Experience

Sergei Sarakhanov: “Think About What’s Special In Your Life”

Sergei Sarakhnov has 58,000 followers on Instagram. Bird In Flight spoke with him about how to take sharp photos on an iPhone and what attracts audience.

Sergei Sarakhanov has been doing photography for 16 years. At first, he did abstract compositions before doing genre and portrait shoots. Two years ago, inspired by photographs taken by his St. Petersburg friends on their mobile phones, he decided to try mobilography. Bird In Flight spoke with Sergei about how to take sharp photos using an iPhone and whether it’s possible to earn money.

Sergei Sarakhanov, 26 years old

Born in Apatity (the Murmansk region of the Russian Federation), lives in Kyiv, Ukraine. He does portrait photography and has an Instagram account with more than 58,000 followers. He is developing an online course on mobile photography with photographer Aleksandr Ambalov and teaches classes in Kyiv, Moscow and St. Petersburg.
The phenomenon of mobile photography

Mobilography involves shooting and processing photos with mobile devices. It’s a flexible form of photography — everything depends on the author and how well he does with limited equipment. The essence of mobilography is in these limitations. You create for yourself deliberately difficult conditions and try to achieve great results. It’s constant competition with yourself.

Our society isn’t yet ready to fully accept and appreciate the power of mobilography, considering it to be light-headed. For many, mobile photography seems to be pictures of legs, kittens and food. But that’s not the case. They don’t understand that the subjects of mobile photography can be much more multi-faceted and can convince anyone who thinks it’s necessary to take serious photos with real cameras.


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Processing mobile photos

I don’t use standard Instagram filters — there’s too few of them and they don’t allow for flexibility in handling photographs. If I could only use one application in processing photos, it would be VSCO. The color correction and shades that you apply to photos can fill them with emotion.

There are also specific programs that, for example, enable erasing trash from the ground. I often talk with my sister Zhenia and wife Olga about how quality of life in a country is determined by the condition of the ground: asphalt, sidewalks, everything that’s beneath our feet. No matter how beautiful the skyscrapers they build may be here, the sidewalk beneath our feet will always be filthy. And that scummy sidewalk needs to be cleaned up.

Many applications are designed to address texture — dust particles, scratches and film effects. They emerged with the iPhone 3 — its camera was so bad that the low quality of photos had to be concealed.

I try to use so-called “non-destructive” processing — filters are not supposed to overlap the entire picture. Many applications are designed to address texture — dust particles, scratches and film effects. They emerged with the third iPhone — its camera was so bad that the low quality of photos had to be concealed.

The mobile photography market

Mobile photography is a popular and developing direction in which many programmers are trying to make money on. But creating a niche product that will enjoy high demand is truly difficult. For example, there are mobile applications that enable taking photos that imitate a long interval — when water, clouds or people diffuse. It’s interesting, but few are ready to shoot in this regime and few know that it’s possible at all.


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“text”: “Weekly selection in Sergei’s Instagram #portraitisreligion. Photos by @baevmaxim @darian_volkova and @kazantsevalexey”
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In August, the official Instagram account published the photos of astronaut Oleg Artemiev, who is on the International Space Station. He was active on his Instagram Russia account for a week and posted his photos taken from space. In my view, this is the future that we’ve been waiting for — man, being in space, can publish pictures in a social network and we can see in them the planet through his eyes. Such things determine the extent of technological progress.

Instagram was fortunate enough to be the first to occupy the niche of photo social networks. In any event, another application would have emerged in two or three months and everyone would have used it. Yet in regards to money, no one has yet to think of a truly correct model. Instagram now is comfortable: it doesn’t have obsessive ads and there’s a comfortable and understood function. Images are of primary importance and everything else is secondary.

Earning money

I don’t view my blog on Instagram as a source of income. I get a lot of offers to place ads but I don’t want to turn my account into an advertising project.

General Motors, Ford and Mercedes hire two or three Instagramers and send them off on a photo trip in its latest models

Foreign companies have already found a way to use Instagram as part of their goals. General Motors, Ford and Mercedes hire two or three Instagramers and send them off on a photo trip in its latest models. Collaboration in this format is interesting to me, but not with an approach like, “We pay you and you talk about how great our product is.”

Characteristics of mobile photos

Light is the foundation of photography. If a person can work with light — observes how it falls and pays attention to shadows and glares — he can take fantastic photos even on a mobile phone. Of course, it’s important to know how to capture the moment too.

If you’re doing photography, it’s not enough to look at photographs. You need to study cinematography, listen to music, read books and visit exhibits. A creative person should try to develop themselves from many sides.

Promotion in Instagram

I was able to talk to a representative of Instagram and I got the feeling that their priority was precisely in developing mobile photography. If you download photos not from a phone, you’re not likely to be included in a list of recommended users. Instagram is a wonderful basis on which to generate behind-the-scenes content. Smart photographers do that: they post funny, cool backstage material and record short behind-the-scenes videos.

If you want to draw attention to yourself, you need to either create your own interesting project or join an existing one. Connections also play a role — for example, when you are included in a list of recommended users, you’re often asked to recommend someone else.


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“text”: “Weekly selection in Sergei’s Instagram #peopleinthegreen. Photos by @sasha_zeen, @kalypso.n, @galvik and @miraanti.”
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You need to enjoy work, and be curious and friendly. Think about what’s special in your life. For those who live in the Far East, deers, lakes and endless snowy plains are a part of everyday life. But if someone takes an iPhone and begins to record a chronicle, true poetry can result. People can decide for themselves whether your life is interesting to them or not. And don’t try to do that for them.

A month ago, a story appeared on the Internet of the 15-year-old Instagramer Ryan Parrilla who sells prints of his photos for $60. There were many comments along the lines of, “It’s easy for him to live in New York and take photos, yet we poor beggars are sitting in Samara where there’s only mosquitos.” That’s a demonstration of envy and laziness with which I try to struggle against.

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