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Interview with Udi Tirosh of DIYPhotography.net


Udi Tirosh is the blogger behind DIYPhotography.net and the creator of the Bokeh Masters Kit.

PetaPixel: Can you tell us about yourself and your background?

Udi Tirosh: I started photographing when I was in high school, and like lots of amateurs photographers I did photowalks, studio sessions and all the family events. At some point, I started DIYPhotography for the fun of it and thought of myself as a high-tech guy who photographs and has a site. DIYP has evolved beyond my expectations and for a long while I changed the order of my self definition to blogger who also takes pictures. Today, I am finding that I am slowly gaining photography as being first.

PP: What do you do for a living?

UT: Once this was an easy question. I was a project manager at Texas Instruments. Now I find it harder to define. I am blogging at DIYPhotography.net, starting a second career as a photographer, manufacturing and selling the Bokeh Masters Kit (and several more kits in the pipe line). But mainly I blog.

PP: How did you first get into photography?

UT: I was looking for a creative outlet and photography was a great fit. I love interacting with people and I love being technical. Photography allowed me just that. I started out wiuth a local photography group and an internet forum and later started a blog. For a long time I’ve been blogging more than shooting.

PP: What was your first camera?

UT: Got my first Nikon (f70) second hand after trying a Canon EOS and deciding it was too light. Funny how that choice depending on weight can lock you up as you get more and more lenses and flashes. I get lots of second hand equipment as it is cheaper and usually just as good.

PP: What equipment do you use these days?

UT: I use a D300 as a main body and a D70 as second body (love it!). Also an assortment of small flashes, clamps, lightstands and other home brewed equipment. As time progressed I got more and more into lighting, and not having many of the things around I hacked and built them.

PP: How much time do you spend blogging every day?

UT: I blog, or do blogging related things about 9 hours a day. Not all of it is “pure” blogging though. I am working on a few new products (in the same DIY spirit of the bokeh masters kit), editing guest posts, answering mails, and preparing articles in my studio basement.

PP: How many emails do you receive from readers?

UT: This is something that varies a lot, but sums up to a few tens each week. Most emails are asking for advice about some of the projects on this site, or have a photography related question, others about blog related collaboration opportunities and some are promos and please-post-this thing requests.

I love getting emails as it tells me more about the people reading the blog, over time I made some great online friends with people who called n for a question or a suggestion.

PP: What are the pros and cons of blogging?

UT: One of the major pros of being a blogger is the amount of interaction I am involved in. The photography-online-community is packed with talented people who are sharing great info teach and learn. I am exposed to a great variety of thought, opinions and creative process. I learn something new (sometimes big, sometimes small) every day.

Another major bonus is that I do what I like for a living. I enjoy blogging and I enjoy photography. Combining both to be a my new day job has been very rewarding.

The biggest down side is the amount of discipline it takes to work at a freelance job like this from home. It takes a lot to sit and work every day and not get tempted to do the “easy stuff”. Also there’s no one to tell you what to do next, and I just have to keep coming with new stuff (nothing like a good deadline to get the creativity going – yes I make deadlines).

PP: How many Bokeh Masters Kits have you sold so far?

UT: Well, I kinda lost track, I guess it would be a few thousands.

PP: Where are they manufactured? How long did it take to go from idea to market?

UT: The plastics of the kit is manufactured at a laser cutting factory by my design. Then the packaging and instruction page are done in a print house. The rubber bands are taken from a variety package where we take the colored ones and give the rest of them to creative class at my daughter’s kindergarten (surprisingly it is cheaper this way).

The last part (and the most “fun” one), is packaging once or twice a month the entire family will get together and package the last batch we got from the factory. It takes us about 10 hours to pack 1000 kits. Really boring on one hand but also provide zen qualities.

The idea to make a kit was there about two years before the first kit was sold. I really wanted to make one ever since I did the bokeh article on DIYP.

From the actual decision to go ahead and make a kit it took about one month to produce the first samples and about two-three months more till the shapes and packaging were finalized. Than another 2-3 weeks to get the first batch ready.

PP: How many people and how much time does it take to ship them out?

UT: As I said before, I ship those from home. I usually ship out Tuesday’s and Fridays and it takes me about an hour each. I have a “system” where everything is prepacked and stuffed in enveloped and all that is left to do is slap the address sticker on.

PP: How much time do you spend these days doing photography?

