Armando Orbon and Mariana Alija Interview

Armando Orbon and Mariana Alija is a couple in life and photography based in Barcelona, Spain. They create outstanding conceptual images and sell them as stock on IStockPhoto. Their talent to create desirable images and superb skill to work with available lighting results in memorable and astounding portfolio. Judging by this team it looks like when two artistic souls combine their efforts in a creative process the work they produce quadruples in its effects. I have been a fan of their work for many years. Their images speak for themselves but I still wanted to peak behind the glossy photos and have a glance on how their ideas become a reality.

Tell us a little bit about yourself?

We are couple uploading together under Alija.

Armando Orbón studied economics in Barcelona. He has been an amateur photographer since he first bought a réflex camera when he was 15 years old. On 2006, he was able to quit his job and dedicate fulltime to

Mariana Alija studied Fashion Design in Mexico City and Milan. After meeting Armando she moved to Barcelona and tried to find a job in the Fashion industry. With no success in 2005 she started uploading on Istockphoto.

How did you get started in photography?

We heard about iStockphoto from Caracterdesign (Eva Serrabassa and Lluis García)

They sold us our first digital camera. Since then, we started taking pictures and uploading them compulsively on Istockphoto without thinking if they might have much impact. We didn’t know a lot about photography but Istockphoto worked as a school for us.  Rejections helped us learn a lot.

How would you describe your style?

It’s difficult to talk about style on Istockphoto. Since you never know what is going to sell we try and shoot every idea. We like changing from fashion to concept and from simple to complicated. The truth is, that sometimes you sell a simple idea so we like to cover everything. But in the end I guess we do have a style but we try not to stick to anything.

Do you primarily shoot for stock or do you mostly do commissioned work?

We’ve tried commissioned work but didn’t work for us. Now we primarily shoot stock.

You have shot tons of amazing concept imagery, how do you come up with these ideas?

We get inspiration everywhere and we keep lists with ideas. Some ideas are simple and easy to achieve but others have been on the list for a long time and we’ll remain on the list forever. We try to shoot a lot so we have a mix of big productions and small productions.

Do you have a solid shoot plan or do you just start with general ideas and improvise as the shoot progresses?

We have a solid shoot plan about what we want to get from a shooting. Sometimes circumstances make you change the plan and you have to improvise and the result is much better than you expected.

You often shoot “professionals at workplace” and musicians for stock, do you use models or do you actually shoot real people at work?

In the beginning we were always using our friends and family. Now we use models all the time and Armando for the funny shoots.

Your portfolio varies from beauty and fashion to editorial and bizarre concepts shots. If you had to stick to one type of photography, which one would you choose?

Since the beginning the ones that gave us better results were the bizarre concepts shoots. Guess we would choose that. But it is difficult to stick to one thing. We like diversity and it’s working for us.

What type of cameras do you shoot with?

Canon 5d Mark II

Besides your camera, what is a must-have at each session?

Just the camera. We shoot a lot of natural light so with the camera and lenses we are OK to shoot.

If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?

Canon 50mm f1.4 it’s perfect for natural lighting.

How often do you generally do photo shoots?

2 or three shootings a month.

Do you have your own studio, rent or shoot at home?

We shoot at home, outdoors and sometimes rent locations.

When you shoot on location, do you scout the place in advance?  Do you plan lighting positions prior to a shoot?

Yes, we normally check the place before and try figure out what kind of lighting setup we will use.

What lighting equipment do you work with?

Alien bees

What is your favorite computer software/editing accessory, other than your computer?

Photoshop CS6 and Bridge

How important is Photoshop for your work?

Very important

What is your most used Photoshop tool, plug-in, action set etc.?


Do you use Mac or PC?


Can you describe your photographic workflow during post-processing?

Select the best shoots, main retouch in Raw and final details on Photoshop.

Do you plan on buying any new equipment and if so what do you have your eyes on?

We are waiting for Canon to release the new Canon EOS 3D

What has been your most memorable assignment and why?

A Fashion shoot we did for a Spanish designer. We were really satisfied with the final result.

Do you have any additional people helping you with shooting, lighting, building sets, etc.?

No, we’ve tried to work with other people but we feel we can’t control all the process.

How do you find your models?

On Litmind and Facebook

How often do you use Makeup Artists?

Not very often just for complicated fashion shoots.

How do you come up with wardrobe and props for your photo shoots?

We bought those ourselves. We buy the clothing from various stores and props from online mostly.

How many images do you average per shoot and how many do you usually end up using?

I’m not sure, from the last shooting we took 300 and upload 15

Have you ever had anything go wrong at a shoot and if so, how did you handle it?

Yes, things go wrong many times but we try and make out the best from the shooting. The worst time was when we rented an office and when we got there another team was shooting an ad with a famous director. In the end they let us shoot in one of the corners.

What do you feel is the most challenging thing about your work?

You always have to keep up to date with technology, software, photo processing, lightning and trends.

What do you think of the photography industry at the moment and where do you see it in 5 years from now?

We think there is so much talent and competition and at the same time all this instagram trend from where I guess just the good ones will succeed.

Who are some of the people in the industry that inspire you?

We like Steven Meisel, Tim Walker, Alex Prager, Txema Madoz, Graciela Iturbide…
From Istockphoto we like Stalman, VikaValter and stevecoleimages

If photography didn’t exist, what would you do for a living?

I guess we would have continue with our previous careers Mariana being a fashion designer and Armando a technology consultant.

Is there anything you would have done differently during your photographic career?

No I don’t think so, overall we did what we could with the resources and knowledge we had.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?

Istockphoto standards for getting images accepted above many other things we’ve learnt over the years.

If you had an unlimited budget, what kind of a shoot would you do?

We would go to Cape Town and copy all Yuri’s images, just kidding…

What superpower would you like to have?

That we could have total control over the light and get the lightning setup the way we had it in mind.

What are you still learning?

Everything to do with technology, software, photo processing, lightning and trends…

What do you love most about being a photographer?

Having total flexibility over my time.

Is there anything you don’t like as a photographer?

On the other hand sometimes we miss having colleagues to talk to.

What is your greatest fear related to your work?

That one day we won’t be able sustain ourselves only shooting stock.

What do you do on a typical Friday night?

We go out and have some beers with our friends.

Would you still do photography if you won a lottery?

Yes, it’s something we do because we like it.

What is your favorite photo you’ve created recently? Can you describe the process behind it (location, equipment and setting used), as well as your thoughts about creating the image and what it means to you?

Orbon and Alija (24)

We planned this shooting for a music band. We found the costumes on ebay. We had this funny idea about fruits playing hide and seek outdoors. We found the perfect corner. We used natural light so no big production here.

All images copyright Armando Orbon and Mariana Alija. To see more examples of their work check out their portfolio on iStockPhoto or their Tumblr blog. You can also visit Armano’s personal Facebook and Mariana’s personal Facebook pages.

This entry was posted by Alex Gumerov.

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  1. Such a nice pics you show in this post. I really impressed with this post and it is truly a great photography. And thanks for sharing this pics.