Above: Photo by Eric Diaz

You might’ve noticed all the coverage on the Lytro ILLUM in this blog and in our social media pages lately. If you’re wondering why, it’s because we recently opened our doors to Lytro by supporting this cool company’s innovative light field technology in 500px.com. In fact, they’ve been sharing some neat Living Pictures that you can interact with on their brand page on 500px.

In this interview, 500px co-founder Evgeny Tchebotarev talks about 500px’s collaboration with Lytro—from sharing helpful tips on how to shoot with the Lytro ILLUM to his thoughts on why Lytro is a great addition to our 500px community. Read on, and discover a new way to capture moments and tell stories with pictures.

Hi Evgeny! People know you mostly as 500px’s co-founder. But for those that don’t know about your beginnings, how did you discover photography?
Oh, that’s a very tricky question! Unfortunately, I picked up photography pretty late — in 2002, by getting my hands on the film Canon camera. I got into photography because — and I’m actually embarrassed to say that — my then girlfriend told me that I can’t do anything with a camera — and she could. So in order to prove myself, I was very determined to get a camera. Luckily for me, my dad offered to buy me a camera, and I picked Canon Elan 7 (EOS 33), which was a solid film camera. From my first roll of film, three photos of my street photography got published in a few magazines, which was very inspiring. I got pretty hooked since then, and was spending a lot of my parents’ and my own money on this hobby since then.


You’re really into trying out new gear and gadgets, and love introducing them to the 500px community. What are some of the new gear you’ve added to your camera bag recently?
Yeah, I’m a little bit geeky when it comes to new stuff — I like all the new shiny toys. So recently, I’ve added Canon 6D, Sony NEX-6, Nikon D810, and Lytro ILLUM to my bag. I have to say, it’s now a pretty heavy bag! I like to be able to use different cameras and try different things, so that’s the reason I carry four different brands now.


Speaking of the Lytro ILLUM, I love the Lytro ILLUM images that you’ve uploaded to your 500px profile. What do you like about the camera so far? Is there anything Lytro can improve on in the future?
Thanks! What I really like is, of course, that 3D effect that you can almost peek behind the scenes. It’s really cool. However, the camera requires completely different style of shooting — you have to find or create a scene where background and foreground work well together, and tell a story. It’s a lot harder than I thought. I still haven’t cracked it just yet, so expect more attempts from me soon. This camera is a glimpse of the future, and with that you can expect not all things to be well polished — it’s slower, so while I’d love to shoot journalism-style street photography with that, it’s just wouldn’t work. A low-light performance is on par with mirrorless cameras, but falls well behind modern DSLRs that dramatically leapt forward in the last two years. What I’m certain of, however, is that someone will crack this format and will gain their first million followers on 500px by creating unique stories with Lytro.

Looking forward to seeing that happen too! Lytro is now a part of the 500px community with a brand page, and we have a great discount deal on the ILLUM. In your opinion, what makes Lytro such a great addition to our community?
I think the key principle that we embrace here at 500px is to always be on the edge of technology. That stems from the development languages we use, to constant design improvements, to being open to innovation happening in the industry. And Lytro is right on the edge. It’s so new that they had to invent own format and web support for Living Pictures. Being receptive to all the changes in the industry allows us to experiment with newest technologies and almost proof them with the community. It also keeps the community informed about the changes in the industry — be it a new camera like Lytro or OTTO, or a new photo technique we’d uncover at ISO, or a new perspective for photos like aerial drone photography. So with all that innovation happening around us, we want to be the first to bring it to the photographers and our community.

Do you have any tips for shots, angles, and compositions for new owners of the ILLUM to try when they take out their ILLUM to play?
I think the key is to be able to tell a story. It’s very hard, so you have to have a very strong foreground and background, connected together. You can avoid that in regular 2D photos, but that is required with Lytro. Regular photos wouldn’t look well with Lytro, but if you work a story in your image, it will shine.

What is your favorite Living Picture on the Lytro page?
There are two, if you don’t mind me dodging the answer. I like, “Aerial Swinging” by Toby Harriman, because flying helicopters during sunset is pretty damn awesome. I also like “Fear” by , because this photo has so many planes of focus, and I think the concept of a Living Picture is very well-illustrated there, with so much going on on the foreground, mid-ground and background.


To celebrate Lytro joining the 500px community, we have an ongoing $250 discount offer for the Lytro ILLUM—exclusive for 500px members only. Hurry, the offer expires on August 23, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. US Pacific Time; that’s in two days!


Here’s how to order the Lytro ILLUM for less:
1. Place a LYTRO ILLUM order at shop.lytro.com.
2. Take your Lytro order number and enter it here along with your 500px username and primary email address.
3. Submit the rebate form.

To see all the creative things you can do with the Lytro ILLUM, follow Lytro on 500px and play around with the images.