Learn how Andres Rodriguez became the first Gold ranked photographer of Fotolia.com.

Since the very early days of Fotolia I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with some great photographers including an outstanding photographer named Andres Rodriguez. Andres is the first photographer to reach Fotolia’s Gold rank. His creative eye and keen understanding of the stock photography market have propelled this young photographer to celebrity status among photographers and designers familiar with his work.
I was excited when Andres reached Gold and I decided it was time to highlight his life and photography experiences for our readers. Andres graciously agreed to share a little bit of his life with us during the following interview.
Andres how long have you been in photography?
I have always been interested in photography since I was little as my dad is a fine artist so I grew up close to it.
When I was 14 I bought a little film point and shoot which I used to take photos of everything I could. When the digital era started to settle in I bought a 2mp point and shoot, then a 3mp and then a 5mp a couple of years ago.
In November 2005 I found some stock sites where I could sell my photos. After submitting my best 200 images I realized the potential I had in stock photography.
I decided to take it seriously so I bought my first DSLR together with the book “Understanding Exposure”. Ever since then I have been learning and improving my work by experimenting and researching concepts that sell well in stock.
18 months later stock photography is my full time job which I absolutely love.
Do you have any formal training? What is your background?
I do not have any formal training in photography however, my skills in stock photography are very much related to my design background.
I have been involved in design since 1997 when I did an art and design foundation diploma, then a product design BA (Hons) degree and a multimedia technology BSc (Hons).
My job in the past 3 years until now had been designing websites and graphics.
Knowing what designers need has helped me understand what type of images I should create to put up for sale in the stock libraries.
Are you originally from England?
No, I am originally from Bogota, Colombia but moved to London, England when I was 18. That’s where I have been living for the past 10 years. I have a flat where I take some photoshoots of my models and objects.
Colombia, it will always be my home as I grew up over there. England has taught me lots as a person and I have good memories but I will never forget my family, my true friends, the food, the warmth of the people over there and of course, all the beautiful places like the Andes landscapes, the Caribbean beaches, the Pacific region, the adventurous Amazon and the cosmopolitan Bogotá.
What about your family?
My wife is a teacher who has supported me with the stock photography adventure from the word go. She is my main model and my assistant in many photoshoots.
My parents live in Bogotá, my dad is a fine artist and my mum is the owner of a furniture company. I have two beautiful sisters who are 21 and 16 who you can find in my portfolio too.
What do you like to shoot for work and for pleasure?
People and people. One of the most rewarding aspects in this job for me is the fact I can give people photos they really like knowing they always walk out very happy from my studio. I enjoy the photoshoots as I always bond with the models quite quickly so the 2 hours of shooting becomes more of a long chat and a good laugh.
Do you use professional models? Friends? Strangers? How do you deal with model releases?
I use mostly friends as models as the trust and closeness show up in the photos. The key is to make sure you get to know the people you are shooting prior to the photoshoot, explain what stock photography is, what you will do with the photos etc so they really know what is going on. It doesn’t matter if the people you ask have no model experience, you can direct them in a very friendly way and the outcome can be equal or better than hiring professional models. Also they don’t need to be extremely good looking, average people sell as much as top models in stock, just choose your concepts accordingly to the person you are shooting.
I always explain why I need a model release and so far, I haven’t had any problems. Many fellow photographers are afraid to ask people to pose for them but the fact is that 99.9% of people out there would like to have nice photos of them. Ask anyone you know, the worse that can happen is that they say “no thanks”.
So many of your images are more about creating an experience for the viewer and setting the stage. What is the process of building images like yours?
The creation process for me is a bit more complex than one would imagine.

  • a)Research and Creativity:
    For me the most important stage of the creation process is the research and brainstorming. I have been cutting photos from magazines and saving images from websites for months. I collect images which convey good and marketable concepts. I write notes next to them stating why I like them, how I could improve the message they are trying to convey and then I draw sketches of other possible ways to convey the same concept.

  • b) The photoshoot:
    For each photoshoot I make sure I have the concepts drawn or written down, I make sure the model feels comfortable and really knows what is going on every minute of the photoshoot. I try to take as many angles as possible for each concept so I have a good base to work with later on.

  • c) Post Processing:
    I love playing around in Photoshop that’s where I make my images pop. Some of the concepts that I come up with are impossible to take in real life so I use Photoshop as a tool to create compositions and make improvements to my images. I really stretch the creativity by playing around with size, colours, dimensions etc ….

Do you travel for your photography?
I don’t travel to take stock photos. I simply carry the camera everywhere I go and I always come back home with a few nice photos to upload.
What are your feelings about the stock industry? Do you see any trends?
I haven’t had any experience with traditional stock agencies but I can say that I will never have. The new upcoming stock agencies are really exciting as there is always something new going on and have already made a big mark in the stock industry. I owe these new agencies a lot as they have open doors for me in a new and very exciting career.
I also like the fact that the images sell worldwide and there are no geographical, therefore you are free to work from any spot around the globe as long as you have an internet connection. The digital era changed the stock industry and “microstock” sites have taken the best advantage of it.
You are one of the first photographers to gain the Gold Rank on Fotolia, why do you think you have been so successful?
Good quality and appropriate category/key-wording always pay off.
I have created my own style and customers know it as well as the quality of my images so they know what they are buying before paying for it.
Tell us about your experience with Fotolia? How did you come to Fotolia? Why did you join? What do you like?
I joined Fotolia after receiving a very professional invitation via email to submit my work. I receive several of those week in and week out and always check the sites but hardly ever join them. With Fotolia it was different, you could see the professionalism of the site from the beginning and the potential it had. If you notice Fotolia has achieved in a few months what others have taken years to achieve.
The key features that have made Fotolia successful in my opinion are:

  • Professionalism and friendliness of staff
  • Worldwide presence with many languages available.
  • Attractive and simple web interface
  • Good balance between quality and quantity of images accepted

When you are not involved in photography what do you do? Do you travel? Do you have any other hobbies?
I love designing as much as I love photography so I always undertake design projects for companies whenever I can.
I love travelling. So far I have visited 23 countries and would love to see many more. It is always interesting to see new cultures and getting to know the people and places properly as very often the media portrays a totally different image of a place as it is the case of my own country.
Sports always have my attention especially football (soccer for those of you in the US), I am crazy about it, I always watch every match in big tournaments and I try to see every Manchester United game in England and Millonarios in Colombia.
Finally I love reading magazines; I buy between 6-8 design and photography magazines every month to keep up with what’s new.
Tell us about your equipment and workflow?
Canon 5D
24-105mm L IS Canon Lens
Elinchrom Flashlights with a wireless transmitter
Reflectors, umbrellas etc …
A little 8mp Sony point and shoot that I carry everywhere just in case.
My workflow starts by taking images in Raw and Jpeg formats.
Images in studio are always post processed to smooth the skin, improve make-up colours, remove spots etc … For other photos I simply adjust levels and colours.
I keyword every jpeg image when it is ready to upload after making a backup of the original raw and the post-processed Tiff.
I finally upload batches of 20-40 photos.
What recommendations would you give new photographers?
To understand what is stock by doing lots of research and not to expect any quick money. This as any other industry can be financially rewarding but you have to be prepared to put the time and effort in order to be successful. Create your own style, do research by looking at other images but try not to reproduce images that are already top sellers as you will be wasting your time. Originality and Imagination are the most valuable tools so work with what you have and make your way up.
Click here to see Andres Rodriguez portfolio on Fotolia.com.