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BEST OF 2012, Hector Armando Herrera
Mexico City, DF, Mexico
Project: Award-winning documentation of El Palacio de Hierro, Mexico’s finest retail store prior to the opening of its new 333,000-square-foot department store.

© Hector Armando Herrera

© Hector Armando Herrera

The fourth generation in a family business dating back 100 years, Hector Armando Herrera worked under extremely tight deadlines to document Mexico’s finest retail store, El Palacio de Hierro, while much of the site was still under construction.

“In the end, we provided 50 high-res images as final files for all purposes. We also shot 360-degree interactive VR panoramas of 18 scenes for an iPad virtual tour,” says Herrera. “In February 2012, the store won the Grand Prize at the prestigious Association for Retail Environments (A.R.E.) International Design Awards. The only criterion used in selecting a winner was the photography we provided.”

ASMP: How long have you been in business?

Hector Armando Herrera: Professionally for 30 years, although I come from a family of portrait photographers, so it could also be accurate to say I have been involved in some type of photo business most of my life. I’d assisted my grandfather and father since I was 12, and I started a retail photo business with my mother at age 22. This taught me a lot, but I left after seven years because it was very time consuming and I wanted to do more photography. My younger brother now runs this business.

ASMP: How long have you been an ASMP member?

HAH: Since 1998.

ASMP: What are your photographic specialties?

HAH: Corporate, industrial, architecture, travel and leisure, portrait, 360 VR interactive panoramas.

ASMP: What do you consider your most valuable professional tool?

HAH: Passion for what I do. We all have certain skills and abilities. Nonetheless, they are not ours; they were given to us to see what we can do with them. I believe part of our mission in life is to honor these gifts and, no matter what, to develop them with passion.

ASMP: What piece (or pieces) of gear could you not do without?

HAH: Well, in my business, we have to be like a decathlete, who must be good at many disciplines in order to succeed. In a specialty with so many different types of visual demands, there is always a different piece of gear that can help us do the job in a faster, better and more efficient way. It might be a matter of personal preference, but the most notable gear for us would be Canon 5D Mark II cameras, Canon and Sigma lenses, Gitzo tripods, Nodal Ninja pano heads, Promote device controls for HDR/timelapse work, Pocket Wizard radio slaves, Elinchrom strobes, Broncolor portable packs and X-Rite color management systems.

ASMP: What is unique about your style/approach, or what sets you and your work apart from other photographers and their work?

HAH: We keep clients very happy. Of course we can deliver exceptional images — that in itself is an advantage, but what really separates us from everyone else is our service. We provide unmatched attention, client service and images they are very proud to show around.

ASMP: El Palacio de Hierro, a 333,000-square-foot department store, is Mexico’s finest retail store. How did you land this formidable job?

HAH: I was referred to this client three years ago by Turicia, a top industry provider of photo gear. I went through a very meticulous and tough selection process at Palacio when they were searching for a photographer who could document their new store in the city of Guadalajara. The images we made of that retail store helped the client win the same award this new store received in 2012.

For a retail store, the A.R.E. International Award is one of the most prestigious acknowledgements possible. They have wanted to win this award for the past three years, so their quest for someone who could help them achieve this goal was very important. You have to understand that the winners are basically chosen based on the images provided. The better the photographs, the better the chance of winning.

For this new Interlomas store, they weren’t just hoping to win — they were expecting to win, so this added a bit of additional pressure to the job.

ASMP: You had only one month to photograph the store, with portions still under construction, workers everywhere and merchandise not yet on display. How do you deal with the pressure of completing an assignment given such tight deadlines and challenges? Do you enjoy this kind of pressure, or is it your least favorite part of a job?

HAH: Indeed, you have to find a way to “enjoy” every job. There is always some kind of pressure on each project, but if you show enthusiasm and effectively make everyone feel confident of their abilities while emphasizing they are an important part of the outcome, production will move fluently. Yes, it can get very hectic, but if I am calm, focused and cheerful (without overdoing it), it will reflect in my staff and others around me.

