Ilja Mašík is from Prague and is kind of, sort of, mostly a professional photographer, but with an interesting sideline in home automation. We sat him down to talk about serious things such as life, Art, and photography…
Fotolia: Ilja, hello! Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Where do you live? What do you do? And are you a professional photographer?
I live in Prague and I hope I can describe myself as a professional photographer! The biggest part of my income is from microstock sites – especially Fotolia.
This gives me the freedom to focus on other disciplines, as well as photography – I’m really interested in home automation, and hopefully it will become my second job.
Fo: Right, well, good luck with that. But back to photography – what is it you love about that?
Now, it’s little bit different. When I sold my first successful photos I tried to understand why exactly they were popular. That was six years ago.
I’m still not sure – although I have my suspicions – why some pictures sell and others don’t. Of course, a photograph needs to be “beautiful”, but at the same time it must be relevant to large numbers of customers.
And that’s the answer to your question: I love to shoot everything that has this combination of characteristics.
Fo: What is your favorite subject to photograph?
Il: My portfolio contains a few themes – architecture, sport, and transportation – and these themes are my exact favorites, especially landscape and architecture.
Fo: Tell us about this amazing image of Manhattan at night. Was it a spontaneous shot or carefully planned?
Il: I discovered microstock just after I came back from a trip to the USA, but the pictures taken there were not taken with any commercial ends in mind. However, they were my first uploads, and I found out that pictures of New York sell well.
Two years later I went to New York again, this time purely to take new photos, and that series, including this photo, were very successful. This photo is taken from one of most famous places in NY, so I think everybody probably leaves New York with picture like this one.
Hopefully, I’ll go to New York again. It’s such a beautiful place.
Fo: Do you have theories regarding its popularity? It’s the most downloaded image of New York on Fotolia.
Il: This is related to the whole evolution process of a photographer. Everybody is always learning.
At that time I would not have said that this photo would be successful. You never know which photo will be a best seller. Strong favorite can flop and photos you don’t want even to upload can succeed.
Fo: What tips/advice can you offer to new photographers?
Il: That’s difficult. Selling pictures over the Internet is easy, but the strong competition makes getting started difficult.
First, you need to love photography. Second, you don’t need expensive equipment – great photos can be taken with terrible cameras. The photo of New York was taken with a digital camera, comparable with today’s cheapest types. Start with watching your favorite photographers, try to follow them. It will bring you the best experiences.
Fo: What do you still want to photograph?
Il: One of my best selling theme is airplanes. Of course, not all of them are actually taken in flight – they’re photo-montages. Whenever I travel by airplane I have to sit at the window (my girlfriend really hates this), to get pictures of the skies for later use.
At every airport I’m always trying to find good angles to take pictures of airplanes from. It takes a lot of time, and then a lot of processing with with Photoshop.
But I hope one day to have the chance to take real photos of big airplanes in the sky.
Fo: Who would be your dream person to shoot?
Il: Every person who signs a model release is dreamy.
Fo: Which photographers do you admire?
Il: I have no idols. I’m always watching commercial photographs, and I admire the creativity of other photographers. That’s my weakness.
Fo: Do you like using Fotolia? Would you recommend it to other photographers?
Il: Fotolia is one of the most profitable microstock sites. If you want to start selling photos, Fotolia can’t be ignored – it’s perfect for everybody who wants to start selling photos. Whether you’re a professional or an amateur, Fotolia is a powerful selling channel with many buyers.
Fo: Ilja, thank you very much for your time.