Stock photography is often (and not incorrectly) imagined as generic images of people or objects in very ordinary surroundings and circumstances. Which is fair enough – this is often exactly what the users of stock images want. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and an increasing number of best-selling contributors are looking to break this mold.
We’ve coined the term ‘unstock’ to refer to this new style, because their work is not your typical ‘stock’ imagery. ‘Unstock’ can rely heavily on post-production techniques to add a magical or mysterious air, or might include images that are outside regular daily life.
Looking at this new movement, we wanted to discover where ‘unstock’ contributors get their inspiration, what led each of them to their unique style, and exactly why they think stock images need to stand out from the crowd.
Fotolia: Can you introduce yourself, where you’re based and explain a bit your journey into how you started selling your photos on Fotolia?
Konrad Bak: My name is Konrad Bak and I’ve lived and worked in Wroclaw since 2006 when I graduated from the University of Technology in Wroclaw. I’ve been taking photos for a good ten years, but my adventures in stock photography properly began in 2009. My first ventures into stock photography were mostly rejected for technical reasons, but I persisted, and was successful on my third attempt. I find it so rewarding and it gives me lot of joy. I then discovered other stock agencies such like Fotolia. It became much easier, since I started to understand the main rules.
Fo: How would you describe your photographic style? What has influenced and shaped it?
KB: I value true photography without plastic motifs. And sometimes not necessarily pure reporters photos because I like to interfere in my world of photography. I take the ideas from my head. Of course, it’s nice to watch the great masters and snatch something for myself; but as a rule I use ideas that come from the depths of my head. I write down those ideas and try to develop themes.
Fo: What is it about your photos do you think that has made them so popular?
KB: One would think that the most popular photos demand hours of heavy preparation, analysis of the topic and demand, deliberate selection of the frame, and so forth. But the most successful pictures can be taken quite by chance, almost casually. I mostly concentrate on women’s beauty connected to nature, unique places and accessories. This makes my photos unusual.
Fo: Has your photographic style developed since you started in the stock industry? If so, in what ways?
KB: I started to do pictures concentrated on a woman’s face… But that it was not enough. I therefore began to look relevant, unique models and places. I think that from the beginning it is important to approach the kind of artistic sensibility. I frequently make more photos using 3D graphics.
Fo: Have your origins and the culture of your country influenced you in any way? If so, how?
KB: I don’t think that my country or culture influenced me at all. My work is rather multicultural and that is the essence of stock photography – it has to fit the client’s needs in the most universal way possible.
Fo: Are they any common messages, emotions or ideas you try to convey through your images?
KB: In my opinion the camera lens should express feelings, tell stories. In my photographs I try to capture the fleeting beauty, the mood of the moment. What fascinates me is the sensuality of the female body, the uniqueness of the nuances of feminine beauty, facial features, fluctuations in moods, and the possibility of converting it all in a durable form
Fo: What, in your view, are the key ingredients to creating a fantastic photograph?
KB: It consists of a number of factors. Everything takes work and commitment. The question is whether it is treated as a hobby or as a job. If it’s job then you should invest more to succeed – it’s worth it!
It’s also important to maintain a good reputation with extensive industry contacts, and, above all maintain a good manner with people such as the models you work with and that’ll help you produce the best image. These are the ingredients for success and make good photos.
Fo: Your photos may not be considered typical ‘stock’ photos in that they portray some unique themes/characteristics. How do you come up with these and whom do you think they relate to the most in terms of clients?
KB: I’m trying to “smuggle” artistic ideas into typical stock photography. It’s not the best way to achieve financial success or instantly get more clients, but it’s allowing me to keep my mind fresh, and it also gives me a small amount of motivation to my job. I still try to shoot my personal projects at every opportunity.
Fo: Are there any photos in your Fotolia portfolio which surprised you with their popularity? Or some you thought would sell well, but didn’t?
KB: From the beginning you have to realize that customers can, for some reason, not like an image and therefore won’t buy it. There is no rule.
As in any art, there are different expectations and different tastes. These are not designer products exhibited on the shelves of stores, always ready to buy. In this industry, everyone can purchase what he or she wants, and each photo is an attempt to match the needs of the buyer.
Fortunately, most of my images are very well received!
Fo: What are the global trends you see for 2014 and do you think it is important to follow them in order to succeed in the stock industry?
KB: I don’t see any global trends in stock photography. If you look through the top 100 best-selling pictures you’ll see mainly universal themes – flowers, kids, families, beauties. There are minor trends, for example photos with glass-like computer user interfaces, but I personally don’t attach any importance to such trends.
Fo: What are you favourite photos from your Fotolia portfolio and why?
KB: I think it can be photos with a horse on a morning meadow. I really like the timelessness and expression of such images.
Fo: Konrad, thank you so much for your time. For more of Konrad’s amazing photos head to his Fotolia portfolio