For the Interlomas store, our first concern was about how to begin principal photography in an unfinished space and without merchandise on display. Second, much of the lighting was not yet completed and the hundreds of LCD displays throughout the store could not be paused still, so they appeared blurred during a long exposure. Third, how to avoid all the people who were also trying to complete an assignment of their own and did not have the luxury to spare even 30 minutes or an hour for us. Every supplier’s job was a top priority, so I was no more special than the carpenter who was finishing up a cabinet. Fourth, how to complete the photography and the postproduction in a week. Without a doubt, we needed to be an exceptionally well-oiled machine to complete a task such as this one.

ASMP: How big of a team did you work with to photograph El Palacio De Hierro? Please describe the responsibilities of each crew member.

HAH: Photography on-site was done by another photographer and myself together with three assistants. I did all the still photography, and the other photographer did the 360 VR scenes.

Two assistants were usually with me, and the third was with the other photographer, although we were all working together at some point.

We would move to a certain area of the store and begin organizing and arranging the display, with the help of three members of the visual presentation department on the Palacio de Hierro’s staff. They would also help me coordinate the store’s electric, maintenance and cleaning personnel.

Even if I had already selected one angle, the whole area needed to be prepared for the circular documentation of the 360-degree nodes. There is no practical way to camouflage or hide something when covering such circular dimensions. We would all be involved in prepping up the area, then I would do the stills and leave for the next area while the other photographer did the 360 photography. As soon as he finished, he would join us to help set up the next area we were working on.

We shot everything digitally (we have done so for the past 13 years) but did not process anything until we finished shooting. Time was a huge factor, so we could not take any time away from useful on-site shooting possibilities to prepare or begin any part of postproduction. Due to the complexities of the way we shot, we first needed to organize what we had and then decide the best way to integrate this within our workflow.

ASMP: Working with a team, and leading that team, involves a lot of people skills. For this project, after spending three consecutive nights photographing from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., you and five others spent four consecutive 20-hour days working on postproduction. How do you keep up the morale of your staff, especially while working under tight deadlines like these?

HAH: Great question. To start, people must be happy working here. There is a woman on our staff, a retouching specialist who travels more than two hours each day to get to the studio (and two hours back). She has to like what she does in order to do that! They also need to know their work is an important part of our success, which is not only reflected in what they earn but also perceived on the human side.

Certain jobs require long hours during weekends. These staff members need to know this is valuable and worthwhile. They need to feel proud of their job.

ASMP: How many staff do you employ in your business? Are they full- or part-time or a combination of both? What is the most important trait you look for in an employee? What are some red flags you notice during an interview that would prevent you from hiring a potential candidate?

HAH: It is a combination of both. We have five full-time staff, and depending on the assignment, I work with freelance assistants. To consider hiring potential candidates, I need to see passion in their lives. Of course, their skills are important, but even if they are serious or quiet individuals, I am interested if they show passion.

ASMP: The client used your photography of El Palacio de Hierro for its special issue, Web site, and press release, among other things. How did you negotiate licensing for the desired range of media? Do most of your corporate clients want rights for both electronic and print media?

HAH: Even being so close to the United States, here in Mexico we have a very different model. It is very difficult to enforce rights based on the structure or model used in the U.S. I have always been a strong advocate of a photographer’s rights, and ASMP has helped tremendously in this area, but most colleagues here do not follow such a path. Therefore, usage is not a common practice among photographers in Mexico.

The most I can do is prepare an annual rights deal for clients, which includes all their needs. For foreign clients, it is different. Depending on their location, they are better aware of usage and know it is part of the deal. Nonetheless, I have seen a growing trend in “work for hire” requests for some time now. I do not quote on those jobs.

ASMP: You and your team also shot 360-degree interactive VR panoramas of 18 scenes for an iPad virtual tour. How is this accomplished, technically speaking?

