The #FollowMeTo Couple Reveal What They Really Think of Dubai's Dangerous Selfie Trend
They sparked the global hand-holding trend in Instagram pictures, including a few spoofs and dangerous copycats along the way. So when POPSUGAR Middle East caught up with Nataly and Murad Osmann in Dubai we asked them everything you could possibly want to know – from their tips for the best social media pictures to their thoughts on the dangerous Dubai skyscraper photography trend.
Read on for their answers and see the gallery for their best posts from the last year.
You feature so many shots from the Middle East. What are some of your favorite places to photograph and be photographed?
Murad: A lot people think there are just deserts, every country is different. There's so much to offer, not even in terms of the locations… Everyone thinks of our projects as being magical views and nice places, but it's also about the people. They're so humble, so open and in the media different things are portrayed. I'm not talking about Dubai but the whole Middle East area.
Nataly: We really loved Jordan. It's something special.
M: In this hub we haven't been to too many places apart from Dubai. We've had one quick trip to Abu Dhabi but have mainly been in Dubai. Being shown around by the Minister of Tourism you realize, I haven't been there... We come to Dubai to see the best places but we're missing out on so many other things. You can come here and stay for longer and see different things.
From the location to the outfits…How do you come up with ideas for your shots?
N: It depends on the destination. It's really important to explain the culture. The national dress helps us to explain. We try to find local designers or historical costumes and jewelry. It's by the hand of the local people. I see dresses and think that's amazing we have to shoot it.
M: Working with tourism boards is a great benefit because they know the places your wouldn't usually go to, they know the best secret locations. We also approach local Instagrammers and photographers. Normally when you go to websites like TripAdvisor or if you type in Google you get carried away with typical tourist places. 10 years ago when there was almost no social media it was very difficult to communicate, you'd have to come here for a few days, get acquainted with local people… You'd have to come to the place first and get to know them.
Your pictures look incredible. How much touching up do you have to do to make sure they're good enough to post? Home much time do you spend editing?
N: Tell the truth!
M: It depends. Sometimes you go to a place really early in the morning and there are tons of tourists, especially in the magic hours. The nest time for us is sunset, I don't like to wake up early but we have to go for sunrises because there's a bigger chance to be alone. But I try to take photos and phase them out of the pictures or ask our friends to hold them back. W have a picture of Taj Mahal and people asked "where are the people?". That's a square image but if you look at the horizontal pictures you see huge crowds.
What are your top tips for people trying to achieve Instagram shots that are as stunning as yours?
M: There are a lot of people not attached to any single camera, even using an iPhone they get amazing quality pictures. It's the ideas that count. Even in you hometown you can get really beautiful photos going at night and shooting stars. It's your passion and vision, playing with lights and a series of photos. Dressing up for a place that doesn't really require dressing up. It doesn't have to be sophisticated dresses. We had our friends in India wearing a typical easy going sari and the picture looks different to when you're wearing a western outfit. You don't have to be too pushy so it looks like you're culturally appropriating the place, it has to be organic and it will work. There are comments [about cultural appropriation] but whatever.
A lot of people try to copy your #followmeto hand-holding style. Do you find it annoying?
N: No, we're always happy and looking for our hashtag or laughing at funny pictures. We try to comment on those pictures. We're trying to create a community around that and connect.
M: But not when brands do it!
You're so well known now that you voiced the Smurfs in Russian. How did that come about and how did it feel to hear your voice on the big screen?
M: How did you find that out?!
N: We try to do different things.
M: We're trying to engage with different audiences.
N: A year ago we created a TV program in Russian and it's huge but for us it was really a challenge.
M: You're a prisoner of the format because it has to be done in 21.4 seconds [for example]… not a second longer, not a second shorter. It's not like on YouTube, assembling anything and putting it out, it has to be fully scripted. We have operators behind the scenes so we're trying to push more to two people [on camera]. I prefer shooting Nataly, she's prettier.
How do you keep your accounts exciting for your followers who have been around a long time?
M: On the Murad Osmann account, we used to post only #FollowMeTo pictures, now we post video teasers, behind the scenes photos. We're testing the format because people are used to the hand-holding gesture. On Nataly Osmann, we post travel, fashion, cultures ad Nataly traveling. We're creating a community. All different platforms grow separately. If I keep posting #FollowMeTo photos on my account three times a day, I will be bored!
A lot of people take rather dangerous snaps hanging off buildings in Dubai to go viral on Instagram. How do you ensure you're responsible and safe while taking your daring shots and what do you do to show fans you're responsible?
M: Our shot was not as dangerous as it looks because there was a whole meter in front of us, and a story below so you would fall only two meters but it seems we're on the edge. When people are hanging off a building it's not cool.
N: No, come on!
M: Maybe it's an age thing, when you're 15 or 18… it sends the wrong message to the audience. If you have a private exhibition and it's professional, fine. But promoting it to the audience is not good. When people ask in the comment we let them know that it's not as dangerous as it seems. The only dangerous thing we did was hanging off a helicopter in front of the Hollywood Sign. There were no doors on the helicopter but we were strapped in.
N: Much more dangerous was in Kamchatka when we were going to the volcano.
M: We nearly died but that's okay. I was told grannies do it but at 200 meters, I'd just watched the Everest movie and said, "Just leave me, I'll die". There were bad weather conditions.
You're a couple. Have you discussed what would happen to your business if you broke up?
N: We would continue...
M: No, it only fits us. Recently, I tested it out and took a photo with a different girl and posted it on #followmeto, a famous girl, and I received so much hate from people saying, "No, Murad it has to be Nataly, Where's Nataly?"
Where would you like to go next in your career?
N: In my dreams I want to create a TV program in America.
M: Travel and documentaries for Netflix or HBO which generates new content. Cross-promoting it online. A lot of influencers forget about the huge market outside of social media.