Lasse is a Fotolia contributor from Bremen, in Germany, who has made a living selling images on Fotolia since 2011. His photographs are often heavily edited using image software. We asked him how he got started in photography and what tips he might have for others hoping to follow in his footsteps…
Fotolia: Hi, Lasse. Can you introduce yourself, where you’re based, and tell us about your journey into photography with Fotolia?
I discovered Fotolia during my professional education as a digital media designer. The advertising agency where I worked bought a lot of photos on Fotolia, and at that time I was already experimenting a lot with image editing software in my free time.
I really liked the idea of earning a little extra money with my hobby and so I started uploading some images to Fotolia.
It didn’t take long until I sold the first photos which of course was a great motivation for me to upload some more of my work. Over the next months I had a consistent rise of downloads and took the first steps on the ranking ladder.
During the day I worked at the agency and if there was spare time in the evening, I worked on my Fotolia images. Over time, the little dream of earning my money with Fotolia only, grew bigger in me.
In 2011, just before the end of my apprenticeship, my Fotolia income was just high enough, and I knew I could take the chance of a self-employment. So after finishing my education I did it and have since never looked back. At the moment I can’t imagine a better profession.
Fo: How would you describe your photographic style? What has influenced and shaped it?
La: As I am a absolute Photoshop fan my pictures are mostly photo compositions or at least highly edited. It is great fun for me to create something new out of the basic raw material. The photography part of the image is merely a means to an end in my work.
My style was influenced by many photographers and photo artists whose activities I follow constantly. Also, I often take some time to search the internet for inspiration on different graphic design and photography blogs.
During these surfing sessions I sometimes discover images with a particular look that grab my attention. Then I try to find out what is necessary to come along with this photographic or editing result and how I can use it for my own image ideas.
In addition I fought my way through a lot of tutorials and subject literature. With time the various techniques and looks began to blend, slowly creating my own style.
Fo: What is it about your photos do you think that has made them so popular?
La: In my eyes, the success of my images is a combination of several factors:
– My profession is also my hobby, and because of this I’m not afraid of long hours
– I aim to create a bestseller with every single image. Of course I often fail, but it is a great motivator
– I don’t like series with many photos which look almost the same; I like diversity in my portfolio and believe this is a big help
– I try to stay competitive by continuously improving my skills
– A grasp for a selling image has certainly developed over time.
La: To be honest I dont think my style has changed much over the years, but my skills have. My images were affected by strong colors and intense contrasts from the start. But gradually my photography and post-processing skills improved with a lot of training.
Today I am able to transfer the style that I have in mind to the picture much better. In addition I internalized some processes which I can use on almost every image to create a nice look.
Naturally, this doesn’t mean I’m satisfied with my level of knowledge. There a lot of fields where I can still improve.
Fo: Are they any common messages, emotions or ideas you try to convey through your images?
La: No, you can’t say it like that. My portfolio is very diverse and I mostly photograph and edit what I like and whatever comes up in my mind. Provided I see some chances of selling.
Fo: What, in your view, are the key ingredients to creating a fantastic photograph?
La: Well, I would say it is a great photograph of a pleasant subject, the right moment, a suitable perspective, and exciting light meet. Topped off with some nice post-processing there is a good chance for a fantastic photograph.
This combination of criteria is very unusual to achieve, but fortunately Photoshop can help out a little bit.
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 who do you think they relate to the most in terms of clients?
La: As I already mentioned, for me, diversification is a key strategy. Fotolia has a wide range of customers with a wide range of needs.
For example, a journalist might look for a “specific” picture that visualizes his article , while a web designer needs a “broader” image which fits the overall design of his website.
Of course I Google myself from time to time to see where my images end up and how they are applied, which can be very surprising at times. That way I developed a pretty good feel for the various customers of Fotolia and their needs. So whenever I get a new image idea I first ask myself which kind of client would buy it. Only if I can visualize enough applicability I will produce and upload it.
In addition, the sources of inspiration for my ideas are also very diverse. I would consider myself a very curious person and I always try to walk the world with open eyes and watch out for any kind of new inspiration. This can be everyday life situations, advertisement, the news, the Internet, tutorials, friends, personal interests… – anything, really.
Sometimes it is almost like an illness: you could say I have “Fotolia-Vision” – I see Fotolia opportunities wherever I go!
To sum up, I like to think that the diversity of my portfolio is a result of the diversity of potential clients and the diversity of my inspiration sources.
Fo: Are there any photos in your Fotolia portfolio which surprised you with their popularity? Or some you thought would sell but didn’t?
La: Yes of course there are pictures which surprised me. This one for example.
I’m not quite sure where I photographed this texture, but I think it was the inside of an old grill standing in the backyard of my parents house. Of course I found it was an interesting subject, but I never ever expected more than a thousand downloads!
By the way, some of my best selling images are relatively simple texture backgrounds. Unfortunately it became increasingly difficult to get those pictures in the Fotolia database because it is so popular.
Images which perform below expectations exist as well. This is one of my favorite pictures so far. I shot the woman in my studio and put her in the mountain landscape with Photoshop.
Sadly, it hasn’t sold much since the upload a few months ago. Maybe there is too much competition in that particular subject area or the photo is just not as qualified for stock as I thought it would be.
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?
La: The stock industry has developed a lot recently. The photos have gotten more and more professional, and you have to hang in there to be competitive. There are also a growing number of photographers able to produce a lot of good quality images in a short amount of time.
In my opinion there’s a significant trend towards professional but mass produced portfolios.
I can’t and I don’t want to follow this development. My strategy is to work harder, watch out for inspiration, and constantly try to stand out from the crowd with a diverse but comparatively small portfolio. Currently this plan is going quite well.
Fo: What are you favorite photos from your Fotolia portfolio and why?
La: In general I would say my favorite picture is always the one I uploaded last, because I just spend the time and effort to produce it. To be honest, there are really just a couple of images I like more than the others.
This one is certainly my all-time favorite picture so far. It shows my girlfriend balancing over the city of New York. I love the artistic style and the mood of the image.
That’s the beauty of my profession, to have the opportunity to mix pleasure and business, without having to compromise.
Fo: Lasse, thank you very much for your time!
And you can keep up with Lasse’s life on his Facebook page.