As a photographer, your portfolio of creative work is crucial to earning assignments in a very crowded and competitive field. Mexican Felix Hernandez can certainly attest to that, as he was hired for an advertising campaign by auto giants Audi off the back of his previous projects. However, after successfully getting the job, the photographer had the nerve to turn ’round and submit pictures of a tiny toy SUV to the car manufacturer.
It all started in March 2016, when Audi unveiled its new Q2 model at the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland. This was the German company’s first compact SUV, fully customizable in its design and aimed at younger drivers. The car was launched in Europe in November of that year, and was due to arrive in the States in early 2018.
With this in mind, the manufacturer’s publicity periodical, Audi Magazine, got together with Audi Middle East to devise an advertising strategy for the Q2 in 2017. However, unlike some middle-of-the-road car adverts, this campaign had some very special requirements which needed a painstaking eye for the tiniest detail. So, in the circumstances, who better to call than young Felix Hernandez?
A resident of the city of Cancun in Mexico, Hernandez is not just a photographer, as he also specializes in high-end digital art and graphic design. In addition to running his own photography studio, he is a director at the Project Matatema creative agency. And this is the organization which has seen Hernandez add to his portfolio with marketing campaigns for well-known global brands, including Volkswagen, Mattel and Nickelodeon.
Given his range of abilities, the young Mexican has been able to combine his photographic and digital-art skills to produce some very eye-catching work. Indeed, Hernandez’s content has been featured in many specialist online titles, such as Retouched Magazine, Good Light Magazine, and Adobe Create Magazine, and more mainstream print publications, including newspapers El Pais and the Daily Mail.
However, Hernandez can offer a more niche service than others in his industry, as he specializes in miniature photography. His portfolio boasts many shrunk-down recreations of scenes from Hollywood blockbusters such as Back To The Future, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Ghostbusters. And these works must have attracted the attention of Audi, since the automaker was looking for something very similar for its Q2 campaign.
However, this proved to be more of a tall order for Hernandez than his usual briefs, as he explained to PetaPixel in March 2017. “Where I normally work with 1/18 scale models, for the Q2 launch I was commissioned to do a series of photographies using a 1/43 scale model,” he told the photography and camera news website. “This was my first time doing this kind of photography with such a small model.”
And it would be these reduced circumstances which would make the intricate features of the Q2 miniature harder to capture. “Although the detail in the model is good, it wasn’t as good as a bigger scale,” Hernandez admitted to the online photographer’s resource Fstoppers in May 2017. “The more you have in a model, the more realistic it will look at the end.”
However, despite these limitations, Audi expected Hernandez to make the mini Q2 look like the real thing. With this objective in mind, the creative built a trio of sets in his Cancun studio, prepping for three different scenes. These included two separate highway settings and the dunes of a desert backdrop.
To create the roadway scenarios, Hernandez utilized LED lights, sandpaper and a foam core, before placing the Q2 miniatures in the middle of the set ahead of shooting. The photographer then dimmed the lights in his studio, the effect being to give the cars the uncanny appearance of being on a real street at night.
As for the desert dunes, Hernandez took a pouch of especially fine powder and emptied some of it into a large bucket. He then poured a tub of water on top of it, mixing the two to create a very thick substance. After that, the creative grabbed a handful of the mixture and slapped it on a white base.
Using gloves, Hernandez was then able to sculpt the substance into a sand-dune shape, before covering the rest of the base with the remaining contents of the bucket. Following some further touching up, Hernandez sprinkled sand across the base, spraying it with more water once he was done. However, this was not the end of the road for his auto shoot.
With the Q2 miniature in place, Hernandez then blew smoke around the model, giving the illusion that the car had just driven through sand and had kicked up some dust. As a finishing touch, he also left mini tyre-track marks along the dune and across the desert set, completing the clever visual. However, for the fourth and final scene, the photographer was required to leave his studio in Cancun.
To satisfy his Audi Middle East client, Hernandez enlisted the help of a photographer colleague, Dutchman Adrian Sommeling, and traveled to Dubai in order to capture a very specific shot. The duo took pictures of the iconic cityscape as the sun went down, with all the buildings beautifully illuminated in the early evening glow. With this image safely in the bag, Hernandez had all he needed for his final visual.
Back in Cancun, Hernandez set up a base for the Q2 miniature, placing the toy-sized car in front of a white screen. After snapping a shot of the model, he was then able to drop in the Dubai picture as a background, making it look for all the world like a full-size model was actually parked in the United Arab Emirates city.
The results, it is fair to say, were spectacular – a proud addition to Hernandez’s previously impressive work. The creative had used a Canon 5D Mark III camera to capture the shots, with both a 24mm tilt-shift lens and a 24-105mm lens. As he told Fstoppers, “You could achieve similar results or even better by doing everything [computer-generated], but then it would have been pointless for the goal – sharing the creative and alternative process in social media.”
Indeed, Hernandez’s behind-the-scenes work on his Audi Q2 project was recorded and shared on YouTube by a channel hosted by his photography studio. Posted in March 2017, the video has since attracted almost 350,000 views. Two months after this, Hernandez spoke of his penchant for using in-camera effects in his work to Fstoppers.
And it appeared that the Mexican was well aware of the importance of offering his clients a little something extra. “Doing this is what makes me work a little different from the rest,” Hernandez told the website. “Not that I’m the only one doing it, but we are few. So, in a world so competitive and with so many great images and photographers, you have to find your own way of ‘speaking.’”
With the Audi Q2 project under his belt, Hernandez continued to add to his ever-expanding portfolio. Nevertheless, he still found time to raise his profile in the industry by taking on a couple of extra responsibilities. The photographer has served as a judge for the prestigious Art Directors Club of New York Awards and the Hamdan International Photography Awards in Dubai.
As advertising campaigns become more intricate and involved in drives to get our attention, Audi got cute and clever for its Q2 roll out. However, the chiefs of that global brand must have been hugely delighted by the amazing small-time results from miniatures photographer extraordinaire Felix Hernandez. In an industry boasting the bleeding-edge of advanced technology, the Mexican has cut out a small but perfectly formed platform for his incredible talents.