longer selling minutes, now bundling the proverbial triple-play.
- TV and Cable: Product placement is the new revenue generator.
- Music: The CD is just a marketing vehicle to sell the live show.
- Open source software: Software IS FREE, the support costs you an arm and a leg.
- One that is still holding strong: Lots of cooking shows on TV, still, you go out and pay $16/entree. You are paying for the experience, not just the plate.

* We should move away from "thinking gear". For many years, $$$ spent on equipment is what set the Pro away from the amateur. Now, anybody can buy a decent camera. You can buy a set of clubs for $100, not everybody is Tiger (maybe I should have used a different example).

So maybe the learning is:
- Adapt and include the new stuff out there.
- Don't panic.
- Act professionally.
- Create images. Really CREATE stuff, don't just "steal the soul".
- Create an experience, by bundling with innovative services.
- Charge for the production, not for pressing the shutter. You can even invite your customer to do it (press the shutter) himself, after you set-up, lit, framed and adjusted the camera. Oh,I almost forgot, gathered all the releases.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Photographer's New Year's Resolutions for 2010

Every year we come up with these lists that we swear we are going to live by. As symbolic and exemplary of a life of procrastination as they are, they make up an important part of our end-of-the-year reflections and, if taken seriously, they can set the vision for the future.

So, why not make a list specific to your passion and favorite discipline?
Here are my ten. Let's circle back a year from now....

1.- Shoot, and shoot plenty. Even if you don't agree with those that say that even a monkey will be able to take a good photograph if we wait long enough, setting up, shooting and processing your photographs can only make you better.

2.- Publish. There is no point in shooting if you don't show your work to somebody, or even better, to a wider audience. Find your sweetspot and go for it regularly.

3.- Reign the web. Some say that if you cannot be found by Google, you are nobody. Start a blog or just have your own Flickr account where you publish your "picture of the week". Even advertising agencies are now sometimes harvesting Flickr instead of stock agencies. Get a Google Ad-Words account and dip your toes on pay-per-click, use the "Prepaid" version, having an open-ended campaign attached to a post-paid credit card is a formula to go broke if you don't know what you are doing.

4.- Be social. If you want to develop your business as a photographer, you have to be associated with good imagery in the mind of everybody who you know. Go to networking events -all kinds of them- and have a Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter strategy.

5.- Loose your obsession with equipment. Equipment is a means to an end, but you know that what counts is who's behind it. Develop your technique and your eye, instead of your equipment cabinet.

6.- Let go of comfort. Uneasy situations, bad weather, unlikely locations...they all make for potentially great photographs. Go for them, make a point of leaving the house/office when it is raining outside. Get up before dawn.

7.- Be disciplined. Backup your files, get a RAID array. Process them in a timely manner. Set your camera back to your defaults before stashing it in the bag. Keep your lenses clean, your batteries fresh and your cards empty. Just like you brush your teeth and you DO run those 5 miles everyday...

8.- Get better at producing, documenting and delivering. This is probably the greatest difference between a professional and an amateur. Check out pre-production software. Celtx ( is an open-source alternative created for the film industry, but fits pretty well.

9.- Don't talk down other photographers. There are too many talented photographers doing nothing as well as a few mediocre working their way into the craft. Look for the positive and learn on what has worked for every individual. Make note also on what NOT to do. Offer your input in a humble way.

10.- Put your work in perspective. It is not arrogance. There is much more to crafting a great image than pressing the shutter. Countless hours go into conceiving, pre-producing, taking and then post-produce an image. That work is worth it and it cannot be done by other than a professional. I can cook, and I still go every once in a while to a restaurant that charges $20 an entree, and it never crosses my mind to say "I could do that too".

Huba Rostonics is a Florida-based Photographer. He is constantly looking for new things to put a frame around. You can check his work at, you can also follow Huba on twitter @