Upload your best - Martin Valigursky's stock view and review
You've been a stock photographer and contributor for quite some time. What major changes have you seen in the stock industry these years? How did you cope with these changes? How did they change you, your style, your photography?
When I started few years ago, pretty much any reasonably good image would be accepted and even sell. Currently, I don't even upload an image unless it's really good, best from the shoot. Otherwise it never sells. There are many photographers submitting stunning shots, and competition is hard. Many of them have portfolios of many thousands of images. All this is pushing me to deliver better content in the hope of having my images come up on the first few pages of searches for relevant keywords, which is where the big sales are happening. This need to deliver better quality was a huge motivation for me over the years, and made me a better photographer - so I want to continue submitting and improving.
What are the most important characteristics/skills needed to become a successful microstock photographer?
I cannot talk about the ones I don't have (and there are many to be really successful), but for me it must be the passion to take amazing photos and patience to process and deliver them to stock web sites.
Actually the model arranged to get the snake from her friend, and I was told it was very safe. All the snake wanted during the shoot was to find some warm spots on the model to hide, and it was very entertaining to pull it from the model once everything was over.
We see you like sunny tropical places a lot. How do you handle the light when shooting in bright sunlight? What lighting equipment do you prefer when shooting outdoors? What about studio? How many studio lights do you usually use (for a portrait for instance)?
Apart from couple of test shoots in the past, I never use lighting equipment outdoors. You don't need it when shooting nature, especially not my favourite subject of tropical beaches. When shooting people on locations, I prefer to keep it simple and flexible, and look for locations that provide me lighting I'm happy with - such as this shot with kids from last week.
In studio I almost always use all 3 lights I have, and often wish I had at least 1 more. But with limited home studio space, even 3 can be challenging and often positions need to be negotiated with furniture. See this model shot in the studio.
Employing models. How does it work for you? Is it difficult, is it easy? How do you select your models?
It's easy to find a model, they most often find me. It's difficult to find a model whose photos sell - and I hope to one day find out some rules to use when selecting models. But since our twin boys were born 2 years ago, I had a lot less opportunity for studio shoots, and a lot more time for photos from holiday vacations and other location shoots, so model selection is becoming less important for me at the moment. Beautiful photos of families with kids seem to be better sellers for me than studio shots.
Your favorite image and why is this image so special to you?
In your opinion, how important is post-processing for stock images?
I believe it's very important, and processing of the image almost always adds something special that image from camera doesn't have, and that makes it successful. I try to set up shots as well as I can directly on camera with light control, as I can only do so much with post-processing. But I would still process even the best image to make it that little bit better.
What's the most inspiring source for you?
It used to be few photographers whose work amazed me and I followed it, but these days it's mostly stock portfolios. Often an image gets my attention and takes me into exploring somebody's portfolio or just to search for similar images, and I'm always amazed at the creativity and quality many photographers are able to deliver.
What advice would you give to fellow photographers and contributors?
Focus on quality, not quantity. Try to make every shoot better than the last one, never settle just to keep shooting the same way for long time.
My current plan is to get my portfolio to have over 1000 images soon. Every once in a while I find one of these little green tree frogs around the house, and go to my studio right away. On last of these shoots I tried something different than the stuff I knew would regularly sell. I set up studio lights in my backyard with night as a black backdrop, and was holding camera and shooting with one hand, while spraying water with other hand. This gave me a lot of happy moments and few stunning photos, even though I knew they would not be good sellers. But sometimes we just need to shoot for ourselves too. I cannot wait for another frog to come my way.
If you're around Brisbane, you'll most likely find Martin out there looking for his perfect stock photo, taking on new photographic challenges or just having fun taking pictures for himself in his own backyard. Whatever he shoots, he does it amazingly well. We wish Martin the best of luck in reaching his personal milestone of 1,000 online files and we also thank him for answering our questions. Before you leave this page, don't forget to take a look at his wonderful portfolio, the work of a relentless perfectionist - beautiful, shiny, happy, optimistic. This is what we did.
Photo credits: Martin Valigursky.