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.

Olly is a self-taught Fotolia contributor from Italy. We asked him how he got started in photography, what tips he might have for others hoping to follow in his footsteps and the inspiration and emotions that are conveyed through his fabulous, eclectic and best-selling images…

Fotolia: Hi, Olly, can you introduce yourself, where you’re based and explain a bit your journey into how you started selling your photos on Fotolia?

crisisOlly: Hello, Fotolia. My name is Olly, I’m Italian and attended an arts University both in Italy (Accademia delle Belle Arti di Brera, Milan) and in Paris (Université Paris 8), before travelling abroad, all around the world.

At school I didn’t learn anything technical: I’m absolutely a self-taught photographer. As a child, I showed a remarkable talent for drawing, but after leaving school I changed from the pencil, to the camera.

Since 2002 I’ve thought – without knowing about microstock or traditional stock – that the best way to share my images would be something like Microstock, where more clients could use my images at the same time. After three years, I discovered Fotolia by chance, and began to upload photos at the end of 2007.

I’ve always traveled, in fact, I work both in Europe and all around the world: from South Africa to China, the USA and Europe; mainly  in Malta, Germany, France and Hungary, where I have a studio.

Fo: How would you describe your photographic style? What has influenced and shaped it?

Olly: My passion for cinema and paintings were necessary for my job; from Caravaggio to Van Gogh, Kubrick to Hitchcock. I usually watch ten films a week, often when I eat, so as to save time.

Fo: What is it about your photos do you think that has made them so popular?

Olly: Because I am such a particular microstock contributor and because I give my images more creativity and style than the classic black and white subjects.

lostFo: Has your photographic style developed since you started in the stock industry? If so, in what ways?

Olly: I improved a lot of my techniques, but my style has remained the same, I think…

Fo: Have your origins and the culture of your country influenced you in any way? If so, how?

Olly: I’ve lived and worked in many different places, and in this way I changed myself. It’s different than just being a tourist.

I had a terrible school experience, I didn’t like studying, and I always got bad marks, but I think my passion fed my soul. Today we live a life based on mere factual knowledge.. I think that concepts aren’t important and they’re a social plague. Beyond cinema and painting, philosophy and music are also very important for me.

Fo: Are there any common messages, emotions, or ideas you try to convey through your images?

Olly: First of all, the beauty, irony, the particularity of people’s personal history, but never vulgar; moreover, highly expressive.

I also like to overstate: if I have to take a picture of a fat model, I want them to be really very very fat. If I want to communicate anger, the model has to be really mad; if he’s ugly, he has to be really awful. On the other hand, if I have to communicate beauty and elegance, she has to be the most beautiful, but sometimes with irony and caricature.

HamburgerFo: What, in your view, are the key ingredients to creating a fantastic photograph?

Olly: In advertising you need to be highly technical and creative, but you also have to know what you want to communicate, so that the result has an immediate impact for the observer. In the microstock area you don’t just need to have good taste, you have to know what the market demands and this is not always easy.

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?

Olly: In my opinion clients are very different, and photos, sometimes, seem to be destined for a higher target market. My aim is to make popular and understandable what once belonged to the elite.

I think that microstock, in general, increased the medium standard of images in the web, in advertising campaigns and in foreign magazines.

intimicyFo: 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?

Olly: In the last period I introduced fusion among photos, drawings, and graphic elements and this was a crucial decision for my job. The year before I introduced 3D elements, too.

Microstock is always going to be competitive; you have to focus more on quality, and this is not foreseen when just numbers count. I am going to take off mediocre or repeated images to give more space for extraordinary photos.

Fo: What are you favourite photos from your Fotolia portfolio?

Olly: I have a lot of favorite images, but I’ve chosen four to show in this interview.

 Fo: And very nice they are, too, Olly. Thanks very much for your time!

If you’d like to see (or buy!) more of Olly’s work then there’s plenty to see in his Fotolia portfolio.