Sunday, July 27, 2014

How a small restaurant in Santorini, Greece uses photography to attract its customers

There is a tavern on a beautiful Greek island of Santorini that uses simple snapshot photography as a very interesting marketing tool. It is called “Santorini Mou” (My Santorini) and is extremely popular with locals and tourists alike due to owner Mihalis Hionas’ efforts to make one’s dining experience as cozy and warmhearted as possible. 

When you enter this place you feel as if you walked into a Greek home, to somebody’s back yard, and the welcome is on par with the atmosphere. The big sign in front of the cantina says “Thanks for your smile” and it is not until you walk through the airy inner rooms of the restaurant that you understand the greeting slogan outside.

It is the infinite kaleidoscope of smiling photos of satisfied customers on display all over the eatery that tell you this is a very happy place. Everybody’s smiles are preserved in the most classical way possible – with thousands and thousands of snapshots hanging from the walls and from the ceiling. Most of the pictures have stamped dates and show couples or groups just after lunch or dinner, snapped by the eager staff who take some photos at your table when you are happy AND full after a tasty meal. 

A lot of pictures show people partying, dancing or in a friendly embrace with the white bearded owner himself (some sitting on his lap) after he pulls out a bouzouki and plays live music with a small band in the evening. The picture Mihalis is probably most proud of is the one of him and Jennifer Aniston hugging. He even put that snapshot on his business cards.

Of course the staff asks your permission to photograph you after they bring out a flag of your country (they have lots!) and fix it to your table. You also get a huge album of current month's worth of photographs to browse - and when I say huge I mean HUGE! The one saying “Month of July“ in Greek was more than 4 inches thick and it wasn't even end of the month yet. The albums are updated daily with fresh pictures from previous days.

The food in Santorini Mou is traditional, fresh, tasty, cooked with love and (unusual for Santorini) priced very, very fairly. Everybody loves eating here and this must be the reason the place is always packed. But the big lure of coming back must surely be the photographs. People want to see their snapshots from the previous visit that are now hanging from the ceiling in neat wooden frames and to write a comment or two next to the duplicates glued into that big fat monthly album.

The old school snapshot approach of Mihalis and his family shows that the power of photography still brings people from all over the world together… and to the colorful tables of his joyful tavern.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


Understanding and being able to manage reflections, one of nature's splendorous gifts, is the path towards capitalizing on them. The brain uses tonal variation to perceive depth so with proper reflected lighting we can add dimension to the subject on our photographs and avoid it being flat. When we are satisfied with the ratio of highlights and shadows, we are likely to be pleased with the overall lighting results as well.

I see far too many location photos made with reflectors that suffer from two major faults: light that is too hard (mostly bounced from below) and/or subjects that are illuminated unevenly due to the wrong size or false position of the reflector. The zen for successful use of reflectors is determined by the following five factors:

Angle. A reflector illuminates the subject most when the incident light angle is the same as the reflected angle. Finding the right angle always represents the biggest challenge!

Surface. Different reflector surfaces reflect light differently. White, silver, gold, zebra and black all have their specific characteristics.

Size. Bigger reflectors bounce light that feels softer with less fall-off. They also offer a broader tolerance when the subject or the reflector moves slightly. One of greatest errors most photographers do is using a reflector that is too small.

Distance. The closer the reflector is to the subject, the brighter the fill light becomes. It also softens up the shadows.

Position. A lot of photographers use reflectors from below (I do that as well), but my favorite recipe for obtaining great light from a reflector is bouncing the light from above at approximately 6 feet, simulating a softbox tilted 30 to 45 degrees towards the subject.

When setting up your shot do not forget that the subject has a major influence on lighting as well. This means that on location the subject position along with the movement of the sun/clouds and time of day are all the factors to consider. The main recipe for great lighting though is being able to anticipate what the light is doing and what it is going to do in relation to the subject you are photographing. The latter is crucial for nailing that perfect shot you are after.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Inja Zalta in a Playboy hommage to LUI - "Très chic, très hip, très sexy!"

I have known Inja Zalta since she became Miss Teen Smrklja at the tender age of 14. I photographed her first editorial back then and we have been shooting together ever since. Five years later, all grown up and incredibly sexy, Inja Zalta is a firm part of Slovenian model mainstream with several TV ads, advertising campaigns and big jobs already behind her. This Playboy shoot was something I wanted to do with her ever since she turned 18, but we just never found the time to do it.

The French magazine Lui and its legendary covers were my inspiration for the shoot. Back then Lui had it all - the skanky, the precious soft porn Dov Charney's American Apparel is so famous for today (albeit with a touch of hipster spice) and the subtle, underlying fetish implications, all done in a sagacious way during a revolutionary sexual renaissance period between the sixties and eighties. At that time you could either choose Playboy for its polished photographic perfection, or grab Penthouse and Hustler for the vivaciously squalid sex scenes. Lui filled the missing gap by offering something only the naughty French could pull off at the time - a sense of humor laced with a mischievous style.

Lui is back on newsstands since September 2013 under the creative lead of Frédéric Beigbeder, author of "99 francs" (retitled "14,99 euros" later). As the new captain at Lui's helm he believes that the magazine's original, yet slightly revamped formula is what’s missing on newsstands today. His signature house blend of major model names (like Edita Vilkevičiūtė, Enikő Mihalik and Małgosia Bela) baring it all and big photographer talents like Terry Richardson lensing them is again bringing joy to households this side of Atlantic.