HAH: The equipment and software are a bit different, and new skills have to be learned. The way you shoot is what differs from traditional still photography because, in order to cover the whole spherical node, you must pan around in a circle, sometimes shooting several rows of images, plus a zenith and nadir frame. Most 360-degree VR assignments are shot with extreme wide-angle or fisheye lenses; when you want to create a giga pano scene, you might end up using larger focal-length optics. Being aware of all the surroundings is a must because you will eventually shoot what was in back of you. Moving people and objects are also factors because you will need to merge and stitch frames shot at an interval and those objects might not remain in the same spot.

It is essential to know the nodal points of your lenses to simplify stitching. Here is where pano heads and accessories such as the ones from Nodal Ninja come in quite handy. Stitching is basically done with PTgui, but there are many other software developers for this purpose and for VR tour creation.

It is an amazing and somewhat different world but well worth the learning curve because I believe this technology will keep growing.

There is already some pretty mind-blowing VR stuff being done out there, mixing photography, video and animation.

ASMP: Due to the lighting conditions in the store, which were incomplete, you had to make extensive use of HDR techniques and individually document images for hundreds of LCDs to insert this imagery in postproduction. How do you even begin to plan for such complex logistics? Are there specific technical tools or measuring devices you employ as a guide to make sure elements will mesh in the final images?

HAH: Indeed, planning is essential. Some form of shoot sequencing needs to be implemented. It can even be as simple as putting your hand (and using your fingers as codes) in front of the lens in between a sequence of frames. If not, you will end up with hundreds of images without a clear notion of where they should be included. It will be very time consuming just figuring out its place in the puzzle.

Since lighting was not yet completed in some areas, we would need to break the scene into parts and bracket one sequence differently from the other to balance existing light. We also shot a lot of flat/sweep panoramas, panning to the sides until we reached a 120-degree, 180-degree or 240-degree coverage of the scene. That required additional sets of brackets.

LCDs were controlled via satellite and could not be paused to a still frame, so they appeared blurred during a long exposure. They needed their own set of shots (not brackets) to stop the motion and achieve an accurate exposure at the same time. In some areas, LCDs were projecting different themes, so we treated them individually, making a set of frames specifically for that display. Eventually, a bunch of shots were needed to achieve a wide variety of options for the visuals that were being played simultaneously.

In some of the flat/sweep panoramas, we could end up with 80 to 100 frames to merge into one shot. We delivered 50 different shots of the store, and at least half of them contained as many images.

We use Canon 5D Mark II cameras, so for the HDR auto-bracketing, we use the Promote Control Device from Promote Systems. As opposed to other camera brands, Canon 5D Mark II cameras have a limited bracketing sequence built into their firmware (manual bracketing is not an option — with so many shots, you will never nail the alignment), so we use the Promote for this purpose. It is also excellent for time-lapse and even focus-stacking techniques.

Finally, we obviously used Photoshop CS5 at many stages of the postproduction, but we also used Lightroom, Capture One, Photomatix, HDR Efex Pro from Nik Software and the Perfect Photo Suite from OnOne Software.

ASMP: Although practically any aspect of an image can be altered in postproduction, do you invest the time before photographing a site to resolve as many foreseeable problems as possible? Or is solving such problems more expediently handled in postproduction?

HAH: Definitely “before” as a first choice. I come from the predigital era, when whatever you did not correct during a shoot was very difficult to fix afterward (or very expensive to do so). That is still my philosophy, but now — having the luxury to decide if you fix it before or after — it is just a matter of judging the options between time, cost and efficiency. Sometimes one or two of those have more weight, and sometimes those options need to change as you go along. We decide on each particular situation.

ASMP: As a corporate photographer, you need to portray the site and the company as positively as possible. What techniques do you have for making a space look especially inviting, significant or larger than it actually is?

HAH: I like wide-angle lenses, so I try to use them as much as possible. That, in itself, already helps with the perception of a larger space. Nonetheless, I have to be very careful in maintaining a real atmosphere, the correct representation and the true essence of the location. A lot of the work I do is for annual reports, so images presented there need to reflect an honest and true reality. Yes, appealing, inviting, as beautiful as possible but truthful.

