LR: My name is Luis Rodríguez, and I live in Madrid, Spain.
How did you get started in mobile photography? What device do you use?
LR: I started thanks to a double coincidence: I bought my first iPhone 3GS in February 2010 and 8 months later Instagram showed up. I had always been self-employed and happened to suffer the worldwide crisis and had almost no work at all. So, instead of using my energies on finding a job, I started to shoot and edit the pics on my iPhone and got hooked to mobile photography.
Do you have a traditional photography or art background?
LR: Well, my father is an architect, but also a great traditional photographer. I grew up printing my father’s black and white pictures on Fridays, closed up in the bathroom, with the red bulb on, and smelling the strong smell of those liquids. It is something that I remember very well even though it was a long time ago. It is a memory I love.
Who or what inspires you?
LR: Nothing but the streets, the cities and the people. I’m not interested in landscapes, sunsets, flowers, and so on (even though I shoot sometimes portraits, landscapes and sunsets). What I love most is to observe what goes around me, what I call "the life of the streets", watch the people, spot an interesting expression on somebody’s face, a look, a hand. I also love to see these things on reflected images. We are surrounded by reflections, and it is very interesting to capture them, because those reflections are not usually the same as the image in a mirror. Instead, they are always distorted. It is a different way to observe the world, a way that I find more interesting than the "straight" way our eyes see it.
I love the stories your photos create - please share how you select a scene to shoot?
LR: I have always thought that a good photograph must be somehow beautiful. But more important than that, a good photograph must tell a story. It must make the observer think about it, keep it in his mind, remember it. The way I shoot is something very intuitive. I couldn't say exactly how I select a scene to shoot. There must be something that catches my eye. What I know is that, for the past five years, I wander around the street in a different way as I used to, always watching and with the camera of my iPhone ready to shoot. I come upon lots of different scenes, but very few interest me. It can be a face full of wrinkles, a striking coat, a couple kissing, an angry face, a lovely look. I don't know... there has to be something special... What I do know is that I am now a "voyeur" of the streets, and that's something I love. I used to be blind, now I enjoy everything that goes around me, because I’m aware of it.
Does being an architect influence your photography?
LR: I think so, yes. In fact, before starting on "street photography" (it’s something I didn't do right from the beginning), people used to tell me that viewing my pics one could guess they had been shot by an architect. I pay attention to composition, lines, percentage of "mass" and "void". On the other hand, I think that architecture and photography are very much connected. Both are about light, composition, space - different jobs, but connected somehow. I love being an architect that has developed into a photographer.
You do a lot of work that captures reflections. Any tips for someone who would like to try their hand at this?
LR: The most important tip is that, to capture a good reflection, the surface it is reflected on must be in the shade, and the reflected image must be lit by the sun. Those are the best conditions to me. On the other hand, if one watches carefully my reflection shots, one will see that I always try to avoid elements, objects, that reveal it is a reflection. For example, when I capture something reflected on a car’s front window, I avoid showing the lateral mirrors or the door handle. I want the observer to concentrate on the image reflected, even wonder if it is a reflection, because there’s something weird in the image.
Here’s the link to an article I wrote about reflection photography for a great German blog about mobile photography.
Do you plan your shoots or do you just capture what you see during your day to day life?
LR: All my shots are spontaneous; I never plan anything. As I've just said, I wander with my iPhone's camera ready to shoot, and my eyes alert to everything around me. All my streets shots are what we call in Spanish "stolen" shots. That is to say, I "steal" people’s moments. In order to do that, they must not be aware that I’m capturing them. I never know what they will do next, how they will react, so I must be quick. On the other hand, I’m not a patient person at all. I’m very nervous and don’t have the patience to wait at a certain place for the right person to pass along and shoot. I should learn to do so, but I can’t. I must even admit that I never stop when I shoot candid pics, I just slow down, but almost never stop.
Most of my street shots are taken around my place, on my way to my daughter’s school. I live right in the center of Madrid where it's always crowded, so there are always lots of things going on. I just need to open my eyes and shoot...
Do you use the native camera or another specialty camera app to shoot your images?
