From competitive horse rider to DreamArt pro photographer…random right?! From his favourite cameras to his experience shooting celebrities, we found out what life’s really like from behind the lens.
For many people, photography is just the picture. The end result; the physical photo; the memory captured in a still that you can whip out at family gatherings or prop up on the mantelpiece to be gushed over by passing visitors.
We often get wrapped up with what’s in front of the lens and forget about who lies behind it.
What many people overlook is that photography is an art form, and behind every work of art, there is an artist hard at work. Our team of photographers at DreamArt are exceptionally skilled in the art of photography and editing. They have the gift of capturing the emotion of their clients and infusing it into their work effortlessly.
Before I sat down with Francisco, one of our expert photographers here at DreamArt , I have to admit I was curious. At a team breakfast earlier in the week, I had heard the most unlikely and bizarre passing comment: ‘Francisco? Oh yeah, he used to be a competitive horse-rider.’ My first thought was ‘how niche!’ then, ‘that’s seriously cool’ and my final thought was… ‘so how do you jump from horse-rider to photographer?’ I was intrigued…so I asked Fransisco a few questions about his life as a photographer with DreamArt, and here’s what he had to say.
So, Francisco, I’m curious. How did you get into photography?
So, I actually started by accident. I have a degree in International Trade, not photography or graphic design or anything like that. My dad used to take a few photos on family vacations and it was always a hobby I knew I liked. It was either in high school or University when I did a mini photography course to get to grips with the basics, but nothing extreme.
After I graduated from University, I started working an office job and soon after I planned to do a road trip with my girlfriend to Mexico; the idea was that I would get a little job on the side so I didn’t blow through all my savings! I ended up landing a job selling photography at a hotel, so day-to-day I had my camera with me. From there, I guess I started to remember where my passion for photography first started.
After I finished my day job at the hotel selling photography, I used to hang around a little longer in the hotel, doing overtime and extra hours taking some pictures, trying to work my way up and out of the ‘beginner’ photographer bracket.
That was the beginning. I studied the art more deeply and got a job at DreamArt; the rest is history.
And what would you say is a typical day in your life with DreamArt?
My daily job at DreamArt differs slightly to the rest of the photographers because I’m based at the office and I co-ordinate the team. Hotels where we have concessions have requests: this could be anything from special requests from the owners or their family, to VIPs and actors. From a birthday photoshoot to a lifestyle session. It really varies a lot. And in most of these cases, I take care of the co-ordinating.
Generally, I would say my time is split: 60/40. 40% capturing magical moments on camera for couples and families, and the other 60% is office based. This is where I select material, organize the training of new photographers, find new ways to innovate in our art, co-ordinate day to day…you get the picture.
For a typical DreamArt photographer however, the work is 100% operational, doing sessions for both lifestyle and weddings (and sometimes events and brand marketing). For lifestyle sessions, photographers shoot a 45 minute session before heading to the hotel office to edit all their material. Wedding edits take longer, unsurprisingly! The photographers might edit at home and select the best material from there to share with the newly-weds.
What’s your favorite camera? Do you have any new photography gadgets you’re excited about?
I have always shot Canon in the recent years, but it doesn’t really matter right now as the industry is evolving a lot. The main change we’re seeing is from DSLR (for those of you who, like me, struggle with acronyms…this is code for traditional tech in a camera) to mirrorless cameras. This new generation allows a distinctly different shooting experience, better quality in low-light conditions, focus tracking, things like that.
To be honest, I don’t have a favourite camera anymore. One day I could be using Sony, the next it might be Nikon. Our photographers use a mixture but tend to use the latest models. On the lenses front, prime lenses are much better than zoom lens - they have a wider aperture, so give a much better artistic and technical picture in varying light conditions.
That’s interesting about the camera models; what about your favourite shot? What pictures do you like shooting?
For me, I love a challenge. And this is the great thing about DreamArt: I never know what kind of pictures I’m going to be shooting that day. One week I could be photographing underwater in a Cenote and the next, I could be doing marketing shooting in a hotel room. Totally different conditions!
This is especially challenging because they require all different types of cameras, lenses, equipment, techniques and lighting. This variation probes me to investigate every day and so I would say that, like the camera models, I don’t have a ‘favorite’; what I do like though, is to mix it up all the time so I never get bored - there’s certainly never a dull moment!
The question that everyone is asking…have you photographed any celebrities we would know ?
Ah, yes we do shoot famous people sometimes! The concessions we have are in luxury 5* hotels in stunning locations, so it’s no surprise really that celebrities stay there and want a photoshoot from time to time! I would say its mainly actors or sports people. We’ve done shoots with Maite Perroni, Eva Longoria, Ronaldinho and many more. Unfortunately, we cannot use the photos for privacy reasons.
On some occasions, the clients hire us; and on others, it’s a collaboration with the hotel where they bring famous people in and ask DreamArt to shoot content for them. This could be more commercial, for a magazine, or sometimes a gift for the celebrity with their families.
What do you think DreamArt does differently to other photography companies and what sets you apart from other photographers?
What sets us apart is, quite simply, our artists; they have tonnes more experience than other companies and this is because they stay with us way longer than our competitors. Their journey is important to us: they are trained by DreamArt and they become infinitely better photographers through the years in comparison to when they first arrive. Our photographers excel not only in technical aspects and customer experience, but also develop experience in managing people, paying minute attention to detail, working quickly but efficiently.
Growth is the keyword here… they stay long enough to grow, mature and develop, making them better not only in the product, but also in the service provided. As a team, a family, and like a startup, we’re constantly finding new ways to grow and improve.
Can you talk a little bit about The Art of Emotion and what it means for DreamArt’s brand?
Where we differ as a company is how we make the client feel in front of the camera and how they interact with each-other; we are able to capture real emotion - the fundamental basis of our Lifestyle product. We make clients feel things and interact with each-other in a natural way and we have the skills to capture that in the cleanest, most powerful way possible - this is where the competition falls short.
Over the years, we have studied the product a lot and perfected it, made stats around it, tried to truly understand what customers’ needs are in lifestyle. There are different categories for families and couples etc. and what we do is train photographers to pay attention to these specific needs. Within these categories we find professionals from all around the world who excel in that specific task to teach our photographers the tricks of the trade. So, for example, to learn specific poses like family portraits or the classic Christmas card vibe, we use online workshops to ensure we’re really getting it right.
What’s the internal DreamArt photography contest all about?
Well, it’s interesting because the contest has developed a lot. It used to be a selection tool to select the best pictures for social media. The categories used to be the same: one for lifestyle, one for weddings. It was also a way to select images and share them between photographers based in different locations in the Riviera Maya.
But then I started to play around with the categories, using them to introduce new concepts. We use the contest now to 1. positively influence the way in which our photographers shoot and 2. balance their routine. It has helped to fully optimise and vary the time spent in the lifestyle session, which lasts just 45 minutes. The important thing to remember is that they have limited time, so it’s vital to keep the balance between being creative but also focus on things that we know customers want.
So I guess you could say it has evolved from a selection tool to a training tool, and now it influences our photographers. We did a mini contest during Christmas and New Year to introduce perspective, colours in backgrounds, to highlight just how varied the final product can look if they isolate colours in the background, for example.
Do you have any plans for the next DreamArt contest?
Our next contest will be entirely different from the previous ones. The contest as a tool will be used for the office team and our customers rather than just the photographers. We want to make everyone realise where the real value lies in our product - essentially, the photographers will be teaching everyone!
Francisco’s insight is fascinating when it comes to technology, gadgets and gismos. It shocked me that he was pretty indifferent about the brand of his camera, as I thought all photographers would unashamedly have a favourite lens or model they can’t be parted from. But once he explained his mindset, what became clear is this: although photography technology used by our experts is constantly developing and mutating, what remains a constant is the innovative mind behind the lens. And this is what makes the DreamArt team so reliable.
Are you visiting the Riviera Maya soon? Whether it’s a family vacation, engagement, wedding or just a chilled getaway, DreamArt can help you capture snippets in stills that you’ll want to cherish for the rest of your lives.