ASMP: Photographing interiors can be challenging due to the variety of lighting conditions that often exist, which must be equalized for proper exposure. Do you currently have any favorite any new tools, gear or software that you’d like to talk about?

HAH: I love X-Rite calibrating and profiling gear. It is exceptional, especially their new systems. I use a color checker target to record a color reference of the scene and/or Photovision’s foldable target to set a custom white balance in my camera.

ASMP: Your photographs of El Palacio de Hierro won grand prize for Best Department Store at the A.R.E. Design International Awards, held in New York City in February 2012. In your opinion, what distinguished your work from other entrants’? Has this award brought you additional business or other accolades?

HAH: It is difficult to say, but judging from the material from other entrants, I did not see panoramic images. Some of the (flat/sweep) panoramic images of Palacio de Hierro look very impressive. They do take more time and effort to produce, but that might be a decisive evaluation point. I mean, it is not just the photography — the store is definitely very nice. I am just trying to do justice to the work of architects, designers and display specialists.

Yes, it has brought more business. It is always nice having high-profile clients who promote and advertise their acknowledgements nationwide. Added to the diffusion I do among my own database of business acquaintances, it is great advertising.

ASMP: You attended Brooks Institute of Photography in California from 1979 to 1982. Why did you choose to study photography in the United States, and why did you choose Brooks?

HAH: Until recently, Mexico did not provide college-level education in photography. So back in 1979, the United States was a natural choice for me. At the time, the three best places to study photography were Rochester Institute of Technology, Art Center College of Design and Brooks Institute. I thought Brooks provided the best program for what I was looking for. I started as an illustration/commercial photographer and did only studio work for my first five years after returning to Mexico. Once in practice, I found out I did not like the studio that much, so I became a location specialist. That could actually be my trademark nowadays.

ASMP: You are the fourth-generation of Herrera photographers, representing 100 years of photographic tradition in Mexico. Did you know from a young age you wanted to carry on the family business? Was there pressure for you to do so? Did any family members pass down wisdom about photography that you found especially valuable?

HAH: You are right, there was some kind of unspoken certainty among my family that I would continue the tradition, but I was not really sure. (I did not tell anyone, though.) At some point, I thought about being some kind of physics major. All of my family came from portraiture, and I just did not like it. Even though I helped my father at the studio, I was very shy and timid at the time, so having to deal with people was not my thing. I liked photography, but I never gave much thought to other alternatives in photography. It was as if they did not exist. It was not until I realized that I could do product photography that my interest really took on a serious approach. I figured, products do not talk back to you, and I can spend as much time as I want with them. It took the pressure off having to deal with human subjects. One thing I have always remembered was my father telling me I would end up shooting people. “It is inevitable. You have it in your genes.” I said, No way. Time has proved him right…

My grandfather Armando passed away three years ago at the age of 98. He was a magnificent human being, and his photography was sublime. He was a celebrity himself during the golden era of Mexican movies and radio, from the 1940s to the 1960s. He was known as the Photographer of the Stars.

My father, Hector, is an acclaimed and internationally awarded photographer. He is highly respected among peers in Mexico and abroad and is a member of the most selective associations in the world. He was an innovator and precursor of trends and techniques for many years. He photographed the most representative personalities in government, private sector, society, culture and entertainment for a long time. He is semiretired, taking on only the jobs that are interesting to him. Another important part of his time is devoted to the preservation of my grandfather’s archive, which is extensive. Two of my sisters are also photographers. They are also very successful in their own specialty. Fortunately, I have been able to learn a lot from them, and a good part of what I am today is owed to their wisdom, expertise and guidance.

ASMP: What attracted you to the business of corporate and industrial photography specifically?

HAH: To expand a bit more on my previous answer, corporate and industrial photography appealed to me because most of it was done on location. That was the main reason. It also gave me the opportunity to travel and to have access to a wide variety of assignments, many of them completely different from each other.

