As we continue our interview series with Spark AR creators, today we’re catching up with Nahir Esper, the Chaco, Argentina-based photographer, artist and developer, known for her stylistic makeup effects and vivid Instagram filters. Nahir talks about how she got into AR creation, where she finds inspiration for her projects, and some of her favorite Spark AR features.
Tell us a little about your career?
My career and passion is photography, I truly love it. Normally, my workday is split up: part of the day, I’m behind the camera, working on client projects, and the other part I’m leading workshops, teaching people about photography. Unfortunately, the pandemic has changed a lot of things, I’m doing more teaching online these days, and it’s trickier getting into the studio to work. The upside is that it has given me a little more freedom to explore my other interests like app development and digital content creation, including building AR effects — which at this point, it’s practically my third job.
What attracted you to augmented reality?
I’m really drawn to the interplay between creators and users. Today, we take pictures in a millisecond and that’s it, that’s the moment. Now with AR, I can augment your moment with my creations, and give you the ability to add a flower to your hair, color your lips, maybe even land a butterfly on your nose! And then I get to see how my creation is used by people all over the world — it’s beautiful and amazing.
What got you interested in creating with Spark AR?
I’ve been experimenting with AR for several years now, I really like the notion of remixing your reality and creating new experiences for people. A few years back, I remember watching this video called “Intro to Building Camera Effects with AR Studio,” and that got me interested in learning more. Initially, I just wanted to experiment with some ideas, but the more time I put in, the more appealing it all became. And when the Instagram beta trial surfaced, that’s when I really committed to the Spark AR platform.
How did you learn to create AR effects?
I learned a lot using the Spark AR tutorials and documentation, and the community of creators was incredibly helpful too. I joined the Spark AR Facebook Group when it was still fairly small, but even as it has grown, people have been genuinely supportive. Two creators I’ll quickly mention by name are Luke Hurd, his tutorials have been very helpful, and Josh Beckwith, he’s an incredible creator that has helped me elevate the color balances of my effects.
Of course there are many more creators in the community who share valuable material and knowledge on sites like YouTube and GitHub, which you should definitely visit. And just recently, the Spark AR Forum was launched — it’s an excellent resource, I highly recommend it.
How many effects have you created?
I’ve published over 80 effects and filters on Instagram, so far. The most popular filter is called “Orange & Teal,” it has millions and millions of views. But my personal favorite is an AR effect called “Flora II,” I really enjoyed creating this one because it captures and reflects my love for nature.
Where do you find inspiration for your effects?
I get my inspiration from a variety of places: movies, books, coworkers...life. I always tell my students that “to take good photographs, you have to see good ones.” I think the key to a good AR effect is creativity. The more visual information you can regularly feed your brain, the better. And when you do get stuck or feel uninspired, one thing I like to do is sit down with a piece of paper, write down a bunch of words that come to mind and then try to pair the words together in interesting combinations.
Are there other artists or creators you find inspirational?
Yes! Marc Wakefield, Alena Geyser, Ksenya Lozytskabut, are just a few, there are many more. Lately, I’ve been starting my day using Lianne Tokey's Daily Affirmation effect , she’s a fantastic and highly talented digital artist. I use this effect as a kind of digital mantra that motivates me to create day-by-day
When you’re in Spark AR Studio, what features do you use most?
I use the face tracker a lot, it’s a quick and easy way to anchor 2D and 3D objects to the face (like eyeliner or eyeshadow). I’m also a big fan of the Patch Editor, combined with some occasional scripts, which help me customize and control the entire experience. I think the more a user can customize effects, the better the experience is for them. Additionally, I like playing with 2D objects and various textures. I really love how an effect with a grainy texture looks. For me, the big advantage of Spark AR Studio, is just how quickly it helps me turn an idea into an immersive experience.
What are you excited about when you think about the future of AR?
The use cases for augmented reality are everywhere. I think where it’s really going to stomp is in the world of online commerce. The ability to try on clothes or accessories, and then buy them in a single click is basically here, right now. I can’t wait to see how this evolves. As for me, my future is to simply continue creating effects that people enjoy.
Our thanks to Nahir for taking the time to share her opinions and perspective. You can find more of her Spark AR effects, photography and art on Instagram @nahir.esper or at her website nahiresper.com
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