…It’s extremely important to know the right people and talk to them. You can take great photos, but if nobody knows about it you’ll be frustrated. Currently I’m trying to work in this way. The internet is good place to show your works. In real life you have to be socially active. Maybe my thoughts don’t apply to US or Europe, but here it does…
Andrey Mikhaylov is a professional commercial and product photographer based in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. At just 22 years of age, he has created some amazing product images (which many photographers twice his age have a hard time producing), many of which incorporate splash, and difficult reflective subjects.
Self-taught, Andrew gets his inspiration from music, books, and other photographers. We asked Andrew how he forged his path to becoming a photographer and he kindly shared his insights. Check out the interview and awesome photos below.
Tell us a little about your background and how you came to be a photographer.
I studied advertising in college after high school. I think this knowledge helped me from time to time, especially because in this subject you find out how some things influence the choice of brands, what people think when they decide and choose and why. The most attractive side of advertising and the hardest part is to make the «brand of dream», more than just a simple ad campaign, something that will inspire people to buy the product. It’s not a trivial and easy task that is the same as getting a great picture.
Did you go to school or have any formal training in photography?
I really don’t remember when held my first camera, maybe it was in middle school or somewhere there. The camera was an SLR Olympus IS-300, I took snapshots of my cat and family, of course. Later I started surfing the Internet and looking for some information about photography to know it better. I’ve never tp any kind of photography school, moreover, I think it’s not a good idea to go to photography school.
It’s not easy to obtain and choose a great teacher, especially if you don’t live in the capital (at least in my country). The best way to teach yourself is to be a strict master of yourself. In an era of tech you may get any type of information from the internet, there are tons of tutorials and tips, you just should find it, no matter where you live. Also, I do believe that comprehension and analysis of your work will take you to the next level. Don’t forget to ask for critique from Flo on the Photigy forum (and go back and reshoot your composite shots from 10+ pictures) 🙂
Out of all the genres why have you particularly chosen commercial and product photography?
Product and commercial photography had really caught me, I can’t say why it happened, I just love to shoot obvious things to make them attractive images. It really is hard to tell a story about the product, to show the product at its best. I always look at ad prints on the streets and try to imagine how they created them; direction of light, quantity, and quality of light sources, and so on.
That’s how I dipped into the world of photography and I keep learning because the more you know the more active you should raise your bar.
How did you get your first client and can you describe to us a moment later in your career when you felt successful?
My first client was a company that produced roofs. I made a bunch of corporate portraits and photos of the environment. I climbed on roofs trying to get a panorama of their yard. The client was satisfied, but from my point of view, it wasn’t perfect work. Anyways it was a good lesson for me about how to better from a brief job for the client, asking the right questions. So my first job wasn’t related to product photography, I just started to realize what I wanted to do.
I definitely didn’t want to run with the camera and shoot everything I can. I personally don’t feel successful right now, because I soberly evaluate my skills. I have a LOT of stuff to do, many things I don’t know. Artistic vision is a very important role for me. I don’t want to create simple photos of products, but I want to create stylish and impressive images. Time will tell.
How do you currently get your photography clients? Is it usually through an agent, word of mouth, and/or direct contact, or perhaps a different way?
In the city where I live people usually know this guy who shoots weddings, that one shoots cool portraits. Most of the time people hear recommendations from their friends and they make a decision this way. Even if you could produce a better result it doesn’t mean that you’ll get an order. It’s extremely important to know the right people and talk to them. You can take great photos, but if nobody knows about it you’ll be frustrated. Currently, I’m trying to work in this way. The internet is a good place to show your work. In real life, you have to be socially active. Maybe my thoughts don’t apply to the US or Europe, but here it does.
What has been one of your most challenging assignments in product photography? Why was it so difficult and what did you learn from the experience?
Difficult question. On the one hand, when you know how to work with light, you can create any photo. On the other hand, meeting with an unusual product might require specific knowledge even if you have a good understanding of light. For me, the most challenging assignment has been shooting water splashes with glass on a black background. At that moment I couldn’t figure out what was going on and how to shoot it. I simply started to move my light sources and see what happen.
This is one of the best ways to understand if you can’t orient. I don’t regret that I spent my time on it. Much later I’ve seen tutorials with explanations. There’s no doubt that you suppose to see the right techniques and a solution, but don’t forget to improvise.
Could you describe the process when creating a photograph for a client? Do your clients typically request a certain look and provide art direction, or are you more freely able to present the product in your own vision?
Well, sometimes a client asks me to shoot a product in such a way, sometimes the client even doesn’t have an idea how the final result should look. Predominantly only a few know what they want. It’s a good chance to realize your own vision, of course, but it also creates additional difficulty. Arguing with the client is not a good idea, even if you have a very creative vision and high skills.
It’s a lot better approach to try to gently persuade them and provide some arguments. Maybe he will change his mind tomorrow and you’ll be a winner. You may meet a very intractable client, so you must be calmer.
What influences your photography? Do you look to other photographers for inspiration, or does your inspiration come from other sources?
Mostly music influences me. Such bands as Muse, White Lies, The Black Keys, Pink Floyd, RHCP, Kasabian, Coldplay, and so on are my favorites (hundreds of them, these are just my top list :). There is so much drama in their songs, that’s what I like.
Of course, I look at the works of other photographers, even sometimes I steal ideas and try to realize them. I don’t see anything wrong with it. I collect successful ideas and recycle them into something new. Or I get an interesting solution for my task.
Sometimes I find inspiration in books, my mind can create very unusual images, you know.
What advice would you give to a beginner that is just starting off in photography?
My main advice will be don’t concentrate only on the technical part of photography. No matter if you are a professional photographer or a beginner. Do not waste your time sitting on the forums too much. Those people who know how to take great pictures already know it and you have to get off your ass and go shoot. Sometimes you’ll be totally frustrated like me looking at your shots, but you have to find some power to move on. I hope that everyone will be strong enough to realize their goals.