Believe me, every job has its challenges, and without minimizing any of them, the official sessions for the presidents, cabinet members, presidential summits, and the like have their very particular enchantment. Many aspects of those projects, such as relevancy, historical value, skills, pressure and magnitude, put them at the top of the list and make them very professionally rewarding.

ASMP: Corporations have very specific ideas of how they want to be portrayed. Given this attitude, are there any particular strategies you’ve developed for keeping your clients happy? From your experience, what is key to upholding a positive relationship?

HAH: Being very receptive to clients’ needs, how they need it and when they need it — without losing the essence of what I am as a photographer and the way I do business. This is kind of my philosophy. If they come to me because they already like what I do, it is just a matter of finding acceptable common ground for both of us. If what they are requesting does not match my expertise or abilities, I will not take on the job. As a start, I always approach a prospective client with a “long-term relationship attitude.” This helps a lot when you need to make decisions about a project.

Many of my clients have ten, 15 or 20 years of collaborations with me.

ASMP: Your Web site includes a page with samples of video and multimedia work. How long have you been producing video content? You note that this is a growing client need. Generally speaking, what percentage of your clients now request video or multimedia content in addition to stills?

HAH: We started about five years ago, and we get requests from about 30 percent of our clients. We do in-house video production on pieces that do not demand elaborate production or postproduction. For some clients with a more elaborate piece, we generate just the video content and send it to another production house to be postproduced and mixed. On occasion, we team with other video professionals to produce a piece for a client. Lately, we have grown in other areas, so video still remains as a small part of our business.

ASMP: Based on this trend, please share your thoughts on the future of visual media in its widest sense as well as the relationships between various components.

HAH: I think that corporate motion/video content will still be in growing demand and will keep merging more and more with other media (photography, animation, VR technology and so on). Nonetheless, it is practically impossible to keep pace with the transformation of all visual media, and the way they all interact with each other, together with the new standards, trends, techniques, gear, software, and so on — it’s overwhelming. It is also exciting and sometimes addictive, but it can also be frustrating not being able to keep up with all the available information and to cope with the rapid transformation of the technology. To deal with this, once I have decided on a new trend or technique, I try to master it before moving to something else. This approach keeps me focused and less anxious about not knowing something else.

But in the end, and as I see it, it is not a matter of getting the latest equipment or learning the newest technique, but more about what we really communicate in terms of message, meaning and emotional value. That should still be our goal and the essence of what we do.

ASMP: What kind of image archive exists from your family business? Please describe a few of the most valuable or curious examples. Have any archival images been exhibited or published in any form to date, or is there any plan to do so?

HAH: We have an extensive family collection of photographs and equipment dating back to 1890. In terms of the archive’s historical value, a lot of the work my father and I have done for the Mexican government since 1976 is part of the historical national archive, but what really stands out as a graphic storyteller and the most representative documents of Mexico’s culture and lifestyle over three decades is the work of my grandfather Armando. His work has been widely published, both by private and governmental parties. In the past three years, several books about him and his work have taken place here in Mexico, as well as the same number of individual exhibitions. We were fortunate to still see him receive living awards for his contributions during his last year with us.

Anecdotes? There are many, but since I will be talking about official photographs in the upcoming questions, here is one that fits the theme.

Some years back, we did the official photograph of a presidential summit, gathering leaders from the whole continental region. It took place in Monterrey, a city north of Mexico, during the administration of Mexican president Vicente Fox.

President Bush and President Chavez from Venezuela attended the summit, and as usual, political tension between the two countries was the order of the day. President Chavez had ironically stated before his trip to Mexico that he was coming only so he could appear in the official photograph. For two days prior to the event, we had been planning and setting up the shot in an open yard of an old refinery, now the site of a historical monument.

Usually, the photograph is the last official event of the summit, so by that time, the leaders are somewhat relaxed. For the photograph, their places at the podium are enforced by protocol; each one has a tag on the floor indicating where they should stand.