LR: Well, right now I’m using Hipstamatic for my street shots. I hate square images, but I love the black and white, or colors I get with the combos I use. I don’t need to edit these pics. For any other kind of photography, I always use the native camera. I know Camera+ or ProCamera are great apps for shooting, but I must say I’m too "lazy" for that... Unlocking the native camera is so quick, that I don’t use anything else.
What are your favorite Hipstamatic Lens/Film combos?
LR: Well, I've got four favorite combos:
For B&W I use
- Jane Lens +BlacKeys SuperGrain if there's not much contrast. That is to say, if I'm shooting something or someone that is in the shade, or if the sky is cloudy.
- JohnS + Blackeys SuperGrain if the light conditions are the opposite: strong light and strong shadow. I always use it if the weather is sunny and bright.
For Color pictures:
- Jane + Blanko. No reason at all, I just love the colors and the tones this combo gets.
- Tinto1984 + C-Type Plate. I love the mood this combo gets. You never know what's going to be in focus and what out of focus. It's so mysterious.
Is there a lot of editing done to your images? What are your favorite apps?
LR: There’s almost no editing at all, just a few adjustments of light, color contrast and sharpness. I admit that on my last pics posted on my Instagram main account, I have edited my pics more than usual, but that's just because I’m experimenting. I may be wrong, I admit, but I have always thought that "heavy editing" is like putting on make-up. In my opinion, make-up doesn't make anyone more beautiful than without it. That's happens also with photography (at least, in my opinion). A good original image will surely be better after editing, but a bad original image will never be a good one even if you edit it.
There’s no editing on my street pics. As I've just said, I don’t need to because I use Hipstamatic just for that reason. The only thing I do is to crop the frame, which is something I don’t like, and maybe correct some lines, if the pic is not straight. Nothing else, nothing more.
I enjoyed watching the tutorials on your website - do you plan to do more? (Great explanation of FrontView which I also use as my preferred perspective correcting app)
LR: Did you? After posting the tutorials I was told by people that they were too long! At that time, I was not aware videos on internet should not last longer than five minutes, otherwise people will easily get tired of watching them... I’d love to film more tutorials and post them in my blog, but I’m currently short of time. Anyway, it’s an idea I have in my mind. Thanks for sharing one of them with your readers, Geri!
Have you ever sold or exhibited your work? If not, any plans for the future?
LR: I have already held five individual exhibitions of my work. Never at art galleries (I’m afraid mobile photography doesn't interest galleries in Spain yet), but on the walls on a very nice pub in the same street I live on. Some of them have been very successful. And yes, I have sold some pictures. And I have really nice stories behind those sales, like a German woman who was passing by, saw the pics from the outside and decided to buy two the same day she was returning to Germany. Or that I have three pics in the house of a famous interior designer in L.A... Anyway, I must say that I don’t hold exhibitions to earn money (In fact, what I earn is to pay the printings, frames and stuff for the opening day), but to share and let people know my work, especially on social networks. And one more reason, a pic printed on paper is always much more beautiful than on the screen of a computer or mobile device. I’m always touched when I see for the first time my pics printed on paper, even though I know them by heart.
Do you have any advice to give aspiring mobile photographers?
LR: Yes, one: thanks to mobile photography I have learned to watch the world in a different way than I used to. I am now an observer, a voyeur, I pay attention to things I had never paid attention to before. Of course, one doesn’t need a mobile device to observe the world, but it is true that, in my case, it’s been thanks to my iPhone that I see things in a different way now.
So, I would encourage aspiring mobile photographers to have their mobile device always ready to shoot. You never know when a "possible" good photograph will show up, so be ready. Don’t be afraid to shoot. One learns from other people, so view as many good photographs as possible. The mobile device is a marvelous "thing" that has come to our lives in the last years. It is so handy, light and easy to use. Use it and shoot, shoot, shoot, that’s the only way to learn. And don’t be afraid to get hooked on mobile photography, it’s wonderful.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
LR: Not much. Just something I’ve just said. Mobile photography has changed my life and the way I watch the world. I’m grateful for it.
Find Luis: Instagram / Instagram-Street / Website / Flickr