UT: I try to do a bit of photography almost each days, not always holding a camera. I spend about 1-2 days shooting and try to distribute the editing and post processing in what is left.

PP: What are your top 5 most popular post of all time?

UT: It’s kinda hard tell since some of the posts are earlier than others, but some are very easy spot as “star posts”

The number one all favorite by far is the “create your own bokeh” post – the one who got me to do the kit.

The second one is “Five Great Flash Techniques To Improve Your Photography Light“.

Then, “Super Macro Your Cellphone Camera With A DVD Lens” and four and five are: “43 Photography Hacks, Mods And DIY Projects” and “Cheap DIY (Homemade) Muslin Photography Background

PP: What is the biggest advice for you have for someone who wants to start a blog?

UT: I hate to sound trivial, but the advice is to start blogging. Looking back I started with a platform which is not optimal for logging (drupal), on a hoster which was not reliable and the default cookie cutter design. almost all were changed when the blog picked up, so it is not about being technical or have a great design it is about what you write (Strobist for example is doing his awesome blog on blogger).

The other big thing is that the blogging community, reaching out and communicating with other bloggers and photographer is both great fun and helpful when you are “young”. Dont be shy to chat with the biggets, there are all nice and kind.

PP: What advice do you have for someone who wants to become more motivated with photography?

UT: This is starting to be a broken record, but the advice would be to go out and shoot. With the huge base of knowledge around the web, it can be very tempting to learn more and more, to read blogs, to plan to aspire… nothing will happen if you doing get up and start shooting.

PP: With all that you’ve learned from running a popular blog, do you have any tips for how a photographer can go about promoting their website and/or photography?

UT: If you build it (great content) they (the readers) will come.

That said, dont be shy on promoting your content, send your best links (and only the best) to popular blog editors and ask them to link/tweet about you. I was literally falling of my chair when I got my first link from MAKE and the first link from Strobist.

When I started out I learned a lot from skellie she has good understanding of how the blogging world works.

PP: What do you shoot?

UT: Funny you should ask, as I mentioned before, I did a big career change from high tech to photography/blogging. I did this move with the intent of doing big commercial shoots with lots of action. I found out, however, that I enjoy more shooting families, maternity and kids.

PP: What are the main sources for the things you blog about?

UT: I am fascinated with the technical side of photography and build stuff just for fun. Not all of which is practical, but it is great fun and I blog the better projects.

As I shoot more projects, the blog may have more on assignment kinda posts as well

I also have lots of guest posts from fellow makers who like building stuff to. Those I mainly edit.

PP: Is there anything you would do differently if you could go back in time and start your blog over?

UT: Nothing major. I would have started with WordPress and not Drupal, I would have “pushed” my articles more. I did no promotion at all for the first year. but that is about it.

PP: If you were to do something else for a living, what might it be?

UT: Actually, I did something else for leaving until few months ago. I was a software project manager. I greatly enjoyed that work and I think there is a lot in common between software development and photography (I’m just weird in that way). If the hours were more acceptable I’d code till the keyboard smoked. Other option is president of the Willy Wonka corp.

PP: What gear is on your wish list?

UT: What I miss the most is a great set of studio flashes. I mostly shoot “strobist style” but sometimes strobes are just not powerful enough (unless of course you are Joe McNally and have 35 of them).

PP: What is your technical expertise in, and how has it benefited what you do?

UT: As I said before, I used to be a software project manager and a software engineer before that. I know some will sneer for this, but I consider code design and code writing a very artistic craft. It is structured (sometimes), elegant (hopefully) and has a bit of science in it. This is kinda common with photography (except the structure and elegancy).

PP: Who are your favorite photographers?

UT: I really enjoy Annie Annie Leibovitz, who is a master at her craft, and who gave me a real push towards photography way, way back (thanks Annie).

I am also a big fan of Andrew Zuckerman who has an incredible sense of reality and vision combo.

I love how the “lighting clique” approach photography both technically but even more so artistically. I love the way they share the know how and help young photographers like me (Joe McNally, David Hobby, Syl Arena, Zack Arias, Chase Jarvis – Thanks).

I also love the incredible imagery that comes from Gilad Benari.

PP: What are you plans for the future?

UT: When I made the career move one of the comments I received most was “are you going to make more kits?” Well, a few kits are gonna come out soon as well as another big surprise. Hints will start appearing on the blog soon.

PP: Anything else you’d like to say to PetaPixel readers?

UT: You’re reading the right blog.