Once the presidents began to arrive, secret service tells me I am in command for ten minutes. No kidding. I am truly in charge, and anything I say or request to anyone is taken as an order. At the same time, I have hundreds of national and international members of the TV and press media just some few feet behind me, some of them yelling and insulting me because I am blocking their shot with my camera, my lighting and my staff. Official photographs are an important part of such political events, and they stand as the premier graphic document for all the attendees. They all know that, but they still complain and yell. As soon as I am done, our staff will quickly move everything out of the way, and I will hold the presidential group for a minute so they can get their shot without interference. Nonetheless, having that pressure on your shoulders can be a factor if you allow it to be.

Going back to the shot, a couple of minutes had passed, and all but three presidents had arrived, one of them being President Chavez. He and two others took a few more minutes to join the group, but by that time, the protocol had been lost a bit. While talking to each other, some of the other presidents had already moved away from their spot in the podium. In the meantime, I was talking to some of the other leaders and helping them fix details in their attire.

Once President Chavez arrived, I showed him his place within the group, but the gap between him and his two closest peers was too big, so I asked him to step a bit more to his left to balance the shot. He quickly responded with a smile and, in a joking voice, said he could not move any more to his left, obviously making reference to his political beliefs rather than the impossibility for him to step to the side.

The immediate reaction from all the presidents was extremely hard laughter, including President Bush, who understands Spanish. It took them no less than a minute to calm down, but I took advantage of that moment to get some wonderful shots of the group while they were still enjoying the remark.

During the remaining four minutes, the tension disappeared and the moment became as if a group of friends had gathered for a reunion. Great reminiscence!

ASMP: You’ve made the official portraits of four Mexican presidents. What is it like to be in the company of high-profile leaders? How do you take control of the photo shoot, in effect, telling these powerful men what to do? How do these portrait sessions differ from photographing “everyday” people?

HAH: It is very emotional and powerful. My father and I made those sessions together. We usually team up on certain high-profile or important sessions. Depending on the circumstances, we define responsibilities before, during and after the shoot. They do differ from any other type of assignments due to the protocol, the security issues that revolve around such events and the relevance of the image.

Extreme planning and testing is a must, and two extra sets of camera and lighting equipment is on hand ready to be used in case of malfunction or if any unexpected situation occurs during the shoot. In the predigital era, we shot with 8x10 and 4x5 cameras.

Sometimes, due to the way the event’s protocol was organized, most of the official activities were held at the same place, including that of the official photograph. That meant no equipment whatsoever could be inside while the other activities were being held. Therefore, we had to do extensive testing during the previous days so we could determine the exact spot where all our lighting, cameras and staff would be. We would then mark the floor with hundreds of small pieces of tape to determine the precise placement of our gear. Take into account that shooting a group of 40 to 45 people indoors with an 8x10 or 4x5 camera would require a lot of power, so eight of us would stand outside the room, each one holding two pieces of equipment. As soon as we were allowed to enter, there was just enough time to put down the equipment, plug it in and begin shooting. There was no time for testing whatsoever, so our lighting was already set at the output we needed, and even our cameras had the appropriate exposure and focus preset in advance.

From the time we entered the area with our equipment to the time we left the room with all of our gear, only eight minutes had passed. During that time we would shoot four sheets of film (two 4x5 and two 8x10) of three different groups.

That’s pressure — although we did enjoy it. Those kinds of challenges are not available every day. That is also why my father and I work together on those occasions.

The sessions for the presidents are a bit different. This takes place on the same day they are appointed to office. We feel this is not the best time, because of the high emotions and adrenaline they probably experience, but that’s how it is. Nonetheless, the presidents have always been very cooperative.

We normally talk to them for five to ten minutes before we begin to explain what we will do. We usually have several setups in different parts of the National Palace, so by describing the idea of the session, we ¨break the ice¨ and help to establsh a quick communications bond, which truly relaxes everyone. We never lose direct communication to talk to an assistant or to fix/move a strobe. One of us is always in front maintaining contact while the other is supervising the camera, lighting and/or staff.

In the case of President Calderon, who is still in office, as soon as we finished shooting in one of the setups, an assistant would begin the ingestion procedures and upload the shots to Lightroom so we could have all the material available for review at the end of the session. President Calderon enjoyed the session so much that he waited until the last Compact Flash card was ready to view and sat with us to choose his favorites, one being the official image that was going to be distributed worldwide the following day. This is quite rare.

As soon as we got back to the studio, we worked on the RAW file and delivered 50 mounted 16x20 prints together with the high-res file first thing the next morning.

I would like to clarify that we seldom show unedited or unprocessed material with at least some kind of postproduction. This is one of the rare exceptions.

ASMP: You are based in Mexico, yet your assignments take you internationally, and for the purposes of ASMP, you’re a member of the Los Angeles chapter. Please offer your insights about running a business and working as a photographer within a global marketplace.

HAH: With the tools we have now available, we can be seen and reached anywhere. There are no more boundaries, and any person or company here or abroad can be our client. Our business model has not changed much because of that. We do not enter many competitions nor belong to many photo directories or associations. We are very selective on where we want to be and whom we want to associate with. ASMP, which has helped us in our growth, in our knowledge, in reinforcing our respect for our profession and our peers, has generated work for us many times. Potential clients searching ASMP’s Find a Photographer listing know that whomever they find is a dedicated and reliable professional. Having this tool to connect to other people is an advantage and an invaluable asset in this new way of doing business.

Furthermore, something that will bring any client back is service, especially foreign clients. It gives them certainty that you are reliable and can be trusted.

ASMP: Can you make any distinctions between working with Mexican clients and clients based in other countries? What is the current climate of the corporate marketplace in Mexico, based on the local economy and other factors?

HAH: There are no major distinctions between Mexican and foreign clients. As far as we are concerned, good clients are similar everywhere. The way to communicate with them is what might differ, but in general, they are all the same. The corporate market in Mexico is fairly good, the economy is stable and growing. Being so close to the U.S., any financial problem there is automatically reflected in our economy and in our growth. There have been some tough years for our country in recent times, so everyone has been very cautious, including the corporate market.

ASMP: In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge in running a business such as yours? Have technological advances made things easier or have they increased the hurdles that a business such as yours must face? What are your aspirations and concerns for the future?

HAH: I think there are many challenges, but the one I procure the most is knowledge.

Based on the assignments made each year, I’ve incorporated new knowledge, techniques and equipment in our operation. Even though the learning curve is usually slow and tough, the process of integrating new practices into our workflow is what keeps us current and ahead of our competition. We are always experimenting with new software, trends and techniques. It was definitely less complicated being a photographer back during the film days. Basically shoot, process, edit and deliver. Digital postproduction is now very time consuming, but we do have three huge advantages: We can evaluate what we are doing during a shoot in a very precise and more expedient way, there is a much lesser risk of loosing or damaging our images before they are delivered to the client and we can control practically all the processes and the final look of our images before they go to print. These are invaluable and most welcomed practices.

Furthermore, the coming of digital technology has resulted in the learning curve becoming somewhat slow and costly. To remain current, we need to invest in education, equipment and software at a much faster pace. Evidently, some parts will be conditioned by our financial resources, and the turnaround on those investments might not be as quick as we hoped for, so we have to be even more perceptive and intuitive in the way we spend our money.

A way to react and adapt to this new condition might be trying to anticipate the direction where the market or the technology is moving and to identify, as best we can, the new business models that will guide the decisions of whatever markets we wish to target.

Finally, I wish thank ASMP for being such an active, influential and inspiring presence in our community and also offer my gratitude for selecting this project as something worth sharing, especially with the quality projects presented by other outstanding photographers.

Nonetheless, this has given me the opportunity to also share a little bit of what I know and have learned from others.