Oleksiy Mark, a craftsman of photography and illustrations

After working in the advertising and publishing industries, Oleksiy Mark, or Scanrail, is now a happy full time microstocker with equal passion for both photography and illustrations. Oleksiy is an accomplished graphic artist and a dedicated photographer who confesses that his aspiration has been to visualize things "around us in a perfect way – the best ever way I can, using all possibilities I have at each moment". He does not idealize the world, he simply looks at everything around him through a 'beautiful eye' and claims that "the artist -[photographer or illustrator]- has the power to make a “piece of paradise” from almost any place in the world" once he's set his eyes on a subject. To achieve this, he uses the regular wide variety of software and equipment to which he adds vision, native talent and plenty of photographic craft. Comparing his work to that of a jeweler, Oleksiy says that images are uncut rough diamonds which one strives to make them shine or to stand apart. Join us for a journey into Oleksiy Mark's workshop:

When did this photo and illustration adventure start for you? How did you discover your talent and passion? What made you decide to get into microstock?

This adventure really started for me in early childhood, when I discovered good drawing skills; later (still in childhood) I revealed interest in photography and took my first steps in this hobby using a small film camera. For a long time I felt an aspiration to visualize things around us and to do it in perfect way – the best ever way I can, using all possibilities I have at each moment. This encouraged me to develop my skills in drawing and photography. I even remember that when I was a little child I used to examine posters on streets and thought of ways how they could be improved :). Two years before finishing high school I bought my first PC and discovered the new and wonderful world of computer graphics. Later, after completing my education, I was involved in advertising, typographic and publishing industry. I was aware of microstock long time before I joined it; I joined the microstock industry because I felt that this will give me an excellent ability to uncover my creative potential – much better than any advertising agency I worked with would.

You are both an illustrator and a photographer. Which one do you enjoy most doing? Which activity takes up more of your time: shooting photos and post processing them or creating illustrations?

Maybe it’s a difficult question for me because I like both illustrations and photography a lot. Of course it’s much easier and faster to press a shutter button than to create one or another illustration. But both illustration and photography are very advanced processes and they both have very time-consuming stages. Generally speaking, sometimes it takes a very long time to model and render a 3D illustration for instance but for a photo it also takes a long time to choose the best view and time of a day – I often even have to “guess” if it's going to be a good weather for my outdoor shots!

How would you describe your photographic style? What about your style as illustrator?

My favorite photographic style is outdoor photography: beautiful landscapes and architecture, especially evening and night scenes. It’s wonderful that Dreamstime has a dedicated category for such shots – “Arts/Architecture > Night Shots”, I’ve never seen this option on any other microstocks! I also like very much transportation photography – you’ll find a lot of streamlined trains, automotive vehicles, ships and airliners among my best shots. As for my illustration style, I try to develop both vector graphics and 3D renders, but currently I find last one more interesting for me – 3D design gives more possibilities for perfect visualization of objects and concepts. Before choosing a subject for my next image I always estimate what will be easier and more optimal: to make a photo of desired object or to implement it in 3D and I often realize that 3D will be the best way. My favorite topics in 3D are computers, electronics, technology and communications.

Your portfolio stands out by its vibrant colors; it proves your ability to show places through their specific colors. It also shows your proficiency in post-processing software. Are you a PS wizard?

I think that the main goal of each kind of visual art is to reproduce the main essence of subject and certainly this fully applies to photography. In landscape and architecture photography, the artist has a power to make a “piece of paradise” from almost any place in the world and of course there’s ability for him to make this in opposite way.

Like jeweler facets the best crystals of diamond, I always try to show places in the best possible way – I always try to choose the best angle and lighting conditions. I also use the best available camera settings according to each shooting conditions – in landscape photography it’s very useful to set the lowest ISO setting (to ISO100 or even ISO50) and to slow down aperture to f/8-f/11 to achieve the maximum sharpness and level of details and to reduce various optical distortions. If I feel the slightest need of tripod I always use it – in terms of absolute quality it is much better to use the tripod than to increase ISO setting or to widen aperture; in distant journeys along with a set of lenses, the tripod is always my usual companion. In extremely complex conditions it’s also reasonable to use multi-exposure to achieve best details in highlights and shadows. But the shooting process is actually only a half of work; the next step is post-processing, of course Photoshop is the best tool for it. But usage of post-processing software like Photoshop and various plugins requires a wise approach; resulting image should not show overuse of noise reduction, over-sharpening, harsh colors etc. Continuous growth of quality standards on microstocks requires using of the best gear – it’s obvious that it’s absolutely no sense to upload to microstocks images with quality which considered fair five years ago.

Let's talk about your illustrations. What software/s do you regularly use for them? What would you recommend to fellow illustrators and why?

I use a wide range of software in my work due to big number of different categories in my portfolio. Of course first and most convenient tool for 3D design is 3dsmax. It can be complicated for understanding for the first time but it gives almost unlimited possibilities for 3D designers. I also use Vue xStream and Bryce Pro when I need to simulate realistic natural environment in 3D. I can recommend 3dsmax for those who want to discover wonderful world of 3D. If course understanding of all tricks of this software is not a matter of a day but 3dsmax has a full set of tools for achieving good results for users with almost any level of experience.

In vector graphics I combine usage of CorelDraw and Adobe Illustrator together. Each of these programs has its strong points. However I recommend starting learning vector graphics directly from Adobe Illustrator because it has better support of world standards for vector images established by microstocks, advertising and press agencies.

We've noticed quite a few self-made packaging designs in your 3d work. Have you been or are you involved in the advertising industry?

Yes, as I mentioned before, I’ve been involved in advertising, typographic and publishing industry for some time. But after starting microstock business I gradually discontinued to collaborate with such agencies because it became unnecessary for me. Industrial and packaging design is one of my favorite subjects and it’s very interesting for me to employ these skills in microstock imaging – this is quite unusual for microstock and therefore it always allows me to stay unique and to stand out in a crowd.

It’s a frequent situation in designer’s routine in advertising agency when it’s hard to “guess” client’s needs and often these needs differ a lot from a designer’s vision and style. And microstock as an intermediary between designer and client changes the situation fundamentally: thanks to microstock, the designer has the freedom to offer his own design and vision of style and in turn the client is able to choose from thousands of versions of design the one which fits his needs the best.

Have you taken courses in graphic design or are you self-taught?

Yes, I’m fully self-taught; I’ve never taken any courses in graphic design. Of course it doesn’t mean that dedicated education in graphic design is a bad way but practice always has been for me the best way to develop my skills. In my opinion, sometimes things around us and their design can give better learning results than a special course.

Your favorite image and why this is your favorite.

Probably it’s hard to choose only one because lots of my images are worth attention :) But maybe in terms of numbers my favorite image is aerial panorama of Stockholm, Sweden – this photo became my absolute bestseller on all microstocks with which I work, of course including Dreamstime. I like old European architecture very much and I think that Stockholm is one of the most beautiful and majestic capitals not only in Europe but in the whole world too.

Are you a full time microstocker? If not, would you like to be one?

Yes, I’m a full time microstocker. I’ve switched to full time about two years ago and that was absolutely right decision – now microstock is a very successful and pleasant job for me which gives me an infinite freedom for my creativity and covers all my needs, needs of my children and all family.

What do you like doing when you're not shooting or creating illustrations?

Of course I spend a lot of time with my family – we have two little and very funny children :) I also communicate with my friends and colleagues; I like to listen music – from classic to metal, read books and magazines; I also like r/c models. Cycling and swimming are among my hobbies too. But the best and most interesting hobby for me is traveling and sightseeing – each new journey becomes for me a long-waiting and breathtaking discovery of the world!

In conclusion I want to say great thanks to all Dreamstime team! Through years it was always very happy for me to be one of authors of such industry leading microstock agency as Dreamstime!

Thank you Oleksiy for the useful insights into photography and illustrations.

Photo credits: Scanrail.

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How can I contact you for a project?


great portfolio


Thank you guys very much! ;)


your talent is amazing :)


Great portfolio !


Very nice work!!

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