2013 Photographer’s Market Q&A preview: Achille Bigliardi

This is an excerpt from an interview with Achille Bigliardi that will appear in the 2013 Photographer’s Market. Purchase a copy of the 2013 Photographer’s Market (available in late August 2012) or subscribe to ArtistsMarketOnline.com to get the complete interview.

Achille Bigliardi

Photo by Heather Finnecy

From the first day Achille Bigliardi came to work at C&I Photography, I could see he had what it takes to make a living as a photographer. Although he had a lot to learn, he was afraid of nothing. Over the next several years we worked together as photographer and assistant. We became great friends and still are today. Oh the stories I could tell, all of them great and most hilarious. Achille is quite a character. He’s one of those people that others are drawn to, so the path in photography he has chosen is no surprise. Despite the difficult economy, especially in his market, the high-tech world of Silicon Valley, he has maintained a successful and thriving business. This is a testament to his talent as photographer and a businessman. The following will give you some insight to the photographer I saw that first day and so enjoy.

 Tell us about yourself and your career path in photography.

My first experience in commercial photography/film making (other than watching movies) came when I attended my aunt’s graduation film project at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara. I was completely blown away by all of the creativity and storytelling. It was then that I realized it was possible to have a career in the visual arts. Prior to this, I had always thought those types of careers were only possible in Hollywood, and it had all seemed so distant, more of a fantasy then a possible reality. After that experience, I decided to pursue image making as a profession.

Do you have a formal arts education?

I graduated from San Jose State with a film and photography degree.

How would you rate an education vs. a mentor program?

Formal education is a great way to get the basic fundamentals down. However, there is no way to get real hands-on experience without some type of mentorship.

What inspires you to create?

The inspirations come from the concepts and stories I’m trying to convey.

Bigliardi Cisco rebranding photo

Bigliardi captured this image while working with Cisco on re-branding their image. His team roamed San Francisco with “real people models,” interacting with what they found in the streets. A reboot shoot like this one can help shake-up what can become very static when overly planned.

Talk a bit about your creative process and how you approach your assignment work.

In advertising photography the creative process is a collaborative process. It is the part that I really enjoy—working closely with other creative people to develop a concept/story and working together to complete the project.

Does this differ when you shoot for your portfolio?

Advertising photography is different in that you are trying to convey another’s vision versus telling your own story or presenting your own vision. In a way, working on a commercial project is easier, because there are strict parameters to the story being told, and, as I mentioned, it is collaborative. Working on my portfolio is not collaboration; it is about me illustrating my own thoughts. For me, that means more pressure and more responsibility.

 How did you develop your unique style?

I have always been drawn to working with people. I love the challenge of meeting people for the first time and getting them to energize the image through a collaborative effort. I build a relationship between the art director, myself and the subject to get the look and feel we are going for. It’s a great experience.

How has the digital age affected you, your business and the industry as a whole?

There are things about the days of film that I really miss. It used to be that we perfected a shot while we were there on the shoot. Now there is a lot of “snap and go.” We are always moving so fast and trying to get so much done in one day. The idea that we can just “Photoshop” it later really contributes to that mentality. In a way, I used to feel like more of an artist when I was shooting with film. Nowadays, I spend hours and hours after a shoot retouching the things that, in the past, we would have tangibly changed at the shoot. Because perfection is attainable in postproduction, there are a lot of little things that end up getting changed and a lot of nitpicking that goes on. It almost brings a sense of laziness to the actual shoot. A lot of money goes into digital gear, which is always “getting better” and needing upgrades. A lot of my time and money also goes into dealing with the issue of digital storage. I was going through my old film cabinet a few weeks ago, telling my assistant about the days when we threw the negatives in a binder and called it a day. Digital capture allows for instant gratification, it also allows me to shoot more, but I don’t know if that is always good. Whatever my thoughts, the digital age is here to stay!

Do you shoot film in any of your work, either professional or personal?

Sadly, I no longer shoot any film at all.

purposefully planned commercial image with executive, car and architecture

This is a more purposefully planned image. The right location with the right props can evoke the story and look you’re aiming for. This image is meant to show a high government official and her security in an unspecified country. “I think the way we put it together really helps tell that story,” says Bigliardi.

Tell us about your workflow process and the tools you use.

I download the images I shoot on location as they are being shot, and rename all my files according to a naming convention that allows for my high volume of captures and keeps things in chronological order. I am in the habit of double and triple backing up my files at the end of every shoot day. I usually deliver JPEGs to the client for editing, and then retouch once I know their selects. I mostly use Adobe Bridge and Photoshop for my retouching. We are usually moving at such a fast pace that we do not shoot tethered (where the images go directly from the camera to computer), so I don’t need more than that.

Do you have any parting words of wisdom you would like to share about the future of the photography profession?

Eventually, there will be a blending of video and still. We can see it coming with the Red.  The edges will blur (no pun intended). We will all be shooting high-def video and pull stills out of that footage. My biggest concern is where the personal computer is going. They are really focusing on the cloud, which is a bit scary. I have no trust in that technology for the size of files we are moving around. On that, we’ll have to wait and see; it’s a bit out of our control anyway. We’ve made the move from film to digital, so I’m sure we’ll